When I tell people I’m a published author, the first thing they ask is what do you write? I can see the look in their eyes. They’ve already imagined in their heads that I write either horror novels or spy books. Because, that’s what men write! Well, when the words Romance Novels fall from my lips, their eyes do this peculiar thing. It’s a cross between shock and abject fear. Don’t ask me why, but they do. Some will even chuckle a bit. Those reactions ultimately lead to the question I always expect.
The answer is simple. Like most authors, when starting out, I was told write what you know. Now, I do know a bit about a lot of geeky things. I was raised on Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. I could have easily slipped into one of those genres and probably been quite satisfied with the results. In fact, my first real attempt at writing was a fantasy.
I’ve said this many times — I became writer because of my wife. Next weekend is her birthday. It marks our fifteenth birthday together. As such, she’s been on my mind more than usual. A few moments ago, it hit me why I write Romance. I write it because of her. Before getting married, I thought I understood love and all that goes with it. We’ve all had that rush of first love where the world ceases to exist if the person we love isn’t in the room. I blindly thought that was love. After some age and wisdom, I know that is the beginnings of love–infatuation. Our mind tells us that this person is the one and the heart blindly follows along because it doesn’t have anything else to do. I, personally, think it gets its rocks off seeing how big a fool we can make of ourselves. And, we normally do a pretty good job of entertaining it.
But, those of us who have spent any time studying the subject knows that love is more than a flutter and empty feeling in the gut. It’s a dead certainty that you would do anything to make another person happy. No, it’s more than that. You would do anything to make that person’s life as amazing as possible. You’d stand beside them through horrible life events. You’d hold them during the good stuff. You’d sacrifice whatever it took just to see them smile. You’d do all this because they’d do the same for you. That is what your heart knows before you do. There’s a good bit of snickering on its part too, because love is a funny thing.
After two dates, I knew all those things about my wife. I knew without a doubt, forty years down the road, I’d be glancing at her across the room and not see wrinkles etching her face or gray seeping through her hair. I’d see the woman that first stole my heart nearly twenty five years ago. Of course, it took me nearly eight years to work up the courage to voice that sentiment to her. Yeah, I’m a bit slow on the uptake.
That’s another thing about love. It has its own time table. I seriously doubt the me then was ready for love. My heart knew it. I doubt hers was either. I had to grow into the man it would take to appreciate the woman who stole my heart.
Romance novels portrays that snapshot in a condensed way. I understand the truth about love. Love is a job. Don’t laugh. It’s true. Love is a twenty-four, seven day a week job. You have to work at it, knowing that vacations are those little moments where the universe is in perfect alignment and you glimpse that happily ever after promised in the pages of a book.
The rest of the time? You’re trapped in the same world as everyone else. You deal with bills, mortgages, sick kids, teenage kids, grownup kids and everything else that goes along with being an adult. Only you’ve got an advantage. You, if you’re lucky, have that perfect person to stand beside you through the good and the bad. That my friends, is the heart of true love. You’re never alone.
If that’s true, why do so many picture-perfect marriages fail? Some times, people forget that life doesn’t offer you fairy tale endings. They expect Prince Charming to stay Prince Charming, or Cinderella as the case may be. What about those other times? I can’t say for sure. Maybe, that initial rush of infatuation fades and you realize hey I was never in love in the first place. Then, there’s my asshat theory. Some people are just asshats and don’t want to appreciate the person they’re with. Whatever the case, life isn’t easy, and love sure ain’t.
Which brings me back to why I write Romance. I do it because every day the reminder that true love exists sits across from me as I tap tap tap on this keyboard. Do we have the happily ever after? Some days, but we always have the reality that love exists between us. I’d rather have that than some fictional ideal.
So, I guess when you get right down to it, we do have that happily ever after. And, thanks to that, I feel more than qualified to write Romance. Though to be honest with you, I do leave the toilet seat up. Well, nobody’s perfect and I never claimed to be. But in this imperfect world, I’m hero enough for my wife.
That my friends is true romance.