I was standing around at a book thing last month, talking to other authors I’d kind of been hanging out with. This is, by the way, a cool thing. I never, ever get tired of wearing the author hat. There are days when it’s kind of hard to sit down and be productive, but being a writer is neat, even when it’s poorly paid, which it is for most of us.
Okay, so I’m shameless, and some of the best parts of being a writer are that I get to pull out cards with my name and the titles of a whole bunch of books I wrote, and tell random strangers who ask what I do that I’m a novelist, and even interact on a very semi-colleague basis with people whose books I read when I was in high school. And yes, this interaction involves me becoming a shrieking fangirl puddle, because oh my goodness.
This particular conversation did not include anyone well enough known to make me freak out, fortunately, but it did involve one of my other favorite things about being a writer. Talking about characters. Those imaginary (sort of) people who spring to life in our heads.
So it’s late in the event and traffic in the bookroom has been a little slow, and we’re all getting a little loopy. This is an all genre fiction event (Limestone Genre in Kingston, Ontario, which I highly recommend), and the other people I’m talking to are horror/speculative fiction writers. So we’re talking about characters, and all of the terrible things we do to them. So a couple of the other writers are describing the gruesome deaths, etc. that their characters suffer.
I said, “All my characters have happy endings.” I got some funny looks. I reminded them I’m a romance writer.
I do tend to have more in common culturally with speculative fiction authors than mainstream romance ones (although that’s not an absolute, and I also think it’s fairly common for m/m writers, since so many started in fandom), but I am, at the end of the day, a romance writer.
Happy endings are my stock in trade.
I do dabble in other forms occasionally. Vacancy is really a mystery, not romantic suspense. I’d like to write more Joe Mastronelli stories, and while they will have a romantic element, it’s not going to be the focus. They’re not that dark, but he is meant to be a noir antihero. Here, if anyone is curious.
I am working on a new one, although I’m not making promises for when it will be out.
I should also have a new romance out within the next month or so, although I don’t have the cover yet. It’s a rock star book, and I’m very excited by it. I’m also working on another in that series.
And yes, they have happy endings. I’m not giving away the particulars, but they’re romance novels. They always have happy endings. It’s a defining feature of the genre. Any good book should have a satisfactory ending, but in most fiction categories an ending can be almost anything. Even tragic.
Not in a romance. And no, that doesn’t make them boring (unless you just don’t like reading romances, and I recommend trying a couple before you come to that conclusion). I’ve said things before about the telling, rather than the tale, or character rather than plot-driven, and those are true. It’s also true that happy endings are not all alike (any more than happy families are, all apologies to Tolstoy).
Character X may be set up for a romantic pairing with Character Y, and then completely fall for Character Z (or all three could end up in a clinch). They could run away to sea, retire to a country estate, or go into business together. Anything is possible, even with sorrow and despair off the table as permanent options.
One of the many things I like about writing m/m is that it tends to be a little more flexible than traditional romance, and one of the ways is that readers have a much greater tolerance for HFN (Happily For Now) as opposed to HEA (Happily Ever After), which you must deliver in a lot of traditional categories (romantic suspense being a fairly notable exception).
Particularly in historicals, HFN is often the only plausible option, but really, happy endings are not all alike. They’re just happy.