We were so excited when debut contemporary romance author Sara Rider stopped by XOXOAD to share her inspirations for her first book in the Perfect Play series, FOR THE WIN, on sale now! Below Sara comments on her passion for pick-up soccer games, her love for cooking (the same recipe is making its way into the book!), and her awe of seeing the US Women’s National Team win the Women’s World Cup. Scroll down to check out Sara’s list of inspiring things! 

1. This soccer field nestled in the middle of the Pacific Northwest forest:


I grew up playing soccer and have always loved the sport, but it wasn’t until I quit playing competitively and went off to school far from home that I discovered how much of a universal language soccer is. The students who attended this school came from all over the world, and while some were initially surprised to find out that the girls could keep up with the boys, everyone was welcome in our weekly pick-up games. The field was a short hike through the woods from campus and often required some hand weeding before we could actually play, but it showed me just how much people can come together over a simple soccer game. This absolute love of game and the friendships I made on this field are big reasons why I first started writing For The Win.

2. Gabe’s Zarzuela de Mariscos recipe:

Gabe’s recipe for the cook-off competition in For The Win was inspired by one of my personal favorite dishes. Unlike Gabe, who prefers the traditional seafood recipe, I tend to make this with chicken due to family allergies. While make no claims about authenticity, I can guarantee it is tasty:

      1. Brown some chicken thighs or breasts over medium-high head in metal pan, seasoned with salt and pepper. Transfer to a glass-baking dish and deglaze the pan with about a quarter- to a half-cup of white wine. Pour the wine over the chicken.
      2. Fry up two chopped yellow onions in olive oil. Add in some chopped green peppers and minced garlic.
      3. Add in a big can of crushed tomatoes, a few bay leaves, and a tablespoon or more of smoked paprika (I like a lot, but be warned it can be spicy), and pour the sauce over the chicken.
      4. Bake covered at 190 F/375 C until the chicken is cooked through, usually about 40 minutes.
      5. Remove from oven, stir in about half a cup of ground almonds, a dash of lemon juice, some chopped parsley, and some green olives (this is the key ingredient according to Gabe!). Bake uncovered for another 5-10 minutes.

Serve over rice, potatoes, or pasta. You won’t regret it!

3. The Women’s World Cup:

I was super lucky to get tickets to the Women’s World Cup last summer, including the final game where USA beat Japan in a 5-2 victory. The roaring crowds and incredible skill of the teams made this the most exciting sporting event I’ve ever attended. It’s impossible to witness so much talent and not be inspired to write sports romance.