Interview with Catherine Bybee
For anyone wondering the plot of your newest release, you give a great sneak peek with the title—When it Falls Apart. What is “falling apart” in this novel?
All the threads that hold my heroine, Brooke, together are crumbling down around her. When it Falls Apart begins with Brooke’s romantic relationship crashing and burning. At the same time, in a different state, her father is circling the drain in the ICU. And for the cherry on the top of her “falling apart life”, Brooke has found herself demoted at work. In short, everything in Brooke’s life is dissolving around her.
Like all of your books, When it Falls Apart has a beautiful romance, however, there is a rawness about Brooke’s story. How was writing this novel different from your others?
If you read my notes both in the front and the back of this novel, you’ll soon realize that the story was very personal to me. Rawness comes from experience. The relationship Brooke has with her father is hauntingly familiar to me and my dad. The emotions that the heroine experienced when taking care of him were easy for me to grasp onto and write about. Sadly, the love story with Luca was completely made up and I didn’t have the support of a strong Italian family to help deal with the struggles, but I digress.
Relationships with a parent who wasn’t there for you growing up are messy. When that parent ages and needs their child, sometimes that help comes with a bucketload of resentment, even if the child wishes they could stop those ugly feelings from creeping up on them. And THAT is the rawness you speak of.
Books, TV shows, and movies oftentimes glamorize what it means to care for a loved one. However, in When it Falls Apart you don’t sugar-coat anything about caregiving and the toll it takes on a person. How do you think readers who have been in similar situations will be affected by this story?
Justified. Validated. Accepted.
It’s a hard job taking care of an elderly family member. And if there aren’t other siblings to help, or won’t help, it’s made even more difficult. It’s difficult, gritty, dirty work that only has a bad ending…eventually. What I do hope my readers take away is that they’re not alone. That the struggle is very real and that if they don’t find balance (which is almost impossible at times) they will burn out completely and not be fit to help at all. I hope my readers are empowered to set boundaries and balance, so they come out on the other side of caring for an elderly loved one whole themselves.
Brooke gets virtually no support from her significant other, which has her reevaluating their relationship. She realizes she has settled and has to make some hard decisions. Do you think this happens too many times to women in real life?
100% Yes! There is a song by Taylor Swift with a line that says, and I’m paraphrasing here, I can be what you want for the weekend. But often that weekend ends up being a relationship that women hold on to or are convinced they can’t live without. Often it takes a huge shake-up to remove yourself from that situation. But once you’re away from the day to day dysfunctional relationship, the easier it is to see the dysfunction.
After her breakup and move, Brooke is not looking for a relationship. In fact, she tells her best friend: “I haven’t wiped off my smeared mascara from Marshall yet, the last thing I want is to jump into anything else.” Her crying over a man lasts all about two minutes when she meets Luca. Tell us about him.
Hmmm, Luca… he is the kind of man who doesn’t want a place on Brooke’s dance card…he wants to rip it up.
Luca is wired to help the people in his life. Brooke becomes a part of his inner circle simply by moving into the family building where he sees her every day.
Now, if Luca had flat out asked Brooke on a date, she would have run the other way…so no, he doesn’t go about it that way. He simply shows up and does not leave. Not when things get tough, or messy…or when his own past peeks its head in. Luca is a man who is right there at Brooke’s side without question or censor on why she does the things she does. His support and validation of her feelings is the part she was missing. Add in the hunky Italian single father and “Mamma Mia!”
At first, Luca is not thrilled that Brooke is renting a room in his family’s building. What changes his mind about her?
Her strength and vulnerability. I know that sounds contradicting, but some of the strongest women I know have a big vulnerable spot in their life that if you know them well enough, you see. The biggest smiles often hide the deepest pain. Luca sees her struggle and dedication to helping her elderly father and since family is first on Luca’s list, she passes his unconscious test.
Luca’s family, the D’Angelo’s, are incredibly close and share everything from ownership of the family restaurant to helping care for Luca’s daughter Franny. How is this different from Brooke’s relationship with her family?
Brooke doesn’t have that family. She has a father who abandoned her as a little girl that she carved out a relationship as an adult, and now she’s charged with caring for. Even her previous romantic relationship didn’t support her unconditionally the way the D’Angelo’s do for each other. She’s rather dumbfounded when they start treating her like family. It’s a wonderful thing to watch happen.
San Diego’s Little Italy plays a huge part in the story. The community, language, and food are in full display. Tell us about your own experiences in your adopted city.
I love Little Italy, the food, the pace... the people. There are many places in San Diego that are overrun with the college scene, San Diego is a college town. But Little Italy is more family friendly. Very touristy, but there isn’t a day you don’t see locals hanging out. I go to the farmer’s market often. Pick up authentic Italian ingredients for my own home cooking. I try new restaurants and take all my friends there when they are visiting from out of town. Not to mention it was the closest thing to the “real Italy” that I could go during the travel restrictions. So why not write about it and tell the world of this small island within San Diego that shouldn’t be missed?
There are two more siblings in the D’Angelo family. Where will you be taking readers next with the series?
Chloe is a yogi. Think Bali!
And Giovanni loves wine… think Tuscany, Italy.
I cannot wait to show you what I have in store for these two!
Brooke Turner has always had a complicated relationship with her father. But when his health takes a turn for the worse, she drops everything to care for him. He’s her dad, after all, and he needs her. What Brooke doesn’t anticipate is the unraveling of her long-term relationship and a cross-country move to San Diego’s Little Italy.
Luca D’Angelo is the oldest of three children and a single father to a young daughter. When his mother rents the top floor of their house to Brooke, he’s angry. Who is this beautiful stranger with no ties to the neighborhood? Can she be trusted in such close proximity to his family?
As Luca learns of Brooke’s difficult journey with her ailing father, his heart softens. And Brooke, who witnesses Luca’s struggle as a single parent, develops feelings for him, too. But when it all falls apart, will love heal their wounded hearts?