Daisy Jordan is an obsessive tennis fan and wrote this book so she could live out her dream-job fantasy through Hilton. Before deciding to write a book about the tennis tour, she wrote six other books, including Everything Happens for a Reason…, the Spin the Bottle series, and All That Sparkles Isn’t Real Sapphire. Even before that, she grew up in Indiana watching tennis all summer every summer on TV, and even attended a few pro tournaments. She now lives in Denver and religiously fills out brackets for every Grand Slam with her brother Josh.
You can visit her website at DaisyJordan.com
Q: Thank you for this interview, Daisy. Can you tell us what your latest book, Love Means Zero, is all about?
A: Love Means Zero is about Hilton, a recent college grad with a dead-end job at a portrait studio, unexpectedly landing a freelance role with Game Set Match magazine, which she refers to as “the Us Weekly of tennis.” Hilton has always dreamed of traveling the world and taking gorgeous photographs, and suddenly, she is doing just that. It’s about the best life she can imagine—partying with the players and their famous girlfriends, seeing fantastic tennis every day, and jetting off to a new place every week. But for her boyfriend Luke, it’s about the worst life he can imagine. He’s stuck at home in Indiana finishing law school, and the more Hilton’s gone, the less she seems to miss him. As he closes off from her and harbors a relationship-changing secret, Hilton, a happy-go-lucky believer in love and fate, laughs off her feelings for one of the world’s top-ranked tennis players as nothing more than a celebrity crush. But then, in one intense, heart-wrenching, thrilling, and thought-provoking moment, Hilton’s world turns upside down as she starts to see that love may not be as powerful or fate-determining as she thought.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?
A: Hilton is easygoing, free-spirited, and in love with life. She believes everything happens for a reason, but she also believes in going out and making things happen for herself. She is head-over-heels in love with her boyfriend Luke, whom she’s been with for almost six years. She is intuitive, thoughtful, confident, and spontaneous, and her friends mean everything to her. However, she also knows she sometimes has to put herself first, even if it could mean hurting someone else.
Luke is tall, good-looking, and laid-back. The most important people in his life are Hilton and his other two roommates, Jill and Todd. He is 100% happy with his current life—living with them while he finishes law school. After that, he imagines marrying Hilton and basically continuing with their life as it is—fun-filled times with great friends.
Jill has been Hilton’s best friend since ninth grade and is the only person to whom Hilton can truly tell everything. She is wildly in love with her boyfriend Todd, who has long been the guy of her dreams. Jill has experienced a lot of tumultuous rollercoasters in her life, and in the past, Hilton was usually the one with the awesome relationship, while Jill was usually single and struggling with guy issues. In this book, their roles begin to reverse.
Tanner grew up in Aspen, Colorado, moved to Vero Beach, Florida to play tennis when he was fourteen, and now is ranked No. 3 in the world. He quickly became a fan favorite on the tennis tour because of his funny and gracious personality…and his killer looks. He is part boy next door, part New York City partier. He is genuinely interested in people, he supports animal charities, and he loves to go out and do crazy things in the spotlight—both on and off the court. Tanner always has fun with whatever he does, and his magnetic energy draws in everyone around him.
Haidin is tennis’ most notorious bad boy. Ranked No. 5 in the world, his press conferences have to air on tape delays because of his penchant for profanity and outrageously offensive comments. He dates model/actress Aubrey Gage, and their scandal-filled relationship garners him as much, if not more, media attention—and backlash—as does his complete lack of sportsmanship in tennis. There’s a reason he acts like he does, but it’s one nobody would ever guess.
Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
A: My characters are almost completely from my imagination. I do occasionally give them traits of real people I know, which I usually do to make my friends and family laugh. For example, in Everything Happens for a Reason…, which is about Hilton, Luke, Jill, and Todd in college, I made one of their guy friends a really terrible dancer. I knew this would make all my college friends laugh, because it would remind them of one of our guy friends who was a really bad dancer. Hilton being a somewhat obsessive tennis fan is based on me, to an extent, although Hilton, being an actual tennis player, has a way better excuse to be an obsessive fan than I do. My friends and family think I’m slightly crazy, so they all kind of shook their heads and laughed when I told them Hilton was getting a job traveling with the tennis tour in my new book. For the most part though, my characters are unique, and one of the most fun parts of writing is developing them and getting to know them.
Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?
A: I am usually consciously aware of one or two big things that will happen over the course of the book, but I never make an outline or plan things in detail ahead of time. I just start writing and let the ideas flow. They always do, and sometimes those big things I had in mind before I started writing don’t even happen, or they happen differently from how I originally pictured. I would call my style of writing “go with the flow.” I let things happen naturally, I let the characters react to what happens, and the plot then takes a more realistic path.
Q: Your book is set all over the world. Can you tell us why you chose this format for the setting?
A: I find travel invigorating, and I also know it can change the way people think and feel, especially when they travel for long periods of time. Hilton has always wanted to travel, and once she gets a taste of that life, nothing else is enough for her. She is dissatisfied and uninspired back at home in Indiana. When she travels, she takes something from each place she goes, whether it be a feeling, a memory, or a new way of looking at some aspect of life. Eventually, this does change the way she feels about her relationship with Luke, and about love in general, which never would have happened had she stayed in Indiana her whole life. I also use the different settings to invoke a thrill in readers. I absolutely love to travel, and reading about faraway places always makes me want to jump on a plane. I think a lot of people feel this way, and Hilton’s lifestyle, along with each section of the book taking place in a different location, adds excitement to the story.
Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?
A: It absolutely does, in a couple of different ways. As Hilton travels and Luke sits at home growing more and more miserable, they begin to drift apart, and both of their views on the relationship—which at the beginning of the book was rock-solid—change. This probably never would have happened had they both stayed home and continued life as they had always known it. There is also one particular setting in the book, New York City, that plays a major part in the development of the story. Hilton spends much of her time there between tournaments, and she comes to see it as her “home away from home.” She names it as her favorite city in the world, and there comes a point when she is more comfortable there than she is in Indiana. There are also a couple times when something major happens, or doesn’t happen, because of Hilton being in New York.
Q: Open the book to page 69. What is happening?
A: Hilton is in Paris on her first assignment for Game Set Match. One of her jobs is to sit in the hotel lobby at night, follow tennis players when they go out, and try to get scandalous pictures of them. She has seen all the big-name players cross through the lobby at least once during her first week there…except for Tanner Bruin. She is almost positive he isn’t staying in the hotel, and she wonders if he has a secret girlfriend. She sees him as a mystery and is intrigued by him, because he’s also her favorite player. Later that night, she talks to Luke on the phone and describes being in Paris with Game Set Match as “going from zero to sixty in like, two seconds.”
Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?
A: I’ll give you one of the best ones that doesn’t give away anything big, but hints at several key aspects of the story that you’ll see when you read the book! This excerpt happens on Middle Sunday of Wimbledon, and it takes on greater significance later in the story, in more than one way.
The four of them went to a dark, crowded, noisy pub right across the street from their hotel. When they walked in, they had to walk down a set of steep, creaky stairs into the main room, and Hilton liked it, because down here below ground it was warm and cozy and they were secluded from the rainy gloom outside. It was horribly smoky, but Hilton figured she could deal with it for one day. The atmosphere was festive; all over people were talking and laughing loudly while they downed pint after pint.
“Oh my gosh!” a girl behind the bar shrieked when they approached. “Oh my gosh. You’re Tanner Bruin. And you’re Bryony Adams. Oh my gosh! I read about you guys in Game Set Match. Hold on, I’ll clear a table for you right away.”
Tanner smiled his easy, sexy smile. “It’s okay, we’ll wait.”
The girl couldn’t take her eyes off him. “Oh my gosh.”
“What do you guys want?” Tanner asked, turning to Bryony, Hilton, and Luke. “First round’s on me. For Luke’s birthday.”
“Thanks, man,” Luke said. “What’s a good English beer? I feel like trying something new.”
“What would you recommend?” Tanner asked the girl.
“Ummm…” She was star-struck and could hardly seem to think. “How about Bass? It’s one of our best pale ales. It’s probably our most popular. I think you’ll like it.” The last comment was directed toward Luke, but Hilton laughed to herself as the girl’s eyes immediately darted back to Tanner. She only wanted to impress Luke because he was part of Tanner’s party.
“Oh no, we don’t want pale ale,” Tanner said. “Give us something dark. Something with some bite. You pick something. I’ll trust you. Whatever you think is best.” He grinned at the girl again. Bryony looked at Hilton, and they laughed.
“Okay! You want that in pints?”
“Sure.” Something about the way he said it was so sure, so confident yet warm. Hilton felt little tingles all over. Everything he did was such a turn-on. And he always looked so good too; he was wearing dark jeans with a blazer again, like in Paris, but this time he wore the blazer over a fairly tight-fitting Aerosmith T-shirt, and he wore black Adidas shoes with white stripes. Hilton loved the mix of casual and classy. Bryony was wearing dark skinny jeans and a long slinky purple shirt with a low V-neck that clung to her body and showed off how thin she was. Hilton was wearing jeans and a dark green lingerie-like top with thin spaghetti straps under a tight long-sleeved black shirt with a V-neck that went down almost to her stomach and showed off a lot of the shirt underneath. Luke had on jeans and a lightweight black long-sleeved shirt from The Buckle. It was tight and showed off his toned-but-not-too-huge upper body. Hilton thought he looked delicious too.
“Okay!” The girl scurried off a few feet and was back merely seconds later with their drinks.
Tanner pulled out a wad of cash.
“Oh, no, it’s on the house.” The girl beamed at him.
“Oh, well thank you.” Tanner slid a fifty-pound note across the counter, then picked up a pint and handed it to Bryony.
“That was like a hundred dollars!” Hilton hissed in amazement. “Wow. It’s her lucky day.” She laughed.
“Was it?” Tanner shrugged. “I don’t really know the conversions. I go so many places I can never remember the ones like here, that have their own currency. I’ve got the euro pretty down, but I can never remember pounds.”
“Must be nice not to have it matter,” Luke laughed.
“Hey, I see a table!” Bryony pointed, and they all rushed over.
They ordered food and talked for a few hours. Tanner and Luke asked each other lots of questions about where they’d grown up and what they liked to do, and Hilton loved how well they got along. She learned a lot about Tanner too; she’d known for a long time just from watching his matches on TV and listening to the commentators that he’d been born in Aspen, Colorado and had moved to Vero Beach, Florida with his family when he was fourteen to train, but now she was learning all the details. He said he missed Aspen like crazy; he hadn’t been skiing in three years because he never had time. He’d grown up skiing every winter, all winter long, and had looked forward to being on the alpine ski team in high school. Even though he was modest, Hilton got the idea he’d been pretty awesome at it. But he had been doing really well in some regional tennis tournaments, and when he’d realized he had the chance to make it big in that, he’d decided to go for it. He said someday he wouldn’t mind moving back to Aspen though; his family had moved back when he’d joined the pro tour. He told all kinds of stories about growing up there; his dad had worked at a ski resort so his family had always had free unlimited ski passes, and Tanner had started skiing when he was three. He’d snowboarded too, but he said that was more just for fun; he hadn’t ever planned to be competitive with it. He’d started playing tennis when he was three too, at the courts at the resort, and that was what he’d done all summer when he wasn’t skiing. He told about how when he was sixteen and back in Aspen for Christmas, he’d asked out a girl he’d liked back in middle school and taken her skiing, and she’d broken her leg on the first time down the slope. She’d lived in Aspen her whole life but hadn’t ever been skiing; her dad had forbidden her from it because his brother had died in a skiing accident. So Tanner had thought it would be romantic and bad-boy-like and adventurous to take her, and then after she’d broken her leg, her dad had told her she could never talk to Tanner again, but Tanner had only been in Aspen for another week after that anyway.
The four of them were practically rolling with laughter by the time he finished, and Hilton could tell Bryony was hearing all this for the first time too. After all, she’d only known Tanner since April. Hilton had tears streaming down her face. She loved the image of Tanner as a teenager, really liking this girl and trying to be reckless to impress her…it was totally hot and just reinforced her image of his personality.
He told them other stories about Aspen too, like how it wasn’t out of the ordinary at all to walk into the grocery store and see a celebrity—tons of them owned homes in Aspen and the neighboring Snowmass Village—and how a lot of people who worked in Aspen and Snowmass couldn’t even afford to live there and had to live in neighboring, less ritzy towns. As he talked…about the Aspen Music Festival every summer, the Winter X Games, how he and his friends would ski anytime they possibly had the chance…she could hear the love for Aspen in his voice. She felt a bond with him; she, Luke, and Bryony were hearing him talk about stuff not a lot of people ever got to learn.
“Do you ever wish you wouldn’t have left?” Hilton asked.
Tanner looked thoughtful. “I don’t think so. But I think about how it would’ve been different, where I’d be in life right now.” He smiled. “Maybe I would’ve made it big in skiing and gone to the Olympics and Bry would’ve seen me on TV anyway.” He flashed his gorgeous smile in Bryony’s direction, and she laughed and shoved into him with her shoulder.
“Probably, but I might not’ve been able to tell he was hot, if he was all bundled up in ski stuff,” she said, and they smiled easily at each other.
Hilton laughed, but she felt a little twinge of jealousy. She shook it off, knowing she was being ridiculous.
“No,” Tanner said, turning back to Hilton, “I really do think about it sometimes…what it would’ve been like. I think I would’ve had a blast going to high school there and stuff, and then who knows, maybe I would’ve played tennis in college and ended up going pro anyway. But I think part of me would’ve felt like I missed a chance, like I was too scared to take it.”
Hilton nodded thoughtfully. “Yeah, I can see that.”
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Daisy. We wish you much success!
A: Thank you! I loved doing this interview, and I appreciate you giving me the opportunity!