Can a starstruck young lingerie designer find true love in the arms of a suspiciously charming rock ‘n roll singer, and still deliver her first bridal collection to Nordstrom on time?
More importantly, can a market-leading luxury brand profit from the literary ambitions of a key staff member, without losing her to Hollywood forever?
Those are the stakes in this year’s most unlikely marketing success story: In Bloom, a novel that began three years as a series of blog entries to promote the romantic California lingerie label In Bloom by Jonquil.
Author Katie Delahanty‘s debut novel traces the fictional adventures of Olivia Bloom, a self-doubting digital artist who moves from her hometown of Pittsburgh to L.A. after a bad breakup and lands a job as an illustrator for the very real Jonquil‘s new bridal loungewear brand, also called In Bloom.
After getting a style and attitude makeover from a pair of fashionista friends, Olivia stumbles her way onto the red carpet and eventually bags the man of her dreams in rock superstar Berkeley Dalton.
In Bloom fits into the New Adult fiction genre, a coming-of-age story for young millennials trying to find their way in love, life and career (almost everyone in the book seems to be self-employed or freelancing — sound familiar?).
As fashion fiction, it has echoes of The Devil Wears Prada and Sex and the City, but In Bloom‘s real appeal is its behind-the-scenes glimpses of the celebrity whirlwind in Los Angeles. Olivia’s job takes her to runway shows and fashion photoshoots, while her new romance plunges her into the frenzied universe of paparazzi, tabloid gossip and menacing PR handlers.
In Bloom is populated with an endless array of aspiring L.A. creatives seeking fame as much as romance — or at least a wristband that will get them into VIP club lounges and A-list parties. If you’ve ever wondered how all those generically attractive onlookers loitering in the background at awards shows got there, In Bloom spills the goods. (Olivia’s friends have a series of rules for getting noticed. Example: Always have two cars — one for daily use and one to be seen in at the valet stands outside trendy clubs.)
It’s a world that author Delahanty knows well. In fact, In Bloom is an unusual mix of fiction and barely-obscured personal details from her own experience.
The esteemed Jonquil brand and its workplace and staff feature prominently in the story, although company founder Diane Samandi gets a slightly fictionalized makeover in the character of Lillian, Olivia’s supportive boss.
And while Delahanty may not have been swept off her feet by a real-life Jon Bon Jovi, she’s married to Jason Lautenschleger, bass player for the L.A. indie-rock band The Remainers (who get a cameo in the book when they win Best New Artist at the Grammys). Touring with the band gave her plenty of first-hand exposure to backstage life of performers, and plenty of material for the novel.
Delahanty, 35, works full-time for Jonquil as the brand’s media co-ordinator and manager of the In Bloom e-commerce site. She began as an assistant to Samandi seven years ago, working on Jonquil’s ready-to-wear collection, which eventually folded during the economic recession.
When Jonquil partnered with lingerie manufacturer MGT Industries to create the In Bloom line of bridal-oriented sleep and loungewear, Delahanty worked briefly as a designer before being tasked with finding novel ways to promote the new brand.
“Olivia Bloom” was born when Delahanty — who has degrees in both Communications and Fashion Design — decided in 2010 to create a fictionalized engagement diary and wedding-planning blog for the In Bloom website.
“In Bloom started as a blog, I was just trying to find ways to drive traffic to our website,” Delahanty told Lingerie Talk. “And I didn’t think I could write about lingerie every day. I just didn’t have enough knowledge to do that.”
Olivia’s blog launched in January 2011 as a serialized novella, with Delahanty posting two new chapters a week. By the time Olivia’s story wrapped up nine months later, it had swelled to 80,000 words — and its author was thinking about self-publishing it as a novel.
Instead, she was offered a three-book deal by romance specialist Entangled Publishing, which is distributed by Macmillan. In Bloom is currently only available as an online e-book, and has climbed as high as #500 on Amazon’s bestseller list since its launch in February. A print edition is expected, and Delahanty is currently finishing the second book in Olivia’s story.
The author’s moonlighting has been enthusiastically supported by Jonquil, which is promoting the book on its website as the kind of “bridal read” that would make an appropriate shower gift (alongside a nice In Bloom chemise, of course).
Other lingerie brands (for example, Passionata and Agent Provocateur) have used fictional characters to represent their brands in blogs and social media but Jonquil’s relationship with author Delahanty takes that idea to a new level: the novel serves, secondarily, as a marketing platform for the author’s employer, giving Jonquil the kind of privileged product placement that other brands covet.
With today’s boom in serialized fiction, Delahanty sees this is as a valuable new promotional tool for fashion brands.
“There’s a big opportunity for brands to be telling stories and to tell the story of the brand through characters that reflect their customers,” she said. “It’s the way people connect with brands these days, and it’s a fun way to meet your customers and connect with them.
“It’s a win-win situation that can help promote the brand.”
Of course, doing double duty has meant some long days for Delahanty.
“I get up every day at 5 a.m. and write before I go to work,” she said. “Then I go home and write until I can’t see anymore.”
Delahanty says she never aspired to be a novelist, but “fell in love with writing” when she started the In Bloom blog.
“It just kind of organically happened,” she said. “It’s not something I would have anticipated.”
The early success of In Bloom has her dreaming about what other possibilities might present themselves — a TV or movie adaptation would fit Olivia’s story well — but one thing won’t change … her allegiance to Jonquil.
“No matter how successful the book is, I’ll always be tied to the Jonquil brand,” she said. “We’re in this together.”
In Bloom (the novel) is available through Amazon, Kobo, Barnes and Noble and iTunes.
In Bloom (the brand) is sold at Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdales, and many specialty boutiques.