TAT: an interview with Tracy Lawson about romancing the YA genre
Tell All Tuesday is a new column dedicated to interviews with other authors.
I recently talked with my good friend and fellow author Tracy Lawson about her Resistance Series. The second book in the series, Resist, was released on August 25th. While Tracy and I write in vastly different genres, I thought my readers might be interested in the romantic element in her Young Adult books. There's more to Tommy than his rugged blond good looks. He's seen some things in his life that give him an underlying edge, and yet there's a gentleness to him. Careen seems to be a girl after my own heart: she's determined to uphold what she thinks is right, and takes no prisoners in the process. The two definitely have chemistry from the outset, and the reader definitely becomes invested in them both as individuals and as a couple.
Nina: So, Tracy, before we get into the relationship between the main characters of the series, Tommy and Careen, I wanted to ask you what inspired you to write Young Adult Fiction?
Tracy: My first career was in the performing arts, teaching dance and choreographing shows for middle and high schools. I spent most of my time around teenagers, and read many of the books that interested my daughter and her friends. When I decided to try my hand at writing, I felt comfortable crafting stories for the young adult market.
Specifically, I was mentoring a friend of my daughter’s when the initial idea for Counteract came about. Chase is a pretty sharp guy and an excellent writer—and when he was in high school I had a lot of fun working with him and editing some of his short stories. We had finished working on a story about baseball, a broken nose, and a broken heart, and were ready to start something new, when he suggested we write scenes in response to the prompt: “What if everyone were on LSD and all thoughts were communal?” It was certainly thought provoking! Chase created the characters Tommy and Eduardo, I created Careen, and right away, we knew we were onto something. Obviously, the story morphed and changed a lot before it became the finished version of Counteract —but that was how it all began.
Nina: Did you always know that there would be a couple as part of the story, or did Tommy's and Careen's relationship become romantic after you started writing the series?
Tracy: I wasn't sure where the story was going at first, but I remember thinking that if Tommy and Careen did end up together, it would happen after their eyes were already opened to what was going on in the world around them. Their romance wouldn't be a hazy, drug-induced hookup, but something real and solid that they could cling to--even if it happened faster than it would've under less dire circumstances.
Nina: You have probably been asked this a hundred times already, but is their relationship as intense as the kids in the Twilight series? Are you hoping to draw a similar audience?
Tracy: Though Tommy and Careen's relationship is every bit as intense as the characters' in Twilight, it wasn't love at first sight for Careen. I enjoyed leading the characters in that initial, awkward stage of getting to know one another. Tommy's feeling alone and adrift, and hey, this cute girl shows up on his doorstep. He gets to play the hero by sharing the last dose of his antidote with her during the anticipated terrorist attack. But Careen's not looking for a relationship. She's got too much else on her mind, and she makes that very clear. It takes a while before she can open her heart and let Tommy in.
I gave a classroom talk at one high school where a student asked, "Is this just going to be another 'Team Edward' and 'Team Jacob' love triangle?" I was able to answer, "No--the triangle of tension between Tommy, Careen, and Wes is an essential element in the first two books, but you can count on the story evolving in a different manner than the love triangle in the Twilight series."
Nina: How did you decide how far to take the physical element between Tommy and Careen?
Tracy: I put a lot of thought into how to develop Tommy and Careen's physical relationship. There's the whole "if it was your last day on earth" element to the story--they believe they could be poisoned at any time. But instead of choosing a "wham, bam, thank you ma'am" way of dealing with their mortality, their intimacy grows from their conversations as they face their very real fears of dying. They learn to rely on each other--and they both put themselves on the line for each other before the barriers finally come down.
I let Careen take control of the physical aspect of the relationship--she had to examine who she was and what she wanted before she could think about giving herself to someone--even a guy as great as Tommy!
I was also conscious of my target audience's age range--Tommy and Careen do get intimate, and there is some other sexual content in the book, but I decided against any graphic play-by-play in the bedroom. Even though I approached their relationship with thoughtful care, I still had a reviewer that was very critical of my choice to allow unmarried teens to express their affection for each other in a physical way. She didn't like any of the 'bad language' either. (Interviewer's note: the author rates the book as a mild PG-13).
Nina: What do you want your young readers in particular to take away from these characters and their relationship?
Tracy: I wanted readers to identify with the characters. Both Tommy and Careen wrestle with problems from their past, and they need to get past those problems before they can begin to deal with the much, much larger problem that looms ahead. They need to recognize their rights to make decisions for themselves, and their obligation to stand up for what they believe in, even when it's difficult or scary to do so.
Nina: Can you give us any hints as to the direction their love story will take in the next books?
Tracy: Of course! Tommy felt protective of Careen from the day they met--but now she's in danger unlike anything they've faced before. Their first mission as members of the Resistance didn't exactly go as planned. Careen's been falsely accused of murder, and now they're dodging the quadrant marshals' roadblocks in a headlong dash for the remote mountain headquarters of the resistance movement.
Once there, they experience freedom unlike anything they've ever had before. As they work to advance the goals of the resistance group, they find their ideas and philosophies differ, and they're surprised to find they have so much to argue about. Petty jealousies and rivalries with other young people in the Resistance complicate things even more. Who cheats on whom? And how do you make time for love when you're trying to start a revolution? Tune in and find out what got that reviewer so upset...