Frisky Q&A: Jo Piazza, Author Of Love Rehab: A Novel In 12 Steps

Have you been watching every episode of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” since way back? Us, too. Have you been just a little disappointed and confused and, oh why don’t I just say it, bitter at how much less shiny and magical actual romances are in real life? Us, too.  Have you ever acted like a coo-coo bananas bird after a breakup? US, TOO! Well, there’s a new book out this summer called Love Rehab: A Novel In 12 Steps, written by Jo Piazza, a former gossip columnist for the New York Daily News, that combines all of these topics!

We get mailed a lot of books that you could classify in the “chick lit” genre here at The Frisky. ain’t got nothing on us! Most of them I send straight to the giveaway pile, but every so often I’ll read one (preferably lying in the sun, with my pedicured toes in the sand) that’s smart and funny and shareable with friends. Love Rehab is that book. After the jump, Jo Piazza answered some questions for me via email about her best breakup tips and her thoughts on current “Bachelorette” Desiree!

So many novels about romantic relationships are about the getting together or the coming apart, but yours is about a different stage of the breakup entirely: a woman figuring out what’s wrong with her ideas about love and romance before she even tries to be in a healthy relationship with a man again.

That was exactly the reason that I wrote this. The traditional romantic comedy/chick lit formula is that girl and guy meet, a hilarious misunderstanding occurs, hilarity ensues, hilarious misunderstanding is cleared up and then everyone lives happily ever after. No one focuses on the reality. To me, the reality of romance is the breakup that precedes the relationship that actually works out and the time you put into working on yourself in the interim between relationships.

I also wanted to show the love story between the group of women who help each other in those interstitial moments between relationships. They are the real heroes of our romantic victories — the women who held your hair back after you did give post breakup tequila shots and analyzed that dude from the bar’s six obscure text messages.

The main character is someone the reader feels badly for at the beginning when she just got dumped, who seems kinda obsessive and pathetic in over time, and then you begin to really cheer for her as she makes better life choices and doesn’t cling to unhealthy dudes anymore. Why did you construct her that way?

Sophie, my main character really hits rock bottom in the beginning. I know she seems like a pathetic hot mess, but I think that makes her that much more relatable. My hope was that women would see themselves in Sophie’s rock bottom so they could really enjoy her triumph over leaving that girl behind.

Since the book came out I have had more than 100 emails from women telling me they were that girl … depressed, sitting in a hole-y sweatsuit, smelling of Cheetos and desperately checking their phones for a text message from some douchey dude. But we rarely see those characters in books, TV or movies. I thought it was important to show all of her imperfections, because we have all been a mess at some point.

I really liked how Sophie’s best friend, Annie, who is is in Alcoholics Anonymous, is a lesbian. Was that on purpose? Chick lit doesn’t have a ton of lesbian characters.

Annie’s character really started in a bar on the East side of Manhattan. One of my close girlfriends had just had a baby and after we visited I went to the nearest corner pub with my two close friends who happen to be a lesbian couple, both named Meg and both incredibly awesome women. I was hashing out my ideas for a novel and after a couple of beers they told me they were so sick of the trite gay fabulous best friend character. They asked me if I could write a hot awesome lesbian best friend. Annie has so many other influences, but that is where she was born.

Clearly you are a woman who has read a lot of romantic self help (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) as sources for the book. Are there common themes that you think are useful?

No offense taken. I can honestly say I have never read any romantic self-help. [Jessica’s Note: Oops.] To prep for this book, I started reading a lot of AA and codependence literature, but I was so worried that if I read the romantic self-help books I would go into a shame spiral that I might never return from. But I did do a lot of research into the scientific effects of romantic love on our brains and on real-life love rehab programs where people check themselves in for weeks and even months at a time to break their cycle of bad relationship behavior. I tried to check myself in for research at one point, but they were onto me.

What does real life love rehab consist of?

Being totally present and looking inside yourself. I don’t want to sound too New Age-y, I just think it is rational advice for anyone going through anything shitty. You need to put it in perspective of the here and now and then you need to fix you. You are the only person you can control. You will never fix a bad boss, a bad boyfriend or a bad parent. You can choose how you react to it. I think that is what Love Rehab teaches all of the women.

The book is a critique, in a way, of TV shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” A fictional version of one of those shows ends up being part of the story. Do you really think women viewers take the messages of those shows seriously?

I know women take those shows seriously. I have engaged with so many women who, even thought they claim that they know it is tongue-in-cheek and scripted, still internalize the message that true love is just one rose away and that we should expect the search for our soul mate to be magical and easy. But the blame isn’t just on shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” and every romantic comedy ever made. I fully blame the selective nature of social media these days. When we “see” couples online we only see picture perfect happy couples because everyone self-selects what they post in their feeds. Even if we know that, it has an effect. It makes us believe that love is perfect when in reality it is messy 80 percent of the time.

Have you been watching this season of The Bachelorette? How do you think Desiree is faring so far? She sent the guy home who said he was falling in love with her! And kept the guy who brought his toddler to the meet and greet! What is she thinking?

I think Des has so many problems. Was the guy who said “I love you” on their third encounter a little too intense? Of course he fucking was. But, he was a nice guy and maybe he deserves another chance. For a really long time I discounted the guys who were too nice to me. It creeped me out and I think that I lost out on a lot of winners. Those winners are probably happily married to wonderful women by now. I think Des may have been a little too quick to judge. I also think she has this predilection for bad boys that is going to lead her straight to singledom soon after her contract expires.

If you could send any celeb(s) to love rehab, who would it be?

I think about this all the time. Is that incredibly sad? Miley Cyrus because she obviously doesn’t want to face the reality that her relationship with Liam Hemsworth is totally over. Rihanna because I don’t think she respects herself enough to be in a healthy relationship.  Ever Teen Mom ever. Demi Moore because you know she has got a voodoo doll made of Mila Kunis’ hair somewhere under her bed.

More from Love Rehab on Follow Jo Piazza on Twitter!