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Q&A with Camilla Isley - Baby, One More Time

By Fiona Stephens

We are thrilled to welcome Camilla Isley to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release, Baby, One More Time, released on the 20th January 2024.

Driven and smart, Marissa Mayer has worked her way to COO at a major Fintech start-up as well as launching her own successful app on the side. Now what she wants more than anything is a baby. And having given up on love after her heart was broken by the boy next door, she’s prepared to do it alone.

Recently returning to New York from LA, Dr John Raikes is an expert in his field of neonatal medicine. But when John introduces himself as Marissa’s doctor, sparks fly, and not in a good way. Because Dr John Raikes is no he’s her teenage sweetheart all grown up.

Marissa knows she should keep John at arm’s length, lest she have her heart broken again... But there’s something about a man in a white coat. And with John determined to show Marissa he’s changed, can she keep saying no when her heart is saying yes?

Hello Camilla! Firstly, thank you for the opportunity of allowing me to read your new book, which is a second chance, enemies-to-lovers romance. This had all the classic notes of a warm and sweet romantic comedy - it was a quick read that played out like a movie in my head. For a bit of fun to start, if you could cast the lead roles who would you have to play Marissa and John?

I’d pick Jessica De Gouw as Marissa. For John, I’d go with Lucas Bravo.

Please tell our readers a little about yourself, your career, and the sorts of books you write.

I’m a mechanical engineer turned romantic fiction author, stepping away from the world of science to dive into the whimsical realm of contemporary rom-coms. My characters all have big hearts, might be a little stubborn, and love to banter with each other. Every story I craft promises a heart-racing HEA—unless, of course, you happen to be a vampire.

So, this is the second part of the True Love series. We see a cameo from Blake and Gabriel in this outing, who were the main couple in Book One Not in a Billion Years. Do you outline the series as a whole or do you form each book separately with subtle links to the other? What is your writing process? Do you have any rituals?

When writing Not in a Billion Years, I had a general idea of what Marissa’s story was going to be. The inciting incident—Marissa wanting to have a baby on her own—is introduced in book 1. But I hadn’t planned for all the fun cameos from Blake and Gabriel, the ideas came as I was writing the book. But I was thrilled to give readers lots of behind the scenes on book 1 as well.

As for what my writing process is, I’m mostly what the industry refers to as a pantser, or a discovery writer. Meaning, I know where my story starts and where it’s going, of course—with romance happy endings are a given—but how to get to that happily ever after is a surprise also for me.

Actors often say they have an “in” to their characters- a means of accessing them. This is a dual POV between Marissa who is fiercely driven, independent, accomplished, resourceful. And John who is sincere, intelligent, has integrity, is a committed single father to his daughter Nora. What were your “in’s” for accessing Marissa and John’s narrative voices and characterisation?

For Marissa, my "in" was our shared journey through IVF. My son was born that way because of infertility issues, so I wanted to include the topic in one of my novels, exploring it and giving an insight into what the IVF process really is like. Motherhood has been the single most wonderful thing in my life, so I wanted to write about a character who’d do anything to be a mom, even do it alone. Even if in the end she doesn’t have to.

John's narrative voice is grounded in his sincerity and integrity. His entire story is a redemption arc. He’s the quintessential cinnamon roll. Yes, he’s made mistakes in the past, but I basically wanted to write him in a way that’d be impossible for Marissa, or the readers, not to fall for him. Plus, as a committed single father, his world revolves around Nora, which adds a tender, nurturing layer to his character. This aspect provided a deep "in" for me, imagining the joys and challenges of fatherhood through his eyes, colouring his interactions with a protective, loving warmth.

They both represent two sides of the coin when it comes to the second chance romance. There is someone who remains deeply hurt by the past and someone who wishes to atone for their earlier mistakes. Did you find one argument or side more compelling when writing? And yet there has to be room for oversight in any relationship- it is those very faults which give us the greatest lessons and our most poignant successes. In fact, we see a comedy of errors throughout the course of this book. Can you speak around the role that mistakes play in the book?

The mishaps are, in part, to provide the comedic aspects of my romances that I always try to make hilarious. Some, of course, are there to push the couple into various forced proximity scenarios. Marissa and John are two people who basically never stopped loving each other. He has let her down in the past and has to prove he won’t make the same mistakes. But I probably empathize more with Marissa. It takes courage to open one’s heart again after being hurt. And I loved how John tore down all her walls and built that trust again, by being there, always, for the small and big things.

One strand of this novel explores IVF treatment. It gave ‘The Back-Up Plan’ vibes. The idea that a person has to tick off this prescribed life checklist in the right order- meet someone, get married, have children. People are choosing to approach this in completely different ways, if at all. Blended families, found families. How do these societal shifts change the way love and romance is written about?

These societal shifts really open up the canvas for love and romance narratives. We're moving away from traditional storylines to embrace a rich tapestry of experiences, like in this case where the baby comes first. It's about reflecting the diverse ways people find love and build relationships in today's world. This evolution allows us to explore the many facets of love, beyond the meet-cute and the aisle walk, delving into the complexities and triumphs of modern relationships. It's about making romance more inclusive, more relatable, and ultimately, more real.

You didn’t shy away from showing the brutal rigours of this fertility journey. ‘Sounds like a genetic version of The Hunger Games’. What resources do you recommend for anyone looking into this or about to start this journey? What is one thing that isn’t widely known that you would want others to know about upon beginning this experience?

I can’t recommend any specific resources. For anyone wanting to start this process, I’d suggest turning to medical professionals for advice. What I can say is that before becoming a mum, I had no idea of the overwhelming love my heart was capable of. My son is my light. IVF can be a hard journey. For me, it honestly wasn’t—being pregnant was much worse as I was sick the entire nine months—but there’s nothing like the joy of holding your baby in your arms. I’m not sure what’s widely known about the process. I’m just happy to bring it into the conversation and share my positive experience.

“How dare I ask for boundaries, respect, support, affection and love? All at the same time”.

Marissa as a thirty-something woman has a really difficult time in the dating world. Which I think is an experience a vast amount of people can relate to. Some commentators say that women have become too picky and have unrealistic expectations. More and more people in general are finding contentment being alone. I loved the idea that there are alternative paths to fulfilment and that there is a beauty in the choice alone. What is your take on this wider topic?

I believe the heart of this topic lies in the evolving understanding of personal fulfilment and

happiness. The narrative that women, or anyone for that matter, are "too picky" simplifies a

complex shift in societal values. It's not so much about pickiness as it is about individuals knowing their worth and seeking relationships that honour their needs and aspirations. The beauty of modern society is the growing recognition that fulfilment can come from various sources, not just romantic relationships. It's empowering to see people embracing alternative paths, whether that's focusing on career, personal passions, community, or self-growth. The choice to be alone, if it leads to contentment, is just as valid and beautiful as the choice to seek partnership. I also honestly think that meeting the right person is blind luck, not merit. Falling in love is such a casual chance.

And yet you do love a happy ending. There is a sense of ‘It’ll happen when you least expect it’ with this story. As someone who worked in a scientific background, the stats on relationships don’t always stack up to a happy ever after. Why choose this outcome? Why does a happily ever after draw you in?

As a romance writer, a happily ever after is owed to my readers as the fulfilment of a promise.

Especially for rom-coms that are lighter reads. A romance reader picks up a romance book because they want that happily ever after. For me, incorporating a HEA is not about denying the complexities of real-life relationships, but rather offering a narrative reprieve that uplifts and inspires. It's a celebration of the possibility that, despite the odds, love can prevail. This doesn't negate the value of stories with more ambiguous or challenging endings, but adds to the diversity of narratives that reflect the multifaceted nature of human experiences.

The story starts with a hilarious meet (again) cute. Are there any books, songs or movies that

inspired this moment? What are the tropes you love? Which books that you’ve read recently have impressed you, which you would recommend to our readers?

The meet-cute was inspired by me waiting in an OBGYN studio for a pelvic exam and not having an idea who my doctor was going to be. So I was thinking, I hope it’s a woman. Because I’m more comfortable with women doctors. Then I said, imagine if it’s a man, or worse, a man I somehow know. And then my writer’s brain kicked in and said, Imagine if it was your ex, the one who got away. And I was like, book idea!

Recent romance reads I loved (some are not out yet):

Happily Never After by Lynn Painter

The Rom-Commers by Katherine Center

Emergency Contact by Anthony LeDonne and Lauren Layne

These are YA that I loved:

Check & Mate by Ali Hazelwood

Woke Up Like This by Amy Lea

To end the eternal debate, east coast or west coast?

If I really had to choose, I’d say East Coast. But the beauty of fiction is that we can travel everywhere, so I have some books set in California. And also the Midwest.

Thank you so much for your time and I wish you every success with the book. Finally, where can our readers pick up your book?

Thank you for having me. Baby, One More Time is available at all online bookstores and also in subscription services like Kindle Unlimited. It’s also available in audiobook, paperback, and hardback.

Camilla is an engineer who left science behind to enter the whimsical realm of romantic fiction.

She writes contemporary rom-coms. Her characters have big hearts, might be a little stubborn at times, and love to banter with each other. Every story she pens has a guaranteed HEA that will make your heart beat faster. Unless you’re a vampire, of course.

Camilla is a cat lover, coffee addict, and shoe hoarder. Besides writing, she loves reading—duh!—cooking, watching bad TV, and going to the movies—popcorn, please. She’s a bit of a foodie, nothing too serious. A keen traveller, Camilla knows mosquitoes play a role in the ecosystem, and she doesn’t want to starve all those frog princes out there, but she could really live without them.


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