When I first started writing, it was purely for fun. I wanted to write a young adult fantasy novel because, at the time, that was what I enjoyed reading. You see, I was all of eleven years old and had these two very interesting young men living in this science fiction/fantasy world complete with mythical creatures and magic and both men were stuck in my head, trying to tell me their side of a long, arduous tale complete with quests and battles. Then I got married and put aside my childish fantasy daydreams. I slid the imagined sword in its sheathe and locked the made up crystal ball back in the treasure box. I had grown up and I eventually had children and started a career writing mainly romance. Of all things.
I soon came to realize that the romance genre is very closely related to fantasy. Fantasy means something that isn’t real, something that’s imagined. Many romance stories are for readers who want the ideal, the perfect happily ever after, the, da da da dum, fairy tale! Don’t fairies live in a fantasy realm? Yeah, pretty sure they do.
So, getting to the point, what I’ve learned from writing romance is just about the same as what I learned from writing fantasy. We, as readers, want an escape. We want to go somewhere where we feel like we belong and are eventually accepted or are able to overcome the difficulties before us because we are supposed to win.
When I set out to write my latest release, Mirabelle’s Ghost, co-authored with Crymsyn Hart, I had the voice of a woman who had been deceived and was trapped, chattering in my head. But I didn’t have much else to go on. Her husband had tricked her into marrying him, something he’d done many times before to other unsuspecting women who had a spot of money worth finagling them out of. Oh, and there was a ghost in the woods nearby. That was all I knew. I started the story years ago and couldn’t do more with it. I was stuck. So I sent it to Crymsyn and together we fleshed it out.
Mirabelle lives in that world I love to write: a fantasy place with mostly real surroundings. There is magic there, good and evil, and there are things to overcome. But the real thread in Mirabelle’s Ghost is about the true meaning of love and happiness. Mirabelle comes from wealth. She marries into wealth, but because her husband is using her and treats her as a possession, she isn’t happy and never could be with him.
During the story, she spends time living in a poor man’s cottage in the woods where she toils in the garden and cooks and cleans like most any housewife on a modest income would today. She waits for her lover to come home from his ‘job’ and when they’re reunited, they are happy. Why? Because the real lesson in all of this is, no matter whether it’s fantasy or romance or a combination of both, that happiness is not based on material things. It’s not about the wedding dress or the ring. Not the big, fancy house or the servants. It’s something that comes from inside, from feeling that we matter as a person, and that the other person we want to be with, sees us for who and what we are and accepts us. It’s about valuing a relationship over the material things–about valuing each other. It’s about sticking together even in the worst of times.
Is romance a fantasy? Perhaps. With time, the lust fades, and the everyday commonality of being together can make a couple resentful of one another. Romance is more than what the media portrays and far deeper and simpler than what we read in fiction. Romance is staying by someone’s side when they’re sick. It’s working together. It’s talking and sharing dreams. It’s finding a commonality that goes beyond the tedium of life. It’s doing dishes together. Raising up children. Romance is the truest kind of friendship and teamwork. And it’s never, ever easy. Just like any quest or arduous fantasy journey.