A Q&A with Ali Hazelwood, Author of February Indie Next List Top Pick “Bride”

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Independent booksellers across the country have chosen Ali Hazelwood’s Bride (Berkley) as their top pick for the February 2024 Indie Next List

In Bride, tensions are high between the Vampyres and Werewolves, and Misery Lark's strategic marriage to the Alpha Werewolf may be the only way to secure peace. 

“Thank you Ali Hazelwood! Her books are wonderful, romantic book escapes. Add some paranormal spice and you have my kind of perfect! Bride is the great start of a new paranormal world full of werewolves, vampires, and humans,” said Revati Kilaparti of Old Firehouse Books in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Here, Hazelwood discusses her work with Bookselling This Week.

Bookselling This Week: Congratulations on hitting #1 on the Indie Next List yet again! Your acknowledgements mention that your agent and editor actively encouraged you as you moved into vampire/werewolf fiction. I love a team that not only encourages their author, but eggs them on. Do you want to tell us more about how Bride came to be?

Ali Hazelwood: I’d been telling my agent, the amazing Thao Le, for a long time that I wanted to write an arranged marriage book with wolf shifters. At the time I wanted the main female character to be human, so it was just “my werewolf book” for a while. Thao and I would discuss it often, and she was always super supportive about it.

Once my contract with my publisher (Berkley) was up to be renewed, she advocated for me to be able to write Bride — which was great, because I really think I needed a change of pace. My editor, Sarah Blumenstock, was also really open-minded. I was almost sure she would ask me to cut out the knotting scenes, but lo and behold, she had me write even more of it! It was so nice to feel like my publishing team supported me with this book, even if it’s a bit of a risky move for them.

BTW: Obviously, tales of vampires and werewolves have a lot of variation as far as the rules the creatures have to abide by and their origin. You chose to incorporate biological rather than supernatural explanations, so I’d love to hear more about your worldbuilding process. (Were there any exciting world/species details you decided on but weren’t able to incorporate in the final story?)

AH: I was writing the book from a pretty relaxed place, knowing that both vampires and werewolves have been depicted in hundreds of slightly different ways in novels, and that I could choose whatever aspects of their society/customs/biology I wanted to incorporate in my story. Bride is first and foremost a romance novel, so I tried to include just enough worldbuilding to make sure that the love story would feel grounded and that the trust issues Misery and Lowe needed to overcome would seem justified. There are definitely some little bits of Were society that didn’t come up because there was no organic way to introduce them and weren’t relevant to this specific story, but who knows — maybe in the future?

BTW: The main characters’ banter and chemistry really stands out here. Would you like to talk a little more about creating Misery and Lowe? How much did their characters change from the first to final draft?

AH: I always wanted Misery to be a bit hardened and mistrustful because of her previous experiences with…pretty much everyone she’s ever met, but I don’t think I was truly able to dial into who she was as a character until I had her interact with Lowe’s sister. Ana, at least in her final form, was a relatively late addition (she was initially going to be a bit older and a bit more antagonistic toward Misery), so it definitely took me a while to figure get to the thick-shelled but secretly softhearted Misery that you can find in the book.

Lowe’s arc was clearer from the start. I wanted him to be someone who’s genuinely nice and loving and self-sacrificing, and who finds himself aggressively wrestling with the idea that his fated mate is from another species — one that doesn’t fully understand the concept of “fated” or “mate.” He wants Misery for himself, but he wants Misery to be happy even more, and that’s what drives most of his actions.

BTW: Now that you’ve done so many romance novels, do you have a favorite romance trope?

AH: Fated mates remains my favorite, and I’m so glad I got to explore it in Bride!

BTW: Any hints on what you’ll be doing next?

AH: I’m currently drafting my next adult book, and it’s a bit of a change of pace for me. It’s not done though, so I’m not sure how much of what I have now will stay in the final version!

BTW: Is there anything else you want to share with our booksellers?

AH: Just my deepest thanks for everything they do and for creating and working in indie book stores, the most magical places in the world!