A really popular book panel from San Diego Comic Con 2013 was the female fantasy panel titled ‘When Girls Fall in Love.” Moderated by the hilarious Sherri Smith, author of ‘Orleans’, the panel consisted of some superstar YA fantasy authors: Veronica Wolff (The Watchers series), Lissa Price (‘Starters’), Marissa Meyer (‘Cinder,’ ‘Scarlet’), Holly Black (‘Coldest Girl in Cold Town’, the Curseworkers series), Veronica Roth (the Divergent series), and Ally Condie (the Matched series).
The first question up for the panelists was about the battle of romance vs survival and which comes first. Wolff started by saying that she’s known for mostly writing adult romance novels, so romance always comes first for her. Price said that the concept for the world came first, but romance is key to the book. There’s not a lot of romance, but it’s integral to the story. Meyer says that romance was a catalyst from the start, but in book two of her series she wove it in separately. Black’s upcoming book is based on a short story, so world was established already. But without the romance, the story is so much bleaker; she says it’s also about finding someone who understands your jagged places. Roth said the main relationship in her series is a way to move the plot forward, and that so much changes regarding both in book two. Condie finished it up with saying that the premise of her books came from the question “what if prom were evil?” There’s an assumption of romance that isn’t always there. But without the romance in her stories, it would be a different book because it drives what happens. Plus, romance takes the edge off in heavy stories.
The next question was well put: all the women in these books are strong; how do the writers make her weak in the knees without making her weak? Roth says that in her upcoming book three there was some good imagery, thinking of the love interests as a collision of hard objects, and sparks fly. They don’t need rescued; they are two independent equals who collide. Meyer stated that equality is a huge thing in romance, asking what are the female character’s strengths and weaknesses, and saying that hopefully she’ll find someone who compliments her. Wolff says that her main character starts weak and grows strong, and she excavates that strength with the help of love.
Of course no panel with this set of authors would be complete without wondering about the love triangle. The moderator approaches it by asking which world would you want to be in? The guys are a guide to that world. How did the authors choose which one? Condie says that when one guy is better, it’s easy. But when both men have value, which provides angst, it’s much more interesting. She actually divided her husband’s good qualities into each of the two male characters. Price says that she put a person from life into a character, which helped. Wolff cracked up the audience by saying that her love triangle was based on experience. She continued by saying that it’s fun to play with the idea of friend vs hottie, and letting the protagonist decide.
The last question from the moderator was regarding believability in YA romance. In both YA and romance novels plotting is fast. How do they make things plausible? Meyer suggested putting them into dramatic situations, and sparks will fly. Black also talked about taking the characters to a different situation to trigger them, though there are always those people who meet and have an instant connection.
That was all from the moderator, and a few common audience questions rounded out the hour. As far as panels went, this was one of my favorites. There was a lot of laughing, insightful questions, and thoughtful answers. Every single one of these authors is excellent, I’d recommend you check them all out. Want more? Stay tuned, in the near future we’ll be posting an audio interview I conducted live at SDCC with both Marissa Meyer and Leigh Bardugo (author of ‘Shadow and Bone’ and ‘Siege and Storm’) talking about their series. Stay tuned!