A Writing Life: Variations on a Theme

Before writing DIE FOR ME, the only young adult books I had read since I myself was a young adult, were the 4 tomes of the TWILIGHT series. Which, I won’t hesitate to confess, gave me the initial motivation to write my book. Not because I wanted to write something in the same vein as Meyer’s books. But because after finishing her last novel, all of that yummy hotness that was Rob…I mean Edward (I saw the movie first, so they were always merged in my mind) just ended. He might as well have been killed on the last page of Book 4. Because, for us readers it was the end of the series and there was nothing else to come. Unless, of course, I did something about it.

Now believe me, a crush on a vampire, no matter how hot he may be, is not enough motivation to write an entire book. (At least not for me!) Just enough to start it and continue on for around five or six pages. But after that, the hard work and imagination necessary to string out a story for hundreds of pages would finally make you think, “Edward is so not worth this!” And then you would stop writing and instead read the TWILIGHT series again and watch every Rob Pattinson film ever made. And then, feeling sated, you would ditch your five or six pages and go on with real life.

But, even if you take away that bronze-colored hair and perfect body and heart-throbby gallantry, there was something in those books that was worth writing about. A classic theme that Ms Meyer pegged so well with her story it even won over many who criticized the writing itself. If you can’t guess it immediately, let me make you wait a couple more paragraphs before spelling it out.

While I wrote the first book of DIE FOR ME, I wouldn’t let myself read any other YA novels. At what I considered a critically important stage of the process—the creation of my mythology and conception of my characters—I didn’t want anything else to influence me (besides, inevitably, my own reading history).

But once I finished it, and my editor sent me a stack of other YA books she had edited, I thought “what the heck” and dove right in. I read Aprilynne Pike’s WINGS series, the SOOKIE STACKHOUSE novels, Maggie Stiefvater’s SHIVER, Suzanne Collins’s HUNGER GAMES series, Kim Harrison’s ONCE DEAD, TWICE SHY, among others. Oh, and I watched all 144 episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know…don’t even say it. I have no social life. But considering what’s on offer for entertainment in the middle-of-nowhere-France, my DVD evenings could be seen as pretty damned exciting.

ANYWAY…all of these books/bad ‘90s tv series/etc. had one thing in common: impossible—or at least very difficult—love. For most of them, if Impossible Love wasn’t the main theme, it was pretty central to the story. As it has been in stories dating back to the beginning of time. Lancelot and Guinevere, Maria and Captain von Trapp, Fern and Wilbur…factors of age, race, marital and social status, and species have been used to alternately break the reader’s heart and keep them breathlessly turning pages in the hope that things will turn out in the end.

Never mind that things will never turn out in the end. They can’t. As readers, we’re all hoping for something impossible: that love will conquer all. But even if the lovers get together in the end—unless they manage to get killed together or live eternally—one of them will eventually die and the other will end up heartbroken. In the one exception (they die together) you’d still cry as you turned the last page. In the other (they live eternally) you’d do worse than cry: you’d get bored.

That’s the thing about love stories—they are made of illusion. A temporal illusion of fulfillment. And it’s how the author spins the illusion—the environment and personalities and descriptions they use to wrap the love story up and deliver it to their readers—that makes their books merely good reads or mesmerizing take-a-sick-day-because-you-have-to-finish-the-book marvels.

That’s the challenge: taking the theme and making it great. Doing the theme justice. Vincent and Kate will never have as important a place in literary history as Romeo and Juliet. But if I can make my reader’s heart race…and ache…and rejoice…well, then I’ll feel like I’ve added something worthy to the genre of Impossible Love.

3 Comments to A Writing Life: Variations on a Theme

  1. by BethDazzled - On September 26, 2010

    Um, okay, this is a little awkward…we started writing for the same exact reason. (Oh, Edward…) Thanks for making that admission before I had to. :)

    Making the impossible love possible, if only for a few hundred pages or so, is why I write. That and I refuse to grow up and become an (gulp) adult. YA lit rocks!

    Can’t wait to read DIE FOR ME and fall for a revenant for a change. Me and vampires need a healthy break (says my friends & fam).

    PS Buffy TVS is fabulous and I refuse to hear otherwise!

  2. by Amy Plum - On September 26, 2010

    Beth, I think we need a support group! Inspired by Edward, don’t want to grow up, think YA rocks…I suspect there are a few of us out there. Thanks for commenting and keep writing!

  3. by BethDazzled - On September 27, 2010

    HAHA! Support group is definitely merited.

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