Real Life Romance With Judith Arnold

Author Judith Arnold chats about her experience turning a real relationship into a fictionalized one for her novel Meet Me In Manhattan.

I was thrilled when HCI Books invited me to write one of the launch titles for True Vows, their new line of Reality Based Romance™—and also apprehensive. Since selling my first book in 1983, I’ve seen eighty-six of my romance novels published. I’ve written comedies, dramas, novellas, series romances and stand-alone novels. But True Vows was an entirely new concept: romance novels based on the courtships of actual couples. 

In all the other novels I’d written, I’d made everything up. I’d created the characters, the stories, the conflicts. Could I write a novel in which the characters were real people? Could I shape a dramatic, passionate romance novel out of an actual love affair? 

Once I learned about the true-life romance of Ted Skala and Erika Fredell, I knew I could. Ted and Erika’s romance was a classic reunion story. They’d fallen in love their final year of high school, spent the summer after graduation infatuated with each other, and then parted ways amid much heartbreak when Erika headed off to college. Sixteen years later, they both wound up working in Manhattan. Ted was in a serious relationship with another woman, but he couldn’t bring himself to take the next step with her. Erika had dated but never fallen in love, and she’d accepted the likelihood that she would remain single for the rest of her life. And then Ted and Erika met for a drink, a meeting that made them question the paths their lives had taken, the choices they’d made and the deepest yearnings of their hearts.

I love reunion stories—the idea that a flame you thought had burned to ash years ago might in fact have been smoldering all those years, only to reignite when you and your former lover find each other again. I’ve written fictional reunion stories before, but Ted and Erika had actually lived their reunion. I communicated extensively with them via email to familiarize myself with their story. I added characters, provided everyone with sparkling dialogue and shaped the plot so it followed a dramatic arc, creating a novel with all the elements readers expect in the best romance fiction. (Yes, including sex scenes. As you can imagine, we emailed back and forth a lot about that!) Meet Me In Manhattan reads like a romance novel, but the fact that Ted and Erika are real people adds a new dimension to the reading experience. 

Writing Meet Me In Manhattan was a challenge and a joy. I was completely swept up in the epic drama and wild passion of Ted and Erika’s teenage love and their more complex, nuanced emotions when they reunited as adults. I’ve always fallen in love with my heroes and heroines, but with this book I was able to meet my hero and heroine, who turned out to be smart, generous, enormously attractive and utterly wonderful people. 

 If you love reunion stories as much as I do, you’ll love Meet Me In Manhattan.

- Judith Arnold

You can enjoy this EXCERPT and then pick up a copy of Meet Me in Manhattan in stores now!

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