A few months ago, Amy Wilkins, assistant manager of Digital Content & Social Media at Harlequin/Carina Press, passed along a link sent to her by an author. It was for the online TV show Awkward Embraces. Now just finished its second season, Awkward Embraces is a sitcom about three women who work at a romance publisher(!), Jessica, Candis and Lyndsey, who prove that just because a girl is hot, it doesn’t necessarily follow that she has a man, or even that she’d know what to do with one if she got one. The New York Times calls the show “charming, sharply written.”
I love the show; each episode is between ten and fifteen minutes long, so watching one episode after the other is easy to do. The plots are hilarious and often resonate with my own awkward experiences in love, like having to say something to the cute new neightbor without coming off sounding like a dribbling idiot. Or getting the “family emergency” phone call while in the middle of a date. I love that the girls work at a romance publisher having been there myself! You would think that being a part of the Romance Mothership would give you extra insight into the dating world, but it just proves that no one is safe from the awkwardness of real life.
I contacted Jessica Mills, the writer, producer and star of the show, to see if she’d answer some questions about the show and dating for the Harlequin Blog. Do check out the show if you get a chance. Both seasons are available through their website, awkardembraces.com. Their love lives might not mirror romance novels very well, but they’re still entertaining!
Q: Can you describe the show in 140 characters or less? (We’re really into Twitter. )
A: Awkward Embraces is the Big Bang Theory meets Sex and the City!
Q: Your characters Jessica, Candis and Lyndsey all work at an unnamed romance publisher. What made you decide to have them work at a romance publisher? Have you ever worked in publishing?
A: My mom is a published writer of thrillers, so I grew up watching that business operate from the author’s point of view. The idea of them working at a romance publisher actually came from Candis. I was trying to flesh out the characters and story to help me get ideas for other episodes, and Candis threw that out there when we were talking about it. I love how many silly conversations and situations they can get into with designing the covers and Jessica constantly pitching sci-fi romance to Candis, who hates the idea. It’s a really fun jumping off point for a lot of the office scenes.
Q: Judging from your Twitter accounts, you’re all very similar to your characters. How would you describe them?
A: We definitely look at our characters as ourselves times 10. We are all a bit exaggerated, but I did write these characters with Candis and Lyndsey in mind, so their dialogue and the situations they get into were things that reminded me of them. And a lot of the Season 1 dating stories actually happened to me, so my character naturally developed to be like me, as well. But, of course, they are all multiplied quite a bit for comedic effect!
A bad date on Awkward Embraces.
Q: How do you write the episodes? Collectively? Is there a lot of improv?
A: I write all the episodes with the exception of three of the Season 2 episodes. Candis wrote two of them herself, and she and I collaborated on one. We do quite a bit of improv. Usually at the end of scenes, our director Adam, will just let us go and riff off of each other. So all the ends of scenes are completely improvised. As an actor, I want the cast to feel comfortable making the scenes their own, so a lot of times we’ll go off on a tangent and come back. The ratio of writing to improv is about 75/25 written/improv. I love it that we improv. A lot of magic happens when we’re just playing, and I think it lends a feeling of fun and relaxation to the whole shoot that translates to the screen.
Q: What type of romance novel would Jessica, Candis and Lyndsey see themselves as heroines in? Can you describe the plot?
A: Jessica would absolutely be the sexy captain of a Starship in a forbidden romance with a rogue bounty hunter. She’s by the book, and he’s fast and loose. Very Leia and Solo. ha ha
Candis loves her work, and works harder than any of the other girls. She definitely would see herself in an office romance. A very “Moonlighting” sort of situation where she and her office rival are fighting one minute and ripping each other’s clothes off the next.
Lyndsey is a free spirit and very unconventional. Her romance story would be something totally out there, like being kidnapped by gypsies and falling in love with their leader.
Q: Will there be a season three of the show?
A: I hope so! We funded Season 2 with Indiegogo, but I hate having to go to the fans for budget money. If I have to, I’ll do it again. But first, I want to see if I can find some sponsorship. A brand, network, or production company who is interested in investing in the show. I’m going to see what I can find on that route, before doing Indiegogo again. But the fans are so excited about Season 3, a lot of them say they are already setting money aside for us! Which is so sweet, and just makes us all feel so special. I’ve got SO MANY awesome ideas for Season 3, I can’t NOT do it. I’ll find a way, no matter what.