A Interview with Daria Snadowsky - Part 1

As part of an ongoing conversation about sexuality in YA literature, I interviewed author Daria Snadowsky about writing authentic sexualtiy in the YA novel general, and specifically in her own work, Anatomy of a Boyfriend

As a writer, how do you make a scene involving sexuality authentic? Or to put it another way, how does one write sexuality in a realistic, original, and literary way?

I’m not sure if there’s a bright-line rule for how to write a realistic sex scene because it depends so much on the story, the context, the narrator’s voice, etc. In Anatomy of a Boyfriend, realism was easily achievable because Dom, the main character, is an aspiring doctor. Consequently, Dom naturally thinks in clinical terms and describes situations in an open-minded, unbiased way as if she were performing an experiment on herself and penning a lab report. I’m not sure if the scenes would have worked as is had she not been a scientist.

In your opinion, what is the place of realistic sexuality in young adult literature?

I believe all YA literature is an ideal genre to include realistic depictions of sexuality because many YA readers themselves are beginning to have sexual experiences. And even if they’re “late bloomers,” they’re probably still thinking about sex a lot, so it’s important they have outlets to learn more about it. And since young people are often embarrassed to talk about sex with each other or with their parents, books are a wonderful, private way for readers to satisfy their curiosity and find kinships with nonjudgmental characters.

This type of literature is valuable for teens because it presents much-needed unromanticized accounts of the highs and lows of love and sex. When we grow up on fairytales like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, it's perfectly natural for us to expect that our first loves will last forever and that we'll know exactly what to do when the lights dim. In contrast, Anatomy of a Boyfriend shows all the humiliation and disappointment and awkwardness (as well as the magic and wonder and peace) that's part and parcel of falling in love and being intimate.

Could you discuss your thoughts about the level of sexuality and detail you used in your book?

I remember back when I was a teenager, I was naturally very curious about "making out." What happens when? What will I feel? What will he feel? What will I be thinking? How do you do everything? Is it instinctual or is it learned? For better or for worse, so many books "fade to black" after the first kiss, so we never see what happens. Or if they don't, the intimacy is often described in very melodramatic, romanticized or euphemistic terms. And that's just not reality. So in this book, I wanted to demystify in an unabashedly honest, non-threatening and sometimes humorous way what occurs, physically and emotionally, during "hooking up." Judy Blume's Forever (1975) serves that purpose to a large extent, but I wanted to get even more detailed and graphic in Anatomy of a Boyfriend. And since Dom never had a sexual experience before, it makes sense that she goes into such a high level of detail when describing her physical experiences because they’re all so new and unexpected and exciting to her.

The social ramifications of sexuality tend to play a large part in the novel, as well as in many YA novels featuring sexuality. Could you comment on how you handled this in Anatomy of a Boyfriend?

Anatomy of a Boyfriend highlights not just the physical elements of intimacy but also the emotional elements, which, unfortunately, are often left out of sex ed classes in school. Dom’s decision to get physical with Wes didn’t just have physical consequences—it affected how she saw herself and her relationships with her family and friends. The most important line of the book is when she wonders to herself, “How is it that mankind can engineer condoms to prevent pregnancy and STDs but not be able to invent some sort of emotional safeguard? Is it even possible to abstain from falling in love?” Dom’s story demonstrates that although sex carries tons of physical risks, if we're careful, odds are we can avoid them. But there is nothing we can do to ensure we won't fall in love or be heartbroken. So for every line where Dom describes what happens to her sexually, I always followed it with an emotional description, because you can't separate the two.

Can you discuss finding a balance between being authentic and sensational sexuality?

Again, it depends so much on other aspects of the story, but I suppose one thing all authentic sex scenes have in common is that they’re not gratuitous--they service the theme and contribute to the characters’ development. In Anatomy of a Boyfriend, each sex scene depicts a sexual “first” and describes Dom’s reaction to it. We never see Dom and Wes do the same thing twice because it wouldn’t really add anything new and would only slow down the pacing.

Thanks, Daria, for your wonderful comments, and your willingness to contribute them. You are truly is an asset to the YA writing community.


Hector Macdonald said...

Hi Jason

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Best wishes

Hector Macdonald
Editor, Book Drum