Playlist & Contest: Rina Gray

rina_gray_patio_16For each book that I have written, I have a soundtrack and the songs selected embody the theme of the story, the emotions I want to convey, and theme songs for the hero and heroine.

I built the soundtrack before drafting It’s Been You, but of course, as time goes by, I will find a few songs that are perfect for a character or scene I have rolling around in my head. For those moments, I use my Shazam app to make sure I make a note of the song, and then add it to the Spotify playlist.

The theme for It’s Been You is love and war. Fire and ice. When I wrote this book, I wanted to keep the angst of lusting after someone you loathe, and then fall in love with someone you think may be wrong for you.

The soundtrack has almost 100 songs, but here are my top 10.

  1. “I Will Survive” Diana Ross – This song perfectly describes the heroine, Tiana. She crawled back from heartache and despite hardships, survived and thrived.
  2. “Love and War” – Tamar Braxton – Tiana and Nathan are always battling it out, and this song is fitting for their tug-of-war relationship.
  3. “Tell Him” – Vonda Shepard – A cute little doo-wop song. I imagine a little angel on Tiana’s shoulder, telling her to go for it!
  4. “Torn and Tattered” – Joss Stone – For this song, there is a little devil on her left shoulder that keeps her in a negative space and unwilling to give another guy a try due to the pain she experienced.
  5. “Thinking of You” Tony! Toni! Tone! – This 90s R&B song expresses the sweet beginnings of romance. The simple truth is that Nathan has been thinking of Tiana since they met in grad school and he wants to know if she’s been thinking of him too.
  6. “Lost Queen” Pharrell Williams – This is a song about a woman who is out of this world. And once Nathan gets his head out of his tush, he realizes Tiana is a prize. The song starts off with an upbeat tribal tune and then transitions to a seductive R&B groove. The change in tempo also known as chopped and screwed reminds me of the change of pace from being enemies to lovers.  
  7. “Contradiction” Mali Music featuring Jhene’ Aiko –This song is about a couple who have broken up but have an undeniable connection. They pretend like they are okay, but clearly miss each other. This song represents the big black moment for Tiana and Nathan.
  8. “Love Rollercoaster” – Ohio Players – Do you remember when you first rode a rollercoaster? The slow uptick and clicks of the tracks that made your heart go ka-thump. You squeeze your eyes shut and stick your hands in the air, praying to God you don’t die. Or maybe that’s just me and my dramatic self! There is a scene in the story when the hero and heroine are at the fairground, and it represents the scary, yet exciting start of their relationship.
  9. “Ooh Baby Baby” – Smokey Robinson – Confession: I’m a groupie for Smokey. He’s crooning about doing his woman wrong, and I think he properly begs for forgiveness.
  10. “It’s Been You” Anita Baker – This is the theme song for the book, and is about a woman who realizes the man of her dreams was right in front of her. This song is the “ah-ha” moment. Birds are chirping around the heroine’s head, with Cupid flapping in the background looking on with adoring eyes. And then, of course, he shoots Tiana with her arrow. Nathan didn’t need as much prodding!

I hope you enjoyed my top 10 songs for It’s Been You. If you want to check out the rest of the playlist:



Jen: Please share a short bio with us.

Rina: Rina Gray has been writing and singing for as long as she can remember. She never had a talent for singing outside the shower, but her writing flourished. When she’s not writing, she can be found with her head stuck in a book, kickboxing, or dominating game night with friends and family. Rina resides in Atlanta with her husband.

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Jen: Please tell us about your newest release and where the idea came from.

Rina: Marketing manager Tiana Holliday just landed her dream job at an award-winning agency in New York City. There’s just one problem: cocky playboy Nathaniel Lawson, her old grad school nemesis, is her new officemate.

As the firm’s rising star, Nathan never had to compete for prime clients until all-work and no-play Tiana strutted into his workspace. When an opportunity arises to manage a lucrative sports car account and nab a big promotion, he challenges her to a wager: Loser does the winner’s bidding for one month. But their friendly little competition suddenly threatens to erupt into an all-out battle of desire.

As they straddle the line between love and war, they just might discover that challenging each other outside the boardroom is even more satisfying than advertised.


Jen: Where did the idea come from?

Rina: I love a good enemies-to-romance, and the idea was spurred from one of my favorite movies, Love & Basketball about two childhood nemesis who were neighbors and had a love and hate relationship with each other, but loved basketball.


Big, tacky, and loud. An oversized lime-green teddy bear. Tiana wanted it. She tried to pass by the games without giving away the fact that she’d never owned a stuffed animal. But Nathaniel, always observant, must’ve seen her look at the bear more than once because he grabbed her hand and then dragged her to the game.

Slamming down a twenty, he motioned to the young, bored operator with overly gelled hair. The teen whipped his head to fling long bangs from his eyes. “Five dollars a game. Get the ball in the hoop and win.”

She’d seen too many suckers waste money on the rigged games. “That’s only four chances. Don’t waste your money on this.”

“I got this.” He clapped and spread his hands toward the teenager. “Ball.”

The young man passed it to Nathaniel, and he immediately released it. The ball sailed and swished into the basket. Same thing three more times.

She clapped and jumped up and down. “You’re … amazing!”

Nathaniel grinned, and the boy behind the counter snorted. Nathaniel jerked his chin. “I’m guessing you want Big Green right?”

She nodded. “Right.”

“Can you get my la … my friend the ugly green bear?”

“Yeah.” The kid smacked his gum and reached for a long brown stick. Lifting the bear from the hook, he plopped it down in front of her. “There ya go.”

“Thank you!” She hefted the four-foot bear and squeezed it to her chest. “I shall call you Mr. Beary.”

Nathaniel and the bored kid both looked at her—the kid like she was the weird creepy cat lady she feared she would become in flat shoes, and Nathaniel like he wanted to be Mr. Beary.

Clearing his throat, he plucked the bear from her arms.

“Hey! Give him back!”

He laughed. “You can’t even walk with this thing. I’ll carry it. Let’s get you that cotton candy you’ve been going on and on about and call it a day.”

Disappointment bloomed and settled like a cold weight in her stomach. She looked up. The pretty blue sky had faded into dusk, and she shivered from the temperature drop. They must have been at the fairgrounds for at least four hours.

“I suppose you’re right. Cotton candy then home. But as soon as we get inside the car, I want Mr. Beary back.”

“Well, well, well … the unflappable Ms. Tiana gets mushy over stuffed bears. Don’t tell me you have a collection of stuffed animals on your bed?”

Ducking her head, she chuckled as they walked to the cotton candy stand. “No, I never had toys or stuffed animals. Well, not for long. We moved around a lot when I was little. Didn’t really stop until Mom had the twins in Atlanta. Anyway, toys would always go missing when we moved, so I never got attached to anything.” She’d later figured out that Katherine had pawned the toys when money was low. Tiana ducked her head, face flooding with heat.

He cleared his throat. “So Mr. Beary is your … your first?”

A gasp escaped, and her mouth went dry. Why did he always make innocent things so naughty? Or was it just all on her? At the cotton candy stand, the stark contrast of bright fluorescent light against the dark sky made her eyes squint.

“What’ll it be?” the stout man behind the counter shouted to them.

Her mouth watered. “Pink and blue for me, please, in an extra-large bag.” As she stared at the spool that spun the sugary goodness on the cardboard roll, Nathaniel’s stare heated her. He bent his six-foot-three frame so his lips were near her ears. “Glad I got to have a first with you, Peaches.”

Jen: What’s next for you? 

Rina: I am finishing up the third and final installment of the series, Crazy For You, about a pro baseball player and a big beautiful woman who has a crush on him.

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