It all started with the phrase “Why the Hell can’t chicks be more like guys?” A riff on the whole My Fair Lady thing. Or Frankenstein, depending on what you think about the real nature of Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle’s relationship.
And then, because if I don’t torture my characters, I haven’t really done my job, I knew that whoever was asking that silly question about girls, had to be best friends with, of course, a girl. A girl that he didn’t really see as a girl but with whom he had the best relationship.
And I wondered “what kind of shake up did it take for two good friends—who could be so great together—to start to see other in a new way?”
So all that was my jumping off point. From there I began to figure out who I wanted Sam and Ally to be. I knew that I wanted both of them to have these coping mechanisms that they were using to keep themselves happy. Or so they thought.
Sam, having lost his mom, keeps himself safe by never having a relationship. I remember a friend of mine being the same way. Better to get out first, right? Sam has probably never questioned his confidence because he’s never had it challenged. He built this wall up, stuffed all his vulnerability behind it, and kept himself untouchable.
Ally doesn’t risk herself either. She’s the smart kid who doesn’t really have to work that hard. She knows she’ll get into whichever university she wants. Academia is a simple box for her. So is Jeremy. Here is a guy that she initially liked for his brains. Not a bad thing. But do you ever get the sense that Ally was made vulnerable at all in this relationship until the moment she gets dumped? Not really. Even though she was second fiddle in the relationship, I don’t think it truly mattered that much at the time because in the scheme of things, Jeremy didn’t mean that much.
Okay, confession. That was a relationship I had. Looking back, I let him kind of direct the relationship, was shocked when I got dumped, and then pretty quickly realized that I missed the idea of him more than him. But it did help me to figure out what I didn’t want from a relationship.
For the novel, I needed to put Sam and Ally through a major shake up. And that meant that the relationship that had to be on the line was the only one that either had truly invested themselves in.
Their friendship with each other.
And yes, I chose to get them naked. Because I felt that in order to genuinely have them see each other in a new way, it would take a sexual connection. It was the only kind of connection they didn’t already have with each other. I truly believed that this was where my characters needed to go.
One thing I get asked is, given the sex, why did I make Sam and Ally teens? Simple really. Emotionally, they are teens. They’re struggling with issues of empowerment, connection, and identity that I remember being pretty pervasive for me at that age.
But more specifically, this came out of a very personal experience from my own adolescence. I was the girl who had really great friendships with guys but rarely became the object of interest. And I couldn’t figure that out. It seemed like me and my friends were all equally normal cute girls, so what made some of them so sought after and me the one that guys wanted to hang out with, joke with, and talk with?
I remember thinking that maybe if I looked a certain way…
I’m happy that Ally realizes that that isn’t the answer to her problems. She has a ton more self-awareness than I ever did. And happily, in the end, a lot more confidence.
And even though Sam has the biggest transformation in terms of relationships—it’s his voice that starts and ends this book, I think I’m proudest of where Ally comes to. That she has to be happy in her own skin. On her own two feet. That having that great boy love her can be the icing, but she herself has to be the fabulous, geekilicious cake.
I’m hoping that the issues that these two struggle with will feel universal to you, my readers. That all of you who pick up the book will be able to identify with Sam and Ally and their journey.
But more than anything, I hope that in the end, I leave you laughing and loving Sam and Ally as much as I do.