A Conversation With L. A. Johannesson

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Recently we reviewed L. A. Johannesson’s debut chick lit novel eloves me, eloves me not.  It wasn’t one of our all time favorites [read our full review], however we can see how fans of the genre would find a lot to love within the pages of book.

Meeting at the point where technology and romance intersect, eloves me tells the story of a 39 year-old woman’s quest for love and her experiences in using an online dating site in an effort to find that elusive Mr. Right.  Along the way, she tries to manage a successful career, a male friend who wants to be more than friends, and more than a few strange suitors.

What follows below is a discussion about the online dating world, the inspiration behind eloves me, eloves me not, and the factors that influenced Ms. Johannesson’s decision to become a writer.


L. A. (Linda) Johannesson recently traded a 20+ year corporate career in marketing and communications for the fresh challenges of independent novelist and publisher.

She’s ecstatic about launching her breakout novel chronicling one woman’s unpredictable and entertaining quest to find love through online dating – eloves me, eloves me not is now available.

Hard at work on book number two, My Social Life, Linda’s greater aspiration is to author a series of successful contemporary romantic comedies that pair the latest in technology with women who are confident, accomplished and sensual creatures – think romantic fiction with a geeky twist! She’s proud to pioneer the emerging genre she dubs digichick lit.

A Canadian, originally from Toronto, she now calls Sydney, Australia home. She travels often and happily shares her home and heart with the Aussie bloke she met in writing class and their Golden Retriever. (Official bio)


TE: How did you first get started with writing and what made you ultimately decide to pursue it is a career?

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L.A. Johannesson

LAJ: I have always enjoyed writing and have done a lot of it throughout my career in marketing and communications. I think it’s an important part of the human experience. Everyone has a story to tell or a number of them. I decided to write this book because I felt it was time to share one of mine. In doing so, it has been amazing how many tales I’m now hearing from others about their experiences with online dating. It seems stories really do beget stories.

Why pursue it as a career?  It’s a passion. Shouldn’t we all try to do what we love? It is also an interesting time in the publishing industry. I am intrigued by the growth of the independent publishing movement and I wanted to be part of it. Independent authors are now expected to be publishers, marketers and entrepreneurs as well. The author’s challenge doesn’t end with writing the book. It’s my hope for the industry that, through this movement, authors (independent or otherwise) will see greater commercial success so that we can embrace writing as a viable career option rather than just a hobby or second income.

TE: Where did the idea for this particular story come from?

LAJ: During my single days, I experimented with online dating. I was surprised at just how many others were too. In the time I spent online, I was continually intrigued by the diversity of people, their unique situations and the stories that lived among them. It was the best ‘reality show’ going. Dating sites were teeming with plenty of inspiration for stories about looking for love online, so I set out to tell one of them.

TE: How much time did you spend researching the ways and workings of online dating and social communications before actually writing the novel?  How much time did the novel take to write?

LAJ: I had actually used online dating on and off for a couple of years, so I had some very enlightening and entertaining first hand experience to draw upon. Don’t get me wrong though, I wasn’t as though I was going on a date, taking notes, writing a chapter, going on another, taking more notes, writing another. I started the book a couple of years after my own online dating experiences ended.

In total the book took over five years to write. However, I picked up my life and moved from Canada to Australia and dealt with a few other major life changes while the book was in progress. So to be fair, there were a few years where I didn’t work on it at all.

TE: Kayte is a single 39 year-old woman.  Why was it important to tell this story from the point of view of a character approaching 40, rather than someone much younger?

LAJ: There were a number of themes and messages that I wanted to communicate throughout the book and making Kayte older than the typical singleton helped to reinforce them.

One of these was the challenge of work/life balance. Kayte’s life was horribly out of balance. While she had a fabulous career, it took much of her time and was one of the main reasons she was single. She had precious little time to devote to dating. She had focused on her career and time passed and quickly. But, she still wanted to find love. The urgency that came from approaching 40 served a both a source of conflict and motivation in her online quest to find love.

Another key message offered through this story is that you have to be ready for love, even if takes until you’re 40 or 50. It takes some longer than others. You can’t force it because you think it’s time, or because you want it. And you certainly can’t force someone to love you who isn’t yet ready. Kayte’s story is a coming of age tale in many ways. She’s very mature, responsible and independent in many areas of her life, but she’s an emotional late bloomer and this poses some of its own challenges.

I wanted to show that online dating is a viable alternative for singles of any age. It can offer something for almost everyone. Regardless of your demographics and desires, there are such large numbers of people using it that there is a real possibility that you can find exactly what you’re looking for. Portraying Kayte on the wrong side of 35 yet still having so many potential suitors available was a purposeful choice.

TE: Why was it important for you to provide Kayte a male guide to teach her about how online dating works, rather than a female one?

LAJ: Even a chick lit novel, needs a little testosterone. Roman was created to give Kayte perspective and balance – some yin to her yang.

Kayte is a hopeful romantic, who tries to see the best in people. She’s trusting and optimistic, but borders on naïve when it comes to affairs of the heart. Roman, is a rogue and a realist. He’s a rough around the edges. But he understands the male modus operendi. He warns Kayte about some typical single man behaviours, ulterior motives and potential secret agendas. He speaks from experience.

As well as offering balance and a different perspective to Kayte, Roman also demonstrates a living, breathing example of the type of man Kayte is not looking for in a mate. But Roman has his endearing qualities. He’s a good friend. He calls a spade a spade (or at times a ******* shovel). He doesn’t sugar coat things. He’s a serial dater who has invested a great deal of time in online dating and he has definitely gained some insight. He’s happy to share this knowledge into the male psyche and the online dating world with Kayte because he sincerely wants her to succeed in finding love.

TE: What’s up with adult toy shops in Australia? Are those strange facts that Kayte’s suitor Tom relays to her actually true?

LAJ: On one hand, I can find no documented city ordinances to support the claim that there needs to be a minimum of 12 stairs, up or down, at the entrance to any adult toy stores, On the other, it is a rumour that I’ve heard more than a few times, it makes sense on some level and I’ve actually observed more than a few examples of it, so who really knows? It’s an interesting discussion point though!

TE: Without spoiling too much, the novel has a somewhat surprising and rather refreshing ending.  How difficult was it to decide where to ultimately conclude the novel?

LAJ: Thank you. While I wanted to be true to the genre, I didn’t want the story to be too predictable. Creating the ending and deciding where to conclude the novel was not a decision I took lightly or made on my own. The characters helped!

It wasn’t difficult, but I was unsure of how it would end, until I actually wrote it. As an author, you become so connected to the characters you create, you take them on their journeys, you toss obstacles at them, you beam with pride as they overcome them, you applaud their successes. As with any relationship, the interaction between author and character is a two way street. I believe that the characters should have a say in their fate. There were a number of points where I could have ended this story, but strange as it might sound to some, I consulted with the characters. I believe that I found a fitting place to conclude the novel with their help.

TE: What are you currently working on?

LAJ: I’m writing the sequel to eloves me, eloves me not and entertaining another book idea with a different storyline altogether.

I will continue to pen stories in the chick lit genre. My positioning is ‘writing romantic fiction with a geeky twist’ so there will always be some distinct connections to technology in my storylines.

My time is split between actively promoting eloves me, eloves me not, writing new work and doing some freelance writing and copywriting.

TE: What was the last great book you read?

LAJ: The last great book I read was APE – Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur – How to Publish a Book by Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch and it was a fabulous resource with useful advice and actionable suggestions for the independent author. If anyone reading this is considering self-publishing or has done it, this book is an invaluable resource.

As for the last great novel, I’m currently rereading The Great Gatsby. The last time I enjoyed this masterpiece was over 30 years ago. After recently seeing the Baz Luhrmann spectacle, I thought I’d re-read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus. As I enjoy the story again, almost 100 years after it was first published, I marvel at the timelessness of great stories well told.


L.A. Johannesson’s self-published debut novel eloves me, eloves me not is available for purchase in paperback or electronic format from Amazon.com.  You can follow Ms. Johannesson on Facebook and Twitter.

About Aaron Westerman

Aaron Westerman is the Manager of Web Architecture for a national human services organization. When he's not busy tearing sites apart and rebuilding them, he spends his ever shrinking free time trying to keep up with his twins, reading works of translated literature, and watching far too many Oscar nominated movies.