The Love Code: An Author Interview with Mette Bach
The Love Code is one of author Mette Bach’s seven literacy books for young adult audiences; her other works include Charming, Cinders, You’re You and Love is Love. Her books focus mainly on queer themes, and she also has a book of creative nonfiction Off the Highway. She writes, reads, teaches and learns on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations (Vancouver). She shares her reflections on writing The Love Code.
Darcey Neale: This YA novel is a relatable take on modern teenage love. What inspired your approach to The Love Code?
Mette Bach: The Love Code is part of Lorimer’s Real Love series which is a line of literacy YA novels for reluctant readers that features modern-day romances. So I’m thrilled that you found it relatable because that’s the whole vision. Romance can be a cheesy genre, but also an opportunity to show misperceptions, awkwardness and emotional growth.
DN: What was the creative process like for developing the main character, Astrid? Was she developed before putting pen to paper, or did her character develop during your writing alongside the story?
MB: All of the books I’ve written for Lorimer have been very collaborative with my editor at the time, Kat Mototsune. Each book started with conversations, talking out plot lines and characters to make everything fit in a very limited word count. It has been a great joy and privilege to work with her. We’ve never met each other in real life, but we’ve shared all these characters and ideas. It’s a pretty special relationship and a special creative process.
Astrid came quite naturally with all of her insecurities and longing to figure things out. She’s also secretive about how things are really going, and she puts on a brave face as she struggles. I liked the idea of her gradually learning to let her guard down with Bernie. It seems to me that healthy relationships allow us to do that, to drop the armour and be real.
DN: What personal experiences did you draw on for this novel? Do you have personal influence on the characters or the narrative itself?
MB: In the story, Astrid has to confront certain limiting ideas of who she is, which is relatable. She has to challenge herself in order to grow. She’s got to let go of who she thought she was in order to become who she’s supposed to be. That is true for me and I suspect true for many queer people.
DN: Why did you choose a STEM career for the protagonist to strive for?
MB: I wish I could confess that it was all part of a ploy to create more representation of STEM, but the truth is I toyed with other options for the setting: a badminton tournament and a theatre production. I wanted it to be something intimidating but also something where it would feel like a real triumph to be able to make a contribution. The robotics club won out in the end because what better environment could there be to create sparks for these characters? (Sorry, couldn’t help it.)
I’m fortunate enough to know young people who are into the sciences and this thrills me because I can see how excited they get about the practical application of their knowledge. When you can see the fruits of your labour; like the youth in the robotics club do in the story, I think that is a huge high. I wanted to capture the feeling of being part of making something work. The collaborative nature of the robotics club, even with its elements of competition and conflict, allowed the characters to unite around this one particular goal.
I suspect that for some young people the sciences can be scary and I wanted to explore that through Astrid who at first feels like an outsider with not enough to contribute, but who ends up really being a part of it. In school, there is a lot of focus on individual achievement, especially at the high school level, but I wanted to highlight the social side, the passion the folks in the robotics club feel and their various reasons for being there. The bigger picture stuff.
There’s still a pretty big gender disparity in the sciences and I imagine that has something to do with societal messaging. The more young women, gender non-conforming and otherwise marginalized youth are encouraged to take their interests seriously across all disciplines, the more likely they’ll be to leave all options on the table.
DN: What do you hope YA readers take or learn from reading this book?
MB: I hope they take away the idea that it’s okay to try something you’re not all that confident in. When you’re young, it’s especially impactful to step out of your comfort zone. You never know what you might find. In Astrid’s case, she finds not only an interest in robotics, she also finds love and belonging.
This is perhaps an unrealistically good ending, but what can I say? I wrote the story during the first part of the pandemic and wanted to write something optimistic during bleak times.
If anyone is interested in a soundtrack while they read, Lorimer gave me a fun creative task for Pride last year to come up with a playlist for the book.
Link to The Love Code soundtrack:https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1vRfNr2gKce5RqyjNYv5Fq