Defiant Attraction by V.K. Torston (see my 5 hearts review here) comes out on November 16th, so I'm celebrating the release with a spotlight on the novel's protagonist and narrator, Sophia Ramos.
Hometown: A decrepit suburb just outside Detroit
Favorite Things: Reading, playing cello, peppermints, The Arcade Fire, and beating Dan at Soul Calibur
Least Favorite Things: Meat, being at home, lemonade, "Worst WTs" (an anonymous gossip blog about the kids at her school), and Dan
Greatest Aspiration: To get into Stanford and escape her chaotic home life
Biggest Worries: Not connecting with her best friend, Hannah anymore. Her mom's constant drinking. What the hell Dan is supposed to be to her (enemy? ally? friend? something else?)
Written Love Reviews: Thank you so much for joining me today. How are you? How's your studying going?
Sophia Ramos: Right now, I'm huddled in a veritable nest of hundreds of pages of reading. But I did develop a killer recipe for iced coffee: Step 1) make coffee, Step 2) think of something you want to add to your essay and rush back to your laptop to furiously type, Step 3) remember you made coffee ages ago, Step 4) call it "iced coffee". Voila!
WLR: Tell us something about yourself, something that'll prepare us for your story.
SR: Back in my freshman year of High School, my mom met someone equally drunk, equally broke, and equally a single parent. Approximately five seconds into their relationship, they decided it would be a great idea if he and his son, Dan moved in with us. (Spoiler alert: it wasn't).
That's pretty much how I found myself living with St. Anthony's resident Bad Boy, Daniel Cole.
WLR: Tell us about Dan.
SR: Everyone at St. A's knew he had a criminal record, a vintage Chevy, and more notches in his bedpost than anyone else at school. Some people knew he'd spent time in a kind of 'reform school', dealt drugs occasionally, and lost his mom to cancer. No one else knew that he read at least four books a week (mostly nonfiction), had off-the-charts test scores, and spent more time playing Soul Calibur with me than raising hell in the city.
WLR: The Defiant Attraction tagline says, "A (Not Quite) Stepbrother Romance". Logistics aside, (i.e. your mom and his dad aren't married) would you agree? Why?
SR: Ours was no Brady Bunch situation, and whatever alchemy turns unrelated people into family never happened for us. It’s hard now to remember a time when my mom and his dad were ever happy. The new-relationship-honeymoon-phase skipped ahead to the screaming-at-each-other-constantly phase, and it wasn't very long before Frank took up permanent residence on the couch.
Early on in our forced co-habitation, Dan and I waged an all out war (it may come as a surprise, but the Honors Student and the Probable Criminal were none too keen to be crammed under the same roof). He found the anonymous blog I used to keep and read it aloud to all his friends. I “accidentally” slipped details of his myriad liaisons to one of the girls he’d been sleeping with. At home, we tampered with shampoos, dyed loads of laundry pink, and ate each other’s food on purpose. Maybe we thought, if we hated each other enough, our parents would break up.
They didn't. Not because they didn’t love each other (they didn’t), and not that the romance was gone (it was)—they just didn’t have the money or the energy to take back their rash decision. They lived together because it was cheaper; they went to the bar together because it was easy. Convenience and inertia was all that kept them (and by extension, Dan and I) under the same roof.
Then again, perception matters. Everyone else called us 'step siblings', so even though we never felt that way, that's what we were in the eyes of the world. And I'd be lying if I said that the relationship between us wasn't tangled up in rebellion against, and resentment for, our respective parents. They might not have cared when we pretended to hate each other, but getting along and hanging out? That got under their skin.
WLR: V.K. Torston was brave enough to pen your and Dan's story and share it with the world. But if there was one thing you would want her to write differently, what would it be?
SR: Defiant Attraction was only ever my side of the story, so there's a lot of information about Dan--his background, all the other things going on in his life at the time--that never made its way into the novel. I think she might be saving that for her next book, The Diary of Daniel Cole, which will reproduce his journal entries. Trust me, there's a lot more to the story that even I didn't know at the time!
WLR: What do you hope readers take away when they reach "The End"?
SR: Our culture doesn't have the best track-record when it comes to girls and sex. From 20th century "Magdalene Laundries", to "Revenge Porn", to "sluts die first" Slasher Flicks, we see an impulse to shame and punish female sexuality.
At the same time, issues like abuse and exploitation are soul-crushingly common, and younger women are especially vulnerable. While Defiant Attraction doesn't address the issue of sexual violence directly, it does point out one infuriating consequence of these twin phenomena. Basically, it's easy to justify sex-shaming as "all for her own good."
Whether they're media pundits or school administrators or fashion designers, they can claim "concern" as their primary motivation. They criticize because they care. They really have her best interests at heart.
But it should be pretty obvious why all of that is crap. Abuse isn't the fault of the victim, but the abuser. Policing the sexual expression of young women isn't going to stop violence. Policing the perpetrators will. Schools don't impose stringent prom dress and behavior codes to protect their female students, they do it to protect the teachers and chaperones who freak out around teen cleavage or students dancing a little too close. But if the normal, healthy, consensual expression of young people makes them so uncomfortable, maybe they shouldn't be looking so closely.
Pre-order Defiant Attraction on Amazon
V.K. Torston is a millennial and 'cool aunt' to a brood of nieces and nephews. She was born and raised in San Francisco, attended university in New York City, and aspires to one day live in London. A veteran of the independent music scene, she began writing nonfiction in her late teens. Then she realized that making up stories was way more fun than coming up with endless synonyms for 'frenetic' and 'danceable.' Her hobbies include drinking too much coffee, making up stupid songs, and ranting about current events. Defiant Attraction is her first novel.