Writing An Unconventional Love Story In Young Adult Fiction, a guest post by Kate Stollenwerck￼
My debut novel, Hello, Goodbye, has many elements at play— adventure, mystery, humor, and romance—but, at its core, lies a love story. But the great love of this tale isn’t romantic love, but rather the pure, unconditional love shared between a grandparent and grandchild.
I first had the idea for this love story over twenty years ago, shortly after my paternal grandmother passed away. She was so meaningful in my life, and I wanted to craft a story that captures the beauty and timelessness of the grandparent/grandchild connection. A grandparent’s love does not falter; it does not disappear overnight like romantic love so often can. It endures. It deepens. We may have limited time with our grandparents, but their impact and love remain imprinted on our hearts.
I wrote the first chapter of this story, got stuck, and life moved on, but the story didn’t. As I navigated through my twenties and thirties, that single-chapter manuscript traveled from apartment to apartment, crossed state lines, and shuffled through a few more homes until it settled in the linen closet of my current home. The story then sat on the closet shelf and gathered dust for the next ten years.
By the time I was finally ready to write this story, I had moved from a woman in her twenties to a woman in her mid-forties. I was now a woman who had lost all her grandparents, a woman who had children of her own, a woman who had suffered a health crisis and had lost dear friends to illness. I was now firmly planted in the “in-between”—no longer young, but not quite old, straddling the two generations, linking my own children—my present—to the hands of my parents—my past.
Watching my parents and in-laws become loving anchors in my children’s lives stirred something inside me. We all looked different in this new light: my parents and in-laws demonstrating a softer, more tender side to themselves than I had ever seen. And we all transformed into better versions of ourselves in our new roles. We evolved. We grew. I witnessed something profound and powerful as I watched people moving toward the end of their lives, gently guiding those beginning their journey. I was filled with gratitude that these four adults loved my children so much and cared so deeply for their well-being because as a parent, you want people to love your children. What greater gift can another person give?
But all good things must end, or at least they do when a pandemic breaks out.
March 2020 arrived, and all our lives came to a screeching halt; the weeks and months that followed were filled with uncertainty and fear.
Our full and busy lives shut down, and, out of caution, we were separated from the vulnerable, including our beloved grandparents. As we lived in isolation, connections were cut. We were stranded on islands, away from those we loved most. My children no longer had a multi-generational relationship in their lives. Sure, we tried Facetime, but my kids aren’t great at it. With limited attention spans, they’re easily distracted, and it didn’t help that we had so little to talk about other than worrying about getting Covid. We were living in a holding pattern, circling in the air above what used to be our lives.
Six months passed and the pain of not seeing my parents and extended family became acute, growing into a cancer of sadness. Would I ever see my parents again? Would my children remember their grandparents? How much connection were we all losing?
In September 2020, I bottled up all this pain and longing and started writing about what I missed and valued in my grandmothers. I wrote a story to reflect on all that I felt so intensely was missing from our lives. And as I wrote this love story of a granddaughter falling in love with her grandmother and a grandmother demonstrating her unconditional love for her granddaughter, I taught myself the lesson our two heroines teach each other: some loves are so strong, and some people have such an impact on our lives that neither distance, time, nor even death can break the bonds formed. Our hearts don’t forget.
After two years apart, the longest I had gone in my entire adult life without seeing my parents, our long-awaited reunion finally happened. My kids raced into the loving arms of their grandparents, embracing them like soldiers returning from war. Because we had been to war, and we had lost so much.
As I stood there taking it all in, I was struck by the overwhelming sense of one of the great Covid lessons: we need each other. We need to see each other, touch each other, fall into another’s arms, and be smothered with kisses. So many unspoken words pass in these quiet moments. We need to take the time to sit and talk, to listen, help, and love. The power of human connection is the journey I set my heroine, Hailey, out to discover. Her grandmother is no longer a busy, overscheduled, overworked adult. She has time for Hailey, and, more importantly, makes time for Hailey. They sit and talk. They share their lives and deepest secrets, and they both grow and learn.
Grandparents connect us to the past; their stories are our stories. They are a treasure in a child’s life; it is a relationship to cherish and honor. As Gigi and Hailey show us, you are never too old or too short on time to deeply impact another person’s life.
Great love stories don’t always need a prince and princess riding on a white horse off into the sunset together. Maybe they need a grandmother and granddaughter cruising in a convertible, singing Beatles songs as their hair blows in the wind.
Meet the author
Kate, a fifth-generation Texan, was born and raised in Dallas. She graduated from Northwestern University and the University of Texas at Austin School of Law. Kate resides in Florida with her husband, three children, and a crazy cat. Hello, Goodbye is her first novel.
About Hello, Goodbye
Fifteen-year-old Hailey Rogers is sure her summer is ruined when her parents tell her she has to spend a few days a week, every week, helping her grandmother, Gigi. Although Gigi only lives across town, Hailey never sees her and knows little about her. But Gigi is full of surprises—and family secrets. Throw in the gorgeous boy down the street, and Hailey’s ruined summer might just be the best of her life.
Then tragedy strikes, lies are uncovered, and Hailey’s life suddenly falls apart. After unearthing clues in an old letter written by her great-grandfather, she takes off on a road trip to solve the family mystery with the only person she can trust. In a forgotten Texas town, the past and the present collide—and Hailey is forced to choose what she truly values in life.
Publication date: 08/02/2022
Age Range: 12 – 14 Years
Filed under: Guest Post
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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