Before I introduce my guest, a heads-up about something new that will be focused on a mutual aesthetic that we’ve, meaning Sam Kahn and Joshua Doležal, call the Inner life. We’ll launch shortly, with posts from others who are digging in on the arts: literature, criticism, film, philosophy and more—in what we hope will be a collaborative hub on the fine arts.
Now for something quite different. The romance novel:
Skye writes “A Bit Much” and talks here about finding her identity through writing what are commonly called “bodice busters.”
If you know anyone who wants to write a family history, memoir, story, novel, please share Write it! How to get started: $5 for a month. Free or paid, write me any time for help: email@example.com. More guest posts coming soon… “Only connect …” is my mantra.
Here’s Skye in her own voice—with this engaging opening line:
“Is she just trying to live out one of her romance novels?” – One of the worst comments made when my marriage ended.
In the handful of years before my ex and I split, I began writing my Anti-Belle series. And by “began,” I mean it had become my living, breathing passion. Something that invaded my thoughts no matter where I was or what I was doing. I got inspiration for new novels everywhere: from watching tennis, to snippets of conversation, to songs.
My ex and I met when we were 18. Even though I’d only been in love with one man, romance stories about all sorts of people and situations flowed out of me.
My ex knew all about the books. He supported my writing and even read many of the them. His patience rarely, if ever, wore thin. When I debated whether to query ‘Not Suitable for Work’, he was the one who said, “It’s either a hobby, or it’s something you want to do more. Which is it?” Those words tipped me into the world of published author.
“How much of this book is about you and M—?” friends liked to ask once they’d read NSFW. The question made me roll my eyes. People don’t ask crime authors how many murders they’ve committed. Why do we assume romance authors only write steamy scenes they’ve personally lived? My brain invented passionate moments for characters. They were a product of knowing my characters.
But friends weren’t wrong to ask how much of the book was about me. Their error was in focusing on the spicy bits. The real answer is that a lot of my books are about me. There’s a whole paragraph in NSFW where the narrator recalls her teenage days in downtown Nashville. All me. There’s a failed pickup line about girls who drink whiskey. Also plucked straight from “IRL”.
There’s a lot more than that, though. And I didn’t see it until after my life got flipped upside-down.
In the years post-marriage and post-debut novel, I realize more about how my subconscious played out in those stories. The women in my novels learn to love and accept themselves before they can open their hearts to someone else. They experience feelings of inadequacy and don’t see themselves as valuable enough to fight for when things get tough. They feel like they must be strong no matter what because that’s what’s expected of them. They make their own way, even when they crave support.
They have to learn they’re “worth it.”
All lessons I’d learn over long nights alone and days of wandering lost. Who I’d become wasn’t who I wanted to be. When I started to understand and accept that, my world changed.
My self-expression can, I hope, shape the lives of others. I know that creative minds have shaped our collective understanding of beauty, humor, and even the human condition.
I wrote a post about how The Beatles changed my life. They remade my world. I wouldn’t be me without their influence.
My closest circle often communicates through movie quotes. Dozens of films are in our arsenal and remake the way we connect with each other. I have an international group of friends, all romance authors. We bonded over a shared love of Pride and Prejudice that grew into deep friendship. But without The Hand Flex (if you know, you know), my world wouldn’t be rich with their unique personalities.
Mary’s note: In case, you don’t understand the phrase “The Hand Flex,” watch this clip from the film.
The YouTube above is my, meaning Mary’s, addition to honor my love of Jane Austen and of Joe Wright’s portrayal of the novel in his film. BTW, I don’t believe the book or the film is a romance novel or a rom-com as defined here in the title of the clip. Austen is all about finding one’s identity and the ethical path to do so. To learn all about Jane go to the The Austen Connection —Mary
That kind of energy has a ripple effect on everyone we encounter.
Writing helped me define my life’s purpose: to light people up, help them love themselves (hello, remaking the world!). I hope readers finish my books and feel a bit more sparkly than before. I realized that was my mission as a schoolteacher. Now, as a wellness coach, I’m still helping people shine. Fiction and practical applications can all work toward recovering our own beautiful hearts, bit by bit.
Becoming a creative remade me. It kicked open a door to self-discovery I wasn’t prepared for and didn’t realize I needed. That journey of discovery entirely changed my world, my reality—what I defined as life.
But it wasn’t because I wrote kissing books. I wasn’t looking for a cinnamon roll with a 6-pack to define my HEA.
That crap comment about trying to live out my books implied just that. A woman who’d known me since I was 18, who’d said I was like a daughter to her, felt free to whisper this suggestion among the family. To suggest that the reason our marriage was ending wasn’t because we were rational adults who’d agreed we’d reached the end of our road together. Rather, it was because I was trying to live out a romance novel. I’m not sure if she pictured me on the cover of a 90s’ style Harlequin, corseted with heaving bosoms. I’m not sure if Fabio was what she had in mind as the lynchpin of a 10-year marriage. I don’t care. At the time, I was hurt. Her betrayal stripped away yet another piece of my rapidly crumbling life.
Now, I realize I was trying to live out a happily ever after—with myself. The life I’d made wasn’t reflective of the real me. I’d given away my self-love to so many moments, people, and things. I didn’t know how to value me for me.
That’s the love story I had to go searching for. That’s what made all the sacrifice worth it.
I’m proud to say my ex and I are still family to each other. We still share a bond of love. That bond is growing: he and his wife are new parents. My beautiful goddaughter is part of a unique family built from a remade world. From truth, beauty, and a life richer than any fiction.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know." –Keats
Your Turn: Reflect on times when art has moved you and on ways creativity springs from you.
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Skye lives in Montclair, NJ. She hikes with her dog, leads a women’s networking group, runs Spartan races, travels, scuba dives, and is learning to ski.
“I wasn’t looking for a cinnamon roll with a 6-pack to define my HEA” –Translation for non-romance folks: I wasn’t looking for a sweet but gruff Mr. Perfect with chiseled abs to define my happily-ever-after.
Love it. The living, breathing passion of writing! Yes!!! 🙌🙌