For every romance project I’ve been a part of thus far in my career, the end requirement has been basically the same: There has to be a happily ever after. It’s such an important thing in the world of romance novels, most reviewers don’t even bother spelling out the words in their blogs, calling it by its initials. The world wants a HEA. A blissful ride off into the sunset. A heartfelt proposal of marriage.
The problem I run into happens somewhere after that point. Romantic proposals and weddings and terms of endearment are fantastic, but what about the next day? In the light of a new dawn, pretty words will be forgotten and that romantic man’s beard shavings will be in the sink, right next to a dried- up glob of toothpaste. He’ll be complaining about the fact that she didn’t replace the toilet paper roll, and she’ll be wondering why his dirty socks didn’t make it to the hamper. They might find contentment and happiness in the mundane and ordinary things, but that euphoric HEA will fade into the distance.
Just to clear the air, I get it, the innate desire for a happy ending. For that sense of comfortable closure. I’ve read plenty of fantastic books where the ending trails off and I turn the last page wondering if I wound up with a damaged copy and the last few chapters were on the print shop floor due to some terrible mistake. It’s amazing how quickly that kind of thing makes a fantastic book feel tarnished.
There’s got to be a space between the two, right? Somewhere between the open-ended story and the HEA where real life can find a voice?
This is the space The Ways We Fall Apart encompasses. The loneliness that can rear its head after marriage, leaving us to wonder if we’re screwing it up somehow. The combining of two vastly different careers, and the tug of war over which will edge the other out, or whether they can exist side by side. The ways the past haunts us even though we thought we had changed. The things we cling to, hoping they’ll stay the same. Happily ever after in this space is a myth – an ideal that only serves to make an imperfect pairing feel even less perfect.
Real life writes itself into a symphony that only makes sense when heard backward. Giving my characters a happily ever after in a realistic scenario would be almost as disingenuous as pretending I’m always deliriously happy. I’m not. There are joyful moments and tearful moments, things I can manipulate and things completely out of my control. Ultimately, the thing that keeps me tethered is not happiness, but hope.
That’s what I want to impart in the stories I’m writing now. Not the happily ever after in romance novels, but a more realistic desire for hope ever after.
Hope Ever After.
That’s a HEA I can support one-hundred percent.