We’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but it’s hard not to with Charvet Clark’s Kiss Kiss For Real, which sports one of my favorite covers ever. Colorful and whimsical, it fits this young-adult romance to a T. The book features a “feisty good girl” and an “unattainable bad boy” and is a “swoony roller coaster of a fun time.” What more can a reader of YA literature ask for? Like most other folks featured in my interviews, I’ve never met Charvet in real life, but she says that “in her spare time, she avidly reads, endlessly day-dreams, agonizes over her writing, and, as a result, probably isn’t quite the domestic goddess she could be.” Domestic goddess, I am not; thus I’m certain we could easily be fast friends! Writing isn’t the only task Charvet has on her plate, so I’m grateful she had time to answer my questions.
Christina: Congrats on the publication of Kiss Kiss For Real, which is your debut YA romance. What is it about the romance genre that compels you to write it?
Charvet: I think that there are a lot of people that love the feeling of falling in love—those giddy, swoony moments of attraction and emotional connection that you feel physically, and I’m one of them. It’s fun and lifts your mood probably because it’s releasing feel-good chemicals in our brains. I just love love, especially when it’s accompanied by a happy ending, which defines the romance genre in a nut-shell. I think I also like that in order to be considered romance there absolutely has to be a happily ever after (HEA) or it’s not a romance book. Knowing that whatever happens in the story that we the reader is put through emotionally, we can look forward to knowing it’s gonna have a happy ending no matter what. Wouldn’t it be nice if life was predictable that way? I think that’s why romance is such a huge genre—sometimes we’re looking for guaranteed happiness—however fleeting, which in this case can be found in feel-good romance books. I like creating that feel-good feeling and sharing the happiness with others.
Christina: The book takes place in 1991/1992, which, if you can believe this, is already thirty years ago! What about that era made it part of the perfect setting for this story?
Charvet: Well, they say write what you know, and I was there in junior high right during that time period. As my daughter has gotten older and asked about my experiences with boys when I was a teen, she’s realized that nothing has changed in the last twenty-five to thirty years. I think I wanted to show that, too. That regardless of era, the human drive to seek love and acceptance is ageless, timeless and something we can all relate to. I also miss the 1980’s and 1990’s in that there was so much color-blindness. There was a huge effort in the entertainment industry to focus on what made us the same in the best of ways, not what made us different. I miss that solidarity.
Christina: Diana Prescott and Rico Alvarez are the main characters of the book. Tell us a little bit about them. Did they come to you in pieces or fully formed? Did anything surprise you about these characters as you wrote their story?
Charvet: I’d say that Rico was pretty much based on two different boys I went to school with and was sort of friends/acquaintances with. I did live next door to one. Diana is a combination of myself and the girl I wished I was. As-far-as any surprises from them—no, not that I can think of. I’m happy to say that this story was kind of a one-off in that when I had this story idea, the characters showed up pretty much fully formed and I ran with it. That doesn’t always happen with the other stories I’ve written that I’m still working on.
Christina: The #KK4R playlist includes such gems as Freedom ‘90 by George Michael and Groove is in the Heart by Deee-Lite. How difficult was it to narrow down the songs to a list of twenty-six? Which song represents the book or the characters the most?
Charvet: There are several songs that represent Diana’s personality and her feelings, Rico’s personality, reputation and his attitudes, the evolution of their relationship, and the era. If I had to choose, the best songs that represent Kiss Kiss For Real as a whole would be “I’ll Be There” by Mariah Carey and “Rush Rush” by Paula Abdul. And choosing songs wasn’t hard since there are so many awesome tunes from that time and I had free reign to choose as few or as many as I wanted. I did take care to not choose songs that weren’t appropriate for a younger audience with the exception of “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J. It just fit Rico and some of the situations that presented themselves to him.
Christina: In a blog post you wrote: “You have no idea what kind of impact you might have on someone else, how your life experiences might help someone even if it’s just to give them a laugh and some reassurance that they’re not the only one who’s ever experienced whatever it is that you’ve candidly shared with them.” What sort of positive impact do you hope your writing makes on someone?
Charvet: I hope the feelings and struggles that my characters go through are relatable to readers and that they realize they’re not alone in those insecurities or thought processes or whatever. I hope my characters and their stories inspire readers to look at the world or a life situation differently, or try something new. I hope they’re inspired to grow and change for the better and to remember that growth hurts and it’s messy, but is still needed and a good thing.
Christina: Like you, I ignored the call of writing for too long. If you had your life to do over again, would you listen to the teachers who told you to write and go into the profession sooner? Or have your experiences in other realms shaped you as a writer?
Charvet: I think I’d say I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. I do wish I’d pursued writing sooner. But I trust that it’s happened in my life this way for a reason—there’s a purpose that hasn’t quite revealed itself to me yet. I find that exciting, so I’m not going to waste my time regretting that I didn’t start trying to be a professional writer sooner. I’m just gonna keep doing my thing and see what the Lord does with it.
Christina: Learning about authors’ animals is so fun. You live with “two big dorky dogs, a diva rescue rabbit, and one intense crazy black cat,” who sound like they have big personalities of their own. Can you tell us a little bit about these animal friends?
Charvet: Well, a typical day of writing consists of me sitting in the house alone with the joyous silence I need to concentrate, only to have it shattered multiple times a day by two silly dogs that need to get into bark fights with the dog next door at least three times a day, loudly protect their domain from anything like viciously taunting squirrels to innocent neighbors getting their daily walk in, to defending the realm from hot air balloons head-checking our roofline.
The cat is easily spooked in some of these circumstances and not so much in others, and acts very dog-like in the meantime. So basically my day consists of getting up to let the dogs out, settling back in to continue working only to get right back up when they get crazy loud outside, or the cat deciding on a whim that I don’t need my arms to type—they only exist to hold him on an as-needed basis. I really should get one of those t-shirts that says I was late because the cat was sitting on me. It would be accurate more often than not.
Our little rabbit lives in our daughter’s room, so I get to see her on a visitation basis. Her office hours are mornings and evenings, but not during the day or she will chase you for waking her up and nip your feet, mercilessly drawing blood on occasion. She’ll also decide if you’re worth acknowledging based on the peace offerings you present when in her presence. Her love languages are gifts and quality time, otherwise you’re on her crap-list for a while. I jokingly refer to her as The Goddess for a reason.
As annoying and rambunctious as our pets can all be, I wouldn’t change anything except the bark-fights. Our neighbor’s dog is really sweet and they’d all probably have a lot of fun playing together if the fence wasn’t there!
Thanks to Charvet for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.