In The Last Winter Moon, Jayse pulls Michelle — disgruntled from injustice — onto the back of a korelian cat, and they race up the steps of the Arriscylean palace. He pulls her off and tells her, “You’re beautiful when you’re scared.” She laughs, and Jayse says, “You’re even more beautiful when you smile.”
This almost didn’t make it into the final book, for reasons similar to changing a line of Dastin’s in An Eclipsing Autumn, which was something like, “Smile for me,” which I thought was so unforgivable that I just had to change it. (Telling women to smile is a whole ‘nother problem, though.)
I took special care in crafting Michelle and Jayse’s relationship. When I brought up having second thoughts about this line (“You’re beautiful”) to my friends this past summer, one of them asked me how close Michelle and Jayse’s relationship is to my ideal relationship. I said that it was pretty close, at least for a sixteen-year-old girl, like Michelle is by the end of her journey. It was what I would have wanted when I was sixteen. A life of adventure, danger, and maybe just a little bit of romance, and when it really comes down to it, saving the world is the most important thing, and romance won’t get in the way.
Michelle and Jayse’s relationship is supportive, playful, innocent, and sweet, but never really sexual. Heck, I was pretty prudish when I was sixteen (same as you see in Michelle’s disgust toward Dreana’s seduction). I wanted to write a relationship that I would have wanted when I was her age. I didn’t want to have to force sex into their relationship to make it more realistic, or whatever, because Michelle and Jayse know the stakes of their duties. They know they can’t just make out all day, forgetting the horrors of the world, because they just want to lie next to each other and stare into each other’s eyes.
When it really comes down to it, I suppose it’s a sort of message to young readers. Not all romantic relationships have to be physical and sexual. Don’t give up your duties and ambitions for someone else who’s going to change you and make you forget them. I wanted to send a nice, healthy message with their relationship, instead of romanticizing something unhealthy and abusive.
Sure, there is physical attraction in their relationship. You see it all over Michelle’s thoughts when she first meets Jayse. She even blurts out “Oh my God, you are so hot” the first time they speak. (I don’t really count this toward any kind of profession of love, because he doesn’t even know what it means :’D And her “you’re hot”s to Gediyon don’t count.)
A few times, Jayse says stuff like, “I didn’t see Goddess Saei, but I don’t need to,” and looks at Michelle, “I suppose the wait was worth it” and “I think you beat me in that competition” (in regards to a silly game they were playing to see who’d show up to dinner the prettiest) and at the end of The Starriest Summer, says, “You look magnificent.” BUT, he hadn’t said outright that he thinks she’s pretty.
I did this on purpose because I didn’t want their relationship to be based on physical attraction. He finds her cheerfulness and optimism sweet and adorable. Once she finds out more and starts to break under the pressure, he’s right there to keep her on her feet. He falls in love with her when they find out how much they have in common with their unwanted responsibilities, and they work together to support each other.
Same with Michelle. Sure, she’s immediately smitten by him from his looks, but she’s more interested in a friendship with him, and it’s not until after she loses the Prince Imposter that she realizes she might have romantic feelings for Jayse, too. As her adventure goes on, she also comments less on his looks, and even manages not to freak out and not get a nosebleed when he’s shirtless in An Eclipsing Autumn. (Also, him being bloody and having nearly died might also have something to do with it…)
And then there’s this scene in The Last Winter Moon.
She’s just whatever when he’s lying in the hot spring, cleaning himself off, and then when he jumps up to kiss her, she’s like, “Oh… oh this is happening. OH GOD I DON’T THINK I CAN HANDLE.”
Anyway, the point is, I didn’t know if I wanted to keep the line “you’re beautiful” in the final version of the book. However, my friend said, “It’s already been established that their attraction toward each other isn’t based solely on looks, so saying ‘you’re beautiful’ is just a nice assurance that he thinks so.”
I had thought of changing the line to, “You’re adorable when you’re scared,” but after my friend told me that, I was convinced it wasn’t as impactful.
She then asked me, if Michelle and Jayse have the ideal relationship, then what about Gediyon and Dreana? And I said, “Oh, they’re adults, they can do whatever the hell they want.”
Also, what’s with Michelle glowing and having white hair and reaching down toward Jayse in the picture at the beginning of the post? 1) Read The Last Winter Moon 😉 2) The scene doesn’t actually happen. It was just an image in my head that I wanted to illustrate 😀