Danny Tamberelli and Kate Detweiler Pen Nostalgic Rom-Com That Time-Travels to the 90s: 'Defining Time' (Exclusive)

Danny Tamberelli and wife Kate Detweiler Tamberelli say their latest title draws inspiration from "10 Things I Hate About You" and "Back to the Future"

<p>Peter Detweiler</p> Danny and Kate Tamberelli

Peter Detweiler

Danny and Kate Tamberelli
  • Danny Tamberelli and wife Kate Tamberelli are looking back at the '90s in their new book, The Road Trip Rewind

  • Beatrix Noel and Rocco Riziero go on an adventure that forces them to examine their brief shared history

  • Celebrating the '90s as a special time for so many, the couple marvels in a story described as 10 Things I Hate About You meets Back to the Future

A beloved fixture in '90s TV is teaming up with his wife to deliver a nostalgic rom-com that's a testament to a special time in history.

Danny Tamberelli — the actor known for his roles in The Adventures of Pete and Pete, All That and more — is celebrating the release of The Road Trip Rewind, his second book co-authored with his wife, literary agent and YA author Kate Tamberelli (née Detweiler).

Speaking with PEOPLE about the novel, a time-travel adventure meets romantic comedy that follows screenwriter Beatrix Noel as she watches her beloved screenplay — based on actual events in her own world — come to life, with a child star turned adult actor, Rocco Riziero, playing her dad, a beloved author who became accused of a crime as a result of one of his books.

Speaking with PEOPLE about the nostalgic look back at the late 90s, Danny remembers the time as "that perfect sweet spot."

"You could use the internet, but you couldn't really use it the way we use it now. There was still freedom and maybe you didn't have a cell phone, so you weren't completely connected. You could truly be off the grid for a little bit," he says.

"Now, even if you forget your phone at home, you might have a watch that also tells you that you left it at home," he laughs.

The comedian is full of wonderful memories of being a teen in that era, which he says is "a really special time because it's hard to quantify how much it changed us as people."

"We had some of this technology beforehand, but we value using this every single day. It's impacted how we are socially and how we do pretty much everything," he says of himself and his peers. "So I think when you think back about those simpler times where you're not necessarily pulled into the screen, that you do get nostalgic for it."

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The Road Trip Rewind
The Road Trip Rewind

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"And there were so many awesome shows, and so much good music, things like that," Kate adds. "Everyone was watching the same things at the same time. On Friday nights, we're watching TGIF. On Saturday nights, you're watching SNICK if you were lucky enough to have cable and channels like Nickelodeon."

"Now with streamers and things, there's too much to pick from. It's not like those touchstone moments in the same way that I think were just so defining to who we were as kids during that time."

Danny and Kate explain that growing up in a time with "less options" meant more common ground between people.

"I think there's a lot to be said for that. We were all really tuned into so many of the same things that it really felt like a moment. It just felt defining to who we were as kids," Kate says.

"And it all felt so specific to that time," she continues. "Now I think there’s so much of everything, it’s harder to pin down exactly what makes this pop culture era for kids."

<p>Courtesy of Danny Tamberelli and Kate Tamberelli</p> Danny and Kate Tamberelli with daughter Penelope and son Alfie

Courtesy of Danny Tamberelli and Kate Tamberelli

Danny and Kate Tamberelli with daughter Penelope and son Alfie

Working together as a husband and wife team, who are also parents to an almost 2-year-old daughter, Penelope, and a 4-year-old son, Alfie, the couple explain that when it came to working on this book, it was all about fitting it in where they could amid their busy lives.

"It was all about nap time at that time," Danny laughs. "We also both come from different creative writing processes. I am usually a collaborative writer. I've written a lot of sketch comedy with a writing partner here in New York for many years, while Kate was her own writing partner."

"I had written four YA books before this, and since I'm a full-time literary agent, writing for me has always been nights and weekends and time off. I'd squeeze in my stuff between reading manuscripts and working with other writers all during the week. In 2020, after my last YA came out, I was thinking about what would be next. We had one kid then, 8 months old, when the pandemic hit, and there was just no time. We were all home together all the time, so I was either working or being a mom," she recalls.

That's when the couple first thought about teaming up, briefly giving podcasting a try before landing on the idea for their first book, The First Date Prophecy.

Kate explains, "We're like, this is it. This is what we want to do together, and I could feel like I wasn't just solo writing in my little cave. It was really like we were hanging out."

"We would use nap times to write — every weekend, every nap time, holidays. Danny loves to tell people that even Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, I was like, 'We gotta get those 500 words.' "

"I don't think I could write with anybody else because as you said I'm not a collaborative writer in that way," she says. "I don't think I could share that brain space with anyone else and get along at the end of it. The agent in me is very editorial and nitpicky and only Danny could put up with me."

"It wasn't difficult," he chimes in. "I'm happy to collaborate. I'm very much into it, storyboarding and flushing out characters and story arcs and that kind of stuff. Kate has it all in her head, and it just needs to come out."

The couple is excited to bring forth Beatrix and Rocco, two characters who it was important to them both "felt real" as their stories progressed.

"I want to like my characters, as both a reader and writer, especially in rom-coms, but I want to feel like they're real people. Danny and I both, when we met, had been single in the city for a long time and I feel like our flaws were also loveable things about us and that's a very real part of what I wanted to celebrate," Kate explains.

"Writing that first book, and now this one also, is about embracing the messy parts and the good parts of a person, and being true to yourself in that way. It's becoming better because of the people that you choose to have in your life. Nobody's perfect, and if you seem like you're too perfect, that's not probably going to be real."

The couple also wanted a story that shows that love and figuring out life isn't linear.

"There are expectations that one might put on themselves when the people they grew up around are getting married early on. And some people start a family younger, or move to the city in their mid and late 30s," Danny says.

"We both experienced a lot of that and wanted to spread the message that it's not a cookie-cutter situation. It's about depending on yourself and doing whatever makes you feel good and happy."

Kate agrees, adding, "It's not a race to find that person. It happens on the timeline it's meant to happen. As people who were single in New York for most of their 20s, you learn so much about yourself and who you are and what you're looking for that I know I would not have been able to identify sooner in life."

The book also allowed each of them to go back to their favorite elements of 90s culture and enjoy a step back in time.

<p>Courtesy of Danny Tamberelli </p> Amanda Bynes and Danny Tamberelli on the set of "Figure It Out" in 1998

Courtesy of Danny Tamberelli

Amanda Bynes and Danny Tamberelli on the set of "Figure It Out" in 1998

"The book mentions the Tower Records in Los Angeles, and I used to live at that place," Danny recalls.

"That was very important to me as someone who was old enough to drive a car but not old enough to partake in all of Los Angeles nightlife," he says, noting he also included a nod to his other favorite pastime in those days — checking out L.A. Kings' games.

"And the Roxy itself. I saw so many shows there as a teenager. I got to see bands like Sleater-Kinney cutting it at the Roxy in the late 90s."

"I loved thinking about the clothes and hair and like, 'Where were you shopping? What was cool?'" Kate says. "Seeing so much of it today cycling through again is bizarre and shocking and amazing all at the same time. So fun little details like that I was particularly proud to add in."

Kate also says there was another "real highlight" she included. "In a small Easter-egg of a scene, that red-headed kid from All That is doing something embarrassing at a party and [Beatrix] couldn't remember his name," she laughs.

Growing up in small-town Pennsylvania, Kate remembers focusing on school and unwinding watching "TGIF and SNICK."

"One of the highlights of my week, after being stressed out about school, was coming home and having these shows take me out of it. In the late 90s, I was at the heart of the tween years, which I feel like are some of the hardest with friendship angst and drama. To be able to escape into these places and your favorite shows, that was truly a highlight for me when I look back."

<p>Courtesy of Kate Tamberelli</p> Kate in 1998

Courtesy of Kate Tamberelli

Kate in 1998

When she wasn't watching TV, she was "a big reader," loving classic titles like Sweet Valley High and Goosebumps.

"I really lost myself in books from an early age and always knew that books and writing, I was going to do whatever I could do to be in that world is like a big grown adult person."

The two hope that readers will enjoy "being able to escape back to that simpler time" with Rocco and Beatrix.

Danny says, "It totally brought me back to that moment in my life. Just being 17 and thinking about being in a Tower Records and how it smelled and what t looked like. Just the little triggers that really bring you back to a time and place."

"And Googling specific things while we were researching was so fun! The amount of time we had to spend researching the Bath & Body Works scents that were big then but aren't around now..." Kate laughs. "There were so many random rabbit holes that would transport us back as we were moving along. And trying to figure out, 'Did we have that? When did that move come out?' "

"It would be fun to write another one!" Kate says. "I think we will some day, we just need to get a little more sleep first. Neither of our kids is big on sleeping through the night."

"We can't write in the middle of the night, although I try to explain to Kate that we could," Danny jokes. "Every time, she calls me out."

"He talks a big game about, 'We'll put the kids to bed and then we'll write.' And then we put the kids to bed and he's half asleep on the sofa, or we turn on TV — we're watching The Traitors right now. As a parent, it's very hard to resist, at the end of the day, watching an hour of TV instead of doing more work."

The Road Trip Rewind is available wherever books and ebooks are sold on Tuesday, May 21.

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