So I read an interesting blog post on Becca’s Books yesterday. It was asking whether fictional romance gives readers unrealistic expectations when it comes to love. My answer was that it did, without a doubt. But it wasn’t a simple yes/no answer. I don’t know how many films I’d watched or books I’d read when I thought to myself ‘Yeah, yeah. Whatever. That would never happen in real life.’ That’s why they’re in fiction, right? But then I realised, I’m a writer, and I write about love. And I’m adding to this problem. I felt a flash of guilt, but it didn’t last long. The reason? Because things like that do exist.
Ok, so we now know that this photo was of two random people kissing in the street and not an actual couple, and ok, movie-like love doesn’t happen to everyone every day. I’m a skeptic about most things, but not when it comes to love. This is why I love my job, because I don’t think love is something you should compromise on.
In Together Apart, Adam loves Sarah without question. Even as he begins to uncover her past, it’s a love that never waivers. Does he like her all the time? No. She’s a pain in the ass, a secretive woman who’s broken his heart, but he still loves her. And in my new book, Love You Better, there’s Smith, the guy who was just plain awful, someone you should most definitely steer clear of, and yet, he still manages to get under Effie’s skin.
To me, the art of writing anything with a love story in it, is that it has to be realistic. Yes, readers want escapism, but they also want something they can aspire to. And what makes a great love story great, is that in the end, the couple are together despite everything that gets thrown at them. They don’t have to organise a flashmob in Central station, or fly halfway around the world before they realise they’re in love to do it.
What made the answer to the question posed in the blog more grey than black and white, was that I’m now in one of those relationships. Remember my post about falling in love while travelling? Being honest, that post was the skeptic in me, the part of me that has this ‘yeah, yeah, whatever’ reaction to the standard romance novel/romcom happy ending. What happened after I wrote that post, was that he went off to Nepal as planned, while I went to Thailand. I never dared to dream that he would join me in Thailand afterwards, or that we would travel to Cambodia together. And I definitely didn’t dare to imagine that I’d be invited to go to his brother’s wedding the week after we both landed back in our home countries, let alone visit his hometown. But that’s what happened, and that’s where I am as I write this post – in Germany, sitting in his mum’s garden while he does some DIY.
I can’t tell you how many times I’d get frustrated with the Hollywood happy ending when I’d date guys who’d cheat, go back to their exes or just drop off the face of the earth. It seemed too realistic to imagine ‘romance’ as it was in the books I loved being real, until I found myself in the situation myself.
And that’s why I’ll continue to write the stories I do. To me, these stories should be something to aspire to, whether we get them or not, instead of something to keep us down and believe that happiness is something that only happens in fiction.
After all, isn’t there a famous quote that to be a good writer, you should write what you know? So, yeah. Expect more of these stories from me. And I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry.