When romance novelist Anna Gomez met her new collaborator, actor and producer Kristoffer Polaha, during a Zoom call, it was a “meet-cute” straight out of a romantic comedy. “We were both wearing the same shirt,” laughs Gomez.
It was a happy omen; Gomez and Polaha clicked immediately. The call, which initially was to explore whether Gomez’s work would be a good fit for Polaha’s production company, took an unexpected turn when Polaha said, “I’d really like to write a book with you.” Ten days later they signed a collaboration agreement and have just completed their first novel, Moments Like This (Rosewind Books, February 2, 2021). Four more books in the series and their screenplay adaptations are in various stages of development.
“This project is special to me because it provides me with another way to convey heartfelt stories to my incredible and loyal audience. These stories dig deeper and will leave the reader feeling good and inspired. I have never had more fun collaborating on a project than I have with Anna. It has been an amazing process and I can’t wait to share these stories with you.”
—Kristoffer Polaha, in a recent interview with People magazine
Like the rest of us, Gomez’s world is shifting. Before the pandemic, Gomez decided that her novel, The Year I Left, would be the last book by her alias Christine Brae. “It was getting harder and harder to reconcile the difference between the author and the CFO,” Gomez says, referring to her career as the chief financial officer of a major advertising firm in Chicago. She credits her professional colleagues for encouraging her to not hide behind her pen name to protect the firm.
The shift also allows her to extend her corporate platform for diversity and inclusion to the writing world. “Using my real name would help support these initiatives,” she says. “When I started in 2013 the thought was that no one would buy my books under my real name.” Today, the #OwnVoices movement celebrates authors who tell stories from their own lived experiences.
FROM KONA WITH LOVE
Now under the name Anna Gomez, she is continuing to tell stories with diverse characters. Before she met Polaha, Gomez decided to write just one more book set in Hawaii featuring a half-Filipina heroine. The fact that Polaha had lived in Hawaii was another aspect that makes their partnership a natural fit.
“I had visited Hawaii on vacation and did a ton of research, but Kris had lived there, and he brought all the firsthand experience of lava and rain forests to the story. He kept it from sounding like a tourist book.” Before she knew it, what started out as one book became five. Moments Like This will be set on Oahu, with each subsequent installment in the “From Kona with Love” series taking place on a different island. Kauai has already been chosen for the second book.
Kristoffer Polaha is one of those handsome actors you’ve seen in movies and on television. He’s been in numerous Hallmark movies and TV shows like Get Shorty and Backstrom, and guest-starred in Mad Men and Castle. He has upcoming roles in Wonder Woman 1984 and Jurassic World: Dominion.
Gomez’s partnership with Polaha has garnered plenty of attention in the press, although most of the spotlight has been on him. This is not unusual for male-female collaborations, but Gomez wants women to know they should never see their contribution as secondary. “Kris brings a world and perspective that is completely new to me, and I welcome it. In fact, I have deferred to him for business decisions related to the book adaptations. This is his playing field, not mine. Sure, he’s really cute, but he is also real and kind. He’s a true creative in every sense of the word, and that’s where we connect. I am confident about what I bring to the table, and what we have is a true partnership.”
As Gomez starts the next chapter of her writing career, she’s still getting accolades for her previous work. Her book, Eight Goodbyes, was a finalist in the International Book Awards, and In This Life received a Bronze Medal in Women’s Fiction in the 2020 Readers’ Favorite Awards.
“Writing was my survival. It was what saved me during all those crazy moments in my life. And when readers identify with that, it means so much to me.” During this pandemic, those connections are more important than ever. Being able to share universal feelings and offer an assurance that things will be all right, if only through a romance novel’s “Happily Ever After” means a great deal to Gomez. “The Happily Ever After signifies to me, more than anything, hope. And I think people right now are just looking for hope.”
Read our review here.
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