The Trouble with Romance
“Will love conquer all, or is the world’s only salvation a god with an iron fist?”
As February comes to a close, we prepare to leave Black History Month, Women in Horror Month, and the cavalcade of hearts and flowers and an insultingly diminished Greek God, Eros, who you may know as Cupid, behind.
I will spend the last days of February editing Somnalia, the sequel to Happiness and Other Diseases, which incorporates all of these things… even president’s day, as you can see in the story’s back cover blurb:
Turmoil consumes the Underworld when the death of a god leaves a power vacuum. Phobetor, the stern and ambitious god of Nightmares seeks to fill the gap at any cost. Murderous nightmare daemons escape to the mortal realm, placing all of mankind in peril. In the midst of the unrest, star-crossed lovers yearn for one another across the void, one disempowered and bound to the earth, the other trapped in the land of dreams by a grave sacrifice. Will love conquer all, or is the world’s only salvation a god with an iron fist?
The Somnalia series, from which Happiness and Other Diseases was birthed is a dark fantasy with a love story running through it. The transgressive tale of the lovers Flynn and Charlotte is not a romance that can stand on its own outside of the earth-shattering, humanity-threatening activities of Charlotte’s immortal relatives, who include among their ranks the aforementioned (and quite meddlesome) Eros. It is more like the River Lethe that runs through the land of dreams, the Demos Oneiroi.
The river runs through the entire land of dreams and nightmares, and casts its sedating effect on those who are near it, especially those who are in it. It makes them forget. It doesn’t encompass all of the land, though. It is a feature.
Love is like that… a calming feature in a tumultuous world.
The stressing factors present in Charlotte and Flynn’s world are a lot more supernatural than ours, but I think their need to find comfort in one another is something we all can relate to.
Fantasy vs. Reality
I wrote first drafts of all three books in the Somnalia trilogy last year. While I was busy crafting Charlotte and Flynn’s epic romance, and quite a few less-epic little love stories that exist in the Somnalia universe, my own love life was rapidly deteriorating.
Almost as if to rub salt in the wound, a half-dozen elated and certainly well-meaning fans interpreted the emotional depth I imbued my characters with as a reflection of some sort of my real life. My writing teacher at Berkeley City College, Mary Webb, quite frequently reminds students not to assume that the works of their fellow writers are autobiographical. Yet, it is a thing many readers do – presume the characters reflect real events in a writer’s life. That is not necessarily the case. In fiction, quite often these very active figments of a writer’s imagination are just a part of her rich fantasy life.
The glue holding fantasies together is sometimes the longing of the daydreamer. I would think that much would be patently obvious, but apparently it is not. This is not always the case in writing, even romance writing. However, it can be… and lack of fulfillment can certainly be a motivating factor.
I am single now. My relationship, with all of its myriad flaws, came to an end.
Now I am floating around in the flawed world of dating and single life. I am flying past guys who associate creativity with drugs, and dudes who think it’s a good idea to start off a date with a half-ass critique of my half-read novel. I am kicking the dust off my shoes, but I am also pouting because a guy I like won’t commit to seeing me on any specific date or time.
If I am honest about my feelings, a dozen strong women will pound their chests in my general direction and chide me for my silly, girlish notions. I will be told that I am a strong, independent woman and I don’t need all of that hand-holding I crave.
Now I won’t even say “a man” here, because it doesn’t have to be a man, just somebody.
I could be like Val Kilmer portraying Jim Morrison in the movie The Doors, talking large shit like, “I’ll be the poet, and you’ll be my muse.” I could be like David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, making love to my ego. I could quietly lose touch and run away into the Demos Oneiroi with my imaginary lover, but only for a little while.
There will be no one to rub my feet. Hugs and hand holding will be rationed.
When I wake up, there will be tons of editing left to do.