It was my birthday, Friday, July 14. Being a summer birthday, I never had to bring any cupcakes or cookies to school like I do for my daughters (September/March). But it wasn't my birthday this past week that made me reflect. I don't really celebrate birthdays. I get the discount coupons in the mail (happy birthday, here's 10 percent off to celebrate) and my daughters and Mom usually give me a card or something, but for the most part, having birthday parties for me ceased many, many years ago.
On July 11, I attended a memorial service for my former step-grandmother. She died in June 2 and on July 11 she would have been 102 years old. (My mother had been married to her son for about 20 years, and this was the first time I'd seen anyone in that family since the divorce, about six years ago. My stepbrother and I had even shared an apartment for a while, so it was great to catch up with him.) The thing that impressed me so much about Alice's service was the people who shared their stories. My grandmother had touched so many lives, including mine. Even though we too had lost touch, she'd still had so much influence over who I am. I cut my irises back the other week, something she'd taught me to do. She celebrated when I sold my first book, never once saying "write something besides one of THOSE books." She was like me, stubborn, and it's only now that I can look back on all those times we butted heads and realize that I didn't know it all, and that I grew from every experience.
As I get older, many of my friends and I have simply grown apart as our lives go in different directions and our children take all of our time. No longer do we get together and celebrate over cake and cupcakes, but we instead see each other at funerals and weddings, of which the latter are few and the former are becoming more frequent. (American Beauties spoiler alert: I start my series at a funeral, and it ends at a wedding.)
When I wrote my first miniseries, which kicks off with The Marriage Campaign, I put four friends in four cities, just like my friends and I are. I miss them daily. I wish we talked more. I know that they'd be here for me in a heartbeat, and that I live in their hearts as they live in mine.
Romance novels are about connections. A book's character's connect with us and resonate deep inside. This is why we laugh and we cry. We see ourselves and we see others. We feel nostaligic and hopeful. We celebrate the happily-ever-after when we may not have our own. Romance novels are not so much, IMO, about escapism, but about delivering a great read that reaffirms that love indeed conquers all and that people can connect on that level that matters most, love.
My grandma's friends who were there with her at the end reported that my grandma wanted not to be mourned, but to be remembered only for what she'd taught. She left two final readings, her final messages to those remaining behind. She wanted her life to be celebrated, and for everyone to celebrate theirs daily. She has a legacy that lives on. Through books, each writer also has that. Each reader has that. And between the pages, they connect.
Now where are the cupcakes?
The Marriage Campaign
Harlequin American Romance, August 06