Podcast Episodes

The Shaadi Set-Up

September 14, 2021

Today on the podcast,  Victoria speaks with author Lillie Vale about her adult debut rom-com, The Shaadi Set-Up!  We talk about her inspiration and hopes for the novel, played some fun games, learn more about her reading and writing life, plus lots more.  

Click here to listen to the episode, or download it wherever you get your podcasts. Just search for The Reader’s Couch.

Download your copy of The BiblioLifestyle 2021 Fall Reading List!  All books in the guide are organized into categories (we even have on dedicated to the minimalist reader), plus you’ll find some fun recipes, things to do at home, and tips to help you improve your reading life.  So download your copy of the guide at: bibliolifestyle.com/2021frl.  

Subscribe to the BiblioLifestyle weekly newsletter to get weekly bookish news, curated book lists, inspiration, and podcast updates.  You can also join and support our Patreon community, where I share bonus episodes, exclusive content, and you can influence future episodes.  

Online Links
Website: thereaderscouch.com 
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Patreon: patreon.com/bibliolifestyle



Assembly by Natasha Brown

A woman confronts the most important question of her life in this blistering, fearless, and unforgettable literary debut.

Talk to Me by T.C. Boyle

A lively, thought-provoking novel that asks us what it would be like if we could really talk to the animals.

Snowflake by Louise Nealon

A tale of love and family, depression and joy, and coming of age in the twenty-first century.


Mama Bear by Shirley Smith

In this moving memoir, Shirley Smith, wife of NBA Champion and All-Star J. R. Smith, tells the story of giving birth to one of the youngest premature babies to survive—using her experience to heighten awareness of the crisis of Black maternal and infant health and pay tribute to Black women’s resilience.

Unbound by Tarana Burke

From the founder and activist behind the largest movement of the 20th and 21st century, Tarana Burke shares her never before revealed life story of how she first came to say ‘me too’ and launch one of the largest cultural events in American history.

Mellencamp by Paul Rees

The definitive biography of John Mellencamp, the iconic American rock and roll original, featuring exclusive in-depth interviews and never-before-told details.

The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree by Nice Leng’ete

The story of the human rights activist who changed the minds of her elders, reformed traditions from the inside, and is creating a better future for girls and women throughout Africa.

You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union

Remember when we hit it off so well that we decided We’re Going to Need More Wine? Well, this time you and I are going to turn to our friend the bartender and ask, You Got Anything Stronger? I promise to continue to make you laugh, but with this round, the stakes get higher as the conversation goes deeper.


The Dressmakers of Auschwitz by Lucy Adlington

A powerful chronicle of the women who used their sewing skills to survive the Holocaust, stitching beautiful clothes at an extraordinary fashion workshop created within one of the most notorious WWII death camps.

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead

From the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys, a gloriously entertaining novel of heists, shakedowns, and rip-offs set in Harlem in the 1960s.


A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis Daria

The national bestselling author of You Had Me at Hola returns with a seductive second-chance romance about a commitment-phobic Latina and her childhood best friend who has finally returned home.

The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood

When a fake relationship between scientists meets the irresistible force of attraction, it throws one woman’s carefully calculated theories on love into chaos.


Mordew by Alex Pheby

The launch of an astonishingly inventive epic fantasy trilogy, already widely acclaimed in the UK.  God is dead, his corpse hidden in the catacombs beneath Mordew.

Harrow by Joy Williams

In her first novel since The Quick and the Dead (a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), the legendary writer takes us into an uncertain landscape after an environmental apocalypse, a world in which only the man-made has value, but some still wish to salvage the authentic.


Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Lily is a beloved television reporter that has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips–but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he–or she–know the truth?  Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world–and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Big Little Lies and Nine Perfect Strangers comes a novel that looks at marriage, siblings, and how the people we love the most can hurt us the deepest.


Victoria Wood (00:11):
Welcome to The Reader’s Couch! A podcast that brings you lively conversations with some of your favorite authors and bookish personalities. Over here, the couch is always booked, but I’ve moved some books to the side table and fluffed some cushions so I can welcome a guest or two to come lounge with us.

Victoria Wood (00:32):
Today on the couch, we have Lillie Vale. An author who is warming our hearts through her laugh out loud, second-chance at love rom-com. Her novel tells a story about an Indian American woman who signs herself and her boyfriend up for a matchmaking site to prove that they’re a perfect match, only to be paired with her ex instead. Stay tuned.

Victoria Wood (01:08):
Readers, get ready for cozy reading and all the autumnal feels with The BiblioLifestyle 2021 Fall Reading List. This year’s guide has a total of 42 books organized across 7 categories. So you can head straight to your favorite genres if you prefer. We also have one category is dedicated to the minimalist reader. Our Minimalist Reads list has 8 titles that we highly recommend if you’re only planning to pick up a few reads this fall. In the guide, you will also find some fun recipes, things to do at home, and tips to help you improve your reading life. So download your free guide and see the books that made the list over at bibliolifestyle.com/2021frl. I’ve also included a link in the show notes so you can sign up there.

Victoria Wood (01:19):
A historical fiction novel to keep on your radar is The Royal Correspondent by Alexandra Joel. The author of The Paris Model returns with a historical novel set in 1960s Sydney and London and it tells the story of an up-and-coming young Australian reporter with a deadly secret. In the novel, we meet Blaise Hill, the only female reporter in The Clarion’s newsroom in Sydney. But the ambitious young journalist’s confidence is shaken when she secretly witnesses the murder of a top crime boss. One of the few people who knows what really happened and what Blaise knows is the handsome Adam Rule, who also helps to cover up the murder. So when Blaise gets a plum assignment to move to England to cover the British royal family she hopes to put it all behind her. But one night she attends a gala hosted by Queen Elizabeth and among the exclusive crowd is the last man she ever wanted to see—Adam Rule. And now she wonders if that dark secret is coming back to hurt her or is this the beginning of something far more dangerous? The Royal Correspondent brings to life the thrilling, colorful world of 1960s Sydney and London—and a spirited, ambitious woman dared to make her way in a man’s world. The Royal Correspondent by Alexandra Joel is being published by Harper Perennial, and books are on sale now. So visit your local bookseller or library so you can get your hands on a copy!

Victoria Wood (04:07):
A novel about womanhood, family, and friendship to keep an eye out for is Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jane Allen. Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is the first novel in a three book series and we meet a young Black woman who must rely on courage, laughter, love and the support of her two longtime friends to overcome an unexpected setback. In the novel we meet Tabitha Walker, a black woman with a plan to have it all. At 33 years old, the checklist for the life of her dreams is well underway. Until she receives an unexpected diagnosis that brings her picture-perfect life crashing down. Suddenly she is faced with an impossible choice between her career, her dream home, and her ability to have family of her own. With the help of her best friends and family, Tabby explores the reaches of modern medicine and tests the limits of her relationships in hopes to salvage the future she always dreamed of. But Tabby soon learns, her grandmother’s age-old adage just might still be true: Black girls must die exhausted. Black Girls Must Die Exhausted by Jayne Allen is being published by Harper Perennial, and books go on sale on September 28, 2021. So visit your local bookseller or library so you can get your hands on a copy.

Victoria Wood (05:53):
Hi, readers welcome again to The Reader’s Couch. I’m your host Victoria Wood and here on the couch with me is the author of the young adult novel, Small Town Hearts. But she’s here with me to talk about her adult debut, romantic comedy, The Shaadi Set-Up. Please welcome to the couch Lillie Vale.

Victoria Wood (06:13):
Hey Lillie.

Lillie Vale (06:18):

Victoria Wood (06:19):
I’m so excited to have you here. I can’t wait for us to talk about The Shaadi Set-Up, but yeah, it will be available in bookstores for readers to get their hands on. I mean, how are you feeling? How excited are you?

Lillie Vale (06:31):
I am very excited. Like it feels amazing that we’re so close to pub day.

Victoria Wood (06:37):
I know, I know. We’re counting down the days. I can’t wait, but I want you to tell our listeners, tell us about The Shaadi Set-Up and what can readers expect going in.

Lillie Vale (06:48):
The Shaadi Set-Up is a slow burn, exes to lovers, second chance romance between a furniture restorer called Rita Chitniss and her high school, sweetheart Milan Rao, who also happens to be the boy who broke her heart really, really spectacularly about six years ago. Things aren’t really perfect with her current boyfriend, Neil, but they’re good enough for her for right now where she’s just interested in having fun. And she’s not really looking for anything super serious, but her mom sets her up with her ex Milan. She volunteers her interior design skills to help him sell a really difficult listing. And Rita wants to prove how over him she is she. So she comes up with a setup of her own. She’s going to sign herself and her current boyfriend, Neil, up on My Shaadi, a reputable Indian matchmaking site to convince everyone just how over Milan she really is.

Lillie Vale (07:41):
And you know, it’s a second chance romance. So hint, she’s not over him at all. But as soon as she gets the validation she needs from the website, she thinks she can rub her perfect match with her new guy in Milan’s face. Instead, the site matches her with the last person she ever expected, which is of course Milan. And as they work together in a professional partnership, she kind of has to reevaluate what really happened between them all those years ago to split them up. Her mother is motivation and setting them up today and reevaluate whether broken things can ever really be fixed. And there’s a lot of fun tropes to enjoy. Some of my favorite in the book are second chances, forced proximity, slow burn, and first love plus on the cover, you can see two really adorable dogs. It’s Rita’s Yorkie, Jack Russell Terrier mix and a French bulldog. And so if you’re, if you love books about cute puppies and their shenanigans, I think you’d really love it.

Victoria Wood (08:40):
Yay. Awesome! But I really want to know Lillie, what inspired you to write The Shaadi Set-Up? I mean, you know, what was the spark that gave you the idea for this novel?

Lillie Vale (08:50):
Well, what happened was my mom actually asked me if I ever thought about joining Tinder and she didn’t really know what people normally use Tinder for. So I kind of had to get into the embarrassing explanation of that. And I kind of made like an off the cuff comment and I said, oh, imagine if two kids met on Tinder, they hooked up on the first date and then they discover they want to keep seeing each other and obviously when a lot of couples get together, the first question people ask is how did you guys meet? And like imagine telling your family members essentially that, oh, we met because we hooked up on the first date. Obviously that’s not really something Rita wants to share with her parents, especially because her mom has some bad history with her current boyfriend. Neil’s dad. So she decides to come up with this really elaborate backstory with her whole setup of joining myshaadi.com to fake basically their first meeting for their parents’ sake to prove that they’re perfect for each other. And I kind of came up with this on the fly, it flashed through my head in like 10 seconds. And I realized this was the plot of a book that I was really desperate to read. Just like the web we weave when we try to deceive basically. And I was really interested in these characters and the mistakes they would make along the way.

Victoria Wood (10:09):
Here’s a funny thing for readers. Rita is dating a guy, his name is Neil and their families just don’t get along. So then, like you mentioned, when she signs up for this website, instead of it matching her with Neil to say, hey, you know, we’re solid. Instead it matches her with her ex. So now she ends up having to interact with him. Cause meddling mothers, of course, you know, she’s trying to set them up. She volunteers Rita to help Milan with his homes by her doing some interior design and so on. Instead of course, you know, it’s an exes to lovers romance, so obviously she’s not completely over him. So they work on one house, then they end up working on two. So I devised a game called “What Would Rita Design.” So I need you for a moment to kind of embody the main character Rita. She’s an interior designer, Milan has some homes lined up, and we want to see what home from classic literature Rita would design. So you’re ready?

Lillie Vale (11:16):

Victoria Wood (11:18):
Okay. So would Rita design a home from Manderley in Rebecca or Thornfield Halls from Jane Eyre?

Lillie Vale (11:27):

Victoria Wood (11:29):
Would she go for Castle Dracula from Dracula or Hill House from The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson? I know those two are spooky.

Lillie Vale (11:39):
Dracula probably.

Victoria Wood (11:41):
Ooh, I like that. Would she go for Pemberley from Pride and Prejudice or Jay Gatsby’s mansion from The Great Gatsby?

Lillie Vale (11:45):

Victoria Wood (11:45):
Pemberley. Okay. And my last one is would Rita design Green Gables from Anne of Green Gables or Wuthering Heights from said book.

Lillie Vale (12:08):
Probably Green Gables.

Victoria Wood (12:11):
Green Gables. Why would she pick Green Gables?

Lillie Vale (12:14):
Well, I think it just exudes a lot more of the sense of warmth and comfort and family that she, is also really drawn to in her own design.

Victoria Wood (12:25):
Right, right. That makes sense. Totally. So I want to know Lillie, as I mentioned, in my introduction, you previously wrote a young adult novel entitled Small Town Hearts. How was it transitioning from writing YA to now adult fiction?

Lillie Vale (12:42):
Yeah. my debut, YA novel, Small Town Hearts featured a character who is in post high school. So she’s 19 years old. She’s a little bit older than most protagonists in YA and Rita is also a little bit older. She’s in her mid to late twenties and they have the common theme of kind of both not quite feeling like full adults yet. So I think there is a really good crossover for readers who might also feel like they’re not quite full adults yet. So I think that’s kind of a theme I share in my YA and in my adult. And it actually, wasn’t too difficult because as I said, she’s the main character in my YA was 19. So she also had the freedom of, you know, not having a curfew, not having to ask people to drive her places and not having to depend on adults in her life for things. And I think that when you write adult, like there’s a lot of that freedom where again, you don’t have to depend on the adults in your life for permission or for rides or in most cases financially, even though Rita’s mother does try to help her out when she thinks that Rita could use it. So I do think that one of the main differences in writing adult is there’s so much more freedom for the characters, which opens up a lot more storylines and story possibilities that you might not get with. YA.

Victoria Wood (14:08):
Okay, awesome. That makes sense. And now with two books behind you and I did a little snooping, so I know there’s a third on the way, and we’ll get to that. But what advice would you give your younger writing self looking back now?

Lillie Vale (14:22):
Well, when I was a younger writer I had, when I was like a teenager, I had, for example, never finished writing a full book. I actually started and had a lot of fizzled out starts where I gave up after three or four chapters. I couldn’t really figure out why I couldn’t get to the end. And for some reason it just never occurred to me that, you know, I could go on Google and search for how to write a book. It never occurred to me that, you know, I could look up craft. So I would definitely tell my younger self that you really want to be a writer like you should. There are opportunities online. There are opportunities to find out a lot more to get to where you want to be. And it actually took me a really like embarrassingly long time to actually finish my first book.

Lillie Vale (15:11):
I finished it for NaNoWriMo 2015 and it was the hardest thing I’ve probably ever done because I did it when I was also juggling grad school. So I was kind of writing in between like the snatches of time between lectures, like frantically trying to get this book done. And NaNoWriMo is where you have to write in November 50,000 words in 30 days. And this was really the push I needed. And I just kept telling myself it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be done. You just have to get the words down on paper. And of course at this point, you know, I hadn’t learned too much about craft or anything. So I was kind of just flying by the seat of my pants. You know, just, it was a complete discovery draft. I hadn’t planned out anything. So by the time I actually finished, it was very underwritten. I barely squeaked by with the 50,000 words, but it was the first book I’d ever completed and it was done and I was wildly proud of it. And I think looking back, what I would tell myself is don’t give up after chapter three, keep going, keep writing. And I’m sure if I had done that, I would have a lot more finished manuscripts today

Victoria Wood (16:19):
On that note, how many unfinished manuscripts do you think you have under the bed there?

Lillie Vale (16:24):
Surprisingly, not that many. Um, I do find that even if a manuscript that I started, I didn’t get too far on. Even if that never ever sees the light of day, there are a lot of ways to repurpose that material. For example, I had like different for The Shaadi Set-Up, I had like the spark of the idea, which we discussed earlier, but I didn’t really have a plot to go with it. So, but I did have this other idea for, you know, a furniture restorer and a designer. And I had like an idea for like this house on an island, kind of this beat up house that could use a little bit of TLC, a little bit of love. And these were all from like different ideas I had and I didn’t know how to combine it. But then when I had the spark for The Shaadi Set-Up, I suddenly thought of a way that I could take all those elements from other manuscripts and pull them all together to make this book. So I think, you know, at some point I hope that everything unfinished kind of gets a new lease of life in a different book.

Victoria Wood (17:27):
Well, like I said earlier, I’ve been snooping and I know you have a young adult book on the horizon for March, 2022. Tell us about it.

Lillie Vale (17:38):
Yeah, that’s my second YA novel. It’s called Beauty and the Besharam it’s coming out in May 22 at the Viking Children’s. It’s a friends to lovers summer workplace romcom inspired by a gender bent Beauty and The Beast where a slightly curmudgeonly teen girl known for being besharam, which means shameless falls for her rival, who she is, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending how you look at it working with for the summer. And I also have another adult novel coming out with Putnam in Fall 22 as well called The Decoy Girlfriend where an author is caught, impersonating her movie star lookalike, and is blackmailed into taking her place, including in dating the actress’ really sexy costar boyfriend.

Victoria Wood (18:22):
Ooh, I got a two for one you guys.

Lillie Vale (18:29):
You got more than you asked for.

Victoria Wood (18:29):
I know, but I love it. Two books to look forward to in 2022. That’s awesome. And now I’m really super excited!

Victoria Wood (18:37):
So we’re here to talk about The Shaadi Set-Up, but we’re readers and we love getting recommendations. So share with our listeners the last book that you read that you’d now recommend.

Lillie Vale (18:51):
Well, I’m a pretty chaotic reader. I don’t tend to like stick with one book and all the way through, I kind of go between three or four. So I don’t quite know what the last book I read was, but I had really enjoyed recently Love Scenes by Bridget Morrissey. You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria. People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry. And Arsenic and Adobo by Mia Manansala.

Victoria Wood (19:15):
Woohoo. I love it. And what books are you looking forward to reading in the year ahead?

Lillie Vale (19:21):
Honestly, so many. Right now I’m currently reading a lot of like my friend’s upcoming books and CP manuscripts. Not all of which I can talk about obviously, but I’m really looking forward to The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood, which comes out, I think September 14th. I’m also really looking forward to Rachel Lynn Solomon’s upcoming adult novel, Weather Girl and Mazey Eddings, A Brush With Love, which I don’t think is coming out until 22, but I’m really excited for all of those. And of course, for everything like secret that I can’t talk about yet.

Victoria Wood (19:54):
I totally get it. So in addition to loving books, it’s natural, we love our bookstores. And we’re big supporters here of local indie bookstores. And we ask all our guests on the show. So now I’m asking you to share with our listeners some of your favorite local bookstores.

Lillie Vale (20:11):
Well, unfortunately where I live in Indiana, I don’t have a lot of local indie bookstores, but I do currently have signed copies available with Flyleaf Books, Fountain Bookstore, The Ripped Bodice, Love Sweet Arrow and Mysterious Galaxy. So if you want a signed copy of my book, you can get them through any of those retailers.

Victoria Wood (20:33):
Awesome. So kind of tying things together and going back to The Shaadi Set-Up, I mean, I know you’ve done your job as an author. You’ve written the book and now it’s up to us readers, but how do you want readers to feel after reading this book? I mean, what are the reactions you’re hoping for? Or just some thoughts you’re hoping readers might have.

Lillie Vale (20:53):
Honestly, if readers take anything at all away from my book, I’m just thrilled with whatever resonated the most with them. For me personally, a big part of why I wrote a second chance romance is, you know, what’s kind of at the heart of all of these second chances is that the first try is not all you get. The future can still be different, even if you don’t get love right the first time around or anything right. Like not even necessarily love, but you do have more than one chance. There are a number of ways to try again. And especially in, you know, a second chance romance, a second chance means it’s never the end. You do get another try to get it right. Hopefully the next time around. And I think that message of hope is really just important to me.

Victoria Wood (21:38):
Right, right. Awesome. I love it. Readers, some of my favorite parts or just some favorite themes that you can look forward to are the exes to lovers. It’s a slow burn, but it’s so, so, so good. There’s some cute puppies in there. If you love cute puppies, definitely read it. There’s some house flipping and of course romance and food, food, food, food, food, food. If you could use three words to describe The Shaadi Set-Up, what would it be?

Lillie Vale (22:08):
Angsty, romantic, and emotional.

Victoria Wood (22:16):
Angsty, romantic, emotional. I love it. Lillie, thank you so much for coming on the show and speaking with me, it’s been an absolute pleasure.

Lillie Vale (22:24):
Thank you so much for having me. I had a blast, especially with your really fun game.

Victoria Wood (22:30):
Yay. I Love it. I love it.

Victoria Wood (22:33):
Readers, I had so much fun with author Lillie Vale, and I just want to take this opportunity to thank her again for coming and lounging on the couch with us.

Victoria Wood (22:45):
This week is another big publication week for so many authors. There are tons of books that will be gracing bookshelves on Tuesday, September 14th. But I’m going to spotlight 16 new and noteworthy titles for you to keep on your radar.

Victoria Wood (23:02):
If you’re in the market for some literary fiction, I highly recommend Assembly by Natasha Brown. Also available is Talk to Me by T.C. Boyle and Snowflake by Louise Nealon. If you’re looking for nonfiction, there’s Mama Bear by Shirley Smith, Unbound by Tarana Burke, Mellencamp by Paul Rees, The Girls in the Wild Fig Tree by Nice Leng’ete and You Got Anything Stronger by Gabrielle Union. In historical fiction. The highly anticipated Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead is on sale this week. Also available is The Dressmakers of Auschwitz by Lucy Adlington. If you’re looking for romance, there’s A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis Daria and The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood. If you’re looking for fantasy, there’s Harrow by Joy Williams and Mordew by Alex Pheby. And for our thriller suspense and mystery readers, available this week is Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan, and Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty. You can find a list with all these books and their summaries along with the show notes over at thereaderscouch.com.

Victoria Wood (24:29):
Thank you so much for tuning into The Reader’s Couch. You can find out more about the show and submit your questions for our guests by visiting our website, thereaderscouch.com. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter at the couch is booked. If you like the show, please subscribe, share, and take a few seconds to leave a rating and review.

Victoria Wood (24:57):
Next week, I’ll be back with new guests, more books and some fun games we can play. But until then stay lounging, stay reading, and whenever you’re in doubt, go straight to your local bookstore or library. Thanks for listening and happy reading.

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