Claudia Gray is coming to Auckland on 31 March and in the lead up to her visit, she’s doing a New Zealand blog tour. I was curious about romance in Young Adult fiction and in her books in particular so I caught up with Claudia and asked her some questions.
Romance is a major part of each of your books. How do you create realistic relationships between your characters?
I think the trick to writing a three-dimensional romance between two characters is to make sure each character is three-dimensional in his or her own right. Often you read a book or see a movie where the hero is portrayed in a lot of detail — but the girl is just “the girl,” and she’s always wearing makeup and looking perfect and possessing zero personality of her own. You also see books and movies where the woman is the center of the piece and the guy is just this toneless, unthreatening slice of beefcake. You never really buy those romances, do you? But when you feel like both people in the romance are real — that they have motivations of their own, flaws of their own, humor and personality that set them apart — then it is also going to feel real when those two people “click.” My rule of thumb is that I would have to want to read a book about either member of the couple that was just about that one person, with no romance. They need to be well-developed enough for that.
Guys often get put off my romance in books. Why should guys read your books?
First of all, I think it’s just not true that guys hate romance. Guys are told they SHOULD hate romance — and I think sometimes they pretend to more than they really do, because of this weird societal expectation that they’re not supposed to care. (For much the same reason, many girls play down their enjoyment of sports, etc. It’s all very silly.) But guys fall as deeply in love as girls do.
Also, if you are a teenage guy who is into teenage girls, a helpful hint: Spend some time exploring what teenage girls are interested in. This gives you shared interests and something to talk about. You will meet more girls, and these girls will know you’re a little different — more independent, more open, and usually way more attractive to them than the average guy. There are always a handful of guys at my signings — and they are invariably accompanied by about three to six girls each. These are good odds, people. These are the kind of odds you want.
Finally, while there’s a lot of romance in my books, they aren’t purely romance novels. Just as even thrillers and crime novels often have romances folded in, my books have a lot of adventure and action amid all the kissing.
As a teenager would you rather have fallen in love with a vampire or a werewolf?
As a teenager? Probably a werewolf, because you’d only have to deal with the scary hairy stuff one night a month. (At least, in traditional folklore.) It would have made a conflict with the prom far less likely.
When you were a teenager was there a character like Lucas that you fell in love with?
When I was a teenager, sadly, I was Lucas-free. I went to a very small school — 200 people, kindergarten through 12th grade. All of us had known each other since we were babies, which made dating a challenge; the guys all felt more like my brothers than like people I’d want to go out with. No hot, brooding loners with mysterious pasts ever transferred schools into my class, and more’s the pity.
Why do you think paranormal romance appeals so much to teens?
I think paranormal romance appeals to teens because the paranormal allows us to acknowledge the element of fear. Honestly, right now, I believe we are in this cultural place where no one gets to admit vulnerability. Nobody gets to say that they’re afraid, or they’re intimidated, without people treating it as some kind of problem to be overcome. We can’t admit that some experiences are just flat-out terrifying and being afraid of them is a completely natural reaction — and I think falling in love is definitely in this category. Falling in love is SCARY. Having sex for the first time = scary. Being that vulnerable and that open to someone = terror! We all know it’s true, even if right now we have to pretend to be jaded, sophisticated, and so totally over it all.
So, enter the vampires. And the werewolves. And all the other scary things that have become romantic in the recent past. We’ve hung monster masks on our own fears, so that we can admit them.
Make sure you stop by these other great NZ blogs to find out more about Claudia Gray and her books: