Haley Cass - When You Least Expect It

For our January 2021 meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed When You Least Expect It by Haley Cass. If you weren't able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at http://lesficlove.com (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we're reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you'll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Haley Cass 4:00 PM


Reader 1 4:00 PM

Welcome, thanks for chatting with us!

Haley Cass 4:01 PM

Thanks for inviting me!

Reader 1 4:01 PM

What did everyone think of When You Least Expect It?

Reader 2 4:01 PM

Loved it.

Reader 3 4:02 PM

It was a favorite of 2020!

Reader 4 4:02 PM

Soooo good, sacrificed several hours of sleep to finish it. Totally worth it

Haley Cass 4:02 PM

I'm so glad you all enjoyed it!! I was nervous releasing it

Reader 5 4:03 PM

I loved it! I really liked how… natural… everything felt. Believable may be the word I’m looking for

Reader 4 4:03 PM

Yeah the pace was perfect

Reader 6 4:03 PM

I loved the book. What I loved most about it was that it never felt rushed and just unfolded beautifully.

And the slow burn, simmering away through all their interactions.

Haley Cass 4:05 PM

That's really my favorite thing to hear. When I read, I want to experience a book unfolding and the characters bonding. I think my least favorite feeling in a romance as a reader is feeling like I missed out on development? So I think I focus on that (maybe... too much lol) when I write

Reader 5 4:05 PM

But even better… nothing felt dragged out either. Too many authors seem to… relish torturing me as a reader when things aren’t going so well with the couple, and I didn’t feel manipulated that way, either

(Or maybe that’s that I had to rush my reading, as my final book started in 2020 dragged out until yesterday, so I only had a couple of days to read this before today!)

Reader 7 4:06 PM

Great book! Loved the characters interactions, felt natural and little Abbie was great!

Haley Cass 4:06 PM

I only like to torture people when I feel like my characters have a reason to torture you

Reader 3 4:06 PM

I also loved the pining. Too few books have great pining.

Reader 4 4:07 PM

Ah yes, the Gay Yearning:tm:

Reader 6 4:07 PM

@Haley Cass I initially thought that Caroline was the hardass strong one, but then you gave Hannah the grit, strength and determination. Was that deliberate?

Haley Cass 8 minutes ago

This was a deliberate choice, yeah! I usually write with dual PoV (which is likely what you will see from me in the future), but since this was intended to be a novella, I only planned from Caroline's PoV, and had to figure out Hannah and her journey early on so that I could portray it accurately via Caroline's view.

The thing with Caroline is that she is very... take-charge in terms of what she wants, usually. But what she wants is to fall in love and have the whole family... she's, inside, a soft mess. Whereas Hannah is so outwardly soft, I love the idea that people would easily think of her as the softer, more go-with-her-feelings one.

But when you take into account Hannah's background and the life she's lived... she has to have the grit to have powered through.

I think hard-exterior-with-soft-interior and seemingly-soft-exterior-with-determined-interior may be my favorite character trope to write, now that i'm really thinking about it

Reader 7 Today at 4:09 PM

@Haley Cass where did the idea for your story come from?

Haley Cass 5 minutes ago

I've actually had this idea of lawyer falls for her client (and adorable young daughter) in my back pocket for a while.

To be honest - I was once asked to imagine a spinoff kind of thing for my characters in Those Who Wait. Sutton and Charlotte have two daughters in their future, and a reader asked me what I imagined for their daughter's futures. And in imagining this, I thought of a vague future for their oldest daughter being a lawyer. That was the first time the seeds of this story ever formed!

Reader 7 4 minutes ago

Awesome! Love that.

Reader 4 3 minutes ago

:heart_eyes: umm the fact that this storyline is vaguely existentially related to Those Who Wait endears it to me even more

Haley Cass 2 minutes ago

:slightly_smiling_face: I'm very happy to hear that! Yeah, Caroline and Hannah definitely took on a life of their own! But their development came from that little seed idea

Reader 8 Today at 4:09 PM

@Haley Cass what was your inspiration for the book?

Haley Cass 4 minutes ago

I answered how the little seeds of this story formed in the last reply! But I never fully developed them until Monica (McCallan, wonderful writer that she is) bet me that I couldn't write a true love story in under 30k

and I was like, "yes I can!!!" And I thought... lawyer falling in love with her client. I can do that in 30k or less!

... I failed...

Sort of! Caroline was very much in love by 30k lol

Reader 5 3 minutes ago

This is the best sort of failure! Because we still got a great book out of it!

Reader 9 Today at 4:15 PM

Did you feel a lot of pressure for this book after your first one was such a hit?

Haley Cass 3 minutes ago


I really NEVER knew TWW was going to be such a hit? I could have never predicted that. The first two weeks after it came out, I cried actual tears thinking... well. That's it. No one's gonna read it.

I mean, granted, I published without advertising or knowing anything about publishing or anyone in publishing lol. But it really felt like. Wow.

Then I guess it started picking up steam and I was overwhelmed (in a good way) and blown away. But then I kept thinking... what if TWW was a fluke? How am I going to live up to that

I still feel that way tbh

Reader 1 Today at 4:18 PM

I loved that you took us through an entire year with Caroline and Hannah and the story touched on a lot of holidays, not just the typical ones. Did you see this as a holiday romance from the get-go?

Haley Cass 5 minutes ago

I always saw this as a holiday romance. I love traditional holiday romances! But I know myself and I knew that I would never be able to write my own version of a love story if I only had like the month of December to do it. I always knew it would have to start and end on Christmas

But as the length got away from me... I had to add in a lot more holidays on that calendar. I found a giant calendar that listed every single holiday, even smaller ones, and it stayed an open tab for me for about 2 months lol

Reader 6 Today at 4:20 PM

The great non-sex scene was the sexiest non-sex scene I've ever read! Was there ever a point in your head that it was actually going to happen at that point, or were you always writing that scene as a teaser?

Haley Cass 3 minutes ago

Oh, they were absolutely NEVER going to have sex at the lake house. I knew from the get go that it was going to happen the way it did.

When I was first talking to my developmental editor, I was trying to describe the scene in my head and I kept saying "it's a sex scene but they aren't having sex!" And she was like ???? So I just had to say, "You'll see when we get there."

I did wonder how far they were going to go, at times. But I always knew they were never going to actually touch one another there. Hannah wasn't ready for that

Also I love those scenes where you JUST WANT THEM TO DO THE THING SO BADLY (whether it's have sex or even just kiss) and then... they don't. Love it

Reader 2 4:21 PM

I want to know at exactly what point did Hannah realize she was in trouble.

Haley Cass < 1 minute ago

I actually have a LOT of moments from Hannah's PoV in my head (some will likely be written and sent out on my newsletter in the near future!)

But Hannah, as she reveals, truly understood what she was feeling for Caroline and the scope of their relationship after the near-kiss on Abbie's birthday eve.

She didn't give it any credence, though, as she clearly pushed it back down. She started really thinking "shit" and that it was a little more serious when Caroline went on her date. Mostly because Hannah was, inside, very thrown/sad/little jealous by this.

Coming from someone who has had a cheating spouse... well, she was literally married to someone cheating on her and for years, she hadn't actually had a reaction other than anger/disrespect sort of feelings. But with Caroline - it was all there.

There's a scene I had in my mind taking place in October, pre-lake house, where they go apple picking. And Hannah watches Caroline and Abbie from a few feet behind. They're having their typical wonderful time together, Caroline is helping Abbie reach for apples and is also shaking the branches and making it harder for her at the same time. It's a moment where it really weighs very, very heavily on her that she may be in love with Caroline. But also that she can never mess this relationship up.

Reader 5 Today at 4:26 PM

How did you decide to give Caroline and Abbie a friendship before Caroline took Hannah on as a client? I think that was such an unexpectedly sweet part of this book for me?

4 replies

Reader 4 8 minutes ago

Yesss, loved that little surprise

Haley Cass < 1 minute ago

There are multiple reasons to their pre-existing friendship for me!

I thought that they needed to have some established bond, given that Hannah is so protective of Abbie. I don't think she would have allowed them to bond so easily/quickly, had there not already been something established between them.

Abbie plays such a big role in terms of Hannah and Caroline's overall relationship and in the story in general, that I felt like - I didn't want Caroline to ever seem like her relationship with Abbie was a result of her feelings for Hannah. I wanted it to be clear and known that she is that person. Who would see a kid stuck in the office on a Saturday afternoon and would put aside her work for a little while to make sure this kid knows she has somewhere to go.

I wanted them to have a bond, beyond Hannah

Reader 10 Today at 4:27 PM

Michael was very inspiring..for me to remain gay. :sweat_smile:

Haley Cass < 1 minute ago

LOL - same. also I realize I have such a trend of having my characters who have had relationships with men... not great men... but alas.

Reader 1 Today at 4:29 PM

What’s your favorite type of romance to read, as far as tropes, subgenres, etc?

Haley Cass < 1 minute ago


Slow burn, for sure. If I see that on any tag, I'm there for it.

Enemies to lovers is something I love to read, but have trouble writing. That appeals to me a lot. Ice queen type characters.

I like friends to lovers, but as a reader, I'm more... picky about them? God knows why, since it's what I tend to write more.

I love a good fauxmance, too!

I'll give most things a try, though there are some that are very touch and go for me. Books that feature more heavily on the plot than the romance or have the romance as less of the focus... eehhhhh

Reader 6 Today at 4:30 PM

Who are your favourite authors to read? Who do you admire?

Haley Cass < 1 minute ago

Taylor Jenkins Reid (not lesbian romance, technically, but she did write Evelyn Hugo!) is just like such a god tier writer to me. She can suck me into anything

EJ Noyes just has such amazing concepts? I wonder where they all come from and HOW does she do it?

Monica McCallan, I just love all of her romances and how prolific she is able to be in her writing. Also on a personal note of like... being on top of social media and stuff. Top Tier in terms of self publishing, that woman

Anna Burke and Kris Bryant, too.

Two of my favorite books have been written by people who don't have many other books and like no social media presence but I so admire their writing. Riley Lashea's Behind the Green Curtain and Debra Flores's One Day You'll Leave Me

Reader 10 Today at 4:33 PM

Did you always intend to indie publish?

2 replies

Reader 4 13 minutes ago

Ouuu great question, especially with all the aspiring authors on here

Haley Cass < 1 minute ago

God. Well. I had no idea in the beginning. I think there are merits to both self publishing and publishing with an actual publisher.

Ultimately for TWW, I didn't want to have to submit my manuscript and then wait for months to hear back and possibly be rejected at the end of that wait. Plus, I figured there was a good chance a publisher would want me to cut a lot of material from TWW - and I've read reviews from some people who feel it's too long. That's their prerogative! - but I wasn't willing to part with much of it. I already cut over 70/75k from it, and everything else, for me, was important.

I wanted to have the final say on what's going to stay and what's going to go. So that's really what did it for me when I decided to go forward with TWW

Reader 1 3 minutes ago

You cut 70k from TWW? Ouch! In light of that experience, what editing advice would you give to new and aspiring authors?

Reader 4 < 1 minute ago

Am I the only one desperately curious to read the lost 70k words

Haley Cass < 1 minute ago

Lol YEP And it was very tough. I love those scenes still.

Mostly, the only thing I would advise to anyone writing their own book is what I tell myself. Write what you want to write. Write that scene you have that speaks to you. Write it all.

And when you have to go through and cut scenes or edit them... it might be tough, but I think it will give you a bigger picture of where you are and what you want to portray

Those lost 70k were mostly scenes with Regan (who may be my favorite character in TWW?) and a few with family members.

Oh and one sex scene. RIP

Reader 9 Today at 4:37 PM

Do you see yourself writing other genres eg sci-fi in the future?

Haley Cass 1 minute ago

I will let you in on a little secret about me...

I'm terrible at writing actual plot lol. Like. I just always want to be focused on my MCs and I like them having some side plots that relate to their careers or family or development. But you know, big overarching plots that have to do with a ton of other stuff... it's not my forte

I have a story in mind that's set in my own medieval like world that I REALLY want to write, but I struggle with "plotting" it, aside from the romance.

So... I won't say never. But it's not really my go-to

Reader 2 Today at 4:38 PM

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Haley Cass < 1 minute ago

The hardest part for me came toward the end. I originally planned for it to be much shorter, which had a shorter, different ending.

But when I realized that wasn't working, I had to sit down and re-plot September-December and figure out where they were going!

I also struggled with trying to make sure Hannah was fully actualized and that, by the end, she was really understood

Reader 9 Today at 4:54 PM

What’s next?

Haley Cass < 1 minute ago

This is my current struggle!

I have a wip that I have entirely planned out, with characters I love. A celebrity fauxmance type story, between an A-list actress and an inn owner. that i SHOULD keep working on.

But I've been really sucked into thoughts (and now, planning) of a medieval arranged marriage story.

I have to cut myself off before I ramble on about them. So... one of those tales will be next.

Reader 1 5:00 PM

We’re at the top of the hour already, all! Any more burning questions or heaps of praise for Haley? :smile:

Haley Cass 5:00 PM

Wow! That went by fast!!

Thank you all so much for having me here and the questions!

Reader 5 5:02 PM

Thank you for such great answers! (And a great book!)

Reader 2 Today at 5:03 PM

Uhm... would Caroline dress up as something Santa-like if Hannah dressed up as something naughty and Mrs. Clause-like for Christmas?

1 reply

Haley Cass < 1 minute ago


Hannah would never dress up as a naughty Mrs. Claus, but Caroline would dress up as Santa

"for the CHILDREN"

and would grumble about it the entire time. But she'd probably have a lot of fun in the moment