The Bella writers are a tight-knit group, and we’re lucky for that! Sharing thoughts, working through writing issues, laughing about our foibles, we get the chance to lean on each other and learn too. The following is a discussion between authors Jaime Clevenger and Laina Villeneuve about their latest releases and the common threads they share.
Jaime Clevenger: Since there are not many lesfic romances with kids playing a role in the plot, I found it interesting that both of our books had this as a component.
Laina Villeneuve: I was surprised by that, too! I absolutely adored Carly and Bryn in Three Reasons to Say Yes, but they certainly complicate Reed’s life and availability as a romantic interest. Did Reed have children from the beginning of your book’s conception?
Jaime: From the start, I knew this story was about falling for someone with kids. Reed is not a typical mom and she challenges the stereotype of “mother” by being butch and having had an unusual path to parenthood. I won’t go into details on that last bit as some of the storyline involves uncovering why and how Reed becomes a mom, but suffice it to say, when Julia meets Reed, kids are part of the package.
Laina: How did you decide how many kids to give Reed and how old to make them?
Jaime: My sister is a single mom by choice and when her twins were toddlers, we had a conversation about dating where she admitted that she’d stopped looking for that special someone. But she wasn’t sad about it. She was satisfied as a mom and surrounded by kid love. I like to imagine that Reed is in a similar place when she meets Julia. She might flirt with the idea of romance, but she’s realistic. Giving Reed twins, and preschoolers at that, meant that her plate was full. She doesn’t have time to date and certainly isn’t desperate for love.
Not to give too much away, but in your book I loved the scenes in Kat’s Nine Lives with Kat playing guitar with her son and I was so glad that Wendy got a chance to see Kat in this role. What drew you to having Kat’s family (and the conflict they bring) as a key element to the story?
Laina: That happened in the brainstorming off the title. I knew I wanted Kat to have eight distinct identities and that the book would explore her establishing a new life following her divorce. So she’s been a wife and mother. There’s two, but I had her living with her parents because being a daughter still has a strong claim on her life.
I liked how both Reed and Julia are still connected to their families. It seems like a lot of lesfic has estranged or absent parents. Do you think our protagonists having children brings extended family into the mix?
Jaime: Interesting question. I think kids definitely can bridge family divides. In your story, Kat moves back in with her parents partly because she has a son to take care of and not many other options. But this also gives her the opportunity to work on old issues between her and her parents, right? In my story, Reed moves to be closer to her father so that he could have a relationship with his grandkids, but Julia is just one of those people with a strong connection to her parents. This is partly because she’s an only child and she feels like she needs to take care of them but also because her parents accepted her being gay. I wanted a family dynamic where the parents were proud of their gay daughter.
I love the emotional connections (and complications) you give your characters. In this story in particular, I appreciated that both Kat and Wendy have baggage. Do you feel closer to one of these characters because of their baggage?
Laina: Ah, yes. There are issues Kat has to confront with her parents in order for her to establish herself as her own entity. I loved that Julia’s parents are proud of their gay daughter, that it’s not an issue. I see that with Wendy and her parents as well. For Kat, the issue of sexuality is complicated by her family’s history. In a way, her mom is over-supportive which creates a different kind of conflict. Am I closer to one? That’s a tough question, maybe because you asked about baggage, and I see Kat as having more. Kat is really the center of the book, even when it moves to Wendy’s POV, so I do feel closer to her character.
Jaime: What is your favorite part of creating a new novel? Do you go straight for outlining the plot or do you build the setting? Or is your process more character driven?
Laina: My books have all started with setting, and the small towns I’ve chosen in the past made for a very different experience. Setting a book in Southern California gave me so much more freedom. I started this book with Kat living with her parents again primed for a new trajectory. I knew I wanted Kat’s love interest to be someone affiliated with weddings, and my favorite part of writing this book was getting to know Wendy and seeing what she brought out in Kat.
I’m guessing starting Three Reasons to Say Yes with your characters on vacation gave you a lot of freedom. Was it difficult to write once your characters were home?
Jaime: It was! After I finished the section in Hawaii, reality hit. Julia never imagined being attracted to a mom. Kids aren’t something she’s wanted or even considered. So, now what do you do if you’ve fallen for a mom and vacation’s over? As Julia goes through a process of warming up to Carly and Bryn (Reed’s kids), I wanted to present parenthood realistically without glossing over the challenges it presents to real romance. But I also hoped readers would fall for Reed and her kids in the same way that Julia does.
Laina: I loved that you didn’t gloss over the challenges. The breakfast scenes were especially fun to read! I sure fell for both Reed and her twins and am sure other readers will, too!
Jaime: Thank you–and thank you for writing Kat’s Nine Lives. I love stories with interesting complicated characters who find their happy ever after!
Three Reasons to Say Yes is available now. Kat’s Nine Lives comes out October 15th.