When I decided to write a novel, a love story was the natural choice. It seems that anything I write, including short stories and poems, ends up being about love. So why fight it?
I often wonder if the act of loving is an ability, an inclination, a talent, or a Heaven-sent gift. Maybe it’s a combination. I also wonder why some people excel at love – at the process of growing and nurturing love – while others fail, miserably.
Yes, I do believe love is a process. It has steps, sequences, and a risk of failure. And, whether you honor them or break them, love has rules and boundaries. If it weren’t for these things, love couldn’t be the central plot in a novel, because plots are based on a series of actions that take us from one place, location, or extreme to another.
I do enjoy love stories above any other genre and this preference applies to books, movies, television shows, songs, musicals, operas, and paintings. It is the dance of love, the giving and the receiving, that I find most riveting.
For me, writing a romance required figuring out how love was formed, how it grew, where it went off track, and how to reunite its splintered ends. It was cathartic. In my own life, I’ve made a mess of love several times and I haven’t always known how to repair the damage to him, or to me, even after my heart had moved on.
They say an author’s first novel is the truest version of his or her life. Based on my own experience, and in very general terms, I would agree.
Ironically, not a single one of my short stories, eighteen in total, comes anywhere close to resembling my life.
In them, I write in a variety of voices, including that of a small boy, a dying man, an adopted woman giving birth to her first child, a wife who has left her family, a mother who wants another baby, a middle-aged dad coming to terms with mortality, a cowboy out on the range, and more.
Where those stories came from, I do not know. I can only tell you this: they are filled with love. They begin and end with love. That is their only similarity with me. That’s it; just the one.
Perhaps, I am able to be someone else in those short stories because their very trim length keeps me focused on the voice of the character, without much room to tempt me to add in some of my own experiences.
A first novel, on the other hand, can take a year, three years, even a decade to write. That’s a lot of time for similarities to take up root in the plot, setting, or character development.
Ava’s story has clear elements that were drawn from my life. She is tall with long hair. She has brothers. She runs a business. She lives in my same town. She has a cool, interesting, and close-knit circle of best friends.
But, at the root of it all, she is a woman who has forgotten how to be loved.
Over the hundreds of pages and dozens of drafts of my first novel, I fought for Ava and Kader’s love. Who did I have to fight? Myself. Eventually, I got out of the way, stopped adding impediments from my own unfulfilled love life, and let them get on with the process of loving, and being loved.
If, like me, there is an unfinished manuscript, a romance, waiting in your heart, I hope this is the year we both find happily ever after.