No relationship is perfect. Colleen Hoover explores the imperfections of a relationship between a husband and wife in her new novel, All Your Perfects, on shelves now. The story is split between memories from the past, when Quinn and Graham first met and fall in love, and the painful present where this married couple is struggling to stay strong and keep their communication skills sharp in the face of hardship. Here, Hoover chats with Bookish about the intricacies of relationships, her own “perfects,” and why she doesn’t believe in soul mates.
Bookish: Quinn and Graham have an unconventional meet cute: They meet outside of her fiancé’s apartment and realize that their respective significant others are having an affair. What gave you the idea for their meeting?
Colleen Hoover: I wanted their meet cute to be a situation in which they both realized there was something better out there for them. They were both in a bad place in their relationships, having just found out that their significant others were cheating. But still, they somehow realized during their interaction that maybe it was a blessing in disguise.
Bookish: This is an incredibly intimate story. A lot of the narrative revolves around Quinn processing her emotions and her thoughts. What was the hardest aspect of writing a novel structured in this way? What was your favorite?
CH: I’m not gonna lie, this book was very difficult to write because all the chapters set in the present were so heavy. It’s why I incorporated the chapters set in the past, because Quinn’s thoughts and feelings would put me in a funk and I wanted to end my writing days on a positive note. So the hardest was definitely being inside her head and going through the emotions she was experiencing. My favorite part was writing the flashback chapters and getting a break from Quinn’s heartache.
Bookish: In many ways, this is a story about what happens when a couple avoids talking about the issues between them. In the book Quinn even thinks, “Avoidance sounds like such a harmless word, but that one word can cause some severe damage to a relationship.” At what point in the writing process did you realize that avoidance would be one of the book’s themes?
CH: I realized it in the first chapter. I think one of the most difficult things for a lot of couples is communication. It’s even something my husband and I have difficulty with because I like to write out my feelings and avoid talking about them. He doesn’t like to talk about them, but he also doesn’t like to read. In the past, we’ve had trouble communicating what we’re thinking and it’s something we’ve both had to work on. Because of that, the communication issues were front and center in Graham and Quinn’s marriage.
Bookish: Over the course of the book, Quinn quits social media because she finds herself measuring her own life against the curated lives of the people in her feed, which I think a lot of readers can relate to. What made you want to explore this topic?
CH: Being in Quinn’s head gave me a whole new perspective on what a woman dealing with infertility must go through. When I write from a character’s perspective, I sometimes feel as if I am that character during the writing process. I look at things from that character’s point of view. Being on social media was difficult while writing this book because I looked at people’s status updates from Quinn’s perspective and I realized how harmless jokes and banter could be very hurtful to someone in Quinn’s position. I decided to incorporate that into the book.
Bookish: Quinn and Graham talk about the idea that they are soul mates, sometimes jokingly and sometimes seriously. Do you believe in soul mates?
CH: Oddly enough, I do not. I know I write about them, and I write romance because I love the idea of soul mates. But I don’t believe we have one person we’re meant to be with. People are multi-faceted and find connections with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. I believe we have the potential to love many people. You just have to find the person who is the best fit.
Bookish: Quinn and Graham’s marriage is in trouble, but they both keep returning to the fact that they love each other. How did you go about balancing the issues in their relationship with the fact that they both still felt the love was worth holding onto?
CH: I don’t believe all divorces happen as a result of falling out of love. Some divorces are products of the things that happen to you. With Quinn and Graham, they were experiencing a very difficult thing. Something that changed who they were as people. But they still very much loved and respected each other, so I made it a point to hold on to that while writing about their marriage.
Bookish: Quinn spends a lot of time thinking about different kinds of love—the love between a parent and child, the love between sisters, the love between romantic partners. What’s your definition of love?
CH: I think we all want to look at love as this unwavering, unconditional thing. But in all honesty, I believe love is hard work. To me, that’s what makes being loved by someone so special, because the longer and the harder they love you, the more you realize your worth to that person. We fight for our marriage, we fight for what’s best for our children, we work hard to maintain friendships with the people we love. When you love someone, you accept that sometimes that love is going to be difficult, but like Graham says in the book, those are the moments you should love the hardest.
Bookish: In the spirit of Quinn’s fortune (“If you only shine light on your flaws, all your perfects will dim.”), what are three ‘perfects’ that you love about yourself?
CH: I’m a good daughter. I would do anything for my parents.
I’m a good wife. But my husband makes that easy because he’s the best husband.
But the thing I’m the proudest of is that I am the best mother I can possibly be. Writing this book actually made me a better, more appreciative mother.
Reader beware: The next two questions involve spoilers.
Bookish: I read that an aspect of your sister’s marriage made its way into the book. Is that Quinn and Graham’s box (which is referenced early on and fully revealed later)?
CH: Yes! My mother had my sister and her husband write letters to each other. She presented them with the box on their wedding night. I forgot all about it until their ten-year anniversary, when they opened it. I thought it was such a great idea that I decided to write All Your Perfects because of the box.
Bookish: Many stories that involve struggles with fertility end with a miraculous conception—something Quinn even references in the book. Quinn and Graham’s story doesn’t end like this. Why did you choose for their story to take a different path? And what inspired you to write a story about a couple struggling to get pregnant?
CH: Initially, I actually ended the book with Graham and Quinn having a child. However, that ending didn’t feel right to me, so I changed it. The entire point of their journey was to realize the love they had for each other and to focus on all the things that were right in their lives. I wanted them to find that sense of peace and happiness within themselves and within their marriage, no matter if they became parents or not.
As for why I wrote about infertility… it’s what Quinn was struggling with. I know that sounds odd, but I create my characters before my storyline. When I created Quinn and started typing her story, it’s as if she were telling me, “Okay, here I am and here is what I’m dealing with. Help me find a way to overcome it.”
Is that weird? Probably. But the entire process of becoming your characters when you write a book is weird. It’s also my favorite part of writing.
Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of fourteen novels and five novellas. Hoover’s novels fall into the new adult and young adult contemporary romance categories.