We’re not playing games with your heart. Set adrift on memory bliss, your inner ‘90s child will rejoice at the tiles of Ann Aguirre’s 2B series. From I Want It That Way to As Long As You Love Me to The Shape of My Heart, Aguirre’s new adult romances have us saying, “Hey Mr DJ, keep playin’ that song!” Here, we ask Aguirre about heartbreak, writing new adult, and what inspired her to take her titles from Backstreet Boys songs.
Bookish: What about the Backstreet Boys inspired you to name the books in this series after their songs?
Ann Aguirre: I couldn’t resist. For some reason, when I was on the Fall 2013 Fierce Reads Tour with Leigh Bardugo, Jessica Brody, and Gennifer Albin, we were always singing the Backstreet Boys on the way to our events. The first book is dedicated to Leigh because I got the idea from listening to her while we were on tour. “For Leigh Bardugo, who talks about love as if it is a question that must be answered. So I tried.”
Bookish: Music connects many of the characters in this series, and you name drop a large variety of singers and bands. The Backstreet Boys are absent, however. Why choose “I Want It That Way” rather than “Your Love is My Drug” or “I Need My Girl”?
AA: Since I refined the idea for book one while on tour, I figured it was fitting to use Backstreet Boys songs as the book titles. Plus, each title suits its book.
Additionally, it’s a fun Easter egg for romance readers who grew up in the ‘90s, a lot of whom are reading new adult with nostalgia for their college days.
Bookish:There’s a playlist at the end of each book. Do you listen to music while you write? Do you have a go-to song to help inspire you?
AA: I do sometimes listen to music while I’m writing. It’s wonderful and crucial and can definitely help to set a mood. The right music is relative to the tone of the scene you’re writing, so I do have different playlists for each book.
It’s so difficult to narrow down a go-to song, but I’ll name four songs I love, period. Right now, I’m singing along with: “Rude” by MAGIC!, “Big Strong Girl” by Deb Talan, “Dear Darlin’” by Olly Murs, and “Murder of Crows” by Jamie T (really, that whole album is ace).
Bookish: You’ve written romance in a lot of your other books, but this series is part of a subgenre called new adult. What’s the biggest difference in writing a new adult romance?
AA: What new adult offers me is the chance to write about college-aged people, which is something I wanted to do before this market became a thing. I love being able to write a young, fresh POV (similar to YA), only in new adult I can write romance-style sex scenes, which ups the ante, heat-wise.
Otherwise, for me, it’s not different. I don’t change my style or pull punches depending on whether I’m writing adult, new adult, or young adult. I use all the same storytelling, world building, and characterization techniques across all reading levels. The primary difference is the age of the protagonists, which informs their levels of personal experience and emotional development. Other than that, I write the same kind of book.
Bookish: Some of your characters are newcomers to heartbreak, and others have struggled with it in the past. Do you have any tricks for mending a broken heart?
AA: Heartbreak sucks. I don’t think I have any more tricks than anyone else. Time and maturity just help you deal with it better.
Bookish: Of the three female protagonists which are you the most like?
AA: I have something in common with every character I write, even if it’s only a small trait. Nadia and I share a love of indie music, Lauren and I both enjoy gaming and writing fan fiction, and Courtney and I both know what it’s like to feel that you don’t fit in with the crowd.
Bookish: Of the three male protagonists, which would be the best fit for you?
AA: I could never choose! When I’m working on a book, I have to be in love with the guy I’m writing. So I’ve fallen for all three of them.
Ann Aguirre has been a clown, a clerk, a savior of stray kittens, and a voice actress, not necessarily in that order. She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but she now lives in a terracotta adobe house in Mexico with her husband and two adorable children. The post-apocalyptic novel Enclave is her first book for young adults. She also writes the romantic science fiction series about Sirantha Jax, starting with Grimspace, as well as urban fantasy and paranormal romance. As Ava Gray, she writes paranormal romantic suspense.