by Fae Rowen
Not often, but sometimes I return to my teen experiences to help connect with a past emotion. It helps me get into a deep point of view by remembering something that happened. Since Young Adult Science Fiction is one of the genres I write in, this is a cool trick. But I also use it for my adult science fiction.
I vaguely remember my mother's words when she tried to soothe my first teenage love-gone-wrong.
Puppy love. He didn't deserve you. He lives too far away.
There were a lot more comments ranging from sympathy to aggravation on her part. For my part, I was just miserable.
How did it happen?
I was accepted to a National Science Foundation math program at State Diego State University. The six-week summer course included fifty math students and fifty chemistry students from around the U.S. It was an exciting way to spend the summer between my junior and senior year in high school.
I was in the math program, taking the equivalent of sixteen lower division units and nine upper division units of math and computer science classes from specially selected professors for the program. The female math and chemistry students were housed on the top floor of a dorm at the far end of campus.
The male students were housed in a dorm on the other end of the huge campus. You had to walk past fraternity row to get to the classroom buildings and the guys' dorm. Since the female curfew was 7 p.m., the chem guys, who had no curfew, visited our dorm. Every night. (I'm sorry to say that the math guys stayed in their dorm and did homework.)
Now, I was supposed to be doing tons of homework every night. But the chemistry guys were all so cute, and I didn't ever get to talk to them unless I hung out downstairs in the rec room, which I was happy to do since there was a pingpong table.
Did I mention I'd been playing pingpong every night since my eighth birthday, when my parents gave me a ping pong table for my birthday?
We set it up in our unfinished living room. Every night I'd lose to my father, who never believed in letting me win at any game.
But I got better. Unfortunately he did, too. Finally, I started winning. Sometimes. By that summer, I was unstoppable. In the dorm, the word spread, and every night there was a line of guys waiting to try to defeat me. That's how I met John.
Not John, but a close facsimile...
John was not only a gifted chemistry student, he was on his school's debate team and football team. And he was cute. After a week, he'd be waiting outside my math classroom to walk hand-in-hand with me to lunch and dinner in the cafeteria. When a food fight broke out the third night we were served "mystery meatballs," he shoved me under the table and threw volleys of food across the room until security broke up the fight. Nothing happened to the high school students, but we all got a lecture in our classes the next day.
On week-ends the program took both groups to local points of interest, including the beach. Even though my studies were suffering, I finally got my first kiss. It was so amazing. I don't think it was John's…
We promised to write, and we did. That summer, my family vacation came within a hundred miles of John's hometown. I went on a hunger strike for four days, and my father finally caved and agreed to drop me off at John's house and wait for an hour. I was so excited.
John's mother opened the door and told me John was at football practice. He wouldn't be home for two more hours. When she found out my dad was outside, she invited him in, and gave us something from the kitchen. I don't remember what it was. I was in shock. I don't remember what they talked about, either. It probably wasn't anything good for John and me.
After an hour, my dad and I left. He didn't lecture or tease me.
John's letter arrived in two days. Full of apologies. In a month he'd be traveling five hundred miles to a college two hours away from me for a debate tournament. Could I meet him there?
I talked my dad into letting me take the car there. Alone.
I watched John debate. He was good. He won the tournament. And it was football season. He looked great. But we didn't have that much time to talk and I drove home, feeling sad. I knew my long-distance romance wasn't going to last.
We wrote-not so often-into our freshman year in college, but we were just friends by then. He told me about his girlfriends; I told him about my boyfriend.
With the wisdom of age and experience now, I recognize the bittersweet feeling of loss. I understand that first blush of love—innocent and laced with boundless hope and excitement.
And that's what I relive when writing in my YA voice. I become that girl on the roof of my three-story dorm throwing water balloons at the guys arriving at the dorm. I become the wishful, dewy-eyed innocent wishing for that first kiss—afraid to make the first move because I had no idea what that move should be and, heck, I was a mathematician-in-training. I needed to be able to prove everything was correct before I committed.
Young Adult stories are all about the new emotions, the conflicted yearnings, the fears—if you get what you want AND if you don't get what you want. Yes, it's not easy going back to those times and reliving your own feelings, but that's where your own YA voice is. Reminisce. Dust off your teen voice. Your adult WIP will thank you.
Have you used your own YA experiences in your writing? A riff on them?
Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.
P.R.I.S.M., Fae's debut book, a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, and love is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.Fae's second book in the series will be available for pre-order October 1, 2019.