YA Love

Happy Valentine’s Day Scribes fans! In honor of romance, I’ll be giving away double the love with an e-book copy of each of my books, On Thin Ice and Heaven Is For Heroes to one romance-loving commenter to be chosen at midnight tonight! Also in honor of good old Saint Valentine, I’d like to talk about YA love.

I’ve been asked several times why I write Young Adult fiction, specifically, YA Romance. When I began writing for publication, I started by writing adult romances, but I had some issues with it. Other than needing to learn a lot about the writing craft, I was also incredibly uncomfortable with the idea of people I knew reading my romantic scenes. I’m a massage therapist by day and my clients were very supportive of my writing from the very beginning, but thinking about them reading the steamy scenes I was putting on the page had me breaking out in hives. Ironically, that was the best part of my writing and like most of my own adult relationships, my adult stories all seemed to lead to…well…sex. So what’s a die-hard romantic to do?

As any smart girl will tell you, romance novels aren’t just about creatively writing sex scenes. Romance novels are about capturing the emotions, building the tension, bringing those romantic moments to life for the reader. I wanted to do that with my stories, but I wasn’t comfortable with the down and dirty details. Once I realized that my “voice” (that elusive quality that makes each writer unique), was best suited for first person narrative and that I had a rather “young’ perspective, I realized that my heart was in sharing “extraordinary stories of an average teenage life.” I had loads of teen experiences to draw from and it was a way for me to share some valuable lessons I’d learned along the way.

As a wonderful bonus, it turns out that the inspirational life lessons that come through in my stories are as meaningful to adults as to any of the teens who might read my books.

Let me be clear in saying that I have nothing against those that write the higher heat level books. I love a good rogue Duke or Chaps-wearing cowboy. Even in YA romance, the steaminess level runs the gamut. There are graphic scenes in many YA novels on the shelves these days. Even though the topics in my own books are mature, they lean toward the sweeter side of first relationships. I like offering an option that fills a gap between young adult and adult romance.

I’ve also come to realize that it’s not always necessary for adult romances to draw the reader a blow by blow (pardon the pun) description. In fact there are many romances that are sweet and romantic and very successful without that (ie: Kristan Higgins’ novels and our own Katy Lee’s upcoming release, Real Virtue).

I enjoyed writing those steamy scenes, but I needed to find a way to tone down the intensity for my own comfort level, so I started thinking about my own life and who I was BS (before sex). I was immediately struck by all the first times that came to mind. I love writing YA romance because I get to travel back to all those first times and in some ways re-write them. You remember that first kiss, your first Valentine, and maybe even your very first date? Everything for teens is so immediate, so crucial, and so DRAMATIC!

Romance in YA fiction is all about falling in love, mending a broken heart, finding that one person who completes you and makes you feel whole—much like adult romance, but with the freedom to end on a hopeful note rather than attaining that ultimate HEA ending. I like the idea of leaving my characters room to grow up.

 How do you like your romance? Hot and heavy, or sweet with a little steam? Have you read any YA romance? If not, you might find it surprisingly satisfying.

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18 thoughts on “YA Love”

  1. Lovely post Paula. Your “Heaven is for Heros” and “On Thin Ice” have story lines that are amazing and satisfying. I understand why leaving steamy sex scenes behind is a make sense approach to your writing. Even with my historical (almost true) novel I am writing, I can’t imagine having those kind of scenes read by my constituents. Oh sure, touchy, feely, lovey is part of life, but some of those erotic details can be left to the imagination in virtual space. Thank you for sharing your heart.

    1. Thank you, Gail. So true “touchy, feely, lovey is part of life”. I like that!
      It’s so important in life to be true to ourselves and do what we feel is right. I’m so happy that my stories touched your heart. Thanks for your support.

  2. I like my adult romances steamy, but I also enjoy behind closed doors novels too (Kristan!). I think it all comes down to the story genre and the tone set by the author. I prefer my YA on the sweeter side and yours are just right!

    1. Thanks, Casey. And yours are just the right heat level for me when I’m looking to jump into a steamy paranormal world!

      For me, YA is all about the “feelings.” Those new and exciting sensations that come with first attractions and all that angst over figuring out what to do about it. Most of the time, it creates enough tension and drama that you never have to go into detail about the actual experiences. Though I still get all hot and bothered when I read about Jordie and Alex’s first kiss. I love that!

  3. I like the occasional steamy romance, as well as sweeter ones, but none of it matters unless I care about the characters. My favorite romances, especially in YA, may not have more than a few kisses, but they’re the ones where I desperately want the characters to end up together.

    1. Welcome, Carla. I totally agree. It’s much more about the reader falling in love with the characters than the actual on the page actions. Believable, sympathetic, characters who you can root for from the start is what has most of us turning the pages and waiting to see how our heroine’s can win the day and get the guy.

  4. Thanks for the shout-out, lovey! And happy Valentine’s Day! For me, a detailed love scene has to have a purpose, and in my opinion, the purpose has to be more than “and then they have great sex, and this is how it went.” There are a few authors who manage to combine purpose and detail…but it seems to me that most do the steaminess just because it’s fun. And if the reader likes that, the reader does. As a reader, I tend to skim over those scenes, having been married for quite some time now. As a teenager, those were the first scenes I read. : )

    1. Great point, Kristan. I must admit that I read the sexy scenes in a book now with more of a critical eye. The downfall of being a writer, I suppose, but I read more for mechanics, language, and flow rather than the “how to’s” of it all. You may have something there, and perhaps that’s what young readers are drawn to in steamy romances.

      Diana Gabaldon writes some of the most wonderfully sexy and real love scenes between Jamie and Claire, but they are not gratuitous in any way. There is always a natural lead in and they are sweet and romantic as well as steamy. The perfect blend in my opinion.

  5. I agree with Kristan. If a love scene fits into the flow of the story, I’m all for it. I have read a few books where it seems every other page is a hot sex scene. Honestly, I found it disruptive to the story and skipped past them to just get on with the book. For the record, I love all things romance. I enjoy Kristan’s “behind closed doors” type of novels, as well as the hot and steamy scenes of other authors. As long as there is romance, I’m happy. Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Gerri. I’m with you on loving all things romance. Life is just that much better when our hearts are stirred to love.

  6. Thanks for the shout-out, too, PJ! That’s the first time I’ve seen someone else announce about Real Virtue’s release. Weird! Anyway,Thank you! And great post. I love that your stories offer something for all ages, but especially love that they are written with YA in mind. I can read them and think they are reminiscent of my youth, (or the choices I wished I had made in my youth) but the fact they are written for YA will inspire them to grow and make better choices for themselves.

    As for levels of steam in a story, I don’t mind as long as there IS a story and the characters are the driving force. Speaking of characters….DON’T FORGET CATHERINE ANDERSON WILL BE ON THE SCRIBES TOMORROW (WED.). SHE IS THE QUEEN OF DRIVING CHARACTERS. SO BE SURE TO COME BACK AND SAY HI AND BE ENTERED IN A DRAWING FOR HER LATEST.

    As for me and my inspirationals, I have a very strict guide to follow when it comes to sensuality on the page. There’s a lot that is not allowed with the CBA market. Too long to even go into here. Many times I question if I can say something. Since I published REAL VIRTUE with a secular publisher, I was able to get away with a few things that might not have been allowed with a Christian publisher, but I am glad I made that choice, because to me I had to write the story the way it needed to be told and the way my characters told it. Presently, I am writing a story specifically tailored for a Christian publisher and it has a different feel, for sure. But in the end, it’s not going to be about what I can or can’t put on the page, but about my characters.

    1. Exactly, Katy! And thanks for the reminder about our guest, Catherine Anderson. I’m so looking forward to her interview.

      And isn’t it fun having someone shout out your good news and talk about your book? It’s like when someone says something nice about your children. You get all warm and fuzzy inside:-)

  7. I like all heat levels, as long as there’s a good story in the oven. I don’t necessarily need to see The Deed being committed on the page — nothing wrong with my imagination! Like Casey, I prefer my YA on the sweet side. I don’t read much of it, although I just finished a fabulous YA, which none of the rest of you will be able to read for a few weeks. Neener, neener, neener! But my all-time favorite YA, and one of my all-time favorite books, period, is The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. It has the tamest possible love story, and I adore it. In fact, I can’t believe I’ve never bought it for my Nook. I’m going to hop over to B&N and do that now!

  8. Great post, Paula. I especially love how you explained that romance novels are not about sex scenes, per se, but about the emotions involved. That’s what pulls me into a story. I guess that’s why I like all different heat levels of romance. If the characters and the story call for blazing hot sex on the page, then I want to read every word of it. If they call for a more coy, innocent or private lovemaking, then I want to be left out of their moment, happily knowing they’ve connected in a way that’s perfect for them. As for YA, I prefer sweet – I want to feel all the emotions leading up to that first kiss, and I do want to see that first kiss – as well as the thrill that lingers after it. But, as you said, everything for teens is dramatic. A truly rich YA does not need a love scene if those emotional tides are fully explored. JMO. 🙂

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Debora. I liked that last line you said, “A truly rich YA does not need a love scene if those emotional tides are fully explored.” That’s why we keep reading!

  9. You did a terrific job of outlining YA romance. I also like writing about the tension of those years when you are first discovering your own sensuality and the attraction you have to another. There is something so wonderful about that first kiss. I enjoy writing YA because that time in life is so formative, and emotions and decisions are like roller-coaster rides (thrilling and a little nauseating too). Great post, PJ!

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