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Debut novel of Atlanta-based author Ricki Schultz tackles culture of online dating


Ricki Schultz has been writing seriously for almost a decade. Her genre of choice was young adult fiction. With each manuscript she came close to publication, but in the end they just didn't sell, she said.

Two years ago, she took a detour and it led to the publication of her debut novel which was released this week.  "Mr. Right Swipe," (Grand Central Publishing, $15) is all about dating in the digital age and it definitely is not for young adults.

 

On the day that changed the course of her writing, Schultz, who recently moved back to Atlanta, was hanging out with a group of married women talking about her challenges with online dating.

"I was like, it is pretty horrible, let me show you. I fired up Tinder and was swiping through saying, 'Nope. Nope.' I was giving pretty judgey reasons about why I was passing on guys," she said.

A week later, her agent called and said the young adult manuscript she had submitted was good, but it wasn't funny. What was funny, said her agent, was that conversation they'd had about dating.

"I had spent all this time writing pretty good young adult manuscripts and getting really close, then I just realized that it was going to be something more personal," Schultz said. "Mr. Right Swipe sounds like me, the situation is kind of me...because it is so personal and so personal to me, that also makes it rewarding."

Rae Wallace,  the 34-year-old teacher at the heart of the novel, is divorced and kind-of looking for love. Mostly, she endures set-ups by her well-intentioned best friends until one of them gives her a deadline. She has five weeks to find a date for her friend's wedding and she has do it 21st century style -- online.

Rae agrees , just to prove that she's not too picky when it comes to men, but she'd really rather hold on to the fantasy of meeting actor Jason Segel (who also writes children's books) at a writers' conference one day.

When the face of an attractive substitute teacher at her school pops up among the profiles on Spark, the dating app her friends force her to use, Rae's right swiping could prove problematic.

Like the character she created, Schultz is 35, she is divorced, she's a teacher and she has had her own adventures with online dating.

Writing the book, which falls under the cumbersome industry classification of upmarket humorous women's fiction (think a rom-com in the written word), came naturally to Schultz.

"It just all kind of came out of me. It was scary how easy it was because I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop," she said.

What proved more challenging was dating while writing. "It is hard when you are talking to people and they ask what you are writing about and then they ask, 'Is this going to be in there?'" Schultz said.

Currently at work on novel number two, Schultz who has worked as a freelance editor, also doles out writing advice on her blog. One of her favorite things to do is to talk about writing, said Schulz, who is often a speaker at writers' conferences.

Doing that along with promoting her first novel, writing the second novel and teaching (she is taking a part-time job at a new school this fall)  doesn't leave much time for dating, but Schultz said she still manages to squeeze in a date or two with the help of online services.

"It is exhausting. I go in spurts with it. I have met some very nice people," she said. "There aren’t a lot of places I could go where I have the opportunity to meet a lot of people, unless it is the grocery store but I don’t think that happens in real life," she said.

Or maybe it does happen.

"I am still hopeful or delusional," she said, "and I am still holding out for Jason Segel."


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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.