Neuro-diversify your romance library

If you’re looking for a book with all your favorite and tried-and-true tropes, there’s nothing quite like a romance novel. Well-worn storylines include meet-cute and forbidden love, and finally, the happy ending. That happy ending is the hallmark of romance, but that doesn’t mean they have to be seamless. And there’s a growing number of authors writing romance novels that feature perspectives long absent from the genre, including perspectives of characters whose brains function differently than what’s considered “neurotypical.”

Host Anita Rao discusses the portrayal of neurodiversity, from autism to ADHD, in the romance genre with three neurodivergent authors. ES Yu is the author of the paranormal romance “Human Enough”. Ceillie Simkiss is the author of two series of romance novels and Emery Lee is the author of “Meet Cute Diary”.

Interview Highlights

ES Yu on researching neurodivergent traits:

I noticed that it was much more common to find romances with characters suffering from mental illnesses like anxiety and depression. … I discovered romances with characters with autism or ADHD, certainly, because in traditional romances, I hadn’t encountered that at all. So starting to see it in the indie space has made it very welcoming to me as a reader and writer.

Ceillie Simkiss talks about her favorite character dynamic:

I really like playing friends to lovers, because you sort of start out with what you would see with an established relationship. But you also see how this relationship becomes more romantic, rather than strictly platonic. So you see them say, Oh, well, we’ve always done this together, we’ve always held hands. It’s just a convenience thing, especially for, you know, autistic and ADHD main characters. But then you also realize that it’s not just platonic. It has other meanings that you did not see before or feel before. And it’s really fun to put on the page.

Emery Lee on writing for young adults:

I think a lot of people have this idea, you know, that young adult books are distinctly different from, you know, regular adult books. And I think [in] in many ways they’re quite similar, especially when it comes to the contemporary romance category, because essentially you’re still trying to fulfill all of those genre expectations: happily ever after, the two characters coming together. … In terms of life lessons, like you have to be a little more careful and make sure that you don’t normalize or apply, you know, images of harmful relationships, and basically make sure that what you present to teenagers is something that if they take it out, it won’t harm them in their daily lives.

Note: This episode originally aired on August 13, 2021.

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