Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Guest Post: Author Robin Constantine

Wren Caswell is average. Ranked in the middle of her class at Sacred Heart, she’s not popular, but not a social misfit. Wren is the quiet, “good” girl who's always done what she's supposed to—only now in her junior year, this passive strategy is backfiring. She wants to change, but doesn’t know how.

Grayson Barrett was the king of St. Gabe’s. Star of the lacrosse team, top of his class, on a fast track to a brilliant future—until he was expelled for being a “term paper pimp.” Now Gray is in a downward spiral and needs to change, but doesn’t know how.

One fateful night their paths cross when Wren, working at her family’s Arthurian-themed catering hall, performs the Heimlich on Gray as he chokes on a cocktail weenie, saving his life literally and figuratively. What follows is the complicated, awkward, hilarious, and tender tale of two teens shedding their pasts, figuring out who they are—and falling in love.
The Siren Song of Bad Boys
Confession: I love bad boys. When I was ten years old, a mom and her two teenage sons moved into the second floor apartment of the house next door. The boys were too old to hang out with the kids on the block, so we never really got to know them, only saw them coming and going but something about them seemed troubled.
The brothers had epic yelling matches that would sometimes end up turning physical on their front lawn. There were also riffs between mother and sons, which would inevitably end up with one of boys barreling out of the house, cursing. The younger of the two brothers had unruly brown hair, wore a bomber jacket and walked with what I can only describe as a determined swagger whenever he left the house.
I was smitten.
I don’t know why. Maybe because he was so different from my parochial school, white bread life. Maybe I wondered what it was that troubled him so much. Maybe I just liked the way he looked. Whatever the reason, any time I could steal a glance at this exotic, jean clad, teenage creature as he sauntered up the street…I would. Where was he going? Who did he hang out with? Why did he fight so much? He never even said hello to me.
One night his mom fell asleep with a cigarette in her hand, igniting the bed, but thankfully not hurting anyone or setting the house on fire. The gossip in the neighborhood was that she’d been drunk at the time. They left the burnt, powder blue mattress by the curb on garbage day. Shortly after, they moved out. My ten-year-old heart still wonders what happened to them after they left.
I got another dose of bad boys in Freshman Lit when we read S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, which is pretty much a bad-boy-a-palooza. Oh, and the movie. Matt Dillon as Dallas Winston? Hot. A police record a mile long. Loyal to his friends. And that pout? When Cherry said “I could fall in love with him” – Yep, I totally understood.
So it may come as a surprise to some readers that I don’t think of Grayson Barrett as a bad boy. I mean, he is, sort of – but I don’t like to pigeonhole him like that. When I was workshopping The Promise of Amazing with my critique group, I remember some of the first critiques kept mentioning ‘bad boy’ Grayson. And all I could think was “Don’t label him.” A hurt boy. A misguided boy. A boy who doesn’t think before he acts sometimes, but not all bad.
I adore Grayson. He’s unlike any character I’ve ever written. He’s a colossal jerk at times, but he knows it. More than once, it felt like I was writing myself into a corner with his actions but it was always fun figuring a way out. What I love most about Grayson is his humanness - his love for his father, his desire to be a better person, his ability to go after and fight for what he wants and the fact he wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to Wren. Those attributes don’t sound bad to me at all.
Why are we so quick to judge someone? The truth is all of us have the capacity to be both good and bad. That bad boy neighbor of mine? I suspect he really wasn’t that bad. The burnt mattress at the curb must have humiliated him, maybe his family as well. What if when he left his house he was heading to the library or a movie and not to the bay to drink with his friends as I had suspected? And even if he had been drinking at the bay…does it make him a bad person?
No. It makes him human.
The allure of a bad boy is undeniable. Bad boys are flawed, sure. That alone makes them interesting, different. Bad boys live out loud and who doesn’t want to do that, at least some of the time? What better place than in the safety of a fictional word can you get a dose of bad boy, without it really disrupting your life? If someone can be so…bad…isn’t there a chance that at the heart of it, there is some good? That what it comes down to is that they are passionate about life, even if at times that
passion is misdirected?
These are the reasons why I think the bad boy trope continues to be popular, but most of all?
When a bad boy smiles…oh, hot damn, there’s nothing like it.
How about you?
About the Author:
Robin Constantine is a born and bred Jersey girl who moved down South so she could wear flip-flops year round. She spends her days dreaming up stories where love conquers all, well, eventually but not without a lot of peril, angst and the occasional kissing scene.

Her YA debut, THE PROMISE OF AMAZING, will be released on December 31, 2013 by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

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