No. A book CAN’T be a romance without a HEA. Stop asking.

I apologise for this rant, but I’m frustrated.

Without fail, every month or two, a book blog will inevitably ask the question ‘Can a book be classified as a romance if it doesn’t have a happily ever after?’ (The latest from Heroes and Heartbreakers, who I’m sure have asked this question at least once before) And the answer, from romance readers and writers alike, will be a resounding ‘Hell No’.

It’s literally the one constant in the romance genre. It even says it right here on the Romance Writers of America website. I’ve written before about why it’s so important here. So why do people keep asking the question?

Mostly it’s from people trying to make romance money, without adhering to our most sacred tenets. Like this person. And the person that wrote this book. They ask the question to legitimise their decision to end the book without a HEA—and still market it as a romance.

And for all the authors talking about how they have to follow their muse and end it the way they feel the story must go, they still choose to disrespect our genre by marketing it as a romance. Even when knowing PERFECTLY WELL that Romancelandia wouldn’t consider it a romance at all. If you want the romance money, then you have to write an actual romance – ie, a book with a HEA. If you want to write the book you want to write (without a HEA), then market it as general fiction with romantic elements. Simples.

So why do well-respected ROMANCE bloggers still ask this same question? It’s baffling to me. Stop legitimising an author’s decision to mess with our genre by asking this question again and again! It makes them think they can get away with it, as if the answer might one day be yes. (Spoiler alert: it won’t ever be a yes. No HEA = not a romance. Forever and always)

Bloggers – stop asking this question. Please. I beg you. The discussion has been had. It’s done. Over. I know you like the click-baity question, because romance readers and writers will jump to defend our genre against all the trolls that pop up – and we’re a passionate bunch when Romance is threatened. And the trolls like the question, because at any excuse to shit on Romance as a whole, its “predictability”, and the women that read the genre, they are going to show up and rub their misogyny all over us. But despite the page views and retweets I’m sure you get, it does nothing to serve our community to have this discussion yet again.

So, how about we put it this way: Every time you ask the question ‘can a book be a romance without a HEA?’ a fairy loses its wings. So stop.

Filter Words and Crutch Words – plus, how to get rid of them

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Filter words and crutch words are a more recent discovery of mine with writing. Learning what they are, why they’re bad, and how to get rid of them has really changed my style for the better.

Distancing words are things like: felt, heard, saw, touched, looked, etc. They put a barrier between the reader and the book, rather than immersing them right into the action or description.

For example this sentence: She looked up to see dark clouds in the sky and heard the distant rumble of thunder. She felt a chill run down her spine.

Can become: Dark clouds rolled across the sky and thunder rumbled in the distance. A chill ran down her spine.

Fewer words and more powerful and immersive, right?

Crutch words are slightly different. They are words we use too often, and pause a sentence unnecessarily. They are fine for speech, but aren’t needed in writing!

Examples include: Just, like, obviously, that, etc

Search and replace these words in your manuscript and you’ll find many that don’t need to be there!

Since I’ve just finished edits on book #4 in the Soldiering On series, I thought now would be a good time to share my list of words that I comb through my manuscripts for. I don’t worry about these two much when I’m actually writing, because it would slow me down too much. But when I’m in the edit phase I can be ruthless! I cut out over 1,500 of these words and phrases from my manuscript over a period of two days, so I definitely mean business.

able to – can usually be replaced ‘can’ for a cleaner sentence  
Almost – often this can reduce the power of what you’re trying to say
Began – as in ‘began to’. Get rid of this and just say the character did the action
Decided – again, the character can often simply do the action
Down – As in ‘sat down’. Usually just ‘sat’ is needed
Felt – describe the sensation without using ‘felt’
going to – can usually be replaced by ‘will’ or similar
Heard – A distancing word. Usually not needed.
Just – This one is a weakness of mine. It’s often not needed
Looked – (as in ‘she looked at’) Often, you can just describe what they are looking at
Out – eg. ‘Stepping out in front’. Often just ‘stepping in front’ would work
Quite – Like almost, it’s a weak word
Realised – This word can be useful, but sometimes it can be overused and unneeded. Use your judgement.
Really – Like ‘very’ it’s better to use one word rather than qualify with ‘really’. Eg. ‘Really big’ should be ‘enormous’.
Saw – Like ‘heard’, just describe what they see.
Seemed – Like ‘realised’, this is one to use your judgement on
Speculated – Words like this are often better written as a question. Eg. Instead of ‘she speculated whether he was evil’ simply write ‘Was he evil?’
Started – Like ‘began’ it’s often not needed
That – The general rule of thumb is, if the sentence makes sense without the ‘that’, then you don’t need it. It’s amazing how many of these I find.
there were/was – eg. ‘There were three people in the room’ can become ‘three people stood in the room’
Thought – Like ‘speculated’, it is often better, particularly if you write in Deep POV, to get rid of many of your ‘thoughts’, but they can also be useful.
Touched – Like ‘heard’ or ‘saw’, this is a filter word.
Try – ‘Tried to’ is one of those things that creeps into my writing a few times when it’s simply not needed.
Up – Same issue as ‘down’. Often redundant.
Very – See ‘really’
was _ing – this is one of my favourites! For example ‘He was leaning’ becomes ‘He leaned’
Watched – Like looked or saw, this can be a filter word.
Went – ‘Went to’ like ‘began’ and ‘started’ is often not needed.
were _ing – A sister of ‘was _ing’
Wished – This is a tricky one, but again there’s often a simpler way.
Wondered – Same as above

So there you have it! What are some of the filter and crutch words you watch out for? I’m always on the lookout for words to add to my list!

Why Choose Self-Publishing?

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People often ask me why I went the self-published route rather than traditional publishing. Sometimes, on the difficult days, I even wonder myself.

Part of it was control. I’ve heard horror stories of authors hating the covers that the publishers have given them and having no recourse to change them. Or they’ve been asked to take out some element of the book that they feel is important.

In self-publishing, I have all of the control. I also have all the risk and the burden, so it’s a trade-off. But for now it is working for me. While I am relatively unknown, there isn’t as much risk.

I also like having all the information. I can see how many sales I am having per day, and adjust accordingly. I can see what is working, and what’s not. I can see how many copies I’m selling for what price, which makes estimating the amount of money I will make in a given period a lot easier.

Another reason was the freedom. I have a hero that’s pansexual. My next heroine is demisexual. I can write about any topic I like, in any way I choose. And I don’t even have to think twice or try to second-guess a publisher as to what they might want.

Again, this is not always a good thing. Sometimes the gatekeepers are right. You need a lot of trust in yourself, your work, and your choices when you’re a self-publisher. The support system you get from publishers can also be an amazing advantage, both morally and financially.

Money is another factor. I don’t think that I’ll necessarily earn ‘more’ as a self-publisher, (despite a number of authors saying that’s why they chose self-publishing) since I’ll probably sell less than if I had been trad published. But a higher percentage of each book sold will be going to me, and that’s a nice feeling. Though there are more costs, too, so again it’s a trade-off. Maybe, if and when I get popular, I can say that it was the smarter financial move, too.

I also like the idea that I can write to my own schedule. I’ve always been a quick writer, so being able to put out as many new releases as I like and only be dependent on how fast I can get the words down is a big bonus. They say that success in self-publishing is quite dependent on regular releasing, so I knew that I had that on my side when I made the decision.

I also figured that I’m smart. I learn quickly. I could make this self-publishing thing work for me. I spent a lot of time researching the best way to do things before jumping in. That’s not to say that I haven’t made mistakes. I have, and will continue to do so. But I had confidence that I could make a success of it.

Whether this is true is yet to be seen. Maybe eventually I’ll go hybrid. It does seem to be a popular option. But for now I am happy with self-publishing. I think I made the right choice.

Networking for Indie Authors

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If there was ever such a halcyon time when an Indie Author could just hit publish on a book and then watch the sales come in, that time is long over.

Now, discoverability is a real issue, and many authors are feeling alone and disheartened, and struggling to find sales. I’m certainly not an expert on getting sales, (or on not feeling alone, for that matter!) but I have a steady amount of books sold each day. I can attribute my modest success to one thing: networking.

There are a number of different forms of networking.

  • In person
  • Online (Readers)
  • Online (Other writers)
  • Online (Bloggers and reviewers)

The first time I saw a bump in my sales (after the initial release) was when I attended the Romance Writers of Australia conference last year. There, I met a lot of lovely, like-minded people that loved the same genre I do, both as readers and writers. I didn’t spend any of my time pimping my books to people there (unless they asked!), but I did build connections, ones that I’ve continued since. And many of those people have been supportive of my writing in subsequent months.

So, in person networking is not about selling your books, necessarily, it’s about selling yourself as a person and making friends.

I also have seen an uptick in my sale since I joined a number of online groups for writers. Not critique groups, but more communities, many of which are on Goodreads and Facebook. Again, I didn’t use these groups to spam people with my books, but I try to be a helpful, active member. I answer people’s questions as best I can, I offer opinions when they’re asked for, and I cheer people on when they need it. And they do the same for me! I don’t go in with the intention of any mercenary gain, but I think in many ways these groups have contributed to me finding a readership.

This, for me, was about having a support network of other people that understand the writing process. Some of them bought my book! But that isn’t the point of the connection. Rather, they make me feel less alone in the writing and publishing world, and these groups are a place to pool our knowledge for the betterment of all of us. However, like with the in-person networking, it helps to make friends and be supportive of other people, because they’ll probably be supportive back.

Bloggers and reviewers are the group I’ve had the least success networking with. I’ve tried! But I’m probably doing something wrong. However, I’ll keep persisting because there is a wealth of evidence out there that bloggers and reviewers will be your biggest supporters down the line. They are the ones that get readers to hear about your book, and get them hyped for releases. It will definitely be a challenge worth pursuing to build those relationships!

And, now, to readers. There are a number of ways to meet and communicate with readers. In person you have book launches, conferences, conventions, and things like that. Online, you have social media, groups, forums, etc. If you can build a relationship with readers, then I’ll wager that will be your most financially successful form of networking. Part of this comes through your author branding (something I’m still working on) – readers want to know who you are. Other times it’s just interacting with them in appropriate places.

 

Networking is essential for building not just a readership, but a community around you. This isn’t (just) for financial reasons. Indie authors don’t have to take this journey alone – and they shouldn’t. Find opportunities to build relationships, and be receptive to those that come your way. It’ll make a massive difference!

How NOT to Begin a Book

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Last week I wrote about the various things a first chapter(s) needs to achieve for a book’s narrative. This week, I am going to give some examples of what NOT to do, inspired by some recent reading experiences of mine.

You know the writing advice you hear constantly: “cut the backstory”? Well, this first book is a perfect example of why.

In the first 4 chapters, at least 50% of the page space was taken up with flashbacks or musings on past events. So little happened in the present day part of the story – it was just pages after pages of what had happened 14 years ago. And my God it was boring. Any time something began to happen in the present day, the character would stop to ruminate on the past events that got them there.

I got the purpose – there was a major night in the character’s past that was effecting present day. But there would have been a much more interesting way of introducing that to the audience.

Rather than have the hero and heroine finally meet 25% into the story (again, boring for a romance) they should have met on page one. By necessity, it would have been a fraught reunion. They both loved and hated each other, for completely valid reasons. And it would have been interesting. Then, over time, the reader could learn why there was so much tension between them.

But, alas, this was not what we got. And I lost interest pretty quick.

So, start with something interesting, and intrigue the reader with what events lead to the characters being in that situation. Or, if the backstory truly is the most interesting part of your story, then start the book there. Nora Roberts has started doing this a lot—having the first third or so of the book be an extended prologue—and I find it perfectly interesting.

The other sin that I read recently was a book that introduced what felt like 3,000 characters in the first two chapters.

In this particular book, by the time I was halfway through chapter 2, I had met at least eight—count ‘em eight—important secondary characters. This doesn’t even include the Hero and Heroine. Talk about overwhelming!

The fact that I was supposed to remember all of these people, their names, and their relationships with each other was mind boggling.

It is important to give the reader time to breathe between each character introduction, or piece of important information. This is particularly essential in a romance. The writer must give priority to developing the two main characters and their interaction. If you want to use the book to set up future romances, fine, but it should never be at the expense of the main relationship.

I will say that how your main character interacts with other people can be very revealing for their personality, so I’m certainly not saying you can’t feature any other characters in your opening chapter.

But just think about how many of those people need to be there. I could have culled about five of those eight with no trouble, and the book would have made a hell of a lot more sense.

Personally, I try to only introduce one or two secondary characters at a time. Each of them leaves the page while I let the main characters recharge, and then I might introduce another character down the track. This keeps the focus on the hero and heroine, and doesn’t confuse the reader.

So, my takeaways. a) keep backstory to the bare minimum until you’ve got the reader hooked, (even then, use it sparingly) and b) don’t overwhelm the reader upfront with too many characters. Keep it simple and streamlined where possible, or you’ll end up with a bloated, boring mess.

What are your pet hates in the beginning of a book? Do you have any writing issues that would immediately make you put the book down?

How To Begin A Book

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I’ve been thinking a lot about opening chapters recently – my own and others. Inspired by the fact that I have been (re)writing an opening chapter myself, and two books I’ve tried to read lately had boring or confusing openings.

A first chapter has to do a hell of a lot of heavy lifting in your book. A reader won’t read chapter 2 if chapter 1 isn’t good. They might forgive a dodgy chapter 10 (though I wouldn’t recommend trying it!), but not a bad beginning.

Which means that, first and foremost, chapter 1 has to be interesting and exciting, quite apart from all the narrative requirements it must fulfil.

So, what does chapter 1 have to achieve? It has to set up the following:

  1. The world
  2. The characters
  3. (In a romance) Their relationship
  4. The conflict (Interpersonal, and external)

Now there are a number of ways to do this. Occasionally, you might have to cheat, and set up 3 of the 4 in chapter one, and the fourth in chapter 2. I did this for Guarding Sierra. The first chapter set up the world, the danger to Sierra, who she was and how she reacted to the situation, and how she intended to deal with it. What it didn’t do was introduce Blake, and his relationship with Sierra – and one of the first comments I got on the chapter after release was “where’s the hero?”

Hot tip: romance readers like their hero and heroine to meet almost immediately.

It’s a fair point, and definitely something to consider.

Anyway, let me expand on those 4 points above.

THE WORLD: My books are romantic suspense. That means that in my opening chapter, I have to let the reader know what they are in for, just in case the blurb and/or cover didn’t clue them in. You have to set up their expectations of what’s to come, and then proceed to meet those expectations.

So, for me, that means that I have to set up a suspense element in the opening chapter. Sometimes I do this immediately, by throwing the heroine into peril in the first few lines. Once the immediate danger has passed, I’ll slow down and build the relationships between the characters.

Other times, like with Christmas Tango, I’ll use the majority of the chapter to focus on the relationship between the two main characters, and wait until the end of the chapter to drop in the suspense element. If this is the case, I will try to come up with an opening line that gives the impression of danger—even if it is a misdirect. The opening line of Christmas Tango is: ‘Duncan tugged at the unfamiliar noose around his throat—also known as a bow tie.’ You can see how I tried to clue the reader in to the type of book it was, even though Duncan wasn’t in any immediate danger.

Additionally, each book is designed to stand alone, which means that I have to reintroduce Soldiering On and what they do very early on in each book.

So, basically an opening chapter is about setting up the genre expectations, setting, etc.

THE CHARACTERS: This means setting up the characters individually. Their goals, motivations, personalities, etc.

Now, in a romance, you usually have 2 dual protagonists. You most likely won’t get both of their POVs in the first chapter. It is essential that you get at least one of their POVs. And, if they meet, you can give hints as to what the other person is like, too.

The best ways to reveal character are

  1. Have the character talk to someone else
  2. Have them react to a situation
  3. Have them make a decision.

All of these things are excellent at showing who a character is, and can even be used in conjunction with each other! This doesn’t just apply to opening chapters, but throughout your book. If you want to reveal a new layer of a character, then these are some of the best ways to do it.

THE RELATIONSHIP: So, if the characters meet in the opening chapter (which, if you can manage, I would recommend) then you need to set up their future interactions, and their conflict.

Whatever it is that keeps them from their HEA until page 300, will have to be introduced the moment they meet. Or, at least, the seeds of it.

In the first chapter of Soldiering On, Duncan and Mandy meet briefly. She says something innocuous, and he interprets it the wrong way due to his own issues. He gets annoyed—at both her and himself—and is rude to her. This proceeds to happen a lot over the next few books. That opening moment set up their relationship, and the tone of their interactions ever after. Every time they’ve interacted after that moment has been informed by those first seconds. They have grown and evolved—and will continue to do so—but that first moment can never be undone.

THE CONFLICT: I’ve already kind of covered this, but it’s very important that there is conflict in your opening chapter. This can be internal—a character’s inner conflict, or a relationship conflict between the two leads—or external. External conflict is, of course, external forces at work on the characters.

You can have more than one kind of conflict. In fact, it might be best if you do. That’s what keeps the readers invested!

 

So, that’s all the elements you need to think about when writing (or editing) your opening chapter. I hope it helps! Next time, I think I’ll do a ‘what not to do’ post.

Just for fun, drop a comment below as to your favourite opening chapters you’ve read. What did they do right? I could use a good recommendation!

Knowing When To Cut

With bonus deleted scenes from Guarding Sierra!

 

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The decision to cut a scene from a book is one of the hardest a writer will make—surpassed only by the agonising decision to scrap everything when you realise it just isn’t working.

I had to do both in the process of bringing Guarding Sierra into existence. I originally started the novel in a very different place. When I realised it was completely the wrong beginning, I was so annoyed with myself for the time wasted. But I accepted it, started again, and the book is much better for it.

I also deleted and changed a number of scenes. Sometimes it can take a while to realise that it’s the right decision to delete—and longer still to work up the nerve to actually do it. To help me feel like I haven’t wasted my time, before I cut a scene I copy it into a document I label ‘Spares’. Then, I can come back to it later if I really need to. Sometimes I end up mining it for content—a descriptor or character beat—but generally I don’t, and the decision to cut is the right one.

When editing Guarding Sierra, there was a small scene that lasted through a few drafts. I didn’t want to cut it—it was a good character moment for Sierra, if a little heavy-handed. The problem was, it sped up her character development too much, leaving the last 1/3 of the book with nowhere for her to grow. Her realisation that she’d misjudged Blake happened too soon in the arc of the story, and it made her bland as a result.

The progression of her character development is much smoother now that the moment is gone, but I really liked the conversation between her and Blake. It hints at some of the bigotry that Blake has experienced because of his sexuality, and it forced Sierra to confront some of her own preconceptions about him. Part of me regrets not being able to find a place for it later on in the book, but by the time it would have been appropriate for them to have the conversation, the tension was ramping up and it would have slowed down the pace.

I just like to imagine it happening off-screen. J

But, now I can share it with you guys! It’s rough, since it never went through the final drafting/editing stages. But it gives you an idea of what I was trying to achieve. (Context for those that haven’t read Guarding Sierra: They’ve recently slept together, and Blake has told Sierra it can’t happen again. She’s pissed off, with both him and herself, because she figured him for a player and slept with him anyway. She feels she should have known better. For those that have read it: This originally appeared in the kitchen scene, before Duncan shows up to give Blake a talking to.)

Blake stared down at his sandwich, a muscle ticking in his jaw.

“Here’s the thing,” he began, then glanced up at her. “I have a habit of doing this.”

“Yeah, I figured you for a bit of a player,” Sierra interrupted. Nausea rolled in her gut. At least she could take comfort in the fact that his inability to stay faithful most likely didn’t stem from sexism, since it sounded like he treated his male lovers the same. She would lose even more respect for herself if it turned out she’d slept with a misogynist.

A frown tugged at his brow. “That’s not what I meant. I don’t sleep around, I prefer to be in relationships.” He paused. “Though it is a common stereotype that bi- and pan- people are incapable of being in a committed relationship.” His look was reproachful.

Her cheeks heated with shame, but she didn’t back down quite yet. “To be fair, I thought you were a player before I knew you were Pan.”

“You aren’t helping your case.” He seemed amused by her defence.

“You are an incorrigible flirt. Most people would think the same about you as I did.” She had no way of knowing if he was telling the truth now. Though whether he would lie to make her feel better or for some reason she didn’t understand, Sierra couldn’t be sure.

He raised an eyebrow in disbelief. Sierra clammed her mouth shut, frustrated with both him and herself. Blake obviously chose not to continue down that conversation topic, but whether out of pity for her or not, she couldn’t tell.

As you can see, it was quite heavy-handed. That could have been smoothed out later if I’d kept the scene in. However, having Sierra confront her own assumptions about Blake made her reassess her opinion of him far too soon. It threw the rest of her character development off balance. Once it was cut, I tweaked what came after, and I think the book is stronger for it.

 

Now, something a little more fun:

This is an alternate version of the scene where Sierra calls Mandy after having spent the night with Blake. I changed it because it didn’t fit the tone I needed in the scene, but it was an enjoyable little exchange.

“No wonder you’re cranky. I don’t think this is the disaster you’re claiming it is,” Mandy told her.

“Hey, you’re meant to be on my side here!”

Mandy chuckled, unrepentant. “I am on your side. The serial killer aspect is admittedly worrying, but I trust Blake to keep you safe. Even if he can’t seem to keep his pants on.”

Sierra sighed. “I’m at least equally responsible for that part.”

Mandy snorted, then grew serious. “If you’re really worried, you should get out of the city. Have a vacation, and hide away.”

“No way. I can’t leave work now. And being away somewhere with Blake sounds like a terrible idea.”

“Afraid he’ll come onto you again?”

“No, I’m afraid I’ll come on to him.” She ploughed on without giving Mandy a chance to reply. “So, does this raise any ethical issues for you? Or the company? I can definitely promise it won’t happen again.”

Mandy hummed in thought. “I mean, it isn’t generally something we would encourage, but I don’t really think punishing you would help. You’ve been through enough already and frankly, I just don’t want to. I’m glad you let loose for a little while, even if it was only for a night.”

“Blake seemed to think he’d get in trouble.”

“Well,” she replied. “I never said anything about not punishing him.”

I like writing friendships between women, so this was a fun scene. It was just totally wrong for what the moment needed, particularly once I realised that Sierra had to hold her grudge against Blake for a bit longer.

 

So, the moral of this story is, don’t be afraid to cut! Just because you put a lot of time into something doesn’t mean it is right. Be honest with yourself about what your story needs. Trust your instincts. Get feedback from others if you have to.

Ultimately, you have to do what the story needs.

If you want to find out what the final (and better!) versions of these scenes looked like, Guarding Sierra is available to purchase below:

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Amazon (AU)

Amazon (CA)

Kobo

Barnes and Noble

Why Is Happiness Considered “Unrealistic”?

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When I talk about why I love romance – and happy endings – people often say “but they are so unrealistic!”

When this happens, the general response from romance advocates I hear in return is “It’s just a fantasy, like a crime novel!” But…why? Why are romance novels considered fantasies? I don’t really think they are. A heightened version of life, yeah, sure. And obviously the more fantastical romances are fantasies in that sense. But is the Happily Ever After really such an unattainable thing?

Let’s do an experiment, shall we?

Close your eyes, and picture all the people you know well. Friends, family, coworkers, the over-sharing guy that runs the corner store. You got them all? Right. Now, how many of those people would consider themselves happy, or even just content. A decent number, right?

I have friends and family going through tough times, but I also know a lot of people that are really happy with where their lives are. Some are married, or with partners. Some are single. Happiness is across all range of jobs, lives, circumstances. That doesn’t mean there is no conflict in their lives, that’s ridiculous. But these people are satisfied with where they have found themselves. Even the ones that aren’t happy now definitely will be one day – life is a series of ups and downs, but there are always ups.

So, let’s apply this logic to fiction, shall we?

The general progression of a Romance novel is two people go through some conflict, and end up falling in love. It’s a very simplified version, of course, but that’s the basic premise.

Falling in love is something that people do every day. I know many people in love right now. Married people. People in committed relationships. Sometimes other, more complicated scenarios. But it is still all love.

So why, when this is applied to fiction, is it suddenly “fantasy”?

Quite apart from the fact that romance novels are rarely just about that. Most are about conquering the bad stuff in life and triumphing. People I know do that all the time, too! They move away from the bad things in their life to get to a better place. It’s human nature.

So, again, why is this considered unrealistic?

I think we are doing a disservice to ourselves and our genre to say that getting to a good place in life and falling in love is unrealistic. It’s like saying that people will be miserable and never fall in love, ever, because that’s not a thing that happens in real life. But for romance writers and readers, HEAs don’t imply that our main characters will now and forever lead a conflict-free existence. They just say that these people are in love and are going to make a good go at a life together. And, if it’s done right, the author will have convinced us that they’ve got a good shot of making it work.

Frankly, based on my own experience, misery isn’t any more realistic than happiness, despite what people say. When people are faced with disappointments, they usually move on, grow, and find something new. Something good. And it is up to the author to decide where in this process they want to tell the character’s story – on the up- or the down-swing of a character’s life.

Romance novelists choose the up-swing. Other authors sometimes choose the down-swing. And that’s fine. There is room for all kinds of stories in this world.

But we shouldn’t be mocked or derided or considered “unrealistic” because we choose to end our books with the characters happy and in love. It’s such an everyday occurrence. (As are orgasms, FYI, so they aren’t unrealistic, either).

So, next time someone tells you that Romance novels are unrealistic, ask them whether they are happy.

Because surely, surely, only a miserable bastard would be rude enough to expend effort mocking people’s reading tastes. And that’s a sad life.