Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Love in the Time of Hogwarts

J.K. Rowling revealed that Dumbledore's gay. Hurray! Another reason to email my gal pals and analyze the Harry Potter series yet again. Part of our e-conversation below… please feel free to join the discussion with your comments!

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Sam: I don't think I was surprised, particularly about the Grindelwald thing. I do, however, think it's sad that none of Rowling's characters seem to be able to get past their first loves and move on. If I let my first unrequited love be the driving force in my life...well, no comment, but it would be a sad life indeed.

The wizarding world seems to be somewhat less forward-thinking, socially, than the more liberal countries of our world. So maybe having gay relationships is Just Not Done, andif Dumbledore wanted to retain his post at Hogwarts, he had to keep his deep, passionate love for Ron's grandfather a secret.But of course, that's not what Rowling said. She said he never got over Grindelwald, and how upset he was when his One True Love turned out to be Wizard Hitler. And since I believe in authorial intent, I have to say that I find this tendency of her characters immature.

Kate: About the first love thing: in terms of our three main characters, it makes sense for them to end up with characters we've met. The romantic readers among us craved such an ending. It would have been a total cop-out if Rowling mentioned in the epilogue that Hermione broke up with Ron and met a lovely man at Wizard Grad School. That's just lame.

And Harry's parents had to have a shared Hogwarts history in order for their son to have plenty of "dead parent moments" at school. It's easier to build a connection between Harry and his parents if they have lots of places and people in common.

Snape and Dumbledore, both transformed eternally by their first love? Doesn't surprise me. After all, by Book Seven they parallel each other in a weird way.

I guess I'm also reassured because I sense back stories for some of the characters. I totally think Sirius was a big fan of loving and leaving the ladies. I wouldn't be surprised if Lupin had a relationship in his past that he thought was scarring but eventually got over. And you just know Trelawney did some kinky hoohah in the name of divination.

But you're right. If Cho Chang is our one example of a wizarding relationship that doesn't work out, that would be pretty darn lame.

Jaime: Also--and I know I've said this before--you have to remember that being a wizard is like being an Orthodox Jew in Memphis. Your community is very small, and dating outside the community it is difficult to meet people and frowned upon, and there are other communities but they're far away. Realistically, Ron and Harry's cohort is pretty small. There are around 70 Gryffindors at any time, so 280 Hogwarts students, and first years don't date seventh years. If you date only one gender, you've got maybe 120 people to choose from. If you refuse to date Slytherins, you're down to 90. So like the orthodox, you date less and marry young.

Also, as to Snape, his whole ridiculous double-crossing life is built upon Lily and makes it super hard to meet girls (all of whom think he's double-crossing.) Quite possibly he now has the hots for Narcissa or Tonks, but really, how could he woo either without betraying his principles? And Snape's a man of principles.

I still think Dumbledore was getting it on with Fawks, if anyone--and I can see how it'd be better to say "I never got over Grindy" than admit the bestial truth.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

In the Family Way

Recent events in my own life (read: marriage) have had me thinking about a topic I've never considered in depth before, the importance of family in romance. Attempting to calculate what desserts I'll actually have time to make on Thanksgiving day that will hold up on the hour-long drive from my parents' in PA to my in-laws' in NJ will do that to you (because, yes, we're trying to visit both families on the same day. We'll see how it goes).

Families are so important to our real-life romances. I feel like my husband has married my whole crazy clan. Considering the fact that he's known my youngest sister (now twenty) since she was twelve, he really is a brother to her. And I wouldn't be as excited about our married life together if I didn't know that I love spending time with my husband's family and really do want them in my life for better or for worse.

But how many romances make use of this element of the marriage story? Off the top of my head and entirely unscientifically, I'd say not many. Or not enough. Think about it: the numbers of orphaned governesses out on their own (ripe for the seducin'), or lonely dukes who inherited it all after their cruel father croaked. Or wretched fathers forcing their children to marry where their hearts don't lie. Doesn't it seem that those sorts of stories outnumber the one-big-happy-family kind, at least in the historical genre? In contemporaries there may be more, but there are still rarely supportive, loving parents, even while sibling sagas threaten to take over the world.

We know that happy families can work great in romance, whatever Tolstoy had to say about them. The Bridgertons are a prime example: those books would lack so much without the B's hanging out together as a clan. In fact, the one B book I really didn't care for (Francesca's story) missed the mark for exactly that reason, too little family interaction.

But I'm guilty of not practicing what I preach. My first book: heroine, estranged from family; hero, mourning loss of brother and father (though he did have a mother, sister, and brother-in-law around to torment him). My current WIP: heroine, an orphaned only child; hero, estranged from his rather large family. If we're supposed to write what we know, I'm afraid I've broken that rule.

Is it intimidating to write about family life? Is it too close to our (my?) hearts to delve into right away. Or are the dramatic possibilities inherent in the gal/guy-on-her/his-own plots too tempting to pass up? Whatever the case, I've got to get over those qualms soon. The heroine of my next WIP is the oldest of thirteen children. And they're ALL making an appearance.

While I'm trying to sort that out, why don't you chime in: Is romance (real and fictional) better when it includes family? Why do so many authors cut the family out of the plot? What's your favorite family in romance?

Note added: check out the review of Lisa Kleypas' Mine Till Midnight at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books here to get Sarah's take on the topic.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

From Friends to Lovers

Recently on Romancing the Blog, Daniela L. posted about a strange, sick trend on Grey's Anatomy. I speak, of course, about the relationship between Izzie and George.

This is especially interesting to me because the Izzie-George tangle is TV's latest attempt to cash in on the "friends to lovers" storyline. This happens to be one of my favorite set-ups in a novel, so it's perhaps not surprising that it's also the set-up for the romance I'm writing. As such, I'm super-sensitive to when it works, and when it doesn't.

Izzie and George don't work, for a number of reasons. First of all, there's the adultery thing. Maybe I'm a prude, but I don't like the glorification of adultery in our media. Secondly, their hook-up corresponds to an unfortunate flattening of the characters from complex and likeable to whiny and somewhat inconsistent. Third, there's the fact that we didn't see a real build-up to this relationship. There was no sexual tension. And is Izzie really over Denny? Is George really over Meredith? Finally, you just don't get the sense that these characters could ever have an HEA. What do they actually do for each other? How do they complement and complete one another? Very, very unclear.

But despite this specific romantic trainwreck, I'd like to think that the "friends to lovers" storyline is one of the most powerful around. Just think about the legendary shenanigans of Rachel and Ross. Even if the constant back-and-forth of their relationship annoyed you, you've got to admit that the initial build-up was fabulous. Think about it: he always had a thing for her, but his underlying character traits made it impossible for him to say anything. You have a little time and distance built into their backstory--both characters went on to find other loves, but at the opening of the show it's clear that Ross's feelings are back, full-strength. The strong friendship between them is one of the attraction points, but it's also one of the conflicts (maybe this is too weird, do I dare risk the friendship, etc). Friends, I feel, also did an absolutely fabulous job of involving the (nosy, delightful) secondary characters in their romance.

Of course, the grand-mommy of all friends-to-lovers relationships would have to be Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe. Who didn't love their courtship in Anne of the Island? I'd say that Anne and Gilbert were my first romance. To use a friend's phrase, Gilbert's my ur-crush. Don't be surprised if Anne and Gilbert get their own post sometime in the near future!

So, what do you think? Does "friends to lovers" work, or am I crazy? If it does work, what are the necessary ingredients--what do you like? What do you hate? And what are amazing examples of the past (movies, books, and TV shows) that you'd recommend to the rest of us?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Autumn Musings (and TV)

Don't you just love autumn? As Tom Hanks said in You've Got Mail, "It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address. On the other hand, this not knowing has its charms."

This is the time of year that I feel most nostalgic for New England. I miss being able to stare at beautiful foliage as I walk to a class I'm not teaching, kicking the hem of my long wool coat as I admire the pumpkins on various Colonial and Victorian porches (sadly, the ranch ramblers and strip malls out here just don't have the same charm).

Of course, there are plenty of autumnal pleasures to be enjoyed indoors, as well. I'm speaking of television premiere season! It's always fun to hunker down for a new season of old favorites. Then, of course, there are all the new shows.

This year, I'm watching Life and Pushing Daisies. I like both of them thus far. For Life, it's mainly because I look at the protagonist and I think, "Yay! Dick Winters! Oh, wait. This is not Band of Brothers." And then I look at Alan Alda and think "Yay! Adam the Alaskan gourmet chef! Oh, wait. This is not Northern Exposure." But I love those two actors and I can't wait to see what they come up with together.

I'm not worried about that show at all. Procedurals are hot right now; Life should find a mainstream audience.

Pushing Daisies, though... well, it has several strikes against it.
(1) It's quirky (and network execs these days don't seem to like quirk).
(2) The Fiancé and I both like it (always a kiss of death).
(3) The cinematography is Technicolor taken to a deliciously lush extreme... I can't imagine that's cheap to film.

I am going to keep my fingers crossed, though. The show feels Tim-Burton-y, it's narrated by Jim Dale, and the supporting cast includes a West Wing alum and an aging, one-eyed synchronized swimmer. What's not to love?

Speaking of love, I want to know what you're enjoying these days. What do you love about fall? What do you think of the new fall line-up? Talk to me, people.