Sunday, December 20, 2015

Author Barb Caffrey Talks About Romance... Not Just For Adults Anymore?

I'm thrilled to write a guest blog for my fellow writer Gemma Juliana on the subject of romance. She and I both write stories with a goodly amount of romance to them, as is on display right now with the Exquisite Christmas anthology. (I am partial to her two stories about widows finding true love, myself. But all three are excellent, heart-warming stories.)

Anyway, I am known more for my young adult novels comprising the Elfy duology – AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE – than writing for the adult market. My two stories in the Exquisite Christmas anthology feature two of my favorite characters ever, Marja the shapeshifter, and Tomas, a telepathic mountain Troll. They are partners in business and pleasure and enjoy living life with gusto and spirit, but they are not young, nor are they conventionally attractive in the usual senses.

Then again, who said that romance was just for pretty people? Because if it were, most of us would not qualify, nor could we lose ourselves in a good, old fashioned romance – or, in the case of my Elfy duology, a good, old fashioned young adult comedy/mystery/fantasy/romance. (Say that five times fast, if you'd like. It's not easy.)
I like Marja and Tomas because they feel like real people. They may have unusual gifts, but who they are to the bottom of their souls feels honest, because they've both had to overcome various obstacles to get to this point in their lives.
In fact, about the only thing Marja and Tomas have in common with my young Elfy protagonist Bruno and his mostly human teenage girlfriend, Sarah, is that despite the somewhat exotic subject matter, their romances feel genuine. We can empathize with them, because they have quirks and flaws, just as we all do. 
Now, when you're talking about teenagers and their first forays into romance, there obviously are some differences from writing about two settled adults such as Marja and Tomas. Bruno and Sarah are experiencing everything for the very first time – the first time they hold hands, the first time they kiss, is special. They don't know what they're doing, but they know they want to be doing it…and they know they're going to do it "come the seventeen Hells or water over the levees," as Bruno would say.
But perhaps it would be better to show you what I'm talking about instead.

Bruno pulled back from Sarah, and looked into her eyes. “You’re beautiful,”
he said hoarsely. “Did I ever tell you that before?”
“Um, no,” she said.
He leaned forward slowly, and started to kiss her on the cheek. She turned
her head at the last second, so his lips met hers instead. For a moment, he
thought he saw stars, then comets, then…what were all those fireworks in the
sky doing inside this room, and why was he even thinking about it? He drew
back for a moment. She didn’t protest—she didn’t say anything. He took this as a
good sign, and kissed her again.
At last, he drew back.
“What was that for?” she asked, dazed.
“You kissed me before, so I wanted to return the favor,” he said, trying for
a nonchalant tone.
(End excerpt)
As you can see, Bruno and Sarah are experiencing things that feel new and strange to them. But that is not about to stop them…oh, no. And while theirs is an innocent, age-appropriate romance for the most part, that doesn't at all mean their feelings aren't as deep and complex as a pair of older lovers.
Now, Marja and Tomas are a long-settled pair. They're bounty hunters, as well as detectives of a certain type, and they've been in love for a long time. But that doesn't mean they take their relationship for granted…again, maybe it's best if I show you?
From the second of my two stories in Exquisite Christmas, "To Hunt the Hunter:"
Tomas gestured at the quiet, peaceful countryside. "I had plans for today, big ones." He looked me up and down. "Private ones."
I smiled demurely.
"Why must a summons always come when we're on holiday?" His voice, to my gratification, sounded annoyed.
"I don't know, dearest." I squeezed his hand consolingly, making sure my hands didn't shift without warning. That was the one problem with being a shapeshifter, sometimes. "But I think we'd best go get our stuff and start up the trail. Whatever the Magistrate wants, it can't be good."
(End Excerpt)
Now, notice the differences between the two excerpts? While Bruno and Sarah's story is about how they feel, Marja and Tomas already know what they have – but aren't taking it for granted in the slightest. At the start of "To Hunt the Hunter," they're on vacation and were looking forward to being left blissfully alone…but when a summons comes that they can't ignore, off they go.
That said, solving the mystery behind why they were summoned is only half the story, here. The other half is this: Will Tomas finally find a way to coax Marja, the love of his life, down the altar? (Hint, hint: Tomas is not above a teensy bit of trickery in order to get his way…)
What I've found, as a writer, is that when I write about two adult characters like Marja and Tomas, I have a certain amount of flexibility in how I portray them. While I don't have to hide the fact that Marja and Tomas have had sex, I concentrate on how they feel when they're around each other – because that's what's most important.
And when I write about young adults like Bruno the Elfy and his girlfriend Sarah, I concentrate as much on what they're feeling as what they're doing. Because it's all new to them, I have a different way of looking at things in order to best share their story in a way that reads well and feels emotionally true-to-life.
But at heart, it's the emotions that matter both for teen and adult protagonists. Without those emotions, without those characters feeling those emotions, it would be a mighty poor romance indeed.

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  1. Thank you so much, Gemma, for allowing me to guest at your blog today. I truly appreciate it.

    Happy holidays to you and yours!

  2. Thank you for hosting this post. I've enjoyed reading it. Keep writing for us, please. I am looking forward to your new article.
    Best wishes,
    David J Salmon

  3. Congratulations on the birth of your precious granddaughter, such a blessing.

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