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Q&A with Kristin Rockaway – Smart Girl Summer

Smart Girl Summer

By Harriet Clark.

We are very happy to welcome Kristin Rockaway to The Reading Corner to discuss her upcoming romance “Smart Girl Summer”, out August 23rd!

This summer’s not going as Abby Atkinson planned. A thieving PhD advisor, a screeching halt to her grad program, and zero job offers have left her high and dry. Nothing a little eat, pray, love across the Mediterranean can’t fix, right?

Or eat, pray, tutor, more like. Her dissertation might be dead, but she can still teach. She’ll just have to do it for six weeks on a superyacht with a billionaire and his daughter.

A playboy billionaire, according to the tabloids—but Abby’s not so sure. As big as his bank account is, his heart’s that much bigger, especially when it comes to his daughter. Their strained relationship could use some mending, though, and Abby can help. She was hired to teach junior high math, but she’ll make room in her lesson plans.

Falling for her boss wasn’t part of the plan either, but…

Maybe it’s time she let her heart, not her head, teach her something new

Smart Girl Summer

I want to start by saying I really enjoyed your novel Smart Girl Summer. It is a perfect summer vacation read, with wanderlust being central to the story.

Romance novels like many other genres follow certain conventions, making them accessible because of the internal structures. Do you enjoy following a structure or do you like to deviate away from the predictable?

I enjoy following a structure, but I don’t necessarily think that structured stories are always predictable. Of course, a romance novel is by definition predictable in that there is always a happily ever after – if there isn’t a happily ever after, it isn’t a romance novel! – but there are ways to make the journey to the HEA original and surprising. I try my best to make sure my stories have some unforeseen twists and turns so the reader enjoys the ride!

As a writer what aspect most draws you to writing romance as a genre?

The fact that there is always a happily ever after. Susan Elizabeth Philips once said, “Life is too short to read depressing books,” and I wholeheartedly agree. I enjoy reading romance because it gives me a sense of hope – that no matter how much pain the characters endure, they will always triumph at the end. I want to instill the same feeling in my readers. The world is disheartening enough as it is; I want to spread joy!

I liked how Abby is blessed with both academic ability and emotional intelligence. It was an interesting perspective that Abby’s emotional intelligence seemed to be the catalyst helping Richard to reconnect to his daughter. What led you to focus on this triangular relationship?

Since Richard is a single dad, I thought it was really important to establish a strong relationship between Abby and Bijou. It wasn’t something I wanted to gloss over or avoid, because single parents always have to take their children’s feelings into account when dating someone new.

Was it difficult to create chemistry between Abby and Richard, to make it a bit mysterious and not too obvious given they are caught up together on a super yacht?

Ha, yes – especially because Bijou was around, so they had to practice discretion. It was fun trying to think of places for them to conduct their covert encounters. I tried to make the dinghy as inviting as possible!

To me Abby is a well-developed character, she’s both believable and I cared about what happened to her. Is she based on anyone you know in real life?

There’s always a little bit of me in every main character I write. But when I decided to make Abby a traveling tutor to a billionaire’s daughter, I interviewed a friend of a friend who spent quite a long time tutoring children of the rich and famous in New York many years ago. She gave me some great information about the ins and outs of the job – but trust me, Abby, Bijou, and Richard are one hundred percent fictional.

Finding ways to capture intimacy between characters must be one of the most challenging aspects of writing romance fiction. How do you approach this?

Before I can build a romantic relationship on the page, I need to do some discovery work into each of the characters. What are they afraid of? What are they lacking? What can the other person give them that no one else can? Doing a deep dive into these questions helps to uncover the reasons why they’re right for each other and establishes the basis for their emotional connection as the story unfolds.

I was expecting the scenes below deck to be a bit more charged, but there are many ways to write about romantic encounters. Did you intend to hint at but not fully reveal the more raw, sexual side of their relationship?

It was indeed a deliberate choice to “close the door” to Richard and Abby’s sexual encounters. “Spicy” romance is very popular right now, but it’s just not something I felt like writing in this story, and I wasn’t going to force it. Most of my books are “closed door,” with the exception of my debut, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World, which is most definitely “spicy.”

Sally Rooney’s romance novels play to the cerebral side of desire, and she has been referred to as ‘a psychological portraitist.’ Who inspires you most as a romance novelist and why?

I have always loved Sophie Kinsella. I think she straddles the line perfectly between romance and women’s fiction, and she does so with incredible humor. I’m also a huge fan of Sally Thorne and Helen Hoang; they’re two of the best romance novelists out there right now.

I read that you quit your professional life in IT to become a full-time writer, moving to Southern California. Did this experience influence in any way your writing of Smart Girl Summer?

Absolutely. It actually influences all of my stories. It was a big risk to quit my long-standing and high-paying career in IT to chase my dreams, but it was the best choice I’ve ever made. I inject this risk-taking and soul-searching into all of my main characters as they search for meaning in their lives. And I love hearing from readers who’ve been inspired to take risks after reading my books.

Your book is very relatable in painting the dilemma of which path to choose in life, the safe one or the riskier unknown path. Are there any other romantic novels that you have read recently that work with this theme that you can recommend to you readers?

Lucy on the Wild Side by Kerry Rea

Mistakes Were Made by Meryl Wilsner

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult (romantic, but not a romance per se)

Nothing But the Truth by Holly James (romantic women’s fiction)

Do you have ideas for books in the pipeline and can you give your readers any hints as to where they may possibly be set?

I’m currently off contract right now, so I’m on a bit of a (much-needed) hiatus and don’t have a timeline for next book yet. I don’t want to talk too much about what I’m working on 😊 but it does explore the same themes that all my books do – women searching for purpose in life and trying something new, while finding romance along the way.

Smart Girl Summer

Kristin Rockaway is a native New Yorker and recovering corporate software engineer. After working in the IT industry for far too many years, she finally traded the city for the surf and chased her dreams out to Southern California, where she spends her days happily writing stories instead of code. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and son, taking naps, and planning her next big vacation.

Kerry’s Instagram: @kristinrockaway

Kristin’s Website:


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