One of the questions I have heard the most over the years is: “How can someone so cynical and sarcastic who essentially hates the whole of humanity write and enjoy mushy romance novels?”
The tiny little voice of optimism in my head hopes that I can answer this once and for all.
Did you see Shrek? Remember his little spiel about ogres and onions? Yeah, that’s me. I’m an onion. I have layers. As do very nearly all the people walking the earth at the moment. This is why expressions like, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” came to be. The cover of my book happens to be comprised almost entirely of snark. And there are reasons for that. Without turning this into the written version of an episode of Oprah, I will explain.
Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Or, in my case, which came first – the romance novelist or the sarcastic cynic?
When I was quite young – before I’d been made hip to the wonder of the alphabet – I made up long, involved, romantic stories. Owing to that pesky preschool illiteracy obstacle, I was forced to write these stories as pictures. Therefore, the argument could be made that I was writing romantic graphic novels before I even started reading (making that argument would be grossly overstating the skill involved, however, so I wouldn’t attempt it).
At any rate, the chicken (or romantic sensibilities) clearly came before the egg (people-hating) in this scenario.
I then went to school, where I was universally outcast. Everyone teased me for the strange stories I made up. I didn’t fight back, and I didn’t let it really change who I was… I just got a very negative impression of my peer group. And then high school happened.
Ah, high school. What a clusterfuck that experience was. I went to an all-girls Catholic school, where I learned quickly that my place in the social pecking order was somewhere along the lines of Wal-Mart greeter. Not to mention that all the boys I did manage to meet were infatuated with my best friend. I was the Rosie O’Donnell to her Madonna. I couldn’t really blame them – she’s pretty damn awesome.
Anyway, the result was that all this peer-group rejection was beginning to make me a tad snarly.
Also, as I was so often on the outside looking in that I became an observer rather than a participant. I learned tons about human nature, interaction, and the tells when someone is hiding their feelings. This taught me lots that would help write a romantic novel – but nothing that miraculously changed my jaded view of the species.
I went to college. From what I remember, more of the same. People giving me no reason to believe that they were capable of real altruism, selflessness, or just decent behavior. My best friend continuing to be way hotter than me. More Rosie O’Donnell. More people giving me that hated look that tells you immediately that the people around you all think you are completely off your nut.
By the time I left school, I was a hardened cynic – sarcastic and snarky and nicely barricaded behind my walls. I wore black on the outside because black was how I felt on the inside. No one understood my pain.
I also had a subscription to Harlequin books. They were delivered straight to my home, a handful at a time. I had romances coming out my ears. Piles of them. Hundreds. I still occasionally come across an unopened shipment. It’s a little scary.
You see, at the heart of every romance is the dream that someone will come along and actually be that person for you – someone who really does love you forever, who will only chuckle lovingly when you forget to do the laundry, who will battle for you and save you. You KNOW this is never going to happen in the real world. It’s escapism. It’s fantasy. (You also know you’re not that sexy/fascinating/wild or whatever the heroine du jour has going for her. But it’s nice to pretend.)
It’s the way relationships might be if the human race collectively stopped acting like sycophantic moronic douche bags for five minutes. (Maybe not the stories featuring pirates, but the general sentiment is what we’re going for here.)
See? Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
I like to think that this continued fascination with relationships and love and all that goes along with that is really a sign that my inner dreamer is still in there somewhere, believing that there is this potential for kindness and light and fluffy bunnies buried deep within the people of the world, just waiting for them to stop hating each other long enough to realize it.
So now I have people in my life who say, “Romances? Are you kidding? I don’t even KNOW you anymore!”
In that case, you clearly never did know me, sunshine.
Now fuck off. I have a romance to write.