Writing, Romance, and Divorce

April/May 2013

Two years ago, I wrote this article for Novel Rocket (below). It got a lot of response, so I wanted to re-post it here.   And, perhaps add that today I can say with confidence that there is definitely a happily-ever-after, even after divorce. Nope, I don’t know what mine is going to be 😉 But I look forward to whatever my future holds. In fact, I don’t want to miss a minute of it… Bring it on!

Writing Romance When the Real Romance Fails (From Novel Rocket 2011)

How do you write a happily-ever-after when your own story has turned into a tragedy?

When I landed my last novel contract, frankly, it was the first bit of good news I’d had in a long while. I’d prayed to be able to write this book for a few months, thinking it would be just what I needed to take my mind off of what was really going on in my real life—a divorce.

I was so thankful when it came through. I read through my editor’s notes immediately and sat down at the computer. I couldn’t wait to bury myself in this new story. But instead of pouring my energy into the new book, I found, for the first time ever, that I couldn’t write at all. Not only could I not write, I loathed sitting in front of the computer. I found myself doing anything else—bathing the dog, painting rooms, cleaning, all sorts of things I REALLY hated to do.  And, if I did happen to get in front of the computer, I was emailing my lawyer, trying to negotiate the sale of my home or figuring out whose weekend it was with the kids. Even emails I feared would be full of bad news. And I especially avoided staring at the blinking cursor on the white page of my very incomplete manuscript. The document sat minimized on the dock of my desktop.

My deadline came and went and I’d barely squeaked out half of the story.  I started wondering if I could finish. I started wondering, if I could even write romance anymore. I mean let’s face it I was a failure. I’d failed as a wife. And now I was failing as a writer… What next? I was afraid to think about tomorrow.

Desperate for inspiration, I pulled out writing books and plotting outlines. I went to my favorite writing spots. I tried using Scrivener, thinking something new to look at would inspire me. I set little daily word count goals and failed at those.  I even tried to use some of my confused feelings to “get into” my story, but while sorrow and depression might inspire some artists to abandon themselves into their work, I was stuck with the worst case of writer’s block ever. My ability to focus on anything had vanished and I didn’t know how to fix it. Depression hung like a cloud in my mind and my fingers were paralyzed at the keyboard. Even with great family and friends and a whole lot of prayer, there were days when I wanted to crawl in a hole and come out in a year or two when all the difficult stuff was over.

It was in the midst of all this that I found myself at a writer’s conference sitting on a panel of “pro” writers (something I’d agreed to do a long time before all the other life turmoil began). I looked out into the audience at other authors and even at my editor who should have been pointing at her watch and glaring at me for the late manuscript I owed her, except that she’s way too nice for that. I was feeling like a total fraud when someone in the audience asks, “What are inspirational romance readers looking for?” Great question. I repeated it for recording purposes then promptly passed the microphone to the author next to me because…well, I had no idea… I couldn’t write anymore.

It was author Margaret Daley who sat next to me. She leaned up to the microphone and without a second of hesitation said, “HOPE. Our readers are looking for hope.”

Hope. Now there was a nice little four-letter word that I’d forgotten about.  A romance story needed hope. Or wait…maybe I needed hope. Because how can I give my readers hope when I have none of my own? If I wanted to finish my story—and I did—I had to find a way to remember my hope. I was determined.

But it didn’t happen overnight. It was slow—one minute, one hour, one day at a time, I stole back that hope that sorrow taken. I’d find hope in my children’s eyes. I’d find it in a friend’s voice.  I’d find it in God’s promises. I’d find it in doing something for someone else. And the hope began to trickle over into my work…

I quit trying to write the story as fast as I could. I’d find a few quiet minutes here and there and I’d write a page. Many times that was it—one page. But then two or three and slowly, so slowly those characters worked their way to a happy ending. In some ways, I felt like I was healing along with them.

Of course, real life doesn’t stop at page 385 like a storybook romance, so I won’t end here by saying I got my own happy-ending. But I do have all I need to expect many more happy chapters. I have God’s promises and perfect love. I have friends and family and two beautiful children full of life.



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Top 10 Classic Novels

I have no idea why but I love lists. I make a list for everything. Some would say it’s because I have to be organized but if you saw my desk or my closet, you would know right away that I’m not all that when it comes to organization. Soon, I will sit down and make my list of things to accomplish and do for 2013. And as I was watching “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” the other night (it’s a movie with Matthew Maconahey) I thought, that’s it. I’m going to do lists of 10 this year. I’m always grabbing magazines with subtitles that read “10 ways to get rich” or “10 Top Universities” or “10 best Places to buy Vanilla Ice cream.” I love it. So, let me share a few of my top ten.  The ten books that made me love to read…

#10 The Hobbit

#9 Les Miserables

#8 Jane Eyre

#7 The Charterhouse of Parma

#6 Great Expectations

#5 The Plague

#4 The Grapes of Wrath

#3 The Call of the Wild

#2 Manon Lescaut

#1 Pride and Prejudice

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Christmas in New York

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone.

First of all congrats to my latest book drawing winners, Amanda and Sybil!!  This was a seasonal event held on the Harlequin Forums last week. Lots of fun!

So, I’ve been busy with my day job and trying to cram in some Christmas shopping here and there. BUT I did get to do something pretty special this past month. I love New York and I especially love New York around Christmas time. My daughter turned 10 this month, so for her birthday I though it would be fun to go to NYC. We crammed a lot of stuff into 2 1/2 days. It was wonderful.

We visited Santa and the Winter Wonderland in Macy’s. Fabulous!!

Birthday dinner at American Girl Doll.

Lunch Downtown with my editor, Elizabeth Mazer.

The Freedom Towers are going up. A beautiful sight!!

We also took in 2 shows, had high tea at St. Regis, visited Rockerfeller Center and took a carriage ride in Central Park. It was such a great trip.

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