Author Interview: J.R. Luis

Do you prefer ebooks, printed books, or audiobooks most of the time?

I prefer printed books, but I see the appeal of ebook or audiobook depending on the situation. If I had a job where I had to commute a lot, I would be way into audiobooks, but if I had to fly a lot, I would prefer ebooks on a kindle so I could have a ton of choices without having the extra weight of multiple books in my carryon. As it happens, my novels only come in ebook and printed form, for now. I *might* be looking into narrating my own audiobooks in the future, because I have a theater background, and it might be fun to try!

Have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym, and why or why not?

I already do write under a pseudonym! Spoiler: J.R. Luis is not my real name, lol. Why the pen name? Mostly because my legal name is very boring and unoriginal, and I wanted something that represented my real name that would also be unique and easy to remember. “J” is the initial of my legal first name. “R” is the first initial of my maiden name, and “Lu” is my middle name. Ergo, J.R. LU-IS.

Have you ever traveled as research for your book?

I wish! Unfortunately, I have neither the time nor money for such trips, but as I have taken mini adventures here and there, I have been inspired and used that inspiration for various settings in my novels. For example, the first scene in my newest novel, The Beautiful Game, was entirely inspired by my real-life trip to see a Riverhound soccer game in the beautiful city of Pittsburgh. Sitting in the bleachers overlooking the Highmark field and the Allegheny River with the stunning city skyline behind it had me instantly thinking about what kind of story would start with a setting like that.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

The title, The Beautiful Game, actually comes from a Portuguese nickname for soccer, “o jogo bonito”. Since the main male character of The Beautiful Game is a professional soccer player and a well-known playboy, and the main female character is essentially playing this game to get her perfect rebound with him, my co-author Vanessa Lanang and I thought the saying was too perfect not to use as a title. I mean, we couldn’t have planned that double entendre better if we tried!

What is a significant way your book has changed since the first draft?

I’d say the most significant change The Beautiful Game made from the first draft to the finished draft was the spice level. Vanessa and I had written it to be mid-level spicy, but then added significant spice when we got an R&R request to do so from an editor at a midsize publisher. However, when that ultimately fell through and we found our book’s home with Winding Road Stories, we decided to reevaluate. Vanessa’s first novel is a YA fantasy, and my first two novels were low-spice adult contemporary romance. We didn’t want to completely change tracks and confuse the readers we already had, so we edited The Beautiful Game to be low-spice, and it actually made the story much stronger, because it added a new level of tension for the characters who are desperately attracted to each other but are unable to act on it for a significant portion of the novel.

How much research did you need to do for your book?

I didn’t have to do much research for our main female character Vera, because she works at a flower shop, and I used to work at a flower shop! (They say to write what you know!) But for Joey, who is a professional soccer player, we researched a lot about his required diet, the kinds of workouts he’d have to do, and then the actual terminology we’d need to use to describe his games and the various players/positions. Luckily our editor, Michael Dolan, worked at a sport’s magazine for decades before taking his current position at WRDS, so he was a big help in getting all the details just right.

If you were to write a spin-off about a side character, which would you pick?

This is a tough one! Vanessa and I have talked about a few different ways we could do this. First, there’s Joey’s coach’s daughter, Jane, who likes Joe and Joe considers dating before his coach tells him absolutely not. This of course leads to some drama and problems throughout the MS, but Vanessa and I could totally see ourselves following up with Jane in a sequel to The Beautiful Game. A second option would be to choose one of Joe’s many teammates and see where their stories might lead. It might depend on what the readers’ responses are to them and who they’d most like to see us write a standalone book for.

What comes first for you — the plot or the characters — and why?

This depends on the story. For my first novel, Lucky Star: A Hollywood Love Story, I felt like I found the plot and characters all at once. I knew there was a young, widowed author whose book was getting turned into a movie and a Hollywood bad boy who wound up cast as the title role. I knew they would have sparks, but also a lot of reasons to not be able to be together, but as I wrote, I felt like I was discovering a story that already existed.

For my second novel, Unfortunately Karen, both the plot and characters came in pieces. I’ve always loved the idea of writing something in The Bachelor world, but I wanted to somehow subvert the trope. Then, I was in the dentist office one day and there was a daytime gameshow with a model that clearly hated her job, and I thought, she’s probably got a great story behind that fake smile. I also randomly wanted to title a novel Unfortunately Karen because I think it would be awful to be a lovely person named Karen in this day and age, lol. One day, I realized all these pieces were the same story! Karen was the unhappy gameshow model who was about to be hired to co-host an extreme bachelor show, and we’re going to find out what happens when she accidentally falls for the bachelor…

For The Beautiful Game, I had the plot first, this idea for a novel based on How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days meets Bend It Like Beckham, then Vanessa and I crafted the characters to be the best fit for this pitch.

What would you say to an author who wanted to design their own cover?

I actually got to see a little bit of the process for the cover design of The Beautiful Game, and with this experience in mind, to anyone who wants to take this upon themselves, I would say:

Know your genre expectations. (Readers should be able to tell what genre your book is just based on the cover.)

Pay attention to the details. It’s the little things that take a cover from sufficient to extraordinary. (There’s a lot of great resources online to help you figure out the details from the big picture down to the font choice. And trust me, readers pay attention to even those little things!)

Be consistent in your branding. (If you’re planning on writing more than one book and designing the covers for them all, think about how they look all together. The only reason I got to see The Beautiful Game’s cover design process was because my editor kindly asked which color scheme I thought matched the design of my first two books best.)

What’s your favorite writing snack or drink?

I have a notorious sweet tooth, so my go-to snacks for writing time are Diet Pepsi and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or M&Ms.

J.R. Luis is an adult contemporary romance writer who lives in the Northeast where it rains entirely too often. When she’s not writing, you might find her taking her kids to find all the fun things or trying to methodically cross things off her never-ending to-do list. The Beautiful Game is her third novel.

Preorder The Beautiful Game here:

Learn more about J.R. Luis on her website here:

Find J.R. Luis’ other books here:

Find J.R. Luis on her social media sites here:


X (Formerly Twitter):


Substack (Who’s Got Time for Romance?):