I spoke with soon to be published author and self described old soul in a swipe-right generation, Vanessa Petros, on a Thursday. The day after a day of historic firsts. The day after Madame Vice President Kamala Harris, the first woman and person of color to serve in the role of VP was sworn into office. The day after Amanda Gorman, the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, enthralled us all with the reading of her poem ‘The Hill We Climb’. The day of firsts confirmed women are winning; Vanessa Petros is no exception.
The daughter of Iraqi immigrants, born and raised in metro Detroit happened upon writing in her early 20's. She studied business at Wayne State University, but her frustration with 21st century dating birthed her first book Noble Hearts —a novel Petros describes as a cross between her love for time travel movies and stories of star-crossed lovers. “I dealt with a lot of manipulation, ghosting, [and] things like that,” Petros told me. “After years of this, I was just really upset and thought, ‘What if we lived in a world where we didn’t have to date. We could just be matched with our person,’” she continued. Thus, Noble Hearts, was born.
Below. Petros dishes on 21st Century dating and the dialogue she hopes her book sparks.
On dating apps:
There’s a lack of accountability. People manipulate for their own desires. It’s not like you’re getting set up by a friend; there’s no one to answer to. We treat people like things you can just throwaway and that’s it. As long as technology keeps taking over that aspect of human life, it’s going to become easier and easier for people to be careless with each other’s hearts, lie, and hide their true selves. My thoughts aren’t the thoughts of a bitter, jaded girl. I truly believe everyone should treat each other with respect, transparency, and have empathy for people’s feelings.
On becoming an author:
I didn’t expect this to happen. If you told me when I was in college I would do this, I would have thought you were just straight up playing with me. I always thought when I was working in corporate America I wasn’t on the right path. I felt very unfulfilled. I felt like I was playing make believe and acting a role. I felt like I was trying to please managers, and trying to do what every responsible adult does —they have this secure boring job and they have to be happy and grateful that they have it. It’s been hard because I’ve worked my regular job while funding this. It hasn’t been cheap, but if you have something to say, just go after It. Don’t ever squelch your creativity or try to play a role that doesn’t fulfill you. I’ve learned to walk in my purpose and really own it.
On the writing process:
Before I really started writing, I had a brief outline. I left what I started writing alone for year because I thought, ‘Who do I think I am? I can’t do this,’ but the idea for Nobel Hearts would’t leave me alone. When I learned one of my best friends was moving to France I thought where she was moving would be a really good setting for the book, it would really help if I could go experience that alongside her. I booked a flight. It was my first time out of the country. I immersed myself in the particular city I knew I wanted to write about. It’s this whimsical little city. Just being there reignited my desire to write this story. I wrote down street names, names of bakeries, and festivals. After I experienced France, I went back to Michigan and I started writing. I remember finishing work at my day job and going to the Starbucks on Crooks Road. I had my big backpack with two laptops in there. I would get the rest of my admin work done. Then, I’d pull out my Mac Book and start writing. I would be there ’til close. That’s what I did for two years.
On her book’s premise:
My young adult time-travel novel gives you a glimpse into a future, and appeals to just about anyone who has struggled with finding love. In the year 2120, scientists have long eradicated the jarring practice of dating, preventing years of suffering and disappointment for inhabitants of the 22nd century. Instead, young adults undergo genetic testing to identify and marry their ideal match. The story starts off in Strasbourg, a city in France, where the protagonist Mélodie Roux was born and raised. When at the Annoncer ceremony, twenty-year-old Mélodie (Mel) is the only person not to be matched, and must go on a journey to find her one true love —a journey that crosses time and that unveils a tragic family history. Through Mel's eyes, readers will take this journey, a thrilling and risky voyage that readers will be able to both relate to, and get lost in. This is a story that readers didn't know they needed, one that highlights just how fickle the dating scene in the 21st century is, and one that reimagines an ideal future banning misery and heartbreak.
On her book sparking dialogue:
I want it to start a dialogue. [Dating] doesn’t have to be this way. The book examines dating from the future, and they’re looking back on our time from that lens of ‘how could they?'. The book is for young women who feel like they can’t find true love, who feel they keep getting used.
On how she wants her readers to feel:
I want my readers to feel seen, accepted, and understood because I always felt like I was the only one who felt this way. I felt there was something wrong with me because I actually wanted something different. I wanted love the old school way.
On her current relationship status:
I’m just happy and single. I haven’t been in the dating game in a minute. I’m taking a nice break. I'm focused on my writing. I wrote this when I was 22, a couple years ago. When I wrote Noble Hearts I was more vulnerable, and a bit more naive about the ways of the world. I still feel like love is super important and as people, even if we don’t want something serious, we should be careful with each other’s hearts.
On future goals:
My goal is to get traditionally published, and get paid to write. In the meantime, I’m just writing as much as I can. I’m writing my second book right now. I want my novels to become movies. My favorite movies are the ones based on books, and every time I write a book, I can just see it on the screen. Once I can write full time, one of my long term goals is to start a nonprofit in Detroit focusing on literacy and promoting education for young, underprivileged youth.
This interview has been edited and condensed.