Ready for a will-they-won’t-they romance novel in 2021? I might have just the thing…
Just Friends by Holly McCulloch
Genre: New Adult Romance/Humour
Publisher: Transworld (Random House U.K.)
Date Published: 4 February 2021
Print length: 304 pages
It’s easy to put someone in the friend zone. But what happens if you change your mind?
Bea isn’t happy. Desperate for a change, she looks to her friends for inspiration. Every single one of them is paired off, perhaps
that’s what she needs too.
So, she starts dating again. But everywhere she goes – amid the hilarious and scarring dates – there’s Peter. Good old, oddball Peter, her closest friend from university. He’s always been firmly in the friend zone but something’s happened lately – he seems taller, more handsome and suddenly making him smile is Bea’s favourite thing.
But how can Bea possibly risk their friendship? And how do you even go about taking someone out of the friend zone? What if Bea and Peter were only ever meant to be just friends…
I’ll share my thoughts on this one at a later date (spoiler alert: I loved it) but, for now, here’s the Q&A, featuring inspiration, isolation and what to expect next.
1. Hi Holly. Tell us a bit about your book, Just Friends
It is a very character-driven book; it follows Bea as she goes about her (very relatable) life, full of work woes, love lows, and friendship tests. But through it all, there is one constant, her old friend, Peter. And obviously, because it’s a romantic comedy, there are laughs and love along the way!
2. What inspired you to write this book?
There is a part in the very first chapter that happened to me in real life, and it stuck with me for a long time. And then, on holiday a while later, I was having a horrible time (so bad that every time I left the house something disastrous happened), so I decided to stay inside. With nothing to do but think, this scene popped back into my mind, plaguing my thoughts, but I rolled with it, and planned out the very first (very very draft) plan for Just Friends (initially called ‘Untitled 1’).
3. The book is written from Bea’s perspective, why did you focus on their viewpoint?
Personally, I love books that let you dive right into the characters, and so with Bea being our main protagonist, I had to write it from her perspective. I also hoped this would make it easier for people to sympathise (or empathise?) with her.
4. Bea goes on several dates in the book, most of them disastrous (to say the least), which was your favourite to write?
Hands DOWN the chilli scene!!
5. If Just Friends was ever made into a movie/TV show, who would you choose to play Bea and Peter?
OOoooooo for Bea, maybe Emma Stone, and for Peter, someone a little geeky – like the guy who played Dr Spencer Reid in Criminal Minds! Let’s make this happen!
6. Did you always know how you wanted to end the book, or did you play with alternative endings at any point?
Oh no – I hate writing the end of books! In fact, I hate planning them too, so I normally don’t. I just wait and see what happens! And then write five different options, mildly dissatisfied with all of them. (You might be able to tell this when reading Just Friends! BUT, remember, it is my first book! I’ve learnt a lot since finished Just Friends! Judge me kindly!).
7. How are you feeling about releasing a book during a global pandemic?
It certainly isn’t what I would choose, but there is such an active online book community, that’s grown even stronger in the last year (out of necessity), so it doesn’t feel lonely. As a writer, I have found a lovely community of lockdown debuters (we help keep each other sane) and for many years, bloggers have been so supportive and influential in getting books talked about, that hopefully it will all work out okay! Plus, as a reader, I’ve read more this year than I ever have, and really enjoyed being able to escape to a different (pandemic-free) world, so it’s nice to think that maybe my book will do the same for others?
8. It is safe to say that lockdown has meant a lot of us have more time to read, what books have you been reading/do you recommend?
I’ve been having a real obsession with fantasy – at the moment I am reading the latest book from Samantha Shannon, The Mask Falling. But also, anything uplifting has been great – in particular The Lonely Fajita by Abigail Mann, We are Family by Nicola Gill and The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman by Julietta Henderson.
9. Which one of your characters would you choose to isolate with?
Peter. I think he would be a great lockdown partner, if you can get past the lounge pants.
10. Other than Bea, who was your favourite character to write?
Penny! She is Bea’s work friend, and it was so fun to write the little titbits of office shenanigans.
11. I think the ending of the book was quite open, would you consider revisiting the characters?
Yes, I would definitely think about revisiting them! I think about them quite often, and wonder what they would be doing now. I think Bea would still be a little infuriating, but maybe also a little more satisfied and comfortable with life.
12. What’s your next project? Can you give us an insight into anything you’re working on?
Well, actually 2021 will also see my second book published (at least this is the plan)! It’s called The Mix-up. It follows a completely different set of characters who are all working through their own set of questions. It was very different to write, and I think you can really see a development of my writing style, which is interesting! At the moment I am finishing off a personal ‘passion project’ (more like a writing experiment) before I will knuckle down to write another uplifting rom com!
A Few “Thank Yous”
I wouldn’t have been able to read this book, or participate in this Blog Tour, without a few people. Firstly, I want to thank Anne Cater (of Random Things Tours and Random Things through my Letterbox) for organising this blog tour and letting me participate.
I also want to thank the publishers, Transworld (Random House U.K.) for allowing me to read a physical copy of this book, and the writer Holly McCulloch for taking the time to answer my questions. I loved this book and I hope others will, too.
About the Author
Holly McCulloch lives in Oxfordshire and bakes beautiful (and delicious) cakes for a living. Just Friends is her debut novel.
Just Friends is available to buy on Bookshop.
That’s my stop on the Random Things Tour for Just Friends done. Don’t forget to check out the other posts as part of this blog tour.
As always, you can find me (and more things books, baking and everything in between) on: