By Stephanie Cage, author of Perfect Partners
The setting for the story of Perfect Partners goes all the way back to the first time I fell in love. They swept across the floor in black and white. He was an odd-looking chap by modern standards, with a pointy, serious face that occasionally broke into a wicked grin. She was an elegantly coiffed beauty who’d have been way out of his league if it wasn’t for one thing. He could dance. Not the weird ‘stand on your head and make like a caterpillar’ stuff that had turned the floor at the school disco into a danger zone. This was real dancing: they moved perfectly in time with both each other and the music, with their faces so close that if she didn’t have so much hairspray on, his breath would be ruffling her curls. And there, in front of an old Fred Astaire film on a rainy afternoon, a dream was born. One day I too would be a ballroom dancer.
This was way before Strictly Ballroom and Dancing with the Stars, so ballroom dancing was not something teenagers did in a small market town in England. It wasn’t until I went to university that I got the chance to try a bit of waltz and quickstep, and then I soon discovered I was anything but a Ginger Rogers. I was slow to master the steps, and having spent most of my life so far hunched over storybooks or textbooks, I had trouble developing the elegant topline the sport required. Not only that, but when it came to male partners, there were few who had anything close to Fred Astaire’s charisma or talent, and those few were soon snapped up by taller, blonder, more glamorous girls who’d been dancing from the cradle. The real world, not surprisingly, didn’t quite match up to the dreams inspired by my beloved black and white movies.
And so another dream was born. Whiling away the time on the sidelines at competitions and at the back of lectures, I began to ponder how things might be different today for a girl like Ginger Rogers, looking for her Fred Astaire. That’s how the story of Perfect Partners first came into being.
The final ingredient which would help Perfect Partners take shape didn’t arrive until years later when, several series into my favourite show, Strictly Come Dancing had become one of Britain’s must-watch Saturday night treats. Suddenly the tabloids were a hotbed of SCD-related gossip. The obscure sport I’d been dreaming about all those years was now cool, and the whole world wanted to know the stories of the stars whose lives were being changed by dance.
As I watched the celebrities and their partnerships grow and change over the course of the series, I realised that my heroine, Lisa, would take part in a reality show for dancers. The story would follow all the friendships and rivalries that shape her journey through a glamorous world of dancing and romancing most of us can only dream of. Of course she had to find a hero to dream of too, in the form of talented, driven Redmond, who took off eight years earlier to chase a dream of dancing across the world, only to realise that maybe he left what mattered most behind.
Once I had created the concept of the Couples show, the writing glided along almost as smoothly as my hero and heroine across the dance floor, until eventually I had a story ready to submit, and was lucky enough to have the book accepted by the lovely people at Crimson Romance.
The biggest kick of my journey with Lisa and Redmond so far has been seeing them come to life on the wonderful cover of Perfect Partners. Even though they’re not looking directly into each other’s eyes, you can see from the way they hold themselves that they’re drawn to each other and, for all Red may have made some mistakes, he’s very protective of Lisa. My dancing couple look perfect together, just like the couples I used to watch in those black and white movies, but now with added Technicolour pink sequins!
What do you love best about dancing competition TV series?