It's Valentines Day, so of course we've been inundated all day with issues of love, roses and chocolates. For the very first time, my fifth grade son spent his own money on a suit-clad teddy bear and a small box of chocolates (big enough to count, but not so big as to be 'awkward' - in his own words) for the girl he has a crush on. As I write this, I'm dying for him to get home from school and tell me how it went. I was a little conflicted at first about such an early declaration, but then I figured this was just the first of many lessons in dealing with love and relationships and a suit-clad teddy bear is as good a place to start as any.
My first book didn't have a big love-interest factor, but the small romantic scene in the coffee shop was so much fun that the next several books include a large amount of romance. Just about a year ago, I was smack in the middle of writing the first draft for DESTINED and it was like I was sixteen all over again which was both good and bad (although if you asked any of the boys/men I live with, they might imply that the overly emotional state I lived in wasn't ideal).
I had my last first kiss seventeen years ago on my first date with my husband (yes, we kissed on the first date, but we were already old and I'd known him for years). Writing YA brings all of those emotions and feelings racing back again and it is precisely the unknown that makes the new romance so exciting. In my opinion, a good teen romance takes ages to develop and the first kiss stops just short of being agonizingly overdue. You need to have to work to get there, even if you know from the first time you lock eyes, the two of you were meant for each other. For girls, romance is all about the possibilities for the future (it's cliche, but how many of us wrote our love's last name all over our notebooks?) - pretty much every boyfriend is 'the one', although few of us happily marry our high school sweethearts (Agent Erin and my friend Tina excepted). While there has been a trend in YA of including a lot of the physical aspects of the relationship (one of my favorites being pages 126-128 of LOOKING FOR ALASKA and pretty much all of THE DUFF), I'm still a fan of the 'fade to black' in my own writing, at least for now.
The book I'm working on right now is from a 17 year old boy's point of view and lemme tell you, it's a lot different. While still romantic in his own way, my MC is very much hooked on the physical aspects of the relationship he's in as well as the physical attributes of the relationship he'd like to be in. This book has a lot more sex in it than I intended (although still mostly in the 'fade to black' realm) but everything is absolutely necessary in order to be true to the character. He does a ton of stuff that I would kill my own kids for doing, but changing anything would imply that I'm in charge, and anyone whose read this blog for any amount of time knows that this is simply not the case. My fictional teens do whatever they want and I have to shut my mouth and go along for the ride.
I wouldn't want to go back and be an actual teen again, but for a few hours every day I get to feel the excitement, anxiety and overwhelming possibility that is YA romance and that is the best job in the world.
Happy Valentines Day!