Ahead of the publication of her brand new LGBT+ rom-com, Robin Talley joins us to discuss how her latest book accidentally ended up in alternate universe…
When I started writing The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre, a rom-com set in the world of high school musical theater, it was 2017, and I thought the world was in a dark place then. Little did I know what 2020 had in store for us all…
Writing The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre
The plot of Love Curse revolves around a group of students putting on a school production of Les Misérables and the romantic dramas of their stage manager extraordinaire, sixteen-year-old Melody McIntyre. Mel tends to have over-the-top relationships and even more over-the-top breakups, and after a split with her most recent ex-girlfriend has nearly catastrophic results on opening night of the fall production of Romeo and Juliet, Mel’s theater crew friends make her promise not to fall in love during the all-important spring musical. Mel, still heartbroken, eagerly agrees, and all seems to be going according to plan — until she meets the girl playing Fantine in Les Mis.
Here’s the catch: Mel’s story needed to take place in a specific time frame. And since the book was coming out in late 2020, I decided to have the characters’ fictional Les Mis production take the stage in May of that year.
A slight problem
You might have already deduced the problem here. In the real world, when May 2020 rolled around, no theatrical productions were happening, high school or otherwise. For that matter, high school itself wasn’t happening.
By the time the pandemic got underway, it was too late for me to change the timeline of the book. My light contemporary romantic comedy had become an alternate-universe speculative-fiction novel in which spring 2020 was just like every spring before it, with no pandemic and no quarantine. All I could do was add a quick author’s note explaining the situation and hope that by the time the book was released — on November 12 in the U.K. and December 1 in the U.S., where I live — the world would be back to normal, musical theater and all.
But now here we are, still waiting for life as we knew it to resume, and for sitting side-by-side in crowded theaters to be safe again.
Like all art forms, theater can be challenging, it can be comforting, it can be unifying, and it can be all of those things. But right now, when I think about how theater makes me feel, the word that comes to mind is uplifting. I cannot wait to sit in a theater again and watch a live performance. I know you can’t either. Maybe that’s when the world will finally start to feel like it’s ours again.
And to all the real-life Melody McIntyres whose theater productions and other school activities were upended by the events of this year — I’m so, so sorry. I know you can never get back all the work and time you put into it, but I also know you did it out of love, and that counts for everything.