Hi! Our topic this week – in honor of Valentine’s Day – is writing romance.
I love writing kissing scenes – they come much more easily to me than action scenes. I especially loved writing them for the Cahill Witch Chronicles, which – as historical YA novels with a magical element – allowed me to really play up the longing.
One of my favorite things about writing YA is that your characters experience a lot of firsts. The first kiss and the first time your main character falls in love – though the two are certainly not always synonymous or simultaneous! – are part of that. Before the kiss – or after the kiss and before the “what are we?” talk – there tend to be lots of longing looks and uncertainty. Whether it’s the Victorian era or 2014, one question is the same: “Does s/he feel the same way I do?” There’s so much feeling to explore in first love – confusion, nervousness, anticipation, desire, happiness. It’s full of soaring highs and crushing lows, which makes – in my opinion – for a good story.
My books take place in an alternate 1890s New England ruled by the Brotherhood, a patriarchal group of priests who have outlawed magic and govern women’s conduct very carefully. Young ladies must declare an intention to marry by age seventeen, or the Brothers may well choose a husband for them. But getting to know a man and figuring out whether he’d be a good husband is no easy matter; young ladies are strictly chaperoned, and any reputation for wantonness could be misconstrued as a witch’s lustful appetites. And the punishment for being a witch in this society involves a prison ship, an insane asylum, or worse. So there’s also more at stake here for my characters than just “does he like me” – there are questions of whether my heroine can risk leaving her sisters alone if she marries, whether she can allow herself to fall in love, whether the man in question can support a wife, whether marrying a man who isn’t of her class would cause gossip her family can ill afford…
The Victorian-era sensibilities give me a chance to play up that longing even more. Everyone is covered from wrists to throat to ankles most of the time. Seeing any unexpected glimpse of skin – the freckled back of a love interest’s neck, tanned forearms from rolling up his sleeves and working in the garden, sinewy calves when wrapping a twisted ankle – is scandalous. Brushing hands in the garden, tucking a wayward piece of hair behind her ear, helping her down from a carriage, taking her arm for a walk – those little touches are all heightened because they’re forbidden. If anyone saw, what might they think? There’s a lot of romantic tension before we even get to the kissing.
Another fun element for this series was that my main character is a witch, and her magic is inextricably linked to her emotions. When Cate loses control of her feelings, she risks losing control of her magic, too. So kissing – well, besides being scandalous, kissing can be downright dangerous – especially if the man in question doesn’t yet know she’s a witch.
(These images are from the BORN WICKED trailer created by Penguin. You can watch the whole thing here.)