When people learn that I’m an author, they ask, “What do you write?” These days my answer is “domestic drama.” It’s an answer born of trying to find a description that’s simple and brief, yet accurate enough to head off the kinds of misinterpretations I used to get. When Souvenir, my debut, was first out, my answer was “Love stories.” But I found that a lot of people equated that term with “romance,” and if you’ve read Souvenir or my second novel, Reunion, and you’re familiar with actual romance novels, you know my books are not that.
I do love a good romantic tale (Pride and Prejudice tops my list). I love the tension and the conflict, the slowly unfolding answer to “How can it possibly all work out?” A romance novel follows a prescribed path that leads to a happily-ever-after ending, whereas the stories that come to me, the ones that snag my writing imagination and refuse to let me go, refuse to take that path—or any path that’s genre-determined.
If I’m feeling loquacious, I might say, “I write dramatic stories about difficult situations, families, and love.”
But really, in my mind the answer is still, simply, love stories. Stories about love. All kinds of love: sibling love, parental love, romantic love, filial love. It’s the force that motivates all of my characters, for good or ill. It leads them to poor choices. It leads them to redemptive choices. Heartache, heartbreak, hope, happiness—not necessarily in that order. Love is like that.
In Exposure, my newest book (set for release next spring), eighteen-year-old Anthony, who is madly in love with a girl named Amelia, muses about the subject:
The world needed less cynicism, more love. Love was the answer. Love made the world go 'round. Love was all you needed. Love, actually, was all around.
(If an engraver will kindly put this excerpt in the present tense, I would be glad to have it on my grave’s headstone when that time comes.)
As you may know (especially if you caught wind of the Picoult-Weiner-Franzen-inspired debates of recent weeks), in the literary world, such “soft” themes as romance, domestic drama, and love aren’t given much respect, no matter how artfully they’re written. You might wonder how, then, those folks account for their reverence for Jane Austen. Well, apparently she didn’t write stories about those themes, she wrote about “manners and morals.” O-kay.
When I set my sights on a writing career, I was ignorant of literary politics. Had I known, or if I could go back and do it over again, well, I wouldn’t change a thing. I write fiction in pursuit of truth; and what’s true is that at the heart of the matter (whatever that matter may be) we are all, even the most sophisticated or jaded among us, motivated first and always by either the love we have or the love we want.
To celebrate love stories, I’d like to give some away! One winner, drawn at random, will get three books: a copy of Souvenir, a copy of Reunion, and a third love story of their choice (provided I can get hold of it easily). All you have to do is leave a comment naming your choice, then check back Friday morning to see if you’ve won.
Therese Fowler is the author of three novels: SOUVENIR (2/08), REUNION (4/09), and EXPOSURE (coming 5/11), all from Random House/Ballantine Books. Her fourth novel, tentatively titled Escape, is under contract and expected to publish in early 2012. Her books, which are also published internationally, have been featured by IndieBound, the Borders Book Club, the Barnes & Noble New Reads book club, Target’s Bookmarked Breakout program, and were selected as Featured Alternate titles for the Literary Guild, Doubleday, and Rhapsody book clubs. She loves buttered popcorn, and has four cats (one of which shares this love, except no butter for him). For more information, go to ThereseFowler.com.