After reading and loving Leah’s sophomore novel, I was very happy to pick up an advance copy of her third novel, The Romantics, at BEA this year. The Romantics is a new direction for Konen and an excellent choice for anyone who is a fan of romantic comedies (or even a reluctant convert like the novel’s protagonist Gael). I’m thrilled to have Leah back for her second interview here to talk about her latest novel.
MP: What was the inspiration for The Romantics?
LK: I wanted to explore love in all its forms—from romantic to familial to friendship—and there seemed like no better way to do that than from the perspective of Love. Additionally, my deep love of romantic comedies didn’t hurt.
MP: The Romantics is narrated by Love, a self-described non-corporeal entity. Although Love tells the story in a distinct narrative voice (not to mention plays a key role), readers never actually see Love. What was it like writing a story where the narrator is removed from the story in that way? If love were to adopt a human form for a while, what would they look like?
LK: If Love were to adopt a human form, she (or he) would probably be like me, at least in the case of this book. I took my own experience of dating extensively in New York City, plus the experience of being in a five-year relationship with my then-boyfriend (now-husband), as well as anecdotes from friends, and pulled it all into little observations on love and relationships. They’re not by any means perfect or exhaustive, but through Love’s asides and footnotes, I wanted to show the different ways people love each other, the amazing things we feel when we first fall in love, and the positive impact healthy relationships can have on people’s lives.
MP: Like your previous novel, The Last Time We Were Us, The Romantics is set in North Carolina where the Cantina is the site of some important moments including hot sauce theft and a really awkward meeting between Gael and his ex. How did you decide what real locations to feature in this novel?
LK: Unlike in The Last Time We Were Us, which is set in a fictional composite town in North Carolina, The Romantics is set in a very real one that just happens to be where I went to college. To the best of my ability, I chose places that were near and dear to me during those years (and that are still around). Don’t tell Cosmic Cantina, but I may or may not have stolen bottles of hot sauce on occasion.
MP: The Romantics is your second 2016 release (congratulations!). What has it been like having two books coming out so close together? Did your time working on both novels overlap?
LK: Not only did my time working on both novels overlap, but I was also planning a Brooklyn wedding through all of it—it’s a good thing they were both romance books, because I was certainly in the right headspace for it. Needless to say, 2016 has been quite a year, and I’m looking forward to enjoying a bit calmer next year.
MP: The Romantics is your third novel and features a male protagonist–unlucky-in-love Gael. Was getting into Gael’s head any different from writing your earlier novels with female protagonists? Do you share Gael’s enthusiasm and taste when it comes to movies?
LK: I didn’t really approach Gael any differently than any of my characters, but writing through his perspective did make me think about traditional gender roles and how they’re portrayed, particularly in YA. I think a lot of boys and men are far more sensitive than society tells them they should be, and I really enjoyed portraying a non-macho dude. Plus, it was fun to turn some of the romantic comedy tropes on their heads by having a guy take on the traditional romantic role.
Re: movies, I do share his enthusiasm, particularly for Hitchcock, who is my favorite director. His obsession with seventies dramas like Serpico is a nod to my husband’s faves.
MP: During the novel Love describes (via footnotes) various types of people including Romantics, Cynics, Drifters, Serial Monogamists and more. How would Love classify you?
LK: Definitely a Cynic, but I’ve taken on more Romantic tendencies since meeting my husband (cheesy, I know, but true!).
MP: Since The Romantics celebrates love in all its forms, I have to ask: What is your favorite romantic movie or book?
LK: Pride and Prejudice!
MP: Can you tell me anything about your next project?
LK: Yes, it’s about two teens who meet on an Amtrak train in a snowstorm and the whirlwind night they spend together when the train breaks down. It’s inspired by It Happened One Night, one of my favorite romantic comedy movies.
Thanks again to Leah for this fantastic interview.
You can also check out my review of The Romantics.