Writing romance when you don’t believe in happy ever after
The hardest thing about writing romance is the happy ever after. I don’t believe in it. Maybe I never did. When I was a teen writing for the sheer pleasure of writing. Never planning to show anyone. My characters always had something terrible happen to them. A boyfriend died. A brother fell off a boat. A serial killer pursued them and won. Love threaded through my writing, but it was never the core and rare, the destination.
After I released ICE CREAM CASTLES, for two days I cried. The dirty truth of it? I suck as a romance writer. I’m terrible at it because I’m not capable of giving readers what they want. I don’t like my stories saccharine. I like them angsty, horrible and maybe, sometimes redemptive. Love isn’t messy, it’s putrid – an OSHA violation waiting to happen. At least in my world. I cannot think of one person in my life today that is happy in love. They may have husbands or wives. Girlfriends and boyfriends. But they aren’t happy. Relationships are not like in the movies or between the pages of a romance novel. And don’t get me started on sex.
In the original ending to ICE CREAM CASTLES, things didn’t end well for Eli and Naomi and I was okay with that. It seems the three people that read the original version were okay with that too. But that’s not how it works in the wider publishing world. The market indicates what the readers want, right? What they want is a fairytale. There need not be knights and dragons, but everything better end well – a wedding and baby doesn’t hurt either.
But I know all too well, that in real life happily ever after doesn’t end with the wedding or the baby. There’s a lot of rough road after that and if a couple’s lucky, they’ll weather it. But many don’t. Most, don’t. Imagination is limitless. But unfortunately, our brains don’t access all that dead space we need to push too far beyond the reality that we know. It always finds a way in.
So, why the hell do I write romance at all? Well, this may seem pat, but the truth is that I enjoy the journey and the possibility. I like the new relationship energy that encompasses us at the start of a romance. But it’s very volatile and fleeting and that’s the point where I stall in portraying humans being human. Just when you’re ready to rejoice, they disappoint and head straight for the cliff. It’s fall-off du jour and hearts will not only be broken but pummeled raw and ground into dust.
Life is hard. Love is harder.
Romance is fanciful in theory, but the real of it is rough and most people don’t want to come home, curl up on the sofa and read about that side of the love coin. I get that. Where does that leave me? Loathing the end. Because I’ll have to turn that frown upside down and pretend that everything’s okay. It’s happy ever after or bust. Isn’t it?
Find out if Eli and Naomi get their happily ever after in ICE CREAM CASTLES