Happy(ish) Ever After
‘I can’t write a love story,’ I said. ‘I just can’t.’
Writing a cracking love story, both original and satisfying requires skills I don’t have; my best efforts would be saccharine-sweet, trite and clichéd. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good rom-com – it’s the humour that makes it – and whilst I’m not sure the label ‘chick-lit’ is complimentary, it’s a genre with some absolute gems; my weakness being the Irish authors whose work still reminds me of ‘home.’ Then there are the classic ‘romances’: Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Little Women … and also so much of what agents and publishers call contemporary women’s fiction …
It’s precisely at this point, I find myself teetering on the brink of a huge trap of ridiculous narrow-mindedness. I need to stop, look and listen – and re-evaluate.
Love is incredibly complex. We all have some notion about what it means to us individually, but ask us to define it ‘elevator pitch’ style, so it resonates across community and culture? Tricky. If I pick randomly from my groaning bookcases, the majority surely contain ‘love’ in some guise or other. And, this is even more telling, if I swivel my eyes to the (very, very much smaller) shelf that houses my own stories.
In 2008, my first published short fiction, Tasting the Apple, was a love story at heart. Others (tortuously slowly) followed: The Shining Girl, Twenty-Four Hour Promise, The Merry Dancers – not to mention the rest waiting in the wings. My travel memoir, A Blonde Bengali Wife, is about my love affair with the country of Bangladesh. My first (unpublished – yet!) novel, Chasing Elena, describes a woman seeking her childhood soulmate, and my second (in progress) another woman whose secret life has been shaped by three intense encounters with three significant people…
Probably everything I’ve ever written, then, actually has love at its core – if I take away the narrow parameters by which I initially defined the term. My mistake was thinking true love stories have to end Happy Ever After. Mine, at best, are Happy(ish) Ever After, or Hopeful Ever After. And that’s because I like bringing the story to a close with a sense of anticipation; no certainty, just the possibility that it will all come right one day. (I’ve also discovered how much I like my love to be unattainable – but that’s a story for another day!)
I can’t, now, remember how I found myself part of a Facebook group committed to publishing an anthology of stories about love, but in the light of the above, it seemed like a challenge. The essence of Love Unlimited: Anthology is exactly what I’m struggling to talk about here:
‘Exploring the unlimited nature of love and its many incarnations … featuring eleven short stories and novellas by women authors that cross generations, cultural backgrounds, and borders.’
My own story, The Shining Girl, which won the New Asian Writing fiction competition last year, is about the love of a place, a person, an encounter. It may be transient, it may last a lifetime. Either way it’s a significant connection. The same goes for the other ten stories. Each is unique, thought-provoking, sometimes funny, often challenging. What they have in common is a highly individual take on this thing we all call love.
Buy Link for Love Unlimited: Anthology
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Author of A Blonde Bengali Wife