I became aware of Sandy Barker thanks to Twitter. I purchased all three of the books in her Holiday Romance Series after I looked them up on Amazon and read the sample pages for the first book, One Summer in Santorini. (We're still living in a COVID dominated world, who doesn't need a mental vacation to somewhere like Santorini, right?) When I saw the teasers for The Dating Game, I knew I needed this book in my life. As my husband will tell you, I am a huge fan of reality dating shows. (I was so taken with Back With the Ex on Netflix, that I reached out to Peter Reed, one of the stars of the show, and interviewed him.) The book absolutely delivered on all its delicious promises made in the back cover copy: ‘Hilarious and highly original’
Julie Houston, bestselling author of A Village Affair
Once upon a time, twelve women joined the hottest reality TV show looking for love. Except one had a secret identity . . .
Abby Jones is a serious writer. Or at least she will be, one day. Right now, she spends her time writing recaps of reality television under a secret identity.
When a recap for The Stag – the must-watch dating show – goes viral, her editor thinks she should be on set, writing the drama as it happens. The good news: the next season will be filmed in Sydney. Sun, sea and a glamorous trip abroad, this could be Abby’s big break.
The bad news: the producers don’t just want Abby to write the recaps, they want her to be on the show. Abby can’t think of anything worse than being undercover and followed around by cameras. But her career depends on it, and when she meets gorgeous producer Jack, Abby begins to wonder if this job might not be so bad after all . . . The book was so much fun from start to finish and I highly recommend it to anyone who's looking for a quick, happy, escape. You can check out my 5-star review for The Dating Game here.
The book releases on September 10, 2020, and I hope you'll get a copy of your own. If you do, let me know so we can gush about it together! Buy Links:
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3jQkJ9S
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/37qqxQe
Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/3Al1hXW
Google Play: https://bit.ly/3horQou
SJ: What inspired you to write The Dating Game?
SB: We were in the midst of (what felt like) the seventieth lockdown and I was in a sweeps at work for ‘The Bachelor’. To entertain my colleagues (and myself) I started writing witty recaps of each episode. An author friend suggested the premise of the book – write the story of the woman who writes snarky recaps and send her on the show under cover! I pitched it to my agent, then my publisher and they loved it!
SJ: Reality dating shows are my guilty pleasure. What are your favorites?
SB: I love the Great British Bake Off (or any bake off, really as I have now exhausted Canadian and Australian episodes too) and I am a HUGE Survivor fan. I’ve watched it pretty much from the start and am loving the current Australian season.
SJ: I thought everything about this book was so fun and just an absolute pleasure to read. Do you have a scene or character in particular that was your favorite?
SB: I loved writing Kaz. She was so fun. I love when she’s making cocktails and Abby ducks and she says, ‘Calm down drama queen, I put the lid on properly this time.’ I also love the scenes with Abby, Jack and Harry where they’re plotting out what happens next on the show. There are some terrific lines in those.
SJ: I’m a librarian so I was lucky enough to get to read an ARC of this book on NetGalley. I was intrigued that there was an addition made to the book after it was originally uploaded to NetGalley. Was that in response to reviews that were coming in?
SB: It was! When the book went up on NetGalley, we got a lot of feedback about wanting some sort of epilogue. I wrote it over a weekend, my editor had some tweaks and then we added it to the book. We both absolutely love the ending now.
SJ: The Stag, Daniel, is characterized as a clueless jerk…to put it nicely. What made you decide to have Daniel be an unlikeable character in the book? SB: I did consider having him be an absolute darling and write a love triangle, but it was much more fun and created a lot more drama for Abby to dislike him in real life, but have to pretend to like him while filming, so she didn’t blow her cover.
SJ: Your books have the most beautiful settings. It was fun to do a little sight-seeing in Sydney with Abby and her fellow Does in this book. What is your favorite location in Sydney?
SB: I genuinely LOVE Circular Quay which is where the ferries dock at the city centre and where you can see both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. I lived in Sydney for eight years and that sight never got old. I also lived in the eastern suburbs right on the beach and Sydney beaches are something to behold. I miss them.
SJ: Abby and Jack have some delightfully wicked bosses. What was your favorite thing about those characters?
SB: Prue was a blast to write. I feel like she could be a movie villain. I loved writing her little growls and ‘Mmm’s and Abby interpreting each one. And we get to see some of her dimensions, which is fun. Roberta – Vile Demon Woman – is once removed from Abby so she’s really the puppet master behind the scenes, but I love the scene where they meet at the beginning of the book.
SJ: I loved the look into the backstage world of reality dating shows in this book. What kind of research did you have to do to get it right?
SB: Lots of watching and reading – mostly recaps and online (gossipy) articles. I loved ‘Unreal’ when that came out, though I didn’t want to write anything that dark. I kept ‘The Stag’s’ crew, which in reality would have been much larger, to a small group and I know enough about filming and sound equipment and getting takes right to have drawn on that knowledge. (There was a time a million years ago when I was an actor with an agent and making commercials.) I also auditioned for the first season of Australian Survivor back in 2001. From 8000 applicants, I was selected as an alternate – that meant several rounds of auditions and I learnt a lot about how they ‘cast’ those shows and what goes into the contracts.
SJ: Who are some of your favorite authors to read?
SB: I am a massive fan of Jane Green – everything from her chicklit of 20 years ago to her contemporary fiction. I really enjoy Frances Mayes for travel non-fiction and loved her Women in Sunlight, a novel which came out a few years ago. I read everything Michael Connelly writes (several LA crime fiction series) – and have even met him and have a signed book. I also read quite a lot of WWII fiction – with Natasha Lester my fave as she weaves mid-20th C fashion into her books.
Essentially, I read widely and voraciously, though mostly in my own genre, romance.
There are some wonderful writers who I will instantly buy – Lindsey Kelk has to be my fave romcom author, so she’s always a ‘must buy’ – and I also love Julie Caplin/Jules Wake, Julie Houston, Jessica Redland, Katie Ginger, Emma Robinson … honestly, there are so many. And I have three very close author friends – I am a huge admirer of their writing: Nina Kaye (contemporary romance), Fiona Leitch (sexy/funny crime fiction) and Andie Newton (WWII fiction).
SJ: Do you write while listening to music? Is there any music that makes you think of The Dating Game?
SB: I actually can’t write to music – if I need something in the background, I will play ‘rain’ or ‘ocean sounds’ on Spotify (yes, really). But when they make it into a movie (wink, wink), I can imagine that the soundtrack will be pop music all the way!
SJ: Are you working on a new book now? Is there anything you can tell us about it?
SB: I am! Next up is Book 4 in the Holiday Romance series, Under Bali Skies. I finished that before I started The Dating Game, actually, so no doubt edits will land on my desk some time in October or November. That’s out in February. And I am currently writing book five in the series, A Wedding in Tuscany, which features both Parsons sisters (from books 1, 2 and 3) but I won’t spoil which one is getting married. SJ: You write delicious romcoms, what are some of your favorite romcom movies?
SB: When Harry Met Sally is hands-down my fave, but I love The Proposal, Notting Hill, 50 First Dates, It’s Complicated, Bridget Jones’s Diary … again, so many! I think we are due for another big surge of romcoms – it’s been a while since there were romcoms everywhere you looked. I did love Isn’t It Romantic – hilarious and such a fun exploration of the genre.
Thank you so much for having me – these were fun questions to answer.
If you'd like to keep up with Sandy and the fantastic new projects she mentioned here, you can find her online at the following social media outlets:
Sandy is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.
Sandy lives in Melbourne Australia with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins.
The series continues in That Night in Paris and A Sunset in Sydney and there are two more to come in 2022. Her standalone novel The Christmas Swap celebrates her favourite time of the year, and next up is The Dating Game, a laugh-out-loud romcom set in the world of Reality TV.
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