Mari Mancusi reveals how a bad day at work inspired her to start writing her novel based around a TV newsroom.
One thing I love about writing is the chance an author has to “try on” different worlds — from time travel to futuristic to paranormal — truly, anything goes. But in this particular case, I decided to go the opposite route and use my real life experiences instead. Love at 11 is a comedic romance set in a television newsroom, the very same place I spent much of my career.
I remember the day I started writing Love at 11. I was in the middle of a rough draft of what would eventually become Alternity and I’d had to worst day at work. My executive producer had assigned me the stupidest story on the planet – Cosmetics That Kill – and I wasn’t making any progress on it. Simply because, cosmetics, as a rule, don’t actually kill. But the station loved the scare stories and hey, it’d sound great in a promo, so they weren’t going to take my objections or rationalizations. I was to find some makeup with gross, nasty bacteria lurking in it, have it tested and inform the world about all the grossness I found.
(Note: You’ve probably seen these germ stories before. It’s the kind of story stations always fall back on to get the ratings. And no matter what you test – be it the bottoms of purses or the ice in ice machines, you’re likely going to find something that sounds gross to the general public. But what you don’t see on the news is that most of these germs, while icky, actually won’t harm you. Our bodies have antibodies to take care of those kinds of things.)
Anyhow, I started thinking about all that goes on behind the scenes in television news. How they exaggerate to scare, how they won’t tell you about something truly deadly if it involves one of their advertisers, how managers will only approve a story if you can attach celeb’s name to it (they wouldn’t let me do a story on teens cutting until I mentioned that Lindsay Lohan was rumored to be a cutter), how they fire veteran journalists who make too much money and replace them with hot 20-somethings who have no experience but will practically work for free, etc. etc.
I started writing. And the words poured out of me. About Maddy, a hapless special projects producer, like myself, who is always assigned the most ridiculous stories. She longs to become a real journalist and work for a fictional network news show that still takes pride in reporting the truth. Instead, she’s stuck will silly, sensationalized stories like Deadly Dishwashers, Killer Clay, and Perilous Pets – stories aired for the sole purpose of boosting ratings through scary promos -while the most shocking news event in her town goes totally unreported.
I think when many people read Love at 11 they will assume much of it was exaggerated for fiction. But while the plot and characters are made up, the inner workings of the television news room are extremely real. For example, these Household Products That Kill stories Maddy’s assigned are all based on real news reports I’ve been assigned over the years. We really did air Problem Pedicures, Cosmetics that Kill, Shower Shocker and the rest on a daily basis.
But just as Maddy and her photographer – sexy, motorcycle-riding bad boy Jamie Hays – find a way rise above the corruption and risk their jobs to uncover the truth – in real life too, there are true journalists slaving away in the trenches. The unsung heroes who work overtime to expose the bad guys, right the wrongs, and produce fair and balanced reports. If anyone can save the industry, it’s them. They give me hope for the future and inspired the Love at 11 novel.
When Maddy graduated from Columbia University, she was ready to change the world. She’d get a job at Newsline, meet a nice guy, and live happily ever after with a real designer handbag on her arm. Five years later, she’s stuck producing puff pieces for the local News 9 San Diego–where “if it bleeds, it leads.” She’s still single, her family’s falling apart, and so is her knock-off Kate Spade. Even a promotion – complete with hot camera guy – can’t seem to turn her luck around. After all, the promotion means working with the most narcissistic anchor on the planet and hot camera guy Jamie? Well, he’d be perfect … except for that pesky model/actress fiancee of his. But just as Maddy’s ready to give up on her dreams, a secret scoop from her favorite knock-off purse guy has her suddenly chasing a huge lead. And Jamie is right by her side – in all the right ways. Can she bag the bad guy in an exclusive expose, put her family back together again, and win Jamie’s heart? Stay tuned … it’s the story of a lifetime.
Mari Mancusi is a multiple Emmy-award-winning television producer and author of novels for adults and teens. She’s worked at television stations in New York, Boston, San Diego, and Orlando and is a graduate of Boston University’s College of Communications. When not writing or producing, she enjoys traveling, cooking, 80s music, and her favorite guilty pleasure—videogames. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband Jacob and their daughter Avalon.