Not too many years ago, few people would admit to dabbling in internet dating. In the past decade, however, the growth of online dating services rose by 154% per year, and over a third of the current US population either uses online dating services or knows someone who does. Recent surveys show that 280,000 marriages each year are attributable to online dating, and the number of people who find love on the internet is continuously on the rise. But, according to writer and online dating coach D.J. Kelley, so are the pitfalls facing those who dare to venture into this brave new world of romance. Kelley has chronicled some examples in Imperfect Heroes, a novel he describes as “a comic story of love and survival in an internet world.”
Kelley, a New Jersey native, came to Florida in 1976. He had visited the area as a child and recalls boarding the plane in the sleet and debarking into a paradise of sunshine and coconut palms. The experience was so powerful that it never left him. He attended graduate school at the University of South Florida and pursued a career in business, but he always had a desire to write. “I’d wanted to be a writer since I was ten,” he says. “In the 90s, I spent some time in the Keys and tried a book, but I couldn’t get it right so I gave up.” It was a chance meeting with the publisher of a local paper that changed all that.
During a chat, Kelley admitted that he’d done some writing. He was asked to submit a piece to the paper, and he agreed. The publisher was so impressed with his short story that she ran it on the front page. Kelley followed this with several more stories, and soon he was on his way. “Seeing my work in print gave me validity,” he explains. “I finally felt like a writer, so I decided to give a book another try.” He made a New Year’s resolution to write every day. One day, while going through some of the pieces he’d written, he found an article on internet dating. “I knew I’d found a hot topic,” he says. “I started writing, and the rest came easily.” A year later, he had completed Imperfect Heroes.
Set in Tierra Verde, Florida, Imperfect Heroes is the story of Chris Osborne, an online dating novice who decides to find the love of his life on the internet (with some unpredictable and hilarious results). Kelley admits that his personal experiences fueled the story, “but I poured gasoline on them to give readers a good ride.” He wanted to present the pros and cons of internet dating and feels that the book doesn’t require much suspension of disbelief. “The internet can be an incredible tool to meet people, but you can get into trouble quickly,” he explains. “There are no boundaries online. It takes a seasoned person to understand that everybody’s not like you. Consumerism doesn’t apply to dating.”
In the end, though, Imperfect Heroes is a story about hope. The way Kelley sees it, “We’re all imperfect, but we’re all loveable in different ways. It may take a thousand people to find that one you value and who sees the value in you. But there’s always hope, and you have to stay in the game to find love.”
For more information, visit the author’s website at www.imperfectheroes.com.