When I was younger I never thought I’d write a novel specifically aimed at telling a love story. I grew up reading mainly books by Modernist writers like William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway. I thought that for a novel to be “great literature” it had to explore serious topics like race, war, and abuse. Writing about love sounded so easy that I pushed it aside in my mind. I didn’t want “easy.”
It wasn’t until many years after I graduated from college that I began reading contemporary fiction–and it wasn’t until I became a mother that I started seeking out love stories. I also started seeking out more stories by women.
The books helped battle routine. When you become a parent, your life becomes very routine in some ways. You want that routine because it equates to a wonderful, stable home for your kids. But if you’re an adventurous individual, as I have always been, it inevitably lacks something. What it lacks is a kind of spontaneity that you only get when you’re single.
By spontaneity I’m not talking about the fact that now you can’t date other people; that goes without saying, unless you have an open marriage (which I never have). What I mean is that you can’t be exactly who you really are anymore, not 100 percent. You do many activities that might not be “you” (like hanging out and chatting about kids a lot). You have to worry all the time about your kids getting hurt. You have to cook dinner every night, or at least make sure there’s somehow healthy food on the table. You have to keep track of immunizations, dental visits, etc. So much of your energy gets devoted to taking care of your kids that you often forget to take care of you.
Reading novels, and particularly love stories, is an intense, emotional, adult experience that takes you away from all that.
You get to live vicariously through characters that are different from you. You can also remember what it feels like to fall in love–when the romantic relationship doesn’t include changing diapers and cheering at kids’ soccer matches.
Writing a love story takes the reading experience to a higher level.
You get to choose who the characters are and where the story will take place. You get to strategize about how they’ll fall in love and what will stand in their way. It’s fun–and during all those dull moments (waiting in line during carpool; grocery shopping again), you get to let your mind wander back to it.
Plus, the great thing is when you finish, there’s a huge, hungry audience of romance readers out there who can’t wait to get their hands on another great love story. Writing the story brings you into the imaginary world and then back into the real world of adults. It’s a little oasis in your home life.
The first love story I published was Come Find Me. It’s a sweet story about a boy who comes back to find the girl he fell in love with when he was a teenager. I wrote the first draft one summer, mostly in a chaise lounge beside a swimming pool while my kids played.
The second love story I published was The Unified Theory of Love and Everything. It’s a very intense, more intellectual story about love that grows between two married people. I found that writing this novel was stressful sometimes. I had to confront a lot of society’s notions about trust, betrayal, love, lust, and motherhood. I also did a ton of deep research into Einstein’s life and work. I knew that to make it interesting, I had to push beyond my comfort zone.
I’m very proud of both books. It’s been interesting to see people’s reactions to them. Come Find Me has gotten very few negative reviews. Most people really love the writing in The Unified Theory of Love and Everything, but some have a hard time reading about adultery. It’s a story that people seem to adore or hate. Often it’s because the story pushes too far beyond their comfort zone, or the topic just doesn’t interest them. Sometimes readers have had the experience of being “cheated on,” and they can’t bear reading about it.
It’s always hard to take “bad” reviews. But even the experience of getting negative feedback is useful. It toughens you up as an individual and reminds you that you’re doing the best you can–and that’s the best you can do. Ultimately if you’ve written a love story, you can be proud that you’ve taken on what is actually one of the most complicated subjects in life and literature. It’s no easy feat to make readers laugh, cry, and feel that spark of excitement at a first kiss.
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