Abby Jimenez Tugs on Heartstrings with 'The Happy Ever After Playlist'

Posted by Sharon on April 1, 2020
Abby Jimenez has always had a knack for diving into new passion projects. She started her bakery, Nadia Cakes, after taking a cake decorating class on a whim. Jimenez and the Nadia Cakes team then went on to Food Network fame, winning multiple competitions and amassing a dedicated international following.

And when she started writing? Her first published romance, The Friend Zone, hit the USA Today bestseller list and nabbed not one but two Goodreads Choice Award nominations (for Best Romance and Best Debut).

Jimenez now follows up on that success with The Happy Ever After PlaylistThis book features Sloan, whom readers of The Friend Zone will recognize, as she has a dog-facilitated meet-cute with a handsome stranger. The catch? He's a world-famous rock star currently touring on the other side of the globe.

Abby Jimenez spoke with Goodreads about writing complicated grief, her own encounters with fame, and her signature bake for The Happy Ever After Playlist.  

Goodreads: Can you tell us a little bit about the process of writing The Happy Ever After Playlist? What gave you the initial idea for the plot?

Abby Jimenez: The inception for the book was kind of a funny story, actually. I saw a viral YouTube video of this guy who was watching his friend’s dog. He made this video to send to his buddy of him doing all this fun stuff with the dog—playing in the yard, sleeping next to him in the bed, giving him a bath in a bucket with the dog’s hair spiked into a mohawk. And I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cute if two people fell in love this way?” Maybe a woman finds a stranger’s dog and they get to know each other through their mutual love of this pet. 

She’d have to work from home to be able to spend enough time with the dog and to have the flexibility to talk with the dog’s owner, and he’d have to have a job that places him out of town. That’s how Sloan became an artist and Jason became a touring musician. I also decided that I wanted Sloan to be grieving. I liked the idea that she’d been unreachable and for the first time in a long time her isolation is infiltrated by this dog and this man that she didn’t expect.

Sloan’s grief in the book is loosely based on my own experience. I had a close friend who struggled with complicated grief after the unexpected loss of her husband. I dive a little more into this in the author’s note at the end of the book.

GR: You wrote The Happy Ever After Playlist before The Friend Zone but published The Friend Zone first. Can you tell us more about that decision? Should people read them in order?

AJ: They absolutely should read them in order. Reading The Friend Zone will give The Happy Ever After Playlist so much more depth.

While we were shopping The Happy Ever After Playlist to publishers, I decided to write The Friend Zone so we could live through the events that make the main character in THEAP who she is. Then we led with The Friend Zone as the first book since it came first chronologically.

(Note: This might be spoilery for those who haven’t read TFZ.) I know a lot of people thought that the death in my first book was unnecessary or done for drama, but it was actually the whole purpose of me writing that book in the first place. I went into it knowing that Brandon was going to die because he was already dead. And it was really hard to meet him and know that I had to kill him. Putting him on paper was rough. I cried at that scene when I listened to the audiobook for the first time, just like everyone else. It was so sad!

GR: Your fans rave about how you tackle tough topics in your books—infertility in The Friend Zone, grief after losing a loved one in The Happy Ever After Playlist. Can you tell us more about choosing to incorporate heavy topics into your rom-coms?

AJ: It just feels natural to incorporate real challenges into my stories—that’s life. And just like in real life, there can be hilarious moments alongside tragedies. Many people deal with their struggles through sarcasm and humor, and it’s no different for my characters. I think that’s why people say they feel real.

GR: Another aspect of the book that early reviewers have noted is the furry third member of Sloan and Jason's relationship—Jason's dog Tucker, who is the cause of their meet-cute. One reader says that Tucker "stole the show every time he was on the page." Did you have a real-life dog in mind when you created Tucker's personality?

AJ: While I do know a few duck tolling retrievers, I didn’t model Tucker after a real-life dog like I did with Stuntman Mike in The Friend Zone. But Tucker’s got a lot of personality traits that sort of remind me of my childhood dog, a cocker spaniel named Napoleon. He loved to steal underwear! Ha! 

I chose a toller for a few reasons. One, I wanted a duck dog because I wanted Sloan to know this was a sign from Brandon. Duck hunting was his favorite sport. And unlike a golden retriever or a lab, a dog that’s more common in Los Angeles, a toller would stand out to her. And two, Sloan was trapped in a cycle of grief. She needed a retriever to go get her and pull her out. 

GR: You've had some previous brushes with fame yourself, on the Food Network and through the viral vageode cake—did those experiences inform how you wrote rock star Jason and his newfound notoriety?

AJ: Definitely. Food Network shows film on a Hollywood studio lot with a major production company, so I got some industry insight there.

And admittedly I now deal with some lack of anonymity, especially in my hometown, so I can identify with how Jason’s world begins to shrink as he becomes more recognizable. I’ve had strangers take pictures of me out running errands and DM them to me, or approach me. It’s very uncomfortable and a little isolating, to be honest. It makes you feel pretty exposed. Nowhere near the level that Jason experiences but enough to give me an idea of how that might feel.

GR: Music is a big part of this book, from Jason's profession to the songs at the beginning of each chapter. Did you have a playlist while writing the book? What do you like to listen to while you're working?

AJ: I actually can’t listen to music while I write; it’s too distracting. But I had soooo many songs that I loved for this book during the making of this story. In fact, in the first draft I actually wrote the title of the playlist song on each chapter into the chapter itself like a little Easter egg. I ultimately ended up taking that out, as I found it too restrictive—sometimes I’d love a song for a chapter, but the title didn’t work naturally into the text and I just decided to do away with it. The playlist for the book is available on Spotify and Apple Music if you want to check it out. It’s currently my favorite thing to listen to. I just wish Jason’s songs were real!

GR: If you could bake Sloan and Jason a cake, what would you make for them, and why?

AJ: Funny you should ask! I make a signature cupcake flavor that I sell in each of my shops for every book I publish. The Happy Ever After Playlist cupcake is a vanilla latte–flavored cupcake because that’s Sloan’s favorite drink.

GR: Are you working on your next book right now? Could you give Goodreads members any hints on what it will be about? Will we see Sloan and Jason as side characters?

AJ: I just turned in the first draft of my third book. It’s called Life’s Too Short and it’s about prestigious St. Paul attorney Adrian Copeland and the woman from next door, Vanessa Price. Vanessa is a famous inspirational YouTuber with a family history of ALS and the early onset symptoms of the fatal disease. It’s hilarious, and beautiful, and sad and I think it’s my best work yet. And yes, we get cameos from Sloan, Jason, Kristen, and Josh!

GR: What other romance reads would you recommend to fans of your books?

AJ: Anything by Tessa Bailey or L.J. Shen. I loved The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon (which comes out in June).

GR: Finally, we always like to know what books authors can't put down. Which titles have you been recommending to friends and family lately?

AJ: The last book that gave me a book hangover was The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. The audiobook was narrated by Tom Hanks, and it was glorious.


Abby Jimenez’s The Happy Ever After Playlist will be available in the U.S. on April 14. Don't forget to add it to your Want to Read shelf. Be sure to also read more of our exclusive author interviews to get more great book recommendations.

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)

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message 1: by Brittany (new)

Brittany Cannot wait to read THEAP! TFZ captured my heart 💕
Love from Plymouth, MN!

Jinghay (these.blank.pages) Absolutely loved listening to the audiobook for The Happy Ever After Playlist! It's one of my favourite books of the year so far 😍

message 3: by Cindi (new)

Cindi Hanson I just ordered my copy of The Happily Ever After Playlist! This is one of my most anticipated reads! I loved The Friend Zone so much! I can’t wait to read Sloane’s story!

message 4: by Anna (new)

Anna I am starting the audiobook today 😊

message 5: by Elaine (new)

Elaine Patch Both of these novels are AMAZING! I can't wait for her next one in 2020, Abby has definitely found her calling! 🥰📚

message 6: by Margaret (new)

Margaret ColeA I am really looking forward to reading these books.Maggie Cole

message 7: by Katherine (new)

Katherine Hayward Pérez Looking forward to them all, especially The Happy Ever After Playlist. All added to my TBR.

message 8: by TMR (new)

TMR So want to read all of these!

message 9: by Victoria (new)

Victoria I finished The Friend Zone yesterday and LOVED. I plan to read THEAP soon!

message 10: by Heather (new)

Heather Oman-beedy Just read HEAP in less than 24 that includes sleeping and working. It was so amazing!!

message 11: by Daryl (new)

Daryl I have yet to read her new book!

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