Having just hit American shelves, Tara Eglington’s novel How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You is sure to delight fans of “Clueless” and Much Ado about Nothing.
Meet Aurora, the leading lady in How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You. She’s founder of the Find a Prince Program, a future (self-help) author, and a girl with determined to save her first kiss for the right guy. But this – and the relationships of her best friends – are thrown off course when she’s cast opposite Hayden Paris in the school’s rendition of Much Ado about Nothing. Now not only does she have to worry about getting her friends set up with their Princes, Aurora’s worried she’ll lose her first kiss to Hayden, a guy she just knows is not her Prince.
How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You is available now.
Fans of “Clueless,” Emma, and Much Ado about Nothing will probably love How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You. What was your inspiration in Aurora’s story and her Find A Prince Program?
I was a HUGE fan of all three when I was growing up, but the primary inspiration behind How to Keep was actually my teenage diaries. I kept a diary from age 12 to age 22, and just like Aurora, I thought I was an expert on all things love related, despite never having a boyfriend in high school! I would read up on the science of love and attraction, write all about it in my diaries, and would then give out ‘professional’ advice to my friends! Like Aurora, I was also determined to save my first kiss for someone special, and so I had quite a few funny ‘operation stop-kiss’ moments along the way. There may also have been a real life inspiration for the love-hate dynamic between Aurora and Hayden 😉
How to Keep a Boy From Kissing You balances the humor of teen life, like being oblivious to someone who has feelings for you, with the sometimes harsh realities of growing up, like realizing that your parents are only human. It was great to see two very distinct parents in your novel, especially since parents tend to get the boot in (American) YA. Though Aurora’s parental situation was kind of humorous (ie. a NAD), there are a lot of teenagers out there going through similar situations. What do you think the importance is of having parents in YA? What about parents who are just as flawed as the protagonist?
I love featuring parents in YA, especially flawed ones, because I think that a big part of growing up and maturing is realizing that your parents aren’t gods – they’re human, and they make mistakes just like you do. I grew up in a very similar situation to Aurora in that my Mum had left when I was quite young, and my Dad (who is a ‘New Age Dad!’) was the one to raise me. I know when I was growing up, there weren’t many ‘missing mums’ in literature, so when I did find a story that featured a character who’s Mum had left, it meant a great deal to me. I felt less alone. A huge part of my teenage and young adult years was working through tough emotions to order to be at peace with my family situation. So with How to Keep being my first novel (and the natural instinct of a young writer to ‘write what you know’) – Aurora’s dynamic with her mother, and how this impacted upon her other relationships (Hayden etc.) naturally became a major part of the story. It also features very strongly in the sequel to How to Keep (releasing in 2017 with St. Martins).
I loved the variety in personalities between Aurora and her group of friends. How did you decide who Aurora’s friends were and how did you go about crafting their dynamic?
Aurora and her friends became very real to me actually – to the point where when writing scenes, I would feel like I was be standing there, listening to the girls while they laughed and chatted. I came to know what a ‘Jelena’ thing to say was, and what wasn’t. The dialogue between the girls then became quite organic. In terms of the make-up of the group and its members, I think within a friendship group you naturally get a wide range of personalities – louder, more forceful girls (Jelena), to the more dramatic (Sara) to the tried-and-true loyal besties like Cassie. So I consciously chose to create very different personalities – and I think much of the humor in the book came from the different viewpoints of the girls.
I loved writing Jelena the most– I get a lot of comments that she’s too harsh, but I find her hilarious – she’s so over the top, and she speaks before she thinks. You see a lot more of her in the sequel when she runs for school captain, a plot line I had great fun with.
I did a little bit of research and it seems like the majority of Australian schools have uniforms. Was there a reason the kids at Jefferson didn’t wear uniforms?
I get a lot of comments about this one actually, particularly in Australia! I actually attended an arts-focused high school (a ‘Steiner’ school) where we were allowed free dress, so with Jefferson being very theatre-orientated, I pictured the same type of scenario in terms of it being a uniform-free environment.
Were there any scenes that you played up the drama/comedy in to draw parallels to “Clueless” or Much Ado about Nothing?
In terms of Much Ado, definitely! I had a copy of the play right next to my desk when writing, and of course, as the characters rehearsed certain scenes, it would fire up my imagination in terms of what Aurora might say or do, or how Hayden might react to a certain line by Shakespeare. I studied drama at school, and some of my favorite moments to look back on from high school were the crazy antics that would happen around productions – so I wanted to highlight the funny and silly moments that would naturally take place during rehearsal of romantic scenes, or on opening night, for example. The scripted ‘Much Ado’ kiss of course, became a major part of the plot.
Aurora’s determination to find the right guy to share her first kiss with was incredibly sweet. What would you say to teenage girls who are holding steadfast to their beliefs, even though others may think their beliefs are silly or inconsequential?
I think everyone has an inner sense of what feels ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ for them. In Aurora’s case (and in mine) she’s a romantic idealist. For her, that first kiss is something very precious, and saving it for her Potential Prince, is what feels right, even if other people, (or even a few of her friends, like Jelena or Sarah) think it’s silly. It can take a lot of courage to stand firm in your beliefs, and to trust in your own instincts. But the reward is doing so is incredible – it’s a real sense of being at peace with yourself. Remember, only YOU can know what’s best for you.