When the premise of Zoey Castile’s Stripped hit the Internet, it immediately landed on several most anticipated lists (including ours!). Now the wait is over and Castile’s Magic Mike-inspired romance is finally here. Stripper hero Zac Fallon is just as adorable and sexy as we hoped, and heroine Robyn Flores is a highly relatable portrait of “hot mess” millennial womanhood. We talked to Castile about researching male revues, the complexities of female friendship and what comes next.
For those who may not know, you’re also the author of the fantastical and magical Brooklyn Brujas series. Is writing fantasy YA a different experience than writing contemporary romance? Or is it the same writing routine, just different genres?
Romance and fantasy look very different but they’re the same in many ways. Writing fantasy YA is a much longer process because when I write about magic I’m creating entire systems of rules that will impact the rest of the books. Romance requires the same kind of careful world building and rules—they’re just different. The archetypes are there. The hero. The heroine. The unforeseen evil. The mentors. The sidekicks. The difference is that instead of your heroine being a witch, she’s a schoolteacher. Instead of the evil manifesting as a centuries-old sorceress, it’s the principal.
I definitely don’t mean to be a bit cheeky with this question, but did you do any research when trying to capture the life of a male revue dancer?
Hah! I definitely watched all the Magic Mike movies. Magic Mike XXL is the best modern fairytale ever told, and I do love retellings. I went to Thunder From Down Under while I was in Vegas. It was ridiculously over the top and fun. Other than that, I’ve just been following male dancers on Instagram for “inspiration.”
There are some romance readers who won’t read a book where the hero is in any way “involved” with other women. With that in mind, were you at all conflicted about making the hero a stripper?
I was not conflicted. Many people who work in adult entertainment as not involved romantically with their clients. It’s a fantasy and it is their work, so a partner would have to trust and respect that.
What I really love about the heroine (and charming fifth-grade teacher), Robyn Flores, is that she’s in the middle of a weird slump. Her best friend is about to get married, and she’s struggling to be happy because she’s worried about losing her best friend. How did you manage to strike a balance between depicting real, relatable friendships between women but also adding the internal conflicts we often experience when a relationship is on the cusp of a major change?
I always try to ask myself what I would feel if I was in the same situation as my characters. Then I ask myself what someone close to me would feel. Emotions are so complicated. Robyn wants to put her best friend’s wedding before her feelings. She also isn’t equipped to handle everything by herself. As women, we are taught to put others before our own happiness. There has to be a balance. As a writer, you have to write the truth that your character is feeling and that will lead you to their development.
All of the chapters are named after song titles, which I thought was really fun. Did you have a writing playlist while working on this book? Have you thought about putting one together for Stripped?
I always make two playlists when I write. One for drafting and one for editing. The drafting playlist always has lyrics. The editing playlist is just scores from my favorite movies. I did make a playlist for Stripped that’s up on Apple Music.
There are so many fun secondary characters and I hope they will all be getting their own love stories. How did you keep all their individual personalities straight while writing?
I love ensemble casts in books. Once I know who someone is in my book, they’re fully formed. If I have trouble tracking someone in a scene, then they probably don’t belong there and I remove them.
Some people might be conflicted about Lukas in the book. He’s the new principal at Robyn’s school and is definitely vying for her affection. Perhaps I’m a glutton for punishment, but do you foresee Lukas getting his own book? I think that buttoned-up man needs a wild girl to help him let loose.
All three titles in the series are already spoken for!
Can you give us a little peek on what to expect from the rest of the series? I know the next book, Hired, will have Aiden getting his own happy ending.
Hired is about Aiden Rios. He’s sworn to himself that he’d never be in a relationship, but then he goes to NOLA and meets a girl.
Flashed will be about Patrick Halloran. You won’t meet him until Hired, but he’s worth the wait. It’s a Beauty and the Beast retelling set in a Montana ranch.
Given the Magic Mike inspiration, who’s your favorite character in that series and which Magic Mike characters really lent themselves to Zac’s inception?
Fallon is my absolute favorite character in my series. I guess it’s because he’s where it all started. While he was physically inspired by Chris Evans, I think he embodies the charming and sweet personality that Channing Tatum has onscreen.
Lastly, I love asking authors this question. What are you reading and loving right now? Which books should be on our radar?
I’m reading a lot of different genres right now. Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton is a moody, lush, intoxicating fantasy. Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse is perfect for fans that are waiting for more seasons of “Supernatural.” Sinner by Sierra Simone is an incredibly sexy romance. Trust Me by Farrah Rochon is a political romance set in New Orleans. Sarah MacLean’s latest Bareknuckle Bastards series is new and sexy.
ALSO IN BOOKPAGE: Read our review of Stripped.
Author photo by Sarah Nicole Lemon.