Elle Gonzalez Rose is a television producer and author of the debut YA novel Caught in a Bad Fauxmance. The book releases today from Joy Revolution, a BIPOC YA-focused imprint under Random House Children’s Books cofounded by authors and married couple Nicola and David Yoon. We invited Rose to speak with the Yoons about the inspiration for her book, favorite rom-com tropes, and why romance can be revolutionary.
David Yoon: We’re super excited for your book. For me, the pages just turn themselves. The setting, the conflict; it’s just fun. What inspired you to write these two characters in a summer lake vacation setting and a revenge plot with all the hijinks and shenanigans?
Elle Gonzalez Rose: It came from two different places. I knew I wanted to write this very self-indulgent story that was full of all my favorite tropes, like fake dating and rivals to lovers. I think these tropes in particular are always just so fun on their own. But when you bring them together, it’s maximum chaos. I kind of wanted to play in that space. I wrote it during the summer. I had watched Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and then gone on vacation. That setting, surrounded by a lake in the Poconos, was where it kind of came together, this concept of families that hate each other at a lake. I watched it work [in the movie], and I thought they’re onto something here. I went to the lake in the Poconos and saw this as a real thing. People have family houses here, and they come for winters and summers, which was such a foreign concept to me as someone who’s a city kid. They had photos on the walls of the different families that come year after year. They make their own little community. And that’s when I realized, like, this is just such a fun place to be, especially when you’re doing all the lake activities. This place had archery and canoeing, and all these different water sports. It was ripe for chaos and competition.
David: Why rom-coms?
Rose: That’s something that it took a long time to allow myself to love. Especially when you study creative writing in an educational setting, there’s not a lot of room for love sometimes. But I’ve always been so drawn to it: writing scenes where a character falls in love with someone and feels loved and appreciated by someone else, and romantic gestures. It’s always been something that I find so much joy in writing, because it’s fun and happy.
Nicola Yoon: David and I met in graduate school, and one of the first things we noticed about each other is that we are both such romantic goobers. We love rom-coms: movies, books, all of it. But it’s true to say in creative writing school, there’s this idea that there’s only one kind of writing that counts. In the culture at large, though, romance is the biggest of the genres. Is that why you felt like you had to allow yourself to write it?
Rose: Yes, and I’ve been writing romance even when I didn’t realize it was romance. When I was in college, I tried not just doing romance, but it did have this element of humor to it. It felt like it would sometimes get shot down, because it seemed everything has to have meaning. I’m always open about the fact that I’m Puerto Rican. It felt like what my writing professors were more interested in were stories of trauma and pain and things like that, and it felt so exploitative to only write from that perspective. Sometimes it would feel like this pressure to present an experience that matches what people’s expectations are.
Nicola: That’s the whole mission of Joy Revolution, to show the full breadth of your humanity.
Rose: Exactly. I wanted to write a queer Latine love story that was not about being queer or Latine. They just are. Not even thinking about it, I used the phrase, “Sometimes joy can be a revolution.” That was all that I wanted with this book, which is why I feel so grateful that this is where this book landed, because that was my intention the entire time I was writing it.
David: You said these are two of your favorite tropes. But when I was reading the book, I didn’t even feel the tropes because the writing was fun. You could pitch it as enemies to lovers, but that only tells a fraction of the story. How do you write about tropes without it feeling trope-y?
Rose: I think it’s about building it out and making the circumstances around it feel original, which is something that I wanted to do with this story. I had a really cool setting. When I knew I wanted to write rivals to lovers plus fake dating, it’s like, “Well, how does this kind of set itself apart?” I knew what it was as soon as I came up with the family aspect. That was already different. Usually in rivals to lovers or fake dating, it feels a little more central to the main characters. I wanted to bring it outwards. Especially with rivals to lovers, I think that getting families involved makes it seem higher stakes. It’s outside of their bubble like this. I think it’s all about building the world and making it bigger than just their little universe. You can then follow the beats of the trope by exploring the circumstances of why they need to fake date, or why they are rivals.
David: How has your debut journey been so far? How do you feel?
Rose: It’s been amazing. I have been writing for my entire life. I remember my first short story when I was five years old. It was a little story about a horse. I gave it to my kindergarten teacher, and she said, “Keep doing this.” It worked. I kept going. It feels surreal now. People are asking me, how does it feel? I say it doesn’t feel real yet. I don’t know when it will. But I am so incredibly grateful because it’s something I’ve wanted my whole life. I would have been happy writing for my entire life even if I never got published, but to have the privilege to actually have one of my stories be in the world—especially this book, which had so much special meaning because it was me finally embracing what I wanted to write, which was something romantic and funny about my various identities—is a dream come true.
David: Has there been anything that you didn’t expect?
Rose: I think the biggest thing is seeing the variety of people around the world who are excited for my book, when I’m still shocked that anyone’s reading it at all. It’s wild to me, seeing how much excitement there is. Seeing the breadth of it has been amazing.
David: Do you have a plan for the launch? Are you going to a bookstore to see it on the shelf?
Rose: I actually do have one very meaningful thing that I want to do. This is like a sad thing, but I swear it’s also happy. I got this beautiful black dress, unfortunately for my dad’s funeral, and my mom and I were saying to each other, “What a shame that this is such a nice dress and you’re always gonna remember this horrible occasion that you wore it for.” And I was like, “No, I’m gonna find something worth celebrating and I’ll wear this dress again, and it’ll erase the bad memory.” So, I will wear my black dress on that day. It’ll finally be something that can balance the unhappiness that comes with that dress.
David: What do you hope that your readers get out of your book?
Rose: I hope that they get what I got out of it, which was a joy revolution! I wrote this book because I needed something very happy where queerness and Latinidad were able to exist in harmony, and not feel like they were at odds with one another, like you can either be proud of your Latine heritage, or you can be openly queer. I wanted a book where you could be both, and it wasn’t a problem, and that is exactly what this book turned out to be. For that I am so grateful. I hope that another person out there who really needs that finds that in this book. Even if it’s just one person, that’ll mean everything to me.
Nicola: That’s what rom-coms do. They’re aspirational. They build a world you want to live in and tell you that love is the most important thing, because it is. And you did that.
David: It’s so easy to publish a book that you yourself would pick up and read on your own.
Nicola: That’s the joy of Joy Revolution. We’re publishing books we absolutely adore. Thank you for publishing with us.
David: We’re proud of you. Have an awesome debut launch day.
Caught in a Bad Fauxmance by Elle Gonzalez Rose. Joy Revolution, $18.99 Dec. 5 ISBN 978-0-593-64579-6