The longtime host of "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" is branching out into a new form of media: the novel. In his first work of fiction, Chris Harrison follows in the time-honored tradition of writers like Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller with The Perfect Letter, a story of two star-crossed Texas lovers who have a second chance at rekindling their romance after a decade apart. Here, Harrison dishes on his switch to fiction, his writing inspirations and his continued belief in true love.
Has writing always been a hobby of yours?
My goal was always to be a television host, but I've always enjoyed writing. I think it took an opportunity like this to make this become a reality.
Were you able to transfer any of the skills you learned during your TV work to writing?
I didn't transfer any skills, as these are two very different disciplines. But I certainly have learned lessons over the last 13 years of hosting “The Bachelor” that have helped shape this novel and how I write romance and love stories.
Your main character, Leigh, is caught between a man from her past and one who could be her future. What do you think makes for an effective love triangle?
You asked if anything from my "day" job as host of “The Bachelor” is involved in this book. Well, if there's anything I understand, it's love triangles. I know more than probably anybody in the world how we have the capacity to love more than one person at a time. I've seen it firsthand many times over, and it's incredible to see how people react. This was a very easy subject for me to tackle in my first novel.
"If there's anything I understand, it's love triangles. I know more than probably anybody in the world how we have the capacity to love more than one person at a time."
Has hosting “The Bachelor” made you more or less of a romantic, and why?
I've always been a hopeless romantic. When people ask if I believe in “The Bachelor,” I always say yes. I'm a sucker for love and even more so for a good love story. I hope The Perfect Letter is one of those love stories people will fall in love with.
You set The Perfect Letter in Texas—what was the best thing about writing about your home state? The hardest thing?
While I live in California now, the Lone Star state will always be home for me and certainly holds a special place in my heart. If the theory “write about what you know” holds true, then I definitely went that way by setting this novel in the heart of Texas. Austin in particular is one of my favorite towns.
The most difficult thing is that when you know a subject so well you have to be careful not to overdo it. It's easy to get caught up in naming specific places or too many details that can take the reader out of the "fiction.” So I was careful to try and walk that line and combine just enough reality with imagination so the reader can truly escape while reading the story.
What do you think “a perfect letter” should include?
The tradition of sitting down to write a personal handwritten letter is a lost art. There's something special about getting a letter. I don't necessarily think it matters as much about what's inside, as long as it is real, honest and from the heart. Text messages and emails just don't cut it!
What is the #1 misunderstanding people have about “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette”?
I think something that gets lost is that these are just regular real people. Yes, they are on TV now and they become psuedo-celebs, but at the end of the day it's just two normal people who fell in love. I think people tend to forget that. It's what makes the show so relatable and why it works so well.
Which writers do you admire?
Well if we're staying in the romance genre, obviously Nicholas Sparks leads the pack. I'll admit I’m a little biased as we've met and I consider him a friend. Nora Roberts would certainly also have to be in that conversation of best romance writers. Dan Jenkins is an old sportswriter from Texas I grew up on who has churned out several great novels. Laura Hillenbrand is an incredible talent who has written two of my favorite books: Unbroken and Seabiscuit. Growing up loving the outdoors in Texas, it's hard not to love Hemingway. I thank my brother for introducing me to him.
What’s next for you?
Well, you don't write a second novel if the first one isn't good. I think The Perfect Letter is really good, but it's not up to me! I'm putting it out into the world and the readers will tell me what's next. I hope they tell me to write another!
Author photo by Bob D’Amico/ABC