Austin-based author Kelis Rowe had never written a book before. So when the opportunity to pen “Finding Jupiter” came about, she says she really leaned into it – including adding elements such as art and poetry.
“I put in everything that helped me survive and cope with those teenage years,” Rowe said. “Because I wanted ‘Finding Jupiter’ to also be part of a survival kit for readers and teenagers who come across it.”
Rowe drew on her own experiences growing up in Memphis – a place she says is underrepresented in entertainment for young people. She says she was also very intentional in her character development.
“It was important for me to create Black characters who were three-dimensional and who felt authentic,” Rowe said. “I feel like it’s important to write stories about Black teenagers where the reader doesn’t have to be reminded that they’re Black by their struggle or by their race-based encounters, but that they’re just steeped in their humanity.”
Rowe says growing up in the 1980s, she adored teen romances such as the Molly Ringwald films. But she says she also wanted to turn the “typical dynamic” on its head. She says she did that in part by developing characters who don’t fit stereotypical gender molds.
“I think it’s important that we allow all teenagers, but especially Black teenagers, flexibility and freedom,” Rowe said.
Still, she says there’s something really special about a teen summer romance.
“Summer romances are really big, and I think they feel big for teenagers who are experiencing them and for those of us who entertain ourselves with them,” Rowe said. “The summertime is kind of this magical two and a half, three months where anything is possible.”
Though Rowe wasn’t sure she’d ever get to write another book – she is! Her second book will follow different characters in the same universe – and it will be another summer romance.