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Behind the scenes with Abra Pressler

LOVE AND OTHER SCORES by Abra Pressler


Behind the scenes with Abra Pressler - author of LOVE AND OTHER SCORES

Have you read LOVE AND OTHER SCORES by Abra Pressler? Do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this romantic comedy set in the sizzling heat of Melbourne's summer.


Let's go behind the scenes to find out how this novel came to be.


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Love and Other Scores by Abra Pressler

LOVE AND OTHER SCORES

A burnt-out tennis player arrives in Melbourne for the Australian Open only to make an connection with a down-on-his-luck bartender who offers to show him the city and unexpectedly steals his heart.


 

STORY IDEA



What came first – character or plot?


Definitely the plot. Around 2014, I was working at the Australian Open in a pop-up cafe making milkshakes and coffees, and I’d use my pass to catch the games or check out practices on either side of my shift. I tend to over romanticise everything (I am a writer!) so of course I was like, ‘what if a player met someone and just fell head over heels during one of the biggest tournaments of their career, where they know they need to focus but can’t think of anything but them?’ and sort of just ran with that.

I like exploring that beautiful, exhilarating moment when you’re so into someone that life just feels that little bit lighter and all your responsibilities, worries and fears just seem to melt away.

The characters came later. I based Noah’s life on my own experience working in a café in South Yarra and being broke while I finished my degree. Gabriel was more researched; while he’s not based on anyone, his character draws from current and former tennis players, and the romantic origins of the name Gabriel name is, of course, a nod to Rafael Nadal.


FAVOURITES



What's your favourite scene?


This is so hard—I have so many!


If I had to choose a scene that isn’t a spoiler, it’s probably the confrontation Gabriel has with his father, Bernard, early in the novel. It might be one of the only scenes that survived in-tact from the first draft, or with very minor revisions. Not only was that scene fun to write, but I don’t tend to write angry characters much so getting into Gabriel’s head was a nice challenge.


To me, it was important to see that Gabriel is justified in his anger, but also that he’s deeply scared—he's worried about his future in tennis, he’s worried about whether he’ll ever be good enough to win a Grand Slam, he’s worried that his relationship with his father is now purely professional, and he’s also deeply worried about his growing feelings for Noah as Gabriel is not ‘out’ as a gay man to anyone in his life, except his best friend, Phoebe. There’s a lot of emotion in that scene, which was fun to explore.


FUN FACT



Share a fun fact about your novel.


I am weirdly superstitious about book titles; if I come up with a title before the full plot, then I’m convinced it’s going to be a crap book. For me, the idea always needs to come before the title, and I won’t try to think of a title until I have the entire book mapped out. But this also makes it hard to think of a good title—in fact, a current book I’m working on is still unnamed.


For a long time, Love and Other Scores did not have a title—it was called ‘tennis novel’ to friends and family and ‘For Love’ or ‘Sweaty Balls’ (awful, awful) in various drafts. It wasn’t until I had written a draft where Noah was a fledgling musician and I realised I could connect the score of tennis and the score of a piece of music to represent them both in the title. Thank God I did because I don’t think I could have sold a book called ‘Sweaty Balls’.


DRAFTING & EDITING



Describe your first draft process.


My first draft process would be considered quick for someone outside of the romance genre, but within romance, I think it’s quite slow. If it’s a completely new book, I can write a decent draft I’d be comfortable showing an editor in six months. It’s quicker if it’s a sequel because the world and characters are established.


A lot of that six months (and even before that) is spent fleshing out the characters and finding the little quirks that make them real-life people rather than just words on the page. I get to know my characters while on walks, or driving to a holiday, or meeting a friend for coffee—for example, during a recent coffee catchup, I saw a barista annoyed that a customer had wrapped the string of their teabag around the handle of the mug. I was in the process of exploring this roommates-to-lovers novel and just thought ‘yeah that’d drive me up the wall if someone did that’, so of course, I added it to the book.


What didn’t make it into the published version?


Actually, very, very few by my publishers. There were far more darlings killed in my own drafting before I signed the contract.


There’s a part around midway through the book where Gabriel and Noah go to the beach together, which is a fun scene because it represents the first time Gabriel has really pushed back against his father’s authority.

In an earlier version, Gabriel almost drowns at the beach and Noah and a lifeguard save him! I don’t know what I was thinking writing that into the scene—not only is drowning not at all sexy, but I wrote that there were all these people who took photos of Gabriel’s rescue and that it viral on social media. I’m so, so, so glad I cut it early in the drafting phase (that’s what drafts are for!). I must have watched too much Bondi Rescue, or something!


WRITING ROUTINE



Describe your routine while you were writing this story.


I have a full-time job so a lot of writing is done either late at night after I’ve had a chance to decompress from the workday, or on the weekends. I try to keep a loose schedule of writing on Sundays—writing as much as I can for however long I can—and then chip away at a manuscript throughout the week.


Eventually, I’d like to find a balance between my writing and employment to focus on writing more books, but I am forever grateful to my current and past employers for their genuine enthusiasm and support of my writing career.


PUBLICATION JOURNEY



How did this book come to be published?


When I was serious about pitching this book, a friend of mine (Shelley Burr!) encouraged me to sign up for the Australian Society of Authors pitch events where you could pitch your work to up to two publishers or agents via Zoom. I ended up getting requests from both of the reps I pitched to, which was so encouraging early in the process. I continued pitching to both Australian and overseas agents, as I knew I wanted to exhaust all agent options before submitting directly to publishers, but did not manage to sign with an agent (though many were very lovely in their feedback and encouraged me to pitch future works!).


By January, most of my queries had been rejected so I decided to begin pitching directly to publishers. On a whim, I sent out a tweet while watching the Australian Open that basically said, ‘if you’re a [commissioning] editor looking for a diverse, friends-to-lovers lgbt romance novel set at the Aus Open, my DMs are open. I’ve won awards & am great to work with’. Pretty cheeky, but what did I have to lose? The team at Pan Macmillan saw the tweet by pure luck, and the commissioning editor contacted me via the form on my website.


Right up until I got my contract, a part of me thought it was the biggest practical joke, or that I was in some kind of elaborate scam where right at the end, the scammers would ask me for money, and I’d realise they were just pretending to be from Pan Macmillan. I even looked up the names on LinkedIn to make sure they were the real deal. Luckily, they weren’t a scam and everything’s been great since!


FUTURE



What's next?


I have a few exciting projects in the pipeline. Currently, I’m focusing on finishing the final edit of a YA manuscript which won an award in late 2022. The novel is about two girls who play for opposite netball teams in their small town but decide to join the region’s first AFLW team. It’s rivals-to-lovers, very sapphic, but also explores important themes of women’s sport, community, and female friendship.


I’m exploring a sequel to Love and Other Scores focusing on Lukas and his disastrous love-life. It’s still very early days (there’s no manuscript and barely a title, haha!) but let’s hope there’s a possibility it’ll get out in the world.


BOOK RECOMMENDATION



Share a rom-com recommendation by an Australian author.


I recently read SIT STAY LOVE by Amy Hutton, which came out mid-2023.


It follows Sera, who has opened an animal rescue in memory of her grandmother, with the help of her close friend, the local vet Toby. However, when Hollywood superstar Ethan James blows into town, Sera is swept off her feet. As Ethan and Sera grow closer, their relationship causes a stir around town and ruffles the feathers of a usually unflappable vet.


SIT STAY LOVE is a really fun and addictive romance about the perils of being (and dating!) a celebrity and having the courage to stand up for what you want and forge your own path. I really enjoyed the writing, and I’m a sucker for a celebrity romance!



 

ABRA PRESSLER

@abrapresslerauthor


Abra Pressler writes romance novels from her home on Ngunnawal Country in Canberra. She grew up on Wiradjuri Country in New South Wales. Her most recent novel, Love and Other Scores, is an LGBTQI+ sports romance published by Pan Macmillan.




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