Two years ago, his kiss left her reeling, but she pushed him away and they never spoke of it again.
Lena Andrews is bad at love, and has no intention of getting better at it.
Men are good for one thing, and love isn’t it.
She’s perfectly okay with finding happiness in her job as a comic book artist.
Yet, she can’t shake the memory of her coworker’s kiss.
Amos St. Clair has stayed the hell away from Lena Andrews for the last two years.
Work has filled his time and he’s on the cusp of making a name for himself. When an opportunity to complete a project that’s dear to Lena’s heart presents itself, Amos seizes the opportunity – even if it means being with the woman he’s avoided all this time.
Through their mutual passion for art and each other, their love blooms like a lotus flower out of a dark, muddy pool. But, is their love strong enough to withstand the challenges posed by the most important job of their careers?
That’s What She Said Exclusive Interview with Hilaria Alexander
When BFF K finished The Art of Us, she immediately had to know more about the story and the world created in the story! We hope you’ll enjoy this sneak peek behind the scenes of The Art of Us!
BFF K: This book was so detailed and in a world that was completely foreign to me (manga/cartoon) how much research did you have to do? Is this something you enjoy? Where should a newbie start if they want to check some of this out?
HA: I grew up in Italy and I’m an eighties child. When I was a kid, Japanese anime were extremely popular. I watched tons of robot-sagas like Voltron and lots of “magical girl anime” by Studio Pierrot like Creamy Mami and Magical Girl Emi. The heroine was usually a young teen who was in possession of a magic wand and could transform into an older girl, kind of like Erica Raymond becomes Jem from Jem and the Holograms. When I was in high school, I watched the anime version of Marmalade Boy by Wataru Yoshizumi and Neighborhood Story by Ai Yazawa before I even read the comics. Later, I decided to start studying Japanese and as my love for Japanese culture grew, so did my interest for manga (Japanese comics). Some of my favorites were Slam Dunk by Takehiko Inoue, centered about a young greaser/gang leader who starts playing basketball to win the heart of the girl he loves, and Neighborhood Story by Ai Yazawa. If you’d like to check out some manga, I would suggest picking up Shojo Beat by Viz Media or checking out their site. Most popular anime series started out as a manga. Sailor Moon (Naoko Takeuchi), Inuyasha (Rumiko Takahashi), Vagabond (Takehiko Inoue), are all great series that started as a manga.
BFF K: I know you spent time in Japan in college. How much of this experience made an appearance in The Art of Us?
HA: Some details are definitely taken from my experience overseas. I don’t have a lot in common with the heroine of my story besides the fact that she was also an exchange student and lived for a time in Japan with her best friend. The house were Lena and Maggie lived is an accurate description of the house where my best friend and I lived. It was within walking distance from Shibuya, one of the busiest districts, but it was far from glamourous. However, I did love that little neighborhood a lot. The places described in the novel are places I traveled to – there was so much more I wanted to include. The story about Lena never seeing Mount Fuji or the one about the old lady from the hostel in Nikko are things that happened to me in real life.
BFF K: Tell is about the unfinished manga IRL that inspired this story.
HA: It’s called Nana and it’s by Ai Yazawa. She is hands down my favorite artist. Her style is so unique, and her stories are beautifully crafted. Nana is about two best friends, Nana Komatsu and Nana Osaki, who meet on the train to Tokyo and end up sharing an apartment by accident. The first volume came out in Japan in 2001 – just when I started my year there as an exchange student – but nothing new has been published since 2009. The manga is on indefinite hiatus. Ai Yazawa was ill for a while, and then there were rumors she was well enough to go back to work. However, nothing new has been published and no one knows what’s the author’s ailment or if the story will ever be completed. It’s the BIGGEST cliffhanger of my life – I believe the millions of people who read this manga will agree. Even if it’s incomplete, I highly recommend it.
These are “adult” manga and they are just as addictive as romance novels.
BFF K: Lena’s relationship with Rika-san was so lovely. What inspired that relationship? Do you have a mentor like that for your writing?
HA: I have a lot of women who inspire me to be a better writer and better human in general, but I don’t have a mentor quite like Rika-san – I just tried to imagine how I would feel if I found myself in that kind of position. I think Lena’s reluctance to go to Japan at first was really because she didn’t want to disrespect her idol. She loved her too much and didn’t want to “humiliate” her like that.
BFF K: I’ve seen your Pinterest boards but for those who haven’t, tell us about your inspirations for Lena and Amos.
HA: Ahhhhh! I love Pinterest. I don’t always have a clear visual of my characters, so Pinterest helps. My inspiration for Lena is Marion Cotillard – I think I had a hard time picturing Lena at first. I have been thinking about writing this book for the last two years and since the beginning I always had a very strong idea of her personality more than her looks. Marion Cotillard embodies in movies quite often those traits that made Lena who she was: strong, yet extremely fragile, feminine, but with an edge. My inspiration for Amos is Adam Driver. When I imagined Amos I thought of someone who had to be solid, strong, comfortable with who he was. He needed to be strong and patient enough to carry Lena’s pain and her insecurities. Coincidentally, the name Amos means brave. I know not everyone finds Adam Driver attractive – but he’s a fantastic actor and I’ve liked him since I first saw him on Girls. I might be biased, but I find his character on Star Wars one of the most compelling villains ever.
BFF K: I LOVED the cameo from Amira Farouk from Lost in Scotland! Will Amira be getting her own story?
HA: Maybe someday. Never say never. I would like everyone to get their own story, but time is against me. I would really like to write about Amos’ sister Charleigh. I’m dying to write a book set in the kitchen of a restaurant.
RAPID FIRE with Hilaria Alexander
BFF K: We do a fun rapid fire round with all of our That’s What She Said interviews, give us your quick answer to the following tough choices!
HA: I’m just going to say this rapid fire is cruel. There is no good answer! LOL!
Books or Manga?
Sorry, Manga. I have to say Books.
Mountains or Ocean?
Oceans. I’m a sea person.
American Pop Music or Japanese Pop Music?
I wouldn’t be who I am without American Pop Music.
Sushi or Steak?
Sake or Sapporo?
Camaro or Prius?
Reading or Writing?
Reading was my first love, but writing is something I never thought I’d fall in love with.
I choose writing.
Comic Book Store or Shoe Store?
Comic Book. My feet are big, I have a hard time finding the right shoes.
Rosetta Stone or Language Classes?
Language classes. It’s more fun if you’re interacting with other people.
A HUGE Thank You to Hilaria Alexander for sharing some insight into The Art of Us! We hope you’ve enjoyed this edition of That’s What She Said! If you haven’t picked it up yet, we can’t recommend it strongly enough – this is a wonderful story!
About the Author
Hilaria Alexander never thought she’d be a writer one day. Reader? Yes. Book hoarder? You betcha. Then, she started reading romance – that’s when she felt the need to write a story. Unfortunately, she didn’t listen to her gut, and talked herself out of it A MILLION TIMES. She finally gave up a few years ago, when the urge to write was stronger than self-doubt. She loves funny, sexy romances wrapped with a huge happily-ever-after bow at the end. Her inbox is always open if you want to chat about one of her books.