Love can be unpredictable. Just ask author Kristan Higgins.
The Durham native is set to release her latest romance novel, The Best Man, on Tuesday. The tale follows a young woman left at the altar who later finds love in an unexpected place.
The book is Higgins' tenth and the first in a three-part series.
"I've never written a series before. My readers really love the settings of my books and they're always asking for that," Higgins says.
A relative newcomer to the romance scene — Higgins' first book, Fools Rush In, was published in 2006 — the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA award has found a dedicated following online, through her website, social media and various blogs.
In fact, Higgins' e-sales about triple her print sales and her author's page on Facebook, which if you're counting at home has featured more hunks than a Chippendales Male Revue, has over 12,000 likes.
"I think that's a big part of being part of a popular genre these days," the author says. "It makes them feel close to you. Some of my readers have become really good friends."
Happily married for 21 years and the mother of two children, Higgins admits her professional life as a romance writer more closely resembles her character's battles with insecurity and doubt.
"In romance, we all know how it's going to end but you have to make it interesting and challenging enough to make it last 400 pages. That's a real challenge," she said.
On the other hand, one of the perks of the author's job is getting to travel.
"Thats one of my favorite things about writing is to go to the location. I drive around a lot. I talk to the locals. I try to pick up on local dishes or slang… I ask people why they live here," she explains.
The Best Man is set in the Finger Lakes region of New York, where Higgins enjoyed exploring the area's award-winning wineries, fall foliage and bucolic surroundings.
"It's gorgeous up there. It's about as pretty a town as you get," she says.
While inspired by unfamiliar travels, the author writes her books at home in Durham where she's comfortable being just another face in the crowd.
"When I'm outside of Durham, I'm more the author but when I'm in town, I'm just me," she says, laughing at the idea that her readers include former teachers and childhood friends.
"I'm so grateful to be able to sell books," she says.
Of course, there's also her worldwide fame: Higgins' books have been printed in 14 languages.
"It's funny, I'm huge in Estonia," she laughs.
As for the popularity of romance novels, the author says the stories can either serve as affirmation of what a reader may already have or provide some optimism for the broken hearted.
"Everybody, just about, wants to find that one person thats going to be right for them so everyone can relate to that. But I think too, the characters in most romance novels are, in a lot of ways, role models. They're heroic and willing to take chances," she says.
The Best Man will be released on Tuesday, Feb. 26. The book can be purchased on Amazon.com, bookstores and various retailers.