Lindsay Hameroff, TILL THERE WAS YOU

Lindsay Hameroff, TILL THERE WAS YOU

Debut author Lindsay Hameroff joins Zibby to discuss TILL THERE WAS YOU, a delightful second-chance romance with a dollop of celebrity drama about a musician on the edge of fame and the aspiring chef who becomes the inspiration for his hit single. Lindsay explains how a Harry Styles song inspired this novel and then discusses the main character’s journey as a chef, the challenges of balancing relationships with career aspirations, and the comedic elements of her story. She also shares insights into her writing process (and her favorite breakfast foods!) and offers advice for aspiring authors.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, Lindsay. Thanks so much for coming on to discuss Till There Was You: A Novel.

Lindsay Hameroff: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.

Zibby: It’s so funny, I have a novel coming out, and chocolate chip pancakes play a big role. I feel like we should have a pancake mashup, meetup, I don’t know, something, buffet.

Lindsay: I love that idea. I love this idea.

Zibby: Tell listeners what your book is about, please.

Lindsay: It’s a romantic comedy. It’s about a chef who is new to culinary school. She’s trying to stay focused. She has this big goal of becoming a chef in a Michelin-star restaurant. She doesn’t want to get off course, which of course, for her, means no dating. She’s not going to get involved with guys, except one day, she’s at the bar blowing off steam. She starts chatting to a guy who’s sitting there. He turns out to be the dive bar musician. They hit it off. He plays “Till There Was You” for her because he finds out that she loves showtunes. Then they have a weekend-long fling. He’s like, I’m going to LA to record my demo album. She doesn’t think she’s going to see him again. She doesn’t, but then a year later, he becomes a star with this breakout single that’s about the blueberry pancakes she made for him the morning after. Everybody’s like, wow, this song is so sexy. I wonder what it’s about. She’s like, I know what it’s about. She’s trying to move on with her life. She’s graduated culinary school. She’s working on her job. She’s trying to stay focused. Then he shows back up again and is like, I made a mistake ghosting you. I want to give this a try. Then they’re both confronted with challenges of having basically succeeded with each of their individual dreams and if they could be together while pursuing them.

Zibby: Awesome. Where did this idea come from?

Lindsay: This idea came from the Harry Styles song “Carolina.”

Zibby: Which was quoted in your — what do you call it? Epigraph or whatever.

Lindsay: Epigraph, yeah. I put in there. During the pandemic, I was listening to that song while I was folding laundry. I was like, I wonder if this is a true story. I looked it up. It was a true story. He really did meet a girl one time and wrote this whole song about her. I was like, wow, what an incredible love story. Then it never went any further. He never saw her again. It just had this hit song. I was like, what a missed opportunity. I’m going to rewrite this story the way that I think it should’ve happened. Jake, who is my main character, is not a Harry Styles person. He’s a good old Southern boy. At the same time, I was listening to — I don’t know if you remember Kris Allen from American Idol. It’s the only season of American Idol I ever watched.

Zibby: I watched the one with — one of the very first ones. Maybe the second season with — I can’t remember her name now.

Lindsay: Kelly Clarkson.

Zibby: No, not Kelly Clarkson. It was the season, maybe, after that. She had brown curly hair. She was kind of taller. Oh, my god, I’ll think of it. Anyway, keep going.

Lindsay: That’s okay. It was the only season I ever watched. It was Allen and Adam Lambert at the end. He had this song that he performed, “Falling Slowly,” which was a cover from the Broadway show Once. I was listening to that as I was listening to “Carolina.” Then they conflated into this one idea. He was sort of based on this good old Southern boy who was playing showtunes. They just meshed to become that character of Jake.

Zibby: I’m guessing, but tell me if I’m wrong, that maybe you have some affinity for musical theater and Broadway.

Lindsay: I do have an affinity for — I was actually just in New York this past weekend. I saw two Broadway shows in one day.

Zibby: What did you see?

Lindsay: I saw Hadestown at the . Then I saw Merrily We Roll Along at night, which was very cool. I was like, Jonathan Groff! All the shows that I like, I just wrote them right into the book. I love The Sound of Music and Les Misérables and all those classic older ones.

Zibby: In the book when you mentioned that you also wanted to have six siblings after watching, I totally did too. I was like, that would be so fun. Oh, my gosh. We’d all line up with the little whistle. It would be perfect.

Lindsay: It would be so great. It’s completely not fitting with my personality, which is pretty introverted. I always want to, well, time for my alone time. I do sort of want that big family like that in The Sound of Music because I love that movie.

Zibby: That was good. That was really good. You have this scene at the bar, which you referenced. She’s talking to Jake, and she doesn’t know it’s Jake. She’s saying how much she doesn’t like musicians. Of course, he’s a musician. He asks her what’s on her playlist. She’s like, only Broadway. He was like, showtunes, oh, my gosh. Then of course, he gets up, and she’s like, how did I not notice the guitar? It must have been sitting there the whole time. Have you had moments like that where after the fact you’re just like, oh, my gosh, how did I miss that?

Lindsay: I can’t think of a specific moment, but I’m the queen of putting my foot in my mouth. I can’t think of anything specific, but I’m always saying something that I’m like, ha ha ha, and then just look like an absolute jerk afterwards.

Zibby: I read some of your humor writing, by the way. I loved your letter to your cleaning lady. I was obsessed. You wrote this whole thing about — it was in November of 2020. You were like, I’m sorry the apartment’s such a mess. My boyfriend broke up with me. Then you go into this whole thing. Can I be more of a cliché with the Häagen-Dazs and the Chinese takeout? Oh, my gosh, you’re really funny. You’re a very funny writer.

Lindsay: Thank you. I started off writing humor before I even ventured into the book.

Zibby: Let’s talk about that. Where did this whole writing career come from? Is this what you wanted to do? Do you want to be a chef? Do you cook also? Tell me about your whole life.

Lindsay: I always wanted to be a writer. This was my childhood dream. It was. I couldn’t really find the right idea. I didn’t like the idea of being, I’m just going to go write a book. I wanted a steady career, so I ended up becoming an English teacher, as one does, so I could just spend forever talking about books. I kept trying to come up with ideas. Nothing ever really stuck. I got really stuck in that idea as an English major of literary fiction. I was like, it’s not really what I write. I was in a class in college where we wrote short stories. I wrote what I thought — which is pretty much what I write now, a pop culture, celebrity story with dark humor. Everyone’s like, what is this nonsense? The feedback sort of put me off of it for a little while. Then during the pandemic when I had all this time — I was on maternity leave. I was teaching. I was on maternity leave. Then the pandemic happened. Then I ended up never going back. I was reading all of this romance. I couldn’t read any more Stephen King. I was like, this is not the time to read The Stand, during the pandemic.

I pivoted to romance. I was reading all this stuff. I was reading the After series by Anna Todd. I was like, this feels like a parody of Twilight, which feels like a parody of Fifty Shades. story. I ended up writing about it. I wrote a parody piece about it. Then I got it published. I was like, oh, that was fun. Then I got really into writing humor. When I did that, I started getting on Twitter, which is when I started connecting with other writers. This literary agent started following me. I was like, maybe this is something I could actually do. Maybe I really could write a book. It didn’t seem as impossible as it did when it was just a vague idea. Who do you know who’s really a novelist? It started to feel when I was publishing humor, which I really loved, that it was a possibility. I took a writing workshop with Catapult, which was fun. It was a novelist and six of us. Worked on Till There Was You. It just, weirdly, worked out. I wrote one book. I signed with an agent. I sold it, which I have since learned is not common.

Zibby: Not usually the case, but good for you.

Lindsay: I was just like, oh, no, is this — I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop all the time. I’m not a chef. I like to cook. This is also funny too because you just don’t know anything when you start writing. I originally imagined Lexi being a teacher because I was a teacher. I was like, if I make her a teacher, everyone’s going to think I wrote a book about myself, which is so silly because that’s what people do. I was like, what else could she be? She could be a chef. I didn’t know anything about it. I interviewed a chef. I read a few books. I’d never even worked at a restaurant. I just did a lot of research, which I have been told went well. Chefs are like, this is right. I was like, excellent. It was the pandemic, so I couldn’t shadow anybody.

Zibby: I feel like chefs have been getting a bad rap lately in particular. I don’t know if it’s The Bear, all the shows. I don’t know. The exacting nature and how hard it is to succeed under a chef. I watch this silly show called Migration and this movie for kids with my kids.

Lindsay: I saw it.

Zibby: You did? You went?

Lindsay: Oh, yeah.

Zibby: We went to a theater that reclined. I was like, oh, this is great. I’ll just take a nap. Then I forget that it is so loud in the theater. Anyway, there was a very mean chef in the thing, without even any words, just knives and puffy chest.

Lindsay: A humongous budget for a chef to have a private plane that he could chase all the birds around.

Zibby: Right? What was up with that crazy helicopter? Then it flew itself. Oh, my gosh, anyway, chefs, bad rap, but great food. There you go. Are you writing another book?

Lindsay: I am. I’m getting ready to turn in my second book to my editor this week. It’s Ali’s story, so it’s a companion novel.

Zibby: Perfect.

Lindsay: That one, I had to do less research for because I realized I didn’t have to make it so hard on myself. I could write things I knew about.

Zibby: Excellent. This is great. Are you still an English teacher, or did you quit to write full time?

Lindsay: I never went back. I never went back after the pandemic. My son, during the pandemic, was diagnosed with autism. He needed a lot of therapy. It was all home therapy that I really needed to be at home with him for. Now he’s in full-time school. Now I’m writing, so I just started doing that full time.

Zibby: How old is he now?

Lindsay: Five.

Zibby: That’s amazing. You have all the skills to do everything.

Lindsay: All an unexpected journey that’s led me to where I’d always sort of wanted to be. I don’t know if I would’ve done it had I not had this pandemic and his diagnosis. I think I probably would’ve just stayed teaching and stayed comfortable. I know lots of people are teachers, and they write. It just never was something that I was able to do.

Zibby: Different times of life too, different stages.

Lindsay: For sure.

Zibby: What are you reading these days?

Lindsay: Right now, I’m reading A Love Song for Ricki Wilde by Tia Williams. It is so good. It is so good. I keep going back to reread parts. Even on a line level, it’s just so beautiful. Then I just got approved for a few NetGalley things, so I’m excited about that. I have Happy Medium coming down the line; Jessica Joyce’s new book, The Ex Vows. I keep trying to squeeze in thrillers. I like to mix it up sometimes.

Zibby: All of a sudden, I keep having all these thriller ideas. I’m like, what am I doing? How would I even start to write a thriller?

Lindsay: I have a thriller idea. I’m like, I don’t know if this is something I’m capable of doing.

Zibby: That’s how I feel.

Lindsay: It percolates all day long.

Zibby: I’m like, should I give it to someone? Should I give it to someone else to do?

Lindsay: Do I want to give it away? I also just envision people being like, no, that wasn’t good.

Zibby: Or it’s been done before a hundred times, but since I don’t read that many thrillers, I don’t know.

Lindsay: Naïveté only gets you so far. I was like, what if I wrote a book about a celebrity and a normie? I bet that’s never been done. That was my thought process. I think that’s what’s going to happen with the thriller. I’m like, what if it was about housewives? No one’s ever written that.

Zibby: Did you read Romantic Comedy?

Lindsay: Yeah. You have to like an SNL romantic comedy.

Zibby: Exactly. Very fun. There’s also when moms get involved with boy bands. Did you read —

Lindsay: — I read The Idea of You when it came out.

Zibby: All right, I’ll stop.

Lindsay: It was before I really was a Harry Styles fan. I got into Harry Styles from the After series because I kept being like, let me visualize Harry Styles. I kept pulling him up on my Kindle until eventually I just was ready to get married. I do like the idea of the mom with the younger —

Zibby: — Kind of fun. I was actually on a plane once with Harry Styles. I didn’t even know who he was. It was a long time ago.

Lindsay: I would lead with that anytime I met somebody.

Zibby: I feel like I’m more in the camp of your character here who’s not up on all the things.

Lindsay: Me neither. That’s where I come up with it too. Whenever people are music into the Les Misérables soundtrack. I’m not with it.

Zibby: I definitely know who he is now, but back then, it was — my husband did know. He was pointing. I was like, what?

Lindsay: I was teaching middle school at the height of the One Direction era, so I knew who they were. He had a poster in the hallway that said — it was a One Direction poster. We used to tell the kids, line up facing One Direction. I knew who he was, but I was not really into that music.

Zibby: What is the secret to good pancakes?

Lindsay: For the blueberry pancakes, I think you have to have the lemon juice. I think that’s the secret. That’s a true part of the story. When I did not know how to cook at all, I did find this blueberry pancake recipe in a magazine. It was the first recipe I ever mastered. I did not go on to culinary school. I had seen a lot of blueberry pancake recipes, and I’ve never really seen a lemon juice one. I do think that helps.

Zibby: Excellent. I tend to add vanilla.

Lindsay: I’ve never added vanilla. That sounds good.

Zibby: I stole it from my husband, so I can’t really claim it.

Lindsay: You have to get the right size blueberries too. If they’re too big, it rises too much. You can’t really get that right consistency.

Zibby: The other day, I was like, I’m basically just making you guys cookies on a pan. I’m basically making you a chocolate chip cookie for breakfast on a pan pretending it’s a — anyway, didn’t stop me.

Lindsay: I like them. They’re not my favorite breakfast food. I’ll eat them if they’re there. I do make them a lot because my husband and my children love them.

Zibby: What’s your favorite breakfast food?

Lindsay: I’m a savory breakfast person. I got to have eggs with salsa, something in that realm.

Zibby: Nice. Amazing. What advice do you have for aspiring authors? I could talk about food with you forever, pretty much.

Lindsay: I know. I think the best advice I got — I got this when I was taking — I took a few humor writing classes with The Second City. They were great. The best advice I got from there that I have moved on with is, you should write to entertain yourself. I think it’s very easy to sort of chase what’s trending in the market or to write what you think people want to read. I think when you’re your own fan and you’re writing what you want to read, you will find your readers. That was what I did with humor. You don’t want to write humor where you don’t really feel like this is funny, but you feel like that’s a trending topic. try to write political stuff. It was okay, but it wasn’t really my niche interest. I think that’s true. The first one and the second book, I just wrote what I like. When you do that, you’re going to have fun writing it. You’re going to have fun reading it. It’s going to come through, I think is the most important thing. I remember trying to come up with book ideas, and it just wasn’t what I would necessarily want to pick up.

Zibby: I had this writing coach session once. They were like, write the jacket flap copy. I wrote it, and I was like, I wouldn’t want to read this book.

Lindsay: Exactly. If you’re not going to want to pick it up, it’s going to be hard to put your heart and soul into it.

Zibby: A hundred percent. It was a good tip. Congratulations, Lindsay. Thanks so much for coming on.

Lindsay: Thank you so much for having me. It was nice to meet you.

Zibby: Nice to meet you too. Take care.

Lindsay: Bye.

Zibby: Buh-bye.

Lindsay Hameroff, TILL THERE WAS YOU

TILL THERE WAS YOU by Lindsay Hameroff

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