Monday, May 14, 2018

Why I Love Writing YA Novels (with Kissing)

I’m often asked why I write YA novels. Is it because I’m permanently stuck in a seventeen-year-old mindset? Maybe! I like to think it’s because I can easily recall the sense of wonder and possibility I had at that age, the sense that anything was possible, that the world was my oyster.

Of course, I also vividly remember the painful awkwardness and angst and worries and drama. I don’t miss that part of being a teen at all. There’s a lot of freedom in being a grown-up and drawing lines and boundaries in your life, and choosing healthy friends and partners and work that makes you happy. I hope I write books that show readers how to make this happen as teens, and in the future.

What’s most appealing about writing teen protagonists is the key events in their stories are firsts: the first time to fall in love, first time to experience death of a loved one or other loss, first jobs (more about that later), first kiss (and more), first stirrings of that sense of who they might become in the world. I like to write funny mixed with swoony and a dash of angst.

Most of all, I love writing teen heroines who discover their power. I’m not talking kickass, take-out-the-aliens power because I don’t write those types of books. I’m talking about one step forward, two steps back personal growth, accompanied with cringing and laughter. I write about girls who discover they’re more courageous than they thought, or that they have more to offer than they realized. In all of my novels, I strive to create relatable, empathetic, regular girls who are also amazing. Just like we all were as teens, whether we realized it or not.

And of course, these girls fall in love with great guys. I don’t write alpha-holes or broody dudes. I love smart, funny, sweet, beta heroes (some of whom might have secret alpha qualities if needed) who fall for my heroines because of the type of people they are, not “You’re hot, I want you,” relationships. I write about guys who treat girls well and respect them as equals. And are excellent kissers, because, duh!

SPIES, LIES, AND ALLIES is about my favorite type of heroine. Laurel Kristoff is smart and funny, and adorkable and insecure. She loves Comic Con, Star Wars, and photography. She’s never been in love. She has crushes on unattainable guys. She misses her dad because he works all the time, so she convinces him to give her a summer job at his company.

And that’s where the fun begins. Over the course of the summer, she’s forced to navigate a variety of relationships with the interns she’s assisting and her dad’s employees. By the end of the story she changes a lot, and falls in love along the way, of course. She also gains courage, speaking up for what she believes even when it costs her emotionally. Plus, she gets to rock her custom-made costume at Comic Con.

For me, my characters are absolutely real people, and when readers ask me what happened to them later on or what they’re like as adults, I have a ready answer, but I often keep it to myself because I like readers to imagine their own futures for my characters. One thing I can always promise, though, is that the heroines follow their dreams and find happiness in their careers and their love lives.

After all, that’s why we read romance, isn’t it?


Summers are supposed to be fun, right? Not mine. I’ve got a job at my dad’s company, which is sponsoring a college scholarship competition. I just found out that, in addition to my job assisting the competing interns, I’m supposed to vote for the winner. Totally not what I signed up for.
My boss is running the competition like it’s an episode of Survivor. Then there’s Carlos, who is, well, very distracting––in a good way. But I can’t even think about him like that because fraternizing on the job means instant disqualification for the intern involved.
As if that’s not enough, an anonymous informant with insider intel is trying to sabotage my dad’s company on social media...and I’m afraid it's working.

Much as I’d love to quit, I can’t. Kristoffs Never Quit is our family motto. I just hope there’s more than one survivor by the end of this summer.

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