Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a kid person. This means not that I dislike kids in the abstract, but that I never wanted any myself. When it comes to children, the characters of the L.A. Stories universe range from ‘Confirmed No’ to ‘I Want Them All.’
And just as in real life, sometimes characters start out thinking they want one thing, and end up changing their minds. My first heroines, Vicky and Sharon, start out thinking their biological clocks are defective (‘Getting Off’). Sharon’s wakes up later on, and in ‘Exposure’ we learn that not only are they finally getting married - once it becomes legal - they’ve decided to have a baby.
Sometimes one half of a couple would like to have kids, and the other half wouldn’t. That’s one of the issues Michelle and Kenji have to deal with (‘Chrome’). Sometimes both people are ambivalent (‘Toward Love’). And sometimes one half already has kids, and the other half has now reached a prohibitive age (‘Chai at Midnight’).
Then there are the couples who know right from the jump that they do want children (‘The Continental,’ ‘Benchwork’). Other couples have reasons for putting it off, but the intention is always there (‘All the Bars on Sunset,’ ‘Vintage,’ ‘Set Dressing,’ ‘Drawn Out’). The presence of children in the novellas is minimal, because the L.A. Stories are, so far, stories of these relationships at their beginning. (Although as I discovered with ‘Exposure,’ when characters return to the narrative, their whole unseen narrative needs to become part of the timeline.) But the possibility of children is something that - in my opinion, anyway - needs to be part of the romance conversation. Because romance usually = sex, and sex between M/F partners often produces pregnancies.
It’s a topic of conversation in several of the novellas, and in the novels. Are we or aren’t we, do we or don’t we, and if we don’t then how best to make sure there aren’t any unwanted consequences of our fun and games. And of course, some of those consequences that are not “oops kids” are serious diseases. Some of my characters are fanatically attentive to safety. Others engage in what I would consider unsafe sex. This is life.
As a sidebar: I have several characters who have gone for a long time (years) without a sex partner. Usually by choice: they’ve decided that Nothing is better than The Wrong Thing. This, too, is life. These are not people who want to be celibate. They’re choosing to be so, not out of any dogmatic imperative, but out of a sort of respect for the impact and the consequences of sex.
One of the things that’s been so fun for me in writing the L.A. Stories is that I can touch on so many different life experiences, and so many different approaches. It was a stretch for me to write about someone who wanted a child even more than she wanted a relationship (‘Benchwork’). She makes a series of conscious decisions with the goal of having a child. That she develops a deep and loving bond with the father of her child is a bonus.
The more recent ‘When It’s Time’ features a hero who’s reached a point in his life when he really wants to marry and start a family. He is a fit, handsome, successful professional dancer - and he feels like he might have left it too late. That was another interesting angle.
Then there are the protagonists of ‘Shaken & Stirred.’ Neither of them want to have children. They have a dog, and for them that’s enough.
These may be risky choices. Based on the dozens (if not hundreds) of romance novels I’ve read, I’d say there is still a tendency to write and/or publish love stories in which a M/F central relationship almost mandates both protagonists wanting children. I think people are more diverse than that. And I think more diverse relationships do need to be represented.