One of the most frequent questions I’m asked by my readers is this: “Why is love so difficult for Savannah?” And I’m like, “What, and take the easy way into love? That’s not dramatic enough, realistic enough, difficult enough!” Conflict is the answer. Great stories are chock full of it and resolution for the hero/heroine should never come easy.
One of my early mentors once told me, “Write an amazing character who has the world against her, but make sure your readers love her because of who she is, how she views life, and what she can become, and then drag her kicking and screaming through the deepest most disastrous pits of hell before giving her what she wants most. And even then, don’t make it obvious which way she’ll go because you don’t want the reader figuring it out a hundred pages before it happens.” There is struggle in life. And unpredictability. Why shouldn’t we have this in great fiction as well? This is still the best advice I’ve ever received on writing.
So the premise with every love element I write is that it’s complicated and impulsive, and in matters of the heart we make mistakes, read signals wrong, take a U-turn when she should have gone left. This was my high school love life. But not in a fun way. I went to four high schools in three years, and honestly, I couldn’t seem to find the right social circle until my last year of high school, but by then it just felt odd being me. In terms of dating, I made plenty of mistakes, missed some opportunities, almost fell in love once or twice, but it never really caught. I think my more devoted readers will understand. I never felt truly safe in my own skin in high school, or in my first years of college for that matter, and these experiences have a way of working themselves into my stories. Sometimes not feeling sorted out in life means not feeling balanced in love either. Such is the life of the Swann Series’ Savannah Van Duyn…
To answer my readers’ question, in these novels, the struggles of first love act as more of a driving force than a central theme. Granted, for our heroine, there are a few frogs to kiss, some princes to breeze on by as they’re drooling, and that one question of self-discovery I’m convinced most people might never fully answer: If I don’t have a choice at who I want, but I want them anyway and don’t know it, will I ever truly fall in love? Okay, so maybe that’s not everyone’s question, but sometimes it’s the questions we don’t know to ask that effect us the most!
As a writer, if I can strike that perfect conflict, if my characters can teeter on the razor’s edge of either coming together or falling apart long enough, one gets that sense of the story being more true to life than a simple three-act fairy tale where Boy A falls in love with Girl B and through some conflict and a catalyzing event they come together for that happily-ever-after ending. This ain’t that book! Not by a mile.
I work my fingers to the bone and my brain into a squeezed-out sponge for that glorious emotional investment from my fans! I want my readers to root for the right person while watching everything go astray. There should never be an easy payout. Sure a character might get there in the long run, but I don’t want my fans thinking things will pan out a certain way. Sometimes, I almost want them giving up hope. But only for a second. Then, when things come together, they do so in exciting ways you never really saw coming and this is the big payoff! Writing stories like this, crafting fiction to that measure, is pure joy for me. In my mind, this is great story-telling, and in many ways, this is what the romance element of this series is truly about!