Good morning y’all! Today we’re super excited to welcome Erin McLellan, Author of Life on Pause and Life of Bliss, on From Top to Bottom Reviews! Scroll down for an exclusive interview and of course to read Erin’s fantastic guest post!
Love Languages and Character Development
I’m so happy to be here at From Top to Bottom Reviews to share a little about my new release, Life of Bliss. This is a story about frenemies with benefits who pretend to be boyfriends, get drunk, and wake up married. It’s sweet, tropetastic, and was a lot of fun to write. I hope you enjoy as well! Keep reading to find out how love languages affected character development in Life of Bliss and to learn more about an exclusive giveaway!
Something I often think about as a writer is how people show love, both platonic and/or romantic, and how this can translate onto the page in a story. As a reader, I want to FEEL characters’ love rather than simply being told about it, and there are ways that a writer can signal those feelings.
I’ve always been interested in the philosophy of the Five Love Languages, which was conceived by Gary Chapman. The philosophy states that individuals express and receive love in five different ways—Physical Touch, Words of Affirmation, Receiving/Giving Gifts, Acts of Devotion/Service, and Quality Time—and each person has a primary and a secondary love language. In my new release, Life of Bliss, I use two particular love languages to highlight how the main characters interact with each other.
In Life of Bliss, the way Victor shows his love—for his friends, for the other main character, and for his family—is through giving gifts. This actually starts in Book 1 in the series, Life on Pause, where Victor often buys his best friend, Niles, silly sex toys and adult coloring books to cheer him up. In Life of Bliss, after Victor and Todd accidentally get married, Todd moves in with Victor and realizes very quickly that Victor shows his feelings through sweet, creative, and personalized presents. Victor puts thought and self-reflection into the small gifts he gives his new husband. It’s how he shows that Todd is on his mind. Todd, understanding that gift giving and receiving might be an important way for Victor to experience love, reciprocates in kind. It becomes a way for them to get to know each other.
Out of all of the love languages, I’m most fascinated by Gift Giving. During college, I was in a creative nonfiction writing course, and we were tasked with writing an essay similar to the essays in The Guinea Pig Diaries by A.J. Jacobs. In his book, Jacobs performs several lifestyle experiments, like posing nude for a photo shoot, living like George Washington, and obeying his wife’s every whim. My experiment was to explore the love language that I was the worst at—Gift Giving. For my experiment, I left my four roommates gifts throughout a month-long period without any explanation. It was fun to come up with creative, personal, and inexpensive gifts, and helped me reflect on what made each person special. That experience had quite an effect on me, and when I was creating Victor, first for Life on Pause as a best friend, and then in Life of Bliss as a leading man, I was reminded of how Gift Giving helped make me a better and more thoughtful friend. It felt like the perfect characterization for him.
Another love language I utilize with a lot of intention in Life of Bliss is Words of Affirmation. Victor and Todd’s relationship is fairly new and pretty unsteady. Both are unsure of their future together. They begin leaving each other sticky notes with silly, affectionate messages as a way to show their devotion. They leave their hearts on these sticky notes because they’re not yet comfortable enough to express their feelings verbally. Of course, eventually, it becomes important for them to show their love in more explicit and pointed ways, such as saying the hard things out loud!
Now, as a disclaimer, I haven’t done a ton of research about the Five Love Languages, nor have I read the self-help book. But I’ve always felt that there are problems with the way it’s framed, in that it can seem heteronormative, sexist, gendered, and has its roots in evangelical Christian teachings. I also think there are “languages” that are left out or don’t exactly fit anywhere else, like Emotional Labor. For a really wonderful examination on this, check out this blog. Basically, I’m not sure personal relationships are so easy to boil down to five love languages in real life, and in my experience, people’s personal love languages change depending on the dynamics of a relationship, personal history, individual circumstances, and medium. Love languages aren’t static. For example, Quality Time is really important to me in my romantic relationship, but not as much in my platonic ones, where Words of Affirmation are key.
Still, love languages are something I’m always aware of when I’m writing romance. I often initially break my characters down into really simple characterizations when I’m first sketching them. What would be more meaningful to Todd – holding hands with his partner or finding out his partner had finished cleaning the kitchen? What would be more meaningful to Victor – uninterrupted time with his best friend or receiving a “thinking of you” card in the mail? I do this for all the characters I create, but Life of Bliss is my first book where I feel like it really shines through.
Tl;dr – I don’t know if I’d use the Five Love Languages philosophy as my sole means to fix a relationship, but I love examining love languages when creating fake people to populate my books!
What about you? Do you think people have a primary love language? Is it something you notice in romance novels?
Also, don’t forget about the giveaway and your chance to win an Amazon giftcard and an ARC of Life on Pause.
Nobody plans to accidentally marry their frenemy-with-benefits.
Todd McGower and Victor Consuelos do not like each other. They can’t have a conversation without insults flying, and Victor seems to get off on pushing Todd’s buttons. The fact that their antagonism always leads to explosive sex . . . well, that’s their little secret.
Victor has a secret of his own. His full-blown crush on Todd is ruining his sex life. He hasn’t looked at anyone else in months, and he’s too hung up on Todd to find a date to his cousin’s wedding.
In a moment of weakness after a heart-stopping night together, Todd agrees to be Victor’s fake boyfriend for the wedding. Victor will have his plus-one—which will get his family off his back—and Todd will get a free mini-vacation. It’s a win-win.
But pretending to be fake boyfriends leads to real intimacy, which leads to too much wine, and suddenly, Todd and Victor wake up with wedding bands and a marriage license between them. That was not their plan, but a summer of wedded bliss might just change their minds.
Series: Love Life #2 (note: can be read as a standalone)
Release Date: April 30, 2018
Erin McLellan writes contemporary romance with characters that are complex, goodhearted, and sometimes a little quirky. She likes her stories to have a sexy spark and a happily ever after.
Erin has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Oklahoma State University and a master’s degree in library and information studies from the University of Oklahoma. Though no longer a public librarian, Erin still enjoys being surrounded by books and readers, but now she hopes to find her stories on the shelves as well.
Originally from Oklahoma, she currently lives in Alaska with her husband and spends her time dreaming up love stories set in the Great Plains. She is a lover of chocolate, college sports, antiquing, Dr Pepper, and binge-worthy TV shows.
Blog Tour Genre: Contemporary Orientation: Bisexual Orientation: Gay Pairing: M/M Self Published Tag: Enemies to Lovers Tag: Guest Post Tag: Part of a series Erin McLellan Life of Bliss Love Life series