Stopping by the blog today is the wonderful NA author of the Anatomy of a Boyfriend duology, Daria Snadowsky for an interview about her two novels, Anatomy of a Boyfriend and Anatomy of a Single Girl.
What inspired you to write the Anatomy of a Boyfriend duology?
All young couples in school face a serious dilemma: Either they can try to stay together and see what happens, or else they can break up and get on with their lives with the faith that they’ll get back together when they’re older if they’re really right for each other. Of course the latter option makes a lot more sense… but if you have good chemistry with someone, it’s difficult to imagine breaking up “proactively” even if the timing is bad. And if couples do choose to break up proactively, they face another decision…do they break up right away, or do they stay together and “have fun” until graduation or summer ends or some other major life event separates them? And will staying together make breaking up even harder? Etc. So I wanted to portray this kind of crossroads in YA novels.
Your books are so frank and honest when it comes to sex, educational without coming across authoritative. You go into a lot more detail about the realities of sex than other teen novels I've read. Your novels wouldn't give any unrealistic expectations of sex, either. Was it important to you to be so informative?
Yes. Reality doesn’t fade to black after a kiss, and while getting intimate can be wonderful and magical, it can also be awkward, embarrassing, disappointing, painful, surprising, and hilarious. And since my main aim was realism, it was important to show the good, bad, and everything in between. Judy Blume’s Forever… was my model of how to be graphic without gratuitous, and sexy without sensationalized.
Not only do your novels inform readers, but through Dom, you show that discovering and exploring your sexuality is not only something girls shouldn't be ashamed of, but praised and encouraged within the boundaries of what's right for them. It's not that often that you'll read a teen novel where a single girl is having sex and isn't judged for it, or isn't going through some issue she's trying to escape from with sex. Anatomy of a Single Girl is the only teen novel I've read that says there's nothing wrong with casual sex.
I didn’t want Dom to struggle with whether casual sex is right or wrong on principle but rather whether casual sex is right or wrong for her personally. And the answer may change depending on her age, emotional state, the guy, etc. And in the process, Dom becomes more in tune with what she wants and needs and what works for her, free of any societal expectations or preconceived notions.
In teen novels aimed at boys, talk of "wanking" or "jerking off" is quite prevalent, no-one bats an eyelid, and is sometimes something to laugh about. However, female masturbation is virtually unheard of. Other than your two novels, which discuss female masturbation as the perfectly normal thing that it is, the only other book I know of that discusses masturbation is Deenie by Judy Blume - which originally came out in 1973. Why do you think we read so little of female masturbation in teen fiction? Why is it such a taboo subject?
I’m really not sure why it’s not talked about as much, but I think it’s getting less taboo. Sex and the City—about thirty-somethings—was open about it. Now Girls—about twenty-somethings—is open about it. And teen girl characters discussed it in American Pie. Hopefully the stigma will lift soon.
I've read in previous books about girls going to get themselves tested for STIs, but Anatomy of a Single Girl is, again, the only book I've read that goes into detail of what a gynaecology exam entails. You don't sugar-coat things, but you don't give horror stories either. Sexual health and keeping yourself protected is a topic that runs through both your books. It's obviously something you feel very strongly about.
It’s important young people realize that HPV shots and condoms don’t protect against everything, and that it’s still possible to transmit STIs without going all the way. That fact is often glossed over in mainstream entertainment, so it was important to me to address all these issues, even if it’s in a funny and light-hearted way.
What research did you do for your novels? Was there anything that surprised you?
Neither book required much research since so much of the action goes on inside Dom’s head, though the character of Guy in Anatomy of a Single Girl is in a frat, so I did some online research as to what goes on during pledge week. That was definitely eye-opening.
What do you think about how teen fiction deals with sex, generally?
I’m no authority on teen fiction, but from what I’ve read, the trend is definitely towards realism, at least in contemporary fiction. It goes without saying that’s a good thing for everybody.
Can we hope you'll write books of a similar style from a boy's point of view?
I briefly considered writing Anatomy of a Boyfriend from Wes’s point of view, but I think that would limit the book’s universality. In Anatomy of a Boyfriend, Wes is the every-guy, and Dom never knows what he’s thinking or what his motivations are, which is in part what makes the book easy to identify with. If I fill in all the details from Wes’s POV, then the book becomes specifically about Dom and Wes as opposed to any girl and any guy.
Anything else you would like to add?
In both Anatomy books, I made sure to couple every physical description of sex with an emotional one, even during parts where Dom was trying not to think and just let her body go. I believe that’s imperative when writing sex in YA lit in order to sustain the realism and to keep the story relatable.
Thank you, Daria, for such a great interview! What do you think about the points Daria raised?
Check out my reviews of Anatomy of a Boyfriend and Anatomy of a Single Girl, and be sure to visit Daria's website.