For better or worse, it’s February 14th and that means love (or, depending on your point of view a horrible reminder that you are single or an exploitative capitalist holiday) is in the air! True love, sorry – I have to get this out of my system: Anyway, true love is a concept that permeates our system and the holiday, …
Readers often feel a sense of guilt when abandoning a book. It could be simply that we’re not quitters, determined to finish a project or task no matter how unenjoyable. We’ve committed to this book, checked it out at the library or paid good money for it at the bookstore, and we are damn well going to finish it. Even if it’s the last thing we do.
Maybe we’re also competitive or, if you will, gluttonous. We want to read as many books as we can get our hands on. We’ve told ourselves we were going to read X amount of books this year (I’m currently behind on my personal 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge). If we can simply push through this book, it’s one more toward that goal, but in doing so, we end up slowing ourselves down.
The reasons we choose to give up on a book vary. It’s naive to assume that because you like a book everyone else you know will too. Reading is subjective. Sometimes your favorite blogger or Goodreads reviewer will fail you.
Here are a few reasons it might be time to let a book go.
According to Urban Dictionary, star-crossed lovers are two people who care immensely for each other, but due to their circumstances cannot be together.
For whatever reason, “star-crossed lovers” is a term that people seem to think means a very romantic, happily-ever-after, Disney-like kind of love. I’m going to go ahead and ruin it for all those who still think that: this kind of love is depressing and dark, often characterized by betrayal, rape, suicide, or death (my definition). Not so fun, huh? Still, these types of stories will probably help you feel a lot better about your own love life.
I should warn you that there will be some book spoilers, but I think they’re pretty obvious by now.
Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
If you didn’t already know, they both die in the end. It’s a story of two teenagers who rushed into a relationship, and they couldn’t tell their families because of a rivalry between them. They made a plan to fake Juliet’s death and run away together, but it went awry; Romeo killed himself because he thought Juliet really had died. When she woke up, she killed herself too. Sure, there are a lot of lovey-dovey quotes that teenagers love to use, but if they were to actually read the play in its entirety, they would see the err of their ways. It’s not a happy story, kids.
Atonement by Ian McEwan
When Robby and Cecilia finally realize they are in love with each other, everything in their lives falls to pieces. The very night of their acknowledging one another’s love, Cecilia’s sister accuses Robby of raping Cecilia’s cousin. Instead of avoiding the problem by running away with Cecilia, Robby goes to prison. After prison, he goes to the front lines of World War II, where he dies of septicemia. Fun.
Sandy Hall is a teen librarian from New Jersey where she was born and raised. She has a BA in Communication and a Master of Library and Information Science from Rutgers University. When she isn’t writing, or teen librarian-ing, she enjoys reading, slot machines, marathoning TV shows, and long scrolls through Tumblr. A Little Something Different is her first novel.
The Poetics Project: Describe your novel in ten words or less.
Sandy Hall: A girl meets boy story told from everyone else’s perspective.
TPP: What inspired you to write A Little Something Different?
SH: I was inspired by the Swoon Reads website. I’d been working on a completely different book, that had no romance in it. Then I saw an article about Swoon and I decided to try my hand at writing teen romance.
TPP: What was the most difficult aspect of writing your novel?
SH: Editing! Without a doubt. The writing comes easy, it’s the re-writing and editing that’s tough for me.
I can’t speak for all writers because all writers are different because we’re all people and people are all different. There are plenty of lists on Buzzfeed or eHarmony that offer tips or the pros and cons of dating a writer—and I don’t like them. I feel like they are incomplete or paint a very one-note picture of a writer.
Now, I’ve never dated a writer, but I am a writer and I work with writers and I write for writers and I’m friends with writers, so I thought I’d have some more specific tips to give on this matter that may be of interest to people in the dating scene who wish to date a writer.
1. Woo them with books. Here’s the thing about me and most of the writers that I know: we love to read. That’s why we fell into writing. We all have our own preferences, though. For example, I wouldn’t get my fellow blogger and co-creator Melanie Figueroa a Shakespeare play because I know Shakespeare isn’t her thing (it’s my thing), but I would seek out contemporary authors like Chuck Palahniuk or Margaret Atwood, because I know authors like that are her favorite. Being specific and knowing your writer’s taste is key to this.
One of my writer friends has a writer girlfriend, and he and I ended up traveling to Taiwan last summer to teach. He found her favorite book, The Great Gatsby, in the bookstore we visited in Taiwan and got her a copy of it in Chinese. He then had our host read the first two pages of the book in Chinese and recorded it so his girlfriend could listen to her favorite book in this language she didn’t speak. I thought that was terribly romantic, and I’m sure she did too.
All of that being said, it’s really not about the price of the book. Writers are often ones who can appreciate older, used books. Don’t go buy the latest release of your writer’s favorite author if you don’t need to. We’re not greedy. You don’t have to break the bank over us.
In all of the classes, lectures, and bookish discussions I have participated in over the past year, the one thing that the experts seem to agree on is that romance novels aren’t going anywhere.
Romance readers are loyal. Forty-one percent of buyers of romance books have been reading the genre for twenty years or longer. Nearly half of romance readers (about forty-four percent) consider themselves to be frequent readers, meaning they read “quite a few romances.” And another thirty-one percent consider themselves to be avid readers, meaning they are “almost always reading a romance novel,” which isn’t too shabby.
Romance readers are easily identifiable. Ninety-one percent of people who buy romance novels are women. Let me repeat that, ninety-one percent. The romance reader is more than likely between the ages of thirty and fifty-four and thirty-nine percent have an income between $50,000 and $99,900. Now lest you think that all of these well off, middle-aged women are getting their rocks off because they’re single and lonely and need an escape, slightly more than half of these readers live with a significant other. (Not that this prevents them from becoming lonely or needing an escape. We’ve all been there.) And for whatever reason, U.S. romance readers are highly represented in the South.
In case you were wondering, I don’t read romance novels. It’s not as if I cringe at the sight of them or can’t see their, um, value, but there are simply too many books on my to-be-read shelf for me to start adding guilty pleasures to the list. So why, may you ask, did I decide to write an entire post dedicated to a genre I don’t, in fact, read?
Well, as I said, romance novels aren’t going anywhere, which leads aspiring writers everywhere to consider picking up pen names, lighting some candles, and getting in touch with their feminine side as they attempt to produce the next Fifty Shades. Or maybe that’s just me, because in a world where literary fiction isn’t exactly bringing in the big bucks, romance novels seem to be more stable.
It’s no secret that I’m not the biggest American literature fan. While British literature is my forte, I do still appreciate many American classics as well as classic American authors, such as Mark Twain. I must admit, of all the things I knew of Mark Twain, such as his wit and humor, I was not all that familiar with his romantic side, but, through researching this blog post, I found that he did indeed have one.
Mark Twain was married in 1870 and, from all accounts, had a happy marriage that yielded four children. But Mark Twain’s wife, Olivia Langdon, rejected Twain’s first marriage proposal in 1868. How did Twain change her mind? Why, with his words of course. The two lovers corresponded regularly via letter and, once Twain had won Ms. Langdon’s heart and her father’s approval, the two were wed and the rejected proposal was put behind them.
So, while many of us know Twain’s words for their wit and humor, his words also touch on romance. If you’re single and looking to remedy the situation, I’ve found some useful quotes from Mark Twain that can aid you in your quest of seduction.
The situation: You see someone looking bored at a party or a bar.
The Twain line: “Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”
The result (hopefully): The person smiles and you two share a great adventure that night that may lead to the greatest romantic adventure of them all.
People who know me might be confused by this post. I don’t come off as one overly sentimental, especially when it comes to love or love poems. But I think love is part of the human experience, and thus, like anything that makes us human, is ripe to be explored in poetry and art.
While I agree with Melanie that it is annoying for all people to assume when one says “I write poetry,” that it is mushy-love based flowery poetry, I still think love poetry is a valid and wonderful form of poetry. There are many kinds of love, and many ways of expressing that love through poetry.
Familial love is often celebrated in poems, such as W.B. Yeats’s poem A Prayer for my Daughter written about the birth of his daughter and his hopes for her in the future, or Dylan Thomas’s poem Do not go gentle into that good night written to his father to encourage his dad to fight against his death. Langston Hughes also wrote a poem titled Mother to Son, about a mother summing up her fight for equality and passing the fight and her fire onto her boy.
Brotherly love, or bromance (which is actually a word now, so I don’t feel bad using it), is another theme often explored in poetry. Shakespeare did it in the first 126 sonnets of his 154 sonnet sequence (although, these poems can also be read as being about more than platonic love but there are many subtle things, such as Shakespeare encouraging the youth he admires to procreate and marry so that Shakespeare and the world can admire his offspring, that point to a more platonic reading for me). The best example of brotherly love from Shakespeare’s sequence comes in the form of Sonnet 30, a sonnet that explores how Shakespeare would mourn for his friend in his friend’s death. Robert Frost wrote A Time to Talk about the values of slowing life down to appreciate a chat with friends. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow also wrote a poem The Arrow and the Song about how our actions, both physical in the way of an arrow and spiritual in the way of a song, take root in the world around us and are often carried by those we are close to when we feel that these things are lost.
On Friday, I went to the dentist for a cleaning, and amidst small talk, my dentist found out I’m a grad student in a publishing program.
“Have you ever published anything before?” he said.
“Well, I just had a few poems published in a journal,” I said. “But no, I’ve never published a book.” He stood there nodding his head in silence. He had only worked in the office for a few weeks. He had a habit of milling around, his hands awkwardly clasped at his waist, like he wasn’t quite sure where he belonged yet. The technician finished off the cleaning and told me I could rinse.
“So, what kind of poems?” he finally said. “Romance poems?” I laughed politely, muttered something about writing poetry that reflected life, and tried not to punch something.
I wasn’t angry at him. I was annoyed by the persisting school of thought that says poetry equals sappy love poems about longing and soul mates. That type of sentimentality has always bothered me. It’s Romeo and Juliet. Highschool. Roses are red, violets are blue. I’ll die without you crap that almost never reflects what love actually is.
It happens often. Just the other day, my coblogger Amanda was asked by a male friend to send him some poetry she thought he’d like, but “not romantic stuff,” he clarified. In both these cases, with Amanda and I, I wonder if romance came in to play because, well, we’re women. Love, romance, all of that is often considered feminine. Women are supposed to write about their hearts being crushed—love being all consuming. Men, like Shakespeare, are the ones who get down to the gritty heart of love. They are real. And unforgiving.
Robin Constantine is a born-and-raised Jersey girl who moved south so she could wear flip-flops year-round. She spends her days dreaming up stories where love conquers all, eventually, but not without a lot of peril, angst, and the occasional kissing scene. The Promise of Amazing is her first novel.
The Poetics Project: Describe your book in ten words or less.
Robin Constantine: Fun, flirty, teenage romp about the redemptive power of love.
TPP: How hard is it to write romance into a young adult novel? What advice would you give aspiring authors about writing romance?
RC: Writing is hard work but I happen to enjoy writing romantic scenes – so much so that they are usually the first scenes that come to mind when I start a new story. As both a reader and a writer I’m fascinated by character connections and interactions – what makes certain people drawn to each other. I mostly write from a humorous perspective so whenever it feels like something I’m working on might be getting too hot and heavy, I instill a little awkwardness into it. I think this is important when writing romance for young adults – to remember that first encounters (flirting, kissing or more) are far from perfect.
As far as advice – I would say be fearless. Some people find romantic scenes awkward to write, or worry that maybe if they go too far it might put some people off. You have to write what feels right to you without that fear. (Forget about your parents, friends or neighbors!) And have fun with it!! No one needs to see your first draft!
TPP: A lot of reviewers loved Wren and Grayson as individuals and said that they were realistic. How did you go about creating your characters? Is there a process you use when developing your characters?
RC: I mostly “hear” my characters in my head. Wren started talking to me one day in jury duty and I jotted down a couple of notes, which eventually became the first scene in the novel. It might sound a little crazy but listening is a huge part of how I create characters when I first start working on a project.
Grayson was a secondary character in another novel that I had to scrap but I loved him – he kept on taking over any scene he was in, so it seemed like he wanted a story of his own. When I put him together with Wren, I felt like I had something that was definitely spark-worthy. I think both of them are looking to develop and strengthen qualities that they find in the other. For Wren, she’s drawn to Gray’s ability to speak his mind and live out loud, for Gray, he’s drawn to Wren’s calm and quiet confidence. I think they both see the best in each other, which may seem naïve at times.
I usually find out who my characters are by putting them in certain situations and seeing how they will react. Sometimes, if I’m feeling stuck I might interview a character or just for fun do one of those fill in the blank character sketches, but mostly, if I just get quiet and listen, they are there to be discovered.
TPP: Looking through reviews of The Promise of Amazing on Goodreads, a lot of people are calling Wren and Grayson’s relationship “insta-love” and the the “L-word” came out too fast. Was it your intention to have this Romeo and Juliet love-at-first-sight? Is it a part of Wren and Grayson’s personalities that create this instant bond between the two?
RC: The relationship between Wren and Grayson is absolutely meant to be a sweet shot of adrenaline. They meet under dramatic circumstances and this sets the framework for their liaison. The term insta-love implies there’s a right way and a wrong way to fall for someone. Love is subjective. Some people fall hard and fast, others fall gradually, while others need to get knocked over the head to see what’s right in front of them – that doesn’t mean one is better or more real than the other.
Under dramatic circumstances – such as saving someone’s life – emotions are heightened. I think starting the relationship at this point definitely gives it more speed than if Wren and Grayson met another way. As for the “L” word – Love is a word used to describe strong emotions. Having someone say “I like you immensely” or “I feel so strongly about you in this moment” doesn’t have the same impact as I love you. As a writer I have to ask myself in each scene “what is the riskiest thing that could happen now”. (spoiler alert!) When Grayson tells Wren how he feels, it’s the riskiest thing for him to do in that moment because it’s truly coming from him, not some game he’s playing. He even acknowledges that it’s too soon. They both do actually, but when you are swept up in a delicious moment, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in it. I wanted to be true to that experience.
TPP: What do you want readers to take away from your book?
RC: One of the themes in my book is not to let your past define you – so I would love a reader to take away the fact that even though you might make mistakes you can always find a way to overcome them and forge a new path. Oh, and not to take a date ice-skating if you really don’t know what you’re doing. 😉
TPP: Name 2-3 songs that could be included in a soundtrack to your book (can be songs that inspired portions of your writing).
Maybe, Tonight – Nicole Atkins
Howlin’ for You – The Black Keys
Unconditionally – Katy Perry
Thank you for having me!!