Cristin Terrill's debut YA novel, ALL OUR YESTERDAYS---out in stores September 3!---is an action-packed time travel thriller with no shortage of romantic spark. Cristin created the sizzling romantic tension in AOY after coming up with a theory about the typical teen love interest, and we asked her to share!
The one question everyone asks me is where I got the idea for ALL OUR YESTERDAYS, and if I have to type out the late-night-Terminator-viewing story one more time I will probably throw myself off a bridge.
But, luckily, that’s only part of the story. That’s where I got the idea for the sci-fi plot, the time travel and guns and car chases. But the inspiration for the relationships in the book came from a theory I first developed many years ago based on watching way too much teen television (as if there is such a thing).
Cristin’s First Law of Teen Television states that:
The romantic suitability of a male character when coupled with proximity to the assumed love interest is in direct inverse proportion to the overt stated suitability of that character.
In other words, the Best Friend (or occasionally brother) of the Obvious, Meant-to-Be Love Interest almost always ends up being the better and more interesting love interest for our heroine. Some TV creators/writers embrace the unexpected chemistry between the heroine and the Best Friend, while others try to fight it, but the Best Friend cannot be denied for long.
One of the earliest examples in my memory is:
Creator Kevin Williamson was determined that Dawson and Joey were soulmates who were destined to be together. The rumors was that Williamson’s departure from the show was due to him being hell-bent on the Dawson/Joey coupling while the network and fans were clamoring to see Joey with Dawson’s best friend Pacey.
I personally wasn’t much of a Dawson’s Creek watcher. Instead I was glued to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which had it’s own example of the best friend law:
Now, arguably Angel is a better ultimate match for Buffy. But be honest, who was her more interesting love interest? The one who was the most fun to watch her interact with? It wasn’t the brooding, earnest, humorless Angel. It was the cocky, snarky, combative Spike. The love/hate, push/pull relationship he had with Buffy was the proto-type for all the couples to come.
Like my personal favorite:
There are tons of other examples, but they all basically adhere to the same pattern. The Love Interest is the good guy. He’s noble and respectable. He’s (usually) the more classically handsome. The Best Friend is often more of a bad boy, or at least is snarkier, more sarcastic, more troubled. While the Love Interest is usually separated from the heroine by fate or duty, the Best Friend tends to have a more conflicted relationship with her, one that often starts as dislike and evolves slowly into respect, affection, and then love.
Obviously, I’m a fan of the Best Friend. I love watching one suddenly swoop in and hijack a romantic narrative because the story and chemistry and characters demand to go there. Dramatically, I just think it’s a lot more interesting.
But could it be done in a book? I never thought so. I think the prevalence of the Best Friend Taking Over in television is due to the volume of material that demands constant drama and change, the open-endedness of character and relationship arcs that come as a result of television scheduling, and the fluke of chemistry between actors. Books don’t have any of those elements.
But I really wanted to try it, and ALL OUR YESTERDAYS gave me the perfect opportunity. Time travel makes most things a lot more difficult to write, but it made this one thing easier (while simultaneously allowing me to sidestep the dreaded love triangle).
Put all those boys in the left in a blender and add a little JFK, Jr. and Stephen Hawking and you’d end up with someone like my James. The boys on the right – minus a little darkness, plus some really bad jokes – would be a little like my Finn. Neither of them would be who they are if I hadn’t decided to try to recreate the Best Friend Law, and the story that fell into place around those foundational relationships wouldn’t be the same either.
So, basically, all those times I blew off writing to mainline something on ABC Family? That was just me working really hard.