Lesfic and cocktails come together in Riley Scott’s new novel On the Rocks. Here the author tells us why that came to be.
As a panster, I typically take about a month or two to write an initial manuscript. Once an idea forms–and keeps me up for nights on end before I decide to write the story–I jump in headfirst, writing out the story as quickly as it comes to me. The editing process that follows is more time-intensive and labored, ensuring that my panster process didn’t create huge plot holes. This has been my process for all of my previous books, but On the Rocks refused to follow the same pattern.
Shortly after the publication of my lesfic novel A Time to Speak in late 2017, I wanted to write a story that had been weighing on my heart. It was a story that meant a lot to me—the story that would eventually become On the Rocks.
The idea for this story is very personal, as my wife and I first met at what we refer to as the worst possible time in both of our lives. As a result, we had an incredibly rocky first year, and several people in our lives thought we wouldn’t make it long-term. But in the middle of that bad timing and rocky start was stubborn love that refused to quit. I didn’t want to tell our story, but I wanted to craft a new story that gave hope to those who might be in a similar difficult situation, just as I wanted to show the beauty that can come to us in even the most horrible times.
For On the Rocks, I wanted to showcase rocky starts, deeply flawed characters, and the personal growth that’s necessary to become who we are meant to be.
As a lesfic romance author, my job is to show the journey to happily ever after, as well as the flawed characters and messy situations along the way. For On the Rocks, I wanted to showcase those rocky starts, those deeply flawed characters, and the personal growth that’s necessary to become who we are meant to be.
The concept was important to me, and I wanted to do it justice. As I always did, I wrote quickly with no outline. To make this successful, I must get in the character’s heads and let them call the shots. This time, though, there was too much of me in the story. The characters did what I forced them to do. It was messy—chaotic even—and it went off the rails in a hurry. Before a month had passed, I had a manuscript that was ninety percent complete, and I hated it. It wasn’t a situation in which I simply needed to change some things or had imposter syndrome, thinking it was horrible when it wasn’t; it was something so far from what I wanted to portray that I didn’t want it published under my name.
I tossed it aside and swore I would revisit it again. In the months that followed, I had a couple of ideas, but On the Rocks stayed in the back of my mind. While I’m no stranger to jumping from project to project, I didn’t want to start something else with that manuscript incomplete. The fire, the motivation, the ways I needed to revamp the story simply wouldn’t come to me, no matter how hard I tried.
During my hiatus, life took over, and finishing the manuscript fell to the backburner. In 2018, my wife and I were caught up in wedding planning, a honeymoon, my thirtieth birthday, and an overall joyous year. That fall, I wrote several short stories, but never touched the manuscript. As 2018 turned into 2019 and into 2020, overhauling the manuscript seemed too daunting a task. I was sure I’d find inspiration and a new story to create, and that I could leave that one in the trash.
When I attended Gulfport ReadOUT in February 2020, I found fresh inspiration. Being in a room with so many incredible lesfic and lesbian authors reinvigorated my spirit, and upon returning home, I picked back up the manuscript. I read through it. I cringed. I cried. I visualized those home renovation shows as I gutted the story. Like tearing down walls, I changed almost everything, aside from the setting and the character’s names. This time, the characters drove the plot. They were complex and flawed and, in that, perfect.
I let the characters take the reins, but I also immersed myself into their world. While I’ve been connected to my previous characters and inside their heads, the reconstruction that I had to do for On the Rocks made it so much more important for these characters to take on dynamic lives of their own and for me to have a deep understanding of who they were.
My wife and I did an at-home paint and wine night, so I could put myself in the shoes of Alex Daniels—the artist. I pulled out my jigger and shaker that had mostly been used before to recreate the recipes of others, and I tried my hand at crafting my own cocktails with fresh, fun ingredients to get inside the head of mixologist and bar owner, Lennon Willis. The resulting cocktails appear in the book in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions, and really added an extra dimension to my involvement in the story. I created playlist after playlist to connect me with their struggles. I cried along with their heartache. I did the guided meditations that they both needed to do to find healing. I fell in love right alongside them. That immersion was the labor of love that created what is my favorite book I’ve ever written.
On the Rocks is a fictional lesfic story, but its messages of hope in darkness, of love that doesn’t quit, of the power in finding oneself and of the necessity of taking care of mental health are journeys I have personally taken. As a result, I feel as though sharing this story is baring my heart and sharing in that growth with my readers.