I was sick from 2005 to 2016, beginning and ending in the month of May. I got sick when I was just finishing my first of three years of grad school in humanities. I focused on 20th century literature, and that meant world lit, not just English or American or any “old” stuff. I liked what we read but we read some really heavy duty literature. No happy endings. I can’t remember a single one in all the novels and poetry I read. In fact, one was so demanding emotionally that I was starting to have panic attacks as I read about the torture. I had to ask my professor if I could skip some of those parts. She said, fine with her. I read a ton of those books, wrote about them all and was done with the degree and that reading in May 2007 (with all As, thank you very much).
I did continue for awhile on that track of reading because I really liked my prof, thought I was enlightening myself and all that. But then as time dragged on and I was getting sicker and spending more hospital time and trying to read there, I got real tired of the Big Literature and not even feeling enlightened – or caring. I was re-reading Anna Karenina, got pretty far in (it was a new translation and a fabulous read this time), then I suddenly remembered the horrible, tragic ending, and marked the page and shelved it. Like maybe forever. Then I re-read a Jane Austen novel and read a couple others new to me, and very little happiness happened for very many characters between page one and The End. Tried Margaret Atwood – no, no, no! I read The Hobbit and enjoyed that but couldn’t go further with Tolkien, way too dark and really scary – and what exactly was a happy ending in those books and movies anyway? I did read all of the Harry Potter books one summer – thank you, J.K. Rowling. They were awesome and fun, a bit scary but I knew Harry and Hermione would be fine, no matter what Voldemort did (well, sort of).
But then I ran into some romantic characters in my own journal one morning, and they wouldn’t leave me alone. So I wrote that first novel. Then I wrote a second one. And I read a WHOLE LOT of romance novels and found out a lot of women (secretly) read them, too. I discovered Happily Ever After existed in romance novels and I fell in love with the concept and those endings (and the in-betweens – fuzzy warmness).
Now it seems I’m addicted to them. Reading them makes me happy and I like that state of mind – “It’s all going to work out, Dana.” Now I’m planning on writing a series of romance novels (that’s what romance authors do) and I can hardly wait to start. I read a lot of really good romance authors who give good advice – Diana Gabaldon, Outlander series (who doesn’t like Jamie and Claire?), Nalini Singh, a New Zealander who was a practicing attorney in Auckland who dropped out of law to write romance (some paranormal romance, too), Kristen Ashley who wrote a series of eight books based in Denver about Rock Chicks. I tell you, it gets to be a lot of fun! And I spend most of my days smiling as I’m both reading and writing.
I will write my transplant guidebook and perhaps go on the road with that, but romance reading and writing is now home to me. Yay for happy endings! I hope I get all A-plusses and make a lot of money doing it!

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