Serena Khan is hitting all the benchmarks of successful adulting. She has a great boyfriend who wants to get married, a successful career, and, most importantly, a life plan i.e., template, to guide her through the rest. Then she meets Julian at a bachelorette party in New Orleans. In one night her world turns upside down, scattering its pieces at her feet and forcing her to examine what, exactly, her life is made of.
Serena didn’t have time to exchange contact information with Justin, and she already has a boyfriend. Nevertheless, using the few clues he’s given her, she begins her quest to discover his whereabouts and maybe a little bit about herself in the process.
Love Buzz is an absolute delight of a debut. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t full of real substance. The questions Serena asks herself are important and lead her on a journey of self-discovery, making Love Buzz a novel with multiple layers in honor of the complexity of its heroine. We’re thrilled the author could chat with us today.
Amy Wilhelm: What inspired you to explore the idea of “love at first sight?” Do you believe in the concept yourself?
Neely Tubati-Alexander: I’m a huge fan of the movie Serendipity with Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack, and have always wondered if love at first sight exists. I think as I’ve grown older, I’ve also grown more cynical of the idea, more practical, as many of us do. That said, I do believe in instant connections. There have definitely been people in my life I have met (romantically or otherwise) and have felt instantly connected to them, like we share the same wavelength and were simply meant to be in each other’s lives. Those relationships are rare but so special when they come along. For Serena and Julian in Love Buzz, the connection is instant, but the sorting out of what that connection means for them in their lives takes a bit more untangling. Ultimately, I do believe in instant connections – that they are rare and special and shouldn’t be ignored.
AW: After people read Love Buzz, are there any more serious takeaways you would like them to have about love and marriage?
NT: The biggest takeaway I want people to have from reading Love Buzz is that they should live their lives for themselves and not for others, whether it be imposing parents, romantic partners or society generally. That the only “wrong” way to do love (or life, for that matter) is in an inauthentic way. It’s so incredibly easy to fall onto a disingenuous path, but it’s also never too late to seize control of your own life. Hopefully, Serena doing so gives people a little inspiration to do the same.
AW: So often, we seem to fight between our heads and hearts regarding romantic relationships. How is Serena able to navigate the two?
NT: Not always well! Love is often not practical or logical, which leads our brains and our hearts to be in competition. We see Serena stumble a lot when it comes to reconciling these two, often competing, things. And she doesn’t always get it right! Ultimately, though, Serena finds that it’s less a competition between head and heart that she has to navigate, but rather the release of an idea of what she is supposed to want versus what she actually wants.
AW: To what extent do Serena’s memories of her mother guide her choices regarding her love life?
NT: Serena, like a lot of us I think, wants to make her mother proud. And for a woman like Serena, who has lost a parent, that need sometimes takes on this imminent, important spot in her decision-making. Serena’s mother’s wants and desires for her daughter still very much exist in her psyche and in how she goes about her life. But, over the course of the story, she begins to understand that this need to fulfill her late mother’s expectations is leading her down an inauthentic path, one she’s not sure she can manage anymore. These are tough forks in the road, decisions she doesn’t take lightly. But, she finds her mother just wants what is best for her, even if they didn’t necessarily agree on what “best” really is.
AW: I love how Serena’s interaction with Julian causes her to examine her passion, or lack thereof, in all aspects of her life. Is this something you want for all women, all humans?
NT: I think it’s important to stop and look around every once in a while to see if we are actually where we want to be (or at least moving in the direction of where we want to be). Sometimes one decision leads to another and then another, and before we know it we’ve constructed a life we never quite wanted or knew we were choosing. And that can feel hard to escape. I wanted to write a book about a woman who explored that what if…what if I did blow up my life and start over? What would happen? For Serena, it is a bumpy, complicated road, but ultimately she is better for it.
Neely Tubati-Alexander is a first-generation Indian American mother of two. Originally from the Seattle area, she seeks to tell lighthearted, female-driven stories with diverse characters an strong women who pursue both love and careers. If she’s not tucked away at the little desk in her bedroom writing, you can find her at some kiddo activity, drinking wine, or watching reality TV, usually the last two together. She lives in Arizona with her family.