As long as I can remember I’ve been a realist. Strange comment perhaps coming from a writer who adores the paranormal and fantasy, but it’s the way I’ve always thought of myself. As a reader I look for the believability in any story I read. Hell I’ve written stories set in both venues and I always base them in the real world and in real emotion. I’m no psychologist, although I did have my college psychology professor suggest I change my major after one semester. There was a point where I even threatened to start charging my friends by the hour because I seem to be one of those people that even strangers open up to. The point is emotion–REAL EMOTION–is important to me when I’m creating a pairing for one of my stories.
I suppose it started with my parents to be honest. My mother and father, Goddess rest their souls, had a relationship that some might say was dysfunctional. My mother despite her family’s protests married my dad. She knew he had problems (he was definitively diagnosed as schizophrenic in the last six months of his life, he was 62) yet it didn’t matter to her. She saw beneath the painful facade of his illness and discovered the true man hidden beneath. That was who she fell in love with. Despite all her flaws there was one thing that I will always be grateful that mother had; she had the ability to see the real people beneath the masks. She raised us to be color blind, to look beyond the exterior, and get to know the human beneath.
The love my parents shared was one of mutual respect and understanding. Yeah, they didn’t have a fairy tale romance, but it was honest, and sometimes brutal as love often is. They were married on August 13, 1966 and were together until my father’s death in April 1992 of a sudden heart attack. They were my first example of love manifest.
Perhaps, that is why when I reached that point when boys were suddenly fascinating specimens, unlike my fellow females I rolled my eyes at the Harlequin romance novels of yore (this was the late 70’s/early 80’s). To me HEA (Happily Ever After) was something that was created by people who didn’t want real love, but wanted some fantasy Disney version of what they believed was love. It was around that time when I discovered the old Gothic romance novels of the 50’s and 60’s. To me they were the closest to what the search for true love was. Heroines that fought against incredible odds to discover a love worth fighting for. You have to understand that I was a kid and felt trapped in a world I wanted no part of, but I found escape in these books that by today’s standards seem a bit on the corny side. It was the darkness in these books though that spoke to me. It seemed a more realistic portrayal of the search for love in my limited experience. After all my parents had their ups and downs.
As I grew older I learned that love could be far harder to find than even I had imagined. Leaving my parents home and going out on my own I began my first serious relationship at 23. I did care for him, but I was hesitant to commit because I saw that he was hiding something from me. Eventually, part of his secret was revealed in the worst of ways. The guy who said he loved me and wanted to marry me came out of the bi-sexual closet. I tried to tell him it didn’t matter to me, but he had the mind set that there was gay and straight, but no such thing as bi-sexual. Later I would learn after we parted ways that he was more messed up than I ever imagined. He’d been physically and sexually abused by a male relative and had as a teenager had an incestuous relationship with his sister. Our relationship ended badly and it was then that I realized how messed up it was that there were people like my former lover who felt the need to hide who they were. That thought made my heart ache for him. At the same time I’d become friends with a young man my BF knew who was dealing with his own identity issues.
David was one of the most generous and loving men I’ve ever met. He’d been raised in the church and hidden his homosexuality until he was 19. He looked on his sexuality as a test from God. When he came out to my BF she was furious. Not because he was gay, but rather that he hadn’t trusted her enough to be honest. Like myself, she isn’t homophobic nor has she ever been. She loved David like a brother. David would go on to open my eyes to a world that I probably never would have seen if not for him. The one thing I wished for him was to find someone who would love him for who he was and not what they could get from him. Sadly, David never found that special someone, he ended his own life 14 years ago at the age of 28. Unknown to his friends and family the cancer he’d suffered through as a teenager had returned and there was nothing the doctors could do. Rather than allow his family and friends to watch him waste away he chose the time and place of his death.
It was both David and my lover that made me see a darkness in the world I’d tried to deny. It was when I began seriously writing a few years after David’s death that I came across slash, a form of gay erotica/erotic romance. Had I never known these two very different men who both struggled with their sexual identities I doubt I would have written my first gay fiction. Through them as with my parents years before I saw the world in a different light. A place where we all wander, searching, and hoping for but a moment’s respite from the loneliness we all experience. It doesn’t have to be that perfect unattainable fantasy love, all it has to be is love–pure and simple, flaws and all. An understanding of who we are beneath the masks we all wear and what we can share with the world that’s hidden beneath them.
I write what I know when it comes to love. It’s not perfect and sometimes it hurts like hell, but in the end it’s worth every moment. The positive outweighs the negative and we can be our true selves in its accepting embrace. That’s something we as humans have forgotten until it reminds us in the best of ways. Reality never disappoints only that unattainable fantasy does and we should never give up on what real love is.
Give me a Happily for Now over a Happily Ever After every time.