My weeklong departure from writing gave me time to stop and reflect my goals for producing fictions. While visiting my Grandma’s, I took with me books and TV movies as a fallback plan if village-trotting no longer suited me. It suited me fine but I still found time to finish one novel and two sets of TV movies. They provided good points of activity and discussion with my cousin-sisters.
Living amid rural grace, I felt watching the BBC adaptation of Flora Thompson’s trilogy Lark Rise to Candleford and Hallmark Channel’s adaptation of Jannette Oke’s Love Comes Softly series would be fitting. Both were good choices but I think I was more swept away by Thompson’s work. I had read Love Comes Softly as a kid and, coming by the movies was a nostalgic experience. However, as my cousins and I worked our way through Lark Rise to Candleford, it dawned on me that writers whose work I have come to most revere all have produced so few books. Of course, I have contemporary authors on top of my list who have produced over two dozen novels each in nearly half as many years, but the works I believe to be truly timeless were written by authors who had very few books to pen. It got me thinking, was it the age-old trade-off between quantity and quality?
No way am I saying that heroines of my writing world like Jennifer Crusie or Julia Quinn have produced more works by forgoing quality – their skills of spinning plausible plots, creating consistent characters, and dedicated endeavor to craft in multitude is what I have so far hoped to accomplish. Yet, I would love to have at least one or two enduring records of human nature such as Jane Austen to my name before I die. What would it take to be revered as I revere Austen? What would it take to depict heroes with so many flaws that you cannot be but frustrated and villains who reveal such innate goodness that you cannot but sympathize like Thompson has? [I think I may have found a new favorite set of characters but I will wait to finalize my verdict until I read the trilogy myself.]
I may have discovered a new fear as well. That I will die before I write my literary masterpiece. I fear that inspiration for such a work would escape me. Halfway through my visit, I felt quite disillusioned with my storytelling skills. I went about dazed, reminding myself that romance was something I inherited. Why! just look at my parents and maternal grandparents! Their stories were epic. However, veneration can be as crippling as fear.
Here’s my dark truth. With the examples of grand romances set by my predecessors, I never felt any relationships I ventured into mustered such joie de vivre. So I stopped looking for my grand romance. I, the romance writer, gave up on searching for the love of my life. If it happens, it will happen, but hell if I spend my days as a damsel pining for my knight. I decided to write my romances instead. Time more constructively spent, I say.
I was thinking about all this, being in the presence of my grandmother, who is now a merry widow and likes to regale us with stories of her late husband. My grandfather was generally a quiet man, but he sang in baritone and loved with as much richness and depth. And hearing her stories only deepened my fear. What an ironic and sad fate it would be if I were a romance writer who neither romanced with such passion nor wrote such tales.
So I returned to cautiously carry on composing my numerous contemporary romances. While I waited for inspiration to quicken my mind and my pen to finally scratch the sheets with that masterpiece.