Thursday, September 27, 2012

Believing in just because

Years ago I watched the 1995 romantic comedy Forget Paris in the company of a female acquaintance. When the end credits rolled, so did her eyes.

“Why would we believe they’re going to live happily ever after now?” she asked. “They just spent the whole movie breaking up and getting back together and breaking up again.”

Her perspective startled me, though I knew she had a point. Why should we believe in happily ever after when the harsh nipple-tweak of reality shows us time and again how unlikely that is?

Do I need a smarter answer than, “just because?”

I think that’s what I told my acquaintance 16 years ago, and I’m not sure I’ve crafted a more intelligent response since then. But I do write romance novels underscoring the notion that happily ever after is a real thing.

I know, I know…show me the statistics suggesting half of all marriages end in divorce. I know about that firsthand.

But I like these statistics from Romance Writers of America instead: Romance fiction is consistently the largest selling genre, generating $1.368 billion in sales in 2011. In 2008, 74.8 million people read at least one romance novel.

That’s a whole lotta people believing in happily ever after. That’s a whole lotta people saying “just because” is enough for them.

This subject is on my mind a lot right now, since my current manuscript stars a character with some serious trust issues and a tough time believing in happily ever after.

And I guess you could say that theme landed in the manuscript as a result of what’s been simmering in my brain these past 18 months. I sure as hell didn’t expect to end up in a serious relationship so soon after my marriage of 13 years screeched to an unexpected halt.

But that’s what happened, and at least a dozen times a day, I thank my lucky stars for it. Still, I sometimes hear echoes of that old acquaintance’s voice:

“Why would we believe they’re going to live happily ever after now?”

As a recovering literature major and word nerd, I get poems stuck in my head the same way most people are plagued by earworm songs. When I started dating my gentleman friend that dreary spring, this poem bubbled around in my subconscious for weeks:

by Grace Bauer

March has come in roaring.
My dues are paid. I think
I'm in love and wonder
how I dare to trust the warmth
after living through so many winters.

Despite the dirty you bury
it under, the perennial
heart persists in breaking
through the cracks and into blossom.

Always counting on the odds
that April may be kind.

Lest I give the impression I’m a poetry snob immune to the allure of catchy love songs, I’ve got a playlist for my current manuscript that includes a song with a similar theme. The first time my Pandora station played “Crazy Faith” by Alison Krauss and Union Station a few weeks ago, I went scrambling to Google for a look at the lyrics.

These lines near the end of the song gave me goosebumps (not to mention a few ideas for character development in my story):

Love your losing, lose your love
Let the hawk fly from the glove
Do not search the skies above
Search your crazy faith

Love is lightning
Love is ice
It only strikes the lucky twice
Once so you will know the price
And once for crazy faith

I wish I could find a video of the band performing the song live, but this link will at least let you hear how chillingly beautiful it is:

Sappy? Perhaps. Brimming with foolish hope and crazy sentimentality? Definitely.

Sign me up, please.


Lynnanne said...

Love Alison Krauss.... she's got a pretty sexy cover with Robert Plant on their album, too. :)

I'm kinda interested in the fact that you put together music for each book... what do you choose your music by? How do you know each song you choose is going to work for that particular book? Do you put it together at the beginning, or during? Add to it throughout? Hmm. Curious minds want to know. :)

Have a great day!


Lynnanne, I love that album with Robert Plant!

And yes, I do have a setlist for each book, and it tends to evolve a lot as I move through the story. It's particularly helpful when I'm bopping between multiple books or having to return to an older book to do edits. The setlist helps me get the right vibe in my mind. I've touched on the subject a couple times under the label "music," so you can find some of those posts here:

But I'm probably due to touch on it in more depth, so thanks for the reminder!


Noelle Pierce said...

I really like this post!

I have to say...for people who give me the argument that 50% of all marriages end in divorce, they're ignoring the fact that the OTHER 50% succeed! I mean, the entire statistic is a glass-half-empty view, and I can't see the world like that. "Just because" is a perfectly valid reason, to me. :D I would occasionally change it up with "why not?"

I LOVE my romance novels. I love reading them. I love writing them. I love fairy tales and happily ever after. I refuse to watch movies that will make me cry, or have a sucky ending (Um, City of Angels. The Notebook. Meet Joe Black...all on my Never Watch Again list).

I also love that you use music with the books you write. I do it, too, and it's a way for me to keep connected to the characters subconsciously (there's a psychological term for it, but I'm not going to get into a lecture here. You can thank me later. :D).

Raley Blue said...

How does anyone write without music? One the reasons I adore Believe It Or Not. I have playlist after playlist for my books too. Esp. the Romance novel. I like Noelle's never watch again list. I have one too. ;)

Lisa Ahn said...

"the perennial
heart persists in breaking
through the cracks and into blossom."
Love those lines! Thanks for sharing your optimism here and in your novels. Cheers!