When she’s not practicing law in Montreal, Catherine McKenzie is taking on the chick lit world. Already an International Bestseller, McKenzie’s first novel Spin was published in the United States earlier this year, and today Arranged hits shelves. (Her third book, Forgotten, is due this fall.) Arranged follows Anne Blythe, an up-and-comer author with a great newspaper job. Unfortunately, her love life is pretty much a disaster—and I’d expect no less in a chick lit novel. Anne enlists the help of a dating service, only to find out that it’s actually a company that specializes in exclusive arranged marriages. After Anne learns of the company’s 95 percent success rate, she decides to give the nontraditional process a chance. Here, McKenzie talks about Arranged, her sure-to-be-loved-by-chick-lit-fans second novel, and its interesting connection to The Bachelor franchise.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where did you come up with the idea for Arranged?
Catherine McKenzie: I knew a couple of people who’d had traditional arranged marriages, and I always wondered what led them—especially the women—to do that given that they’d grown up in North America. And then with the proliferation of The Bachelor and like shows, the idea just popped into my head one day.
What kind of research did you do to familiarize yourself with the concept? What did you learn?
I did do some research of the topic generally and arranged marriage brokers in India in particular. Two of things I learned ended up in the book: that they are calling them “planned marriages” now and there was one reference to a company having a call center which made me fall off my chair laughing. The more general things were just the idea behind arranged marriage and why some think it works, even today.
Anne, the main character, has this whole history with the Anne of Green Gables books. Is that something you grew up reading? And why choose to prominently feature it in Arranged?
Yes, I absolutely grew up reading those books and read them still from time to time. It’s used prominently because I thought that someone who was named after a romantic heroine might have very lofty romantic goals which, when dashed, could lead her towards an arranged marriage. So when I was kicking around ideas of what character to have her named after, the Anne books popped into my head.
You mentioned The Bachelor earlier. Fans of those types of shows will probably enjoy Arranged. What’s the parallel there?
I think one of the parallels is that people often ask themselves—or at least, I do—why would anyone go on that show? Do they really think they can find love that way? So hopefully that will resonate. Oh, and I find that show funny, and I hope Arranged is funny too.
Speaking of, the new season of The Bachelor(ette) premiered last night. Are you a fan of the show and its unconventional matchmaking?
I have watched several seasons of The Bachelor(ette). I admit I kind of have a love/hate relationship with it. I am entertained but also frustrated. And I really would like to know why people go on the show. Not what they tell the camera, but the truth.
Do you have any favorite cast members? And what do you think of Emily as the new Bachelorette?
I wouldn’t call them favorites, but Jake Pavelka and his whole scene has to be one of the weirder series of moments on the show. I didn’t follow the show that closely last season so I can’t speak to Emily. But I suspect I’ll be watching.
Why do you think those unconventional love stories, like the one in Arranged, are so popular?
I think that they are partially popular because they are so outrageous. They must also be tapping into a desire that lots of people have to find that perfect someone. And the contestants are usually pretty hot.
At the end of Arranged there’s a teaser for your next book, Forgotten. What’s that one about?
It’s about a woman who goes to Africa for what she thinks is a month-long trip who ends up getting stuck there for six months. When she returns she learns that everyone thought she was dead, and she has to deal with the consequences.