I stole my characters from another story.
It was my own story, and in the process of recasting them for The Trouble, they changed a lot. I feel like I took two out-of-work actors and said, "hey, I have another job for you."
One thing that didn't change is Danny being aromantic.
I didn't have an outline for The Trouble. The book came out more as sketches, and then had to be stitched together by me, weeping, on deadlines. (And my amazing editor Amanda Jean, scolding me, also on deadlines.)
But I knew one thing for sure: I was writing a book with a romance novel structure, and Danny being aromantic was never going to be the Drama.
That was so much fun, and so freeing. They get to have conversations about Danny being aro and what it means for their relationship—a relationship that they're both committed to. And I got to saddle them up with a buttload of other problems, which stemmed from their choices and backgrounds and personalities—not their romantic preferences.
I wanted to write a story about two people who come to mean the world to each other, but who don't have a mutual romantic love. The most challenging part for me was how to describe the strength of those emotions from Danny's POV, without making it sound like he was in love, but just didn't want to put a name to it.
Danny's feelings are huge and powerful and real! But they're not romantic.
One of my favorite things that I got to do with this pairing was then turn the mirror back on Jiyoon, who does feel romantic attraction. Jiyoon is hyper-analytical, and since he's interested in dating an aromantic person, he decides to figure out for himself what exactly a committed relationship means to him. Is it romance? Is it shared goals? Is it emotional support?
I feel like we could all benefit from looking at relationships that way (though we don't all have to make spreadsheets like Jiyoon does...). One of the reasons I love the rise of labels like "aromantic" or "gray-romantic" etc. is that it blows up the way we conceive of relationships.
I'm sure that everyone, not just people on the queer spectrum, could benefit from putting words to how and when and why they experience romantic attraction. There's absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain from treating these distinctions seriously—if not proudly on your Tinder profile, at least in conversation with yourself.
For me, being aromantic means that I know now that I occasionally get wildly intense crushes on people (usually people I'm just getting to know, who aren't quite on the friendship level yet). The crush will pass in like a week and then I'll be free of attraction again for a long, long-ass time. It's nice to know this. It's nice to have confidence in the consistency of my emotions and reactions to other people.
For Danny, being aromantic means he loves his friends and he puts them first. Jiyoon is a friend that he has wildly hot chemistry with, who understands and supports him emotionally and becomes irreplaceable. And hey, he wants to hang out with him all the time. He's not in love. And that's not the drama.