Excerpt: NEVER MIND THE RULES by Susan Hyatt and Lina Lecaro

I see your hair is burnin’
Hills are filled with fire
If they say I never loved you
You know they are a liar
Drivin’ down your freeways
Midnight alleys roam
Cops in cars, the topless bars
Never saw a woman
So alone, so alone

– “L.A. Woman,” The Doors

Anyone who has lived in Los Angeles knows the dating scene here is unlike any other. With Hollywood and the music business, L.A. has earned its reputation for being fake, duplicitous and lonely. Finding “real people” and real love can be a challenge, one that musician Susan Hyatt and rock and nightlife journalist Lina Lecaro have taken on in different ways, both in their own lives and in their alternative dating guide, “Never Mind the Rules,” published on Valentine’s Day.

Passionate about music and men since they were old enough to explore both amid the vociferous, sometimes illicit Hollywood rock scene, Susan Hyatt and Lina Lecaro have had their share of wild experiences over the past 20-years-plus onstage, backstage and in their private lives. They ran in the same circles for years before meeting, even dating the same man (a guitar player) early on. Hyatt, a singer and songwriter, saw a string of “freaks and losers” in a seemingly neverending stream of dead-end relationships before meeting her husband, Michael, while Lecaro, a music journalist, had a long, on-again-off-again relationship with her post-high school sweetheart, which eventually led to marriage and a daughter before things imploded after 13 years. Their paths eventually crossed when Hyatt approached Lecaro to write her band’s bio and spoke of her dream project – a book written for women like herself: strong, with a rebellious spirit, who nevertheless made bad choices when it came to relationships.

Hyatt wanted to write a guide to help women learn from their “mistakes” and use them as lessons to learn about themselves. After several long conversations in Hyatt’s Studio City home, the two L.A. women decided to join forces. Hyatt had already written the basic structure of the book and Lecaro, newly divorced, started dipping her toes into dating (online included), filling in some blanks as she went out and connecting with other single women. After an inspiring meeting with Neil Strauss, author of the notorious pickup artist’s manual “The Game,” the writers honed the thematic hook: the L.A. rock chick perspective. As music is such a central part of their lives, they decided to use it as a device for self-discovery, delving into how it inspired them and reflected their lives, and, in particular, their love lives.

When Lecaro started testing Hyatt’s framework, she found that sometimes she not only wanted to break the rules set forth by other dating books but consciously went against the advice from her co-writer. The resulting work is an honest take on looking for love with two distinct voices and approaches.

Angels Flight • literary west co-founder Michele Raphael spoke with the friends and co-writers on the eve of their book release. The two shared personal stories and playlists from the book, which starts by looking at a host of legendary rock romances, and one of their own.

A Rock ’n’ Roll Love Story

I was brand-new to JDate and very apprehensive about online dating. A few days after signing up in July of 2009, Michael emailed me with the subject: “My dream has come true.” It took me six months to respond. My apathy had grown with the frustration of dating in a singles-orientated city like Los Angeles. When I finally wrote back, he sent me a sweet note and I decided to call him. We spoke about our passion for music. He told me had moved here to pursue a music career, which immediately raised red flags. I had been a professional musician for my entire career and the industry was dying. I was trying to pursue another path as a fitness trainer and I didn’t want to be seduced back into my former industry. We arranged a date but I emailed him a few hours before and canceled, explaining that I wasn’t interested in dating another musician. He emailed me back shortly, relieved my fears and explained that he was the CEO of his own software business. He said that he really wanted to meet me and that he “wasn’t letting me off that easily.” He was so sincere and genuine that I agreed to a date with him at Morel’s, a French restaurant at The Grove. How could I have known that this man would be my husband one year later?

My girlfriend accompanied me as I had arranged with her to come “save me” from the date in 30 minutes if I felt no chemistry. As soon as I saw Michael I was stunned. When my friend came by our table, I told her she could leave. I knew I was in safe hands. After our date, he immediately texted, “I wish I could kiss you right now.”

Michael was very forthcoming with his feelings from the start. He was always open and affectionate, and he was winning me over with every text message and phone call. We were in constant communication. Michael went away for New Year’s to be with his son, and that’s when we realized that we really cared for one another.

On Valentine’s Day, we went to Yamashiro, a Japanese restaurant in Hollywood. Michael gave me cards declaring his love for me and we decided to move in together. It was totally romantic, and I was so eager to share my life with him. We got our own house two months later and started playing music together. Michael joined my old band Stimulator, and I was lured back into doing what I love best. Our band then landed the theme song “Magic” for a Macy’s campaign. Michael was my magical good luck magnet.

Over the next few months, we went to Japan and Thailand, played festivals in Texas and did a short musical tour together as a duo.

Susan Hyatt and Michael Birnholz

We went back to Yamashiro in December and Michael proposed to me. Three months later, we were married at the Soho House in West Hollywood. I never thought I was going to meet such an incredibly sweet, romantic and beautiful man. He is my true soulmate. – Susan Hyatt

Excerpt adapted from “Never Mind the Rules” by Susan Hyatt and Lina Lecaro


Soundtrack of Our Love Lives

From mixtapes to wedding dance songs, radio dedications to triggering break-up tracks, music reflects the essence in our hearts like nothing else. As a journalist, I find that music parallels life in both obvious and subtle ways. As a DJ for both radio and events, I try to curate my selections to the zeitgeist and/or the collective consciousness, which is sometimes overt and shameless in its expression and other times more intuitive or referential to pop culture’s present or past, or to something personal I happen to be going through that I hope listeners will relate to, too.

The Doors’ “L.A. Woman” for example, is compelling not only for the poeticism of Jim Morrison’s lyrics, but for the mood it creates and the images of Los Angeles it conjures – a city so full life (and lights), yet often so dark and incredibly lonely. Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes,” was a great song when it came out in 1986, but when John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobbler blasted it from a boombox outside of his sweetheart’s window in the 1989 film “Say Anything,” it became something else entirely. I’m willing to bet that Cusack’s image – not Gabriel’s – is what most romantics see in their heads when the song comes on the radio.

Incorporating musical themes into “Never Mind the Rules” was a must for me. The soundtrack of my life drives every aspect of it, and the experiences I’ve had thus far, especially in my love life, are almost always reflected by what I’m listening to. Often, that is intentional, as I seek out certain songs for comfort, catharsis and escape. I created extensive set-lists as a sort of music accompaniment to Susan’s dating and self-help tips in the book and they can be found in its appendix. Each mix has a corresponding playlist on Spotify, available here. Below is one sample playlist from the book, as well as a special, L.A.-centric bonus mix I curated for AFLW. Enjoy! – Lina Lecaro

WOMEN WHO ROAR (Badass Babe Mix)

“Respect” – Aretha Franklin
“I Am Woman” – Helen Reddy
“Single Ladies” – Beyonce
“Army of Me” – Bjork

”My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get it)” – En Vogue
“Bad Girls” – M.I.A.

“Electric Lady” – Janelle Monae

“Date With Night” – The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

“Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” – X-Ray
Stupid Girl” – Garbage

”Treat Me Right” – Pat Benatar
Gloria” – Patti Smith

“Cornflake Girl” – Tori Amos

”Crazy On You” – Heart
Wild Thing” – X

“Criminal” – Fiona Apple

“Spellbound” – Siouxsie and the Banshees

“Bitch” – Meredith Brooks

”Complicated Girl” – Stimulator
Fading Fast” – The Go-Go’s
The Wheel” – PJ Harvey

”Dead Men Don’t Rape” – 7 Year Bitch

“Everything Is Everything” – Lauryn Hill

“No Scrubs” – TLC

“Venus” – Shocking
 Flower” – Sonic Youth

”Rebel Girl” – Bikini
 Sunday Girl” – Blondie

“Adore” – Savages
Typical Girls” – The Slits
Hello” – Babes In Toyland

”So What?” – Pink

L.A. LOVE (Angels Flight Mix)

“City of Angels”- The Distillers
This Town” – The Go-Go’s
One More Thing” – L7
Queens Of Noise” – The Runaways

“Gypsies, Tramps And Thieves” – Cher
Los Angeles” – X
This Isn’t It” – Giant Drag
California Nights” – Best Coast

”I’m From L.A.” – Go Betty Go
Walk of Shame” – Deap Vally

“I’m So L.A.”- Mynx

”Fade Into You” – Mazzy Star

“L.A. Girl” – The Adolescents
“City Of Angels” – Ozomatli
“Ode to L.A.” – The Raveonettes

”Los Angeles Is Burning” – Bad Religion
Saints of Los Angeles” – Mötley Crüe

”Los Angeles” – Frank Black
“Hollywood” – Madonna
“Los Angeles, I’m Yours” – The Decemberists

“Los Angeles Daze” – People Under the Stairs
So L.A.” – The Motels

“I Love L.A.” – Randy Newman
“L.A. Woman” – The Doors

Throwing Out “The Rules”

AFLW co-founder Michele Raphael in conversation with Susan Hyatt and Lina Lecaro, authors of “Never Mind the Rules”

Michele Raphael: What prompted you write a rule-breaking book?

Susan Hyatt: When I was dating and I got frustrated, I didn’t feel like there was any resource for me. I wanted concrete ideas but I didn’t feel like I could read a book like “The Rules” and follow everything in there because I felt like I was being fake. Maybe I could hold on to the guy for a while with that kind of behavior, but ultimately I was going to be myself and then what would happen? It would come crashing down and I thought, “There had to be something that women can turn to that says, ‘This is who I am, this what I’m looking for and this is the way I’m going to find it.’”

MR: Online dating has become such a prevalent way to meet people. How did this factor into your research and experiences?

Lina Lecaro: It seems to be the number-one way people meet these days, doesn’t it? For a Gen-Xer woman like myself, it took time for me to realize that and overcome the stigma I had about it. The book gave me an excuse to see what it was all about and I found the process kind of exciting, actually. I think that a lot of newly single women like myself feel that way at first, so I decided to be really honest about it. I also think that creating a profile and opening myself up to meeting people online changed my energy in real life. Over the course of writing this book, I met more men in person, going out or via mutual friends, than I ever imagined. When I got into a relationship for a while, I stopped online dating, but something about me had changed regardless. I was just more open in general. I credit that to the mindset of working on the book as well as having to sort of self-promote online. Now that I’m single again, I’m having fun with it again and learning about myself along the way.

MR: This book is meant to be the antithesis to a typical dating guide. How so?

SH: One size doesn’t fit all. Every person is unique and so is the way that people come together and stay together … it’s truly a miracle when that happens. So it’s very important to find out who you are first, and who the other person is. It about compatibility and just because you’re not compatible it doesn’t mean you should hate on the guy. I think a lot of these books have a negative tone in this way, and I wanted to come from a really positive place, that was also very real.

LL: I think the music aspect really sets our book apart, too. Music has always reflected my life. Growing up here in Los Angeles both Susan and I have had the opportunities to see and be inspired by music in so many ways. I wanted to explore the parallels that I think all gals can relate to when it comes to our first crushes – usually rockstars – and what we want from men. But I think we flip it here. We are the rockstars and we feel that every woman deserves to find her ultimate fan. But before that can happen, you need to figure out who you are and the kind of “music,” so to speak, that you want to make.

MR: What role does social media play into your goals for the book and the community you are creating for women?

LL: We have a Facebook page and some private Facebook groups where women actively share stories and support. Plus, we’ve held a few events where we encourage women to meet up. Our biggest event so far was at Pin-up Girl Boutique in Burbank, with some of the coolest women in L.A. playing music and sharing stories.

SH: We’ve very excited about next event too! It’s our book launch party at Velvet Margarita in Hollywood on Feb. 25th. We’ll have food, signature drinks, readings, sharing about people’s best and worst dates ever and some live music. And men are welcome. We’re all in this together, after all.


Susan Hyatt

Susan Hyatt is an American singer/songwriter, former UK talk show host and an NASM certified fitness trainer (“Susan Hyatt’s Rockstar Workout” is an Amazon bestseller). Susan is devoted to empowering women and is currently enrolled in post-graduate studies in psychology for Masters of Marriage and Family Therapy licensing. She has written and recorded over 150 love songs and published six albums for her bands Pillbox, Stimulator and, most recently, Sirens of Soho. Dozens of Susan’s songs have been licensed by international brands and TV shows, such as Macy’s, Disney and The Bethenny Talk Show. A wife, step-mom and musician, Susan currently lives in Nashville. To learn more about Susan, visit her website: susanhyattmusic.com and find her on Twitter at @susanhyattmusic.

Lina Lecaro

Lina Lecaro is a music and pop culture journalist born, raised and based in Los Angeles. She is the nightlife columnist for LA Weekly and writes for countless publications including Vice, Playboy, Billboard, LAIst, Thrillist, Consequence of Sound, Flavorwire, Yahoo and many more. Her first book, “Los Angeles’ Best Dive Bars-Drinking & Diving in the City of Angels,” received critical acclaim by publications ranging from the Los Angeles Times to Paper magazine, and remains the definitive “boozer bible” of L.A. She hosts her own radio show, Hot Licks With Lina, broadcasting live every Sunday, 2-4 p.m., on LuxuriaMusic.com. Widely recognized as L.A.’s leading nightlife reporter, she was selected to be one of Air BnB’s experts for their new tour program, providing curated tours for visitors to Hollywood and Los Angeles. Lina’s busy L.A. life includes mothering her 10-year-old daughter and deejaying across the city. Follow Lina on Instagram @linalecaro and on Facebook at LA Slush.

Released on Valentine’s Day, “Never Mind the Rules is available on Amazon. To learn more about the book, visit its Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/nevermindtherules or Twitter @nevermindrules. Click here to RSVP to the Feb. 25 book launch party at Velvet Margarita in Hollywood.