So the question of the Hour: Do Boys Like Sam Really Exist?
Minus the werewolf bit.
This is a question I get asked a lot at school visits and in my email, and I decided, it's time to talk about it. Young love, I mean, in general, and Samlike guys in specific. Because it seems to me that when you write romances aimed at teenagers and up, you need to be sure of what you're talking about before you write them. I don't think it does any good to send out a falsely rosy picture to teens. So. Here it is. My views on Young Love.
First of all, I think it does exist. I met my husband when I was 19, and I knew. Let me tell you, I knew. We were engaged in a month and a half. My parents were understandably unhappy about their previously non-dating daughter suddenly getting engaged and were very dismissive of my declarations of true love. They didn't believe me, and this created a huge rift. Do I think that every relationship started when you're a teen is The One True Love? No. Do I think it's entirely possible? Yes. Depending on how mature you are, if it's the right time/ place -- why not? The only important thing, as I see it, is that you've become that core person of who you're going to be. You're no longer easily swayed by the world's external influences: parents, friends, peer pressure. You've become you. Some people are that person at 17. Some people aren't that person until they're 30.
Second of all, Sam. I put out feelers in my Twitter and Facebook, asking people if they believed that Sam-boys existed in real life. After a few cynics pronounced that Sams were gay, and some other doubters who just didn't think that boys like that existed, period, we started getting into the good stuff -- piles of people who had met their husbands when they were Grace's age, people who knew Sams, girls who were dating Sams, people who had loved and lost Sams. I wasn't surprised because I based Sam on a variety of people in real life. Maybe they didn't all read Rilke and play guitar and turn into werewolves, but they did similar things. They were creative, sensitive, thoughtful, shy. Loyal, loving. What breaks my heart is to read the replies from girls who say that they wished that guys like Sam really existed -- guys who were crazy about the girls they love. And they do. It makes me sad that people would settle for less -- both guys and girls.
Third of all, Sam again. I get emails from folks who are 12-15 and they say that their boyfriends are unhappy with being compared with Sam in SHIVER. Or they say their boyfriends aren't like Sam. Well, they won't be. All the things that make Sam Sam need time. The thing that girls seem to like most about Sam -- his devotion -- shouldn't be expect in a 14 year old, in my opinion. Sam is 18 going on 19 and he's also a very old 18 because of his life. He's ready for commitment and knows who he is far more than someone four or five years younger. SHIVER couldn't happen if Grace and Sam were 14 and 15. It shouldn't happen. Dating is wildly different when you're that age -- independence makes a big difference.
Fourth, would you know a Sam if you saw him? When I wrote SHIVER, I wanted it to portray a love that could actually happen, between a normal girl and a normal guy, not a super-sexy-hot-werewolf-who-also-bench-presses-hundreds-of-pounds-with-his-pinky-finger. So Sam was meant to be understated, loyal, uncertain, unsure. Grace says when she first met him she might have walked past him in the hall without thinking. Love makes people beautiful to us. I see a lot of girls dating guys based purely on looks, when the sweet, loyal, perfect guy for them is right there -- but without shining Prince Charming locks or maybe he's wearing a faded Metallica t-shirt or maybe he's just a little chubby or possibly he is really, really trying hard to get rid of that acne. Looks change. The heart stays the same.
Fifth, and wow is this getting long, belief. I think true love comes if you believe in it. If teens get nothing else from SHIVER, I hope they get this: that if you are open to love and are willing to settle for nothing less than someone who is completely into you and just you, who respects you for who you are, who is happy with your boundaries and interested in keeping you happy, you will find it. I want every teen who reads SHIVER to settle for nothing less than a relationship with that kind of equality and respect. Because you'll get what you demand, and if you go into it knowing that sort of love is possible -- well, you're a heckuva lot more likely to get it. It kills me when I meet teen girls who are dating some jerk who is less than respectful of them or who is making them do things they aren't ready for or who is disinterested or condescending. Real love lets you be the person you're meant to be. It makes you a bigger person, not less of one.
Sixth. So this. Yes. My answer is yes. Sams are out there. Young love is a real thing. It is not for everyone, but it's also not a rare thing only found in novels. This is the reason why I write YA romance. Because real teens are falling in real love every day, and someone ought to tell their story.
I was one of them.
/ maggie out.
ETA: Me and mine in Bologna, Italy, last month.