Get ready to learn more about the book Love or Hate in this discussion with sapphic author Rita Potter.
Join us for an exclusive peek behind the scenes as we quiz Rita Potter about Love or Hate, writing, reading, and more.
This book is part of the Toaster Oven category in the 2024 IHS Reading Challenge.
Why did you write Love or Hate?
This was the hardest book I’ve written. At the time I wrote Love or Hate, I was deeply troubled by the divisiveness in the world and the sapphic community. As is typical of a writer, this was my way of exploring those feelings and finding peace. I hoped Love or Hate would open up a much needed dialogue.
Who is your favorite character in the book?
Ivy Nash which is ironic since she’s the conservative Christian in the book. Living in a small town in the middle of a cornfield, I know many people like Ivy and her family. People who are being pushed further to the right because of divisive politics.
At first blush, Ivy and I are very different, but there are some similarities. The biggest is that Ivy is a uniter and is the character most likely to listen to everyone’s viewpoint and try to find common ground.
What inspired the idea for Love or Hate?
I had two inspirations for the book. First, divisive politics in the United States which has eroded civil discourse and made compromise between the two sides nearly impossible. It deeply troubles me the inertia in tackling the serious problems that needs solved. With both sides taking an all or nothing approach. Second, the trend, especially on social media, to form opinions about a topic without doing thorough research. And then compounding the problem, by shutting down any discussion by coercive means.
What was the biggest challenge writing this book?
It was risky writing it since I knew some people would HATE the book, but I felt strongly enough about the subject matter that I had to write it. I don’t expect or want everyone to agree with me. What I do want is for it to encourage people to not just talk about difficult topic but to listen to each other.
What part of the book was the most fun to write?
The body switch scenes. What’s not to love about body swaps? With the heavier themes in Love or Hate, these scenes provided the comic relief. I won’t spoil anything, but I’m especially partial to the pot smoking scene.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
My titles all come from a line in the book. Love or Hate was an obvious title since Rain and Ivy are asked whether they will choose love or hate.
If you’re planning a sequel, can you share a tiny bit about your plans for it?
I’ve contemplated a sequel, but then again I have sequels in mind for many of my books. Since Love or Hate has an element of the magical, it opens the door for more magic. I would love to have Rain and Ivy time travel to the past. Rain’s mentor Tracie is a lesbian in her sixties, who has made it clear to Rain that she doesn’t understand what it was like being a lesbian back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. I would love for Rain and Ivy to go back in time and meet Tracie in her younger years and discover how far we’ve come since then.
What is your writing process like?
I’m a pantser with a road map. I am a HUGE fan of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat Beats, so I always know which direction I’m heading. I just have no idea what’s going to happen on my way to the next beat. My characters almost always throw at least one or two curve balls at me on my journey.
For those who might not know what beats are, they provide structure for the story. Before anyone thinks that using beats takes away creativity, it does quite the opposite. If you’re skeptical, I encourage you to Google it because beats are fascinating. At least, I think they are.
Save the Cat has 15 beats. Some of these beats are; the catalyst, the debate, the midpoint, and the dark night of the soul. Something specific must happen in each of these beats. For example, the catalyst is the life changing moment that sets the story in motion. Once that moment happens, the character’s life will never be the same again. In Love or Hate, the catalyst happens when Rain and Ivy begin switching bodies. In many romances, the catalyst happens when the love interests meet.
What are three words that describe your personality?
Hopeful. Eclectic. Authentic. As a play on HEA, I chose these three words as my author tagline.
Hopeful: I’m an optimist through and through, and even though I tackle heavy subject matters I always infuse my stories with hope. I believe the most empowering stories are people who’ve walked through fire and come out the other side better for it.
Eclectic: You’d just have to look at my bookshelves to see this is true or read my books. I would quit writing before I pigeonholed myself into one genre. I KNOW my eclectic nature will hamper my sales, but I’m okay with that. I just want to find readers who love flawed and layered characters, intricate plots, fast pacing, and unusual settings.
Authentic: I’m not afraid to go against the grain and be unapologetically me. It’s not the best trait for marketing, but I couldn’t do it any different if I tried. I love people who are real and raw and aren’t afraid to be vulnerable. I believe the world would be a better place if we were all allowed to be our true selves without so much judgmen
What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing, and by whom?
I took a course from Jessica Brody who wrote Save the Cat Writes a Novel. Through this course, I learned about fast drafting, which is to go full speed ahead without editing. If you want to change something from earlier, you write down what you want to change and keep going. You never go back and fix anything. By doing this, it has freed the creative side of me, and I’m not hampered by painstakingly agonizing over a single line. That’s saved for the editing process.
Do you feel bad putting your characters through the wringer?
Nope, I don’t feel bad because I know the hell I put them through will make them stronger in the end and allow them to appreciate their HEA. In real life, I’ve taught classes on positive psychology, post traumatic growth, and resilience, so I understand that adversity builds character. In real life, the people I enjoy most are those who’ve faced their demons and come out better for it. So, I’m happy to walk through the fire with my character, encouraging them every step of the way.
What type of books do you enjoy reading the most?
I’m actually a huge nonfiction reader. I probably read four times more nonfiction than fiction. I absolutely love to learn knew things, and I’m curious about so many topics. The great thing is can now use my nonfiction reading as research for my fiction. For my three upcoming releases for 2024, I read about storm chasing, the witness protection program, and Patty Hearst. I’m currently reading about Hurricane Katrina as I start planning my 2025 releases.
What books have you read more than once in your life?
I RARELY read a book a second time since there are so many shiny new books out there. There are three that come to mind; The Stand by Stephen King, Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, and Curious Wine by Katherine V. Forrest. The Stand and Atlas Shrugged are epics that transport me completely to another world. I’m not very visual when I read, but I can still see/feel the setting and story. Of course, Curious Wine is the first lesbian romance I ever read, so it’s nostalgic.
What book do you wish you had written?
Gone Girl. I thought it was psychologically brilliant, and I love a good unreliable narrator. I don’t think I’m skilled enough to tackle a retelling, but I have been toying with an unreliable narrator.