Recently, I was invited to contribute to BookWenches’ guest blog about what underlies and drives all of my work. I decided my motivating theme is love.
The ancient Greek playwright Sophocles wrote, “One word frees us of all the weight and pain in life. That word is love.”
Admittedly, love is a pretty broad subject, and one that authors wiser and more gifted than I have addressed ad infinitum since the advent of the written word. Yet despite all that’s been said by poets and philosophers, mystics and musicians, in many ways love remains a complete mystery.
Perhaps that’s why I feel compelled to write about love in romance novels, suspense stories and mysteries, and even in nonfiction books (including a WIP titled Love Is the Answer to Every Question). Maybe that’s also why year after year romance novels outsell other literary forms.
Especially during these uncertain times, romance novels give us hope. The guy gets the girl and everyone lives happily ever after. But I think their appeal is more than that. Romances––even jalapeño-hot erotic ones––espouse old-fashioned values including loyalty, honor, courage, compassion, and perseverance in the face of challenges. Like the eighteenth-century French fairytale “Beauty and the Beast,” romance novels are about the transformative power of love and its ability to make us better people.
There’s some Beauty and some Beast in all of us, and in every relationship. Each close encounter provides an opportunity to love, not just the other person but ourselves as well. It could even be said that we unconsciously seek relationships so that we might transform our “beasts.” According to C. G. Jung, “The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.”
I’m not talking about infatuation––that dizzying rush of euphoria that takes your breath away and makes your heart pound like a jackhammer. Infatuation isn’t about the other person, it’s about you––the projected image of yourself that you see mirrored in your partner. Infatuation is love in drag. And I don’t mean passion either. The word passion originally meant “to suffer.” From Camelot to Casablanca, storytellers have portrayed love as pleasure mixed with suffering. Literary fiction, contemporary dramas, and poetry often depict the all-too-familiar suffering that taints our real-life relationships.
In our jaded, self-absorbed, thrill-seeking society we put more emphasis on falling in love than on staying in love. As a result, nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Romance novels, however, show us what’s possible if we make a commitment to love and realize that, as Marianne Williamson writes in A Return to Love, “to experience love in ourselves and others is the meaning of life.” Of course, infatuation and passion enliven the pages of “bodice-rippers” of every ilk––historical, paranormal, erotic, etc. But in the end, love prevails.
In The Phenomenon of Man, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin stated that “Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.” The Sufi poets tell us that divine love reveals itself to us through human love, and human love lights the path to divine love. Here’s one of my favorite poems, from the 14th-century Sufi master Hafiz:
All this time
The sun never says to the earth,
With a love like that,
It lights the
That’s why I keep writing about love, keep believing in it, and daily make it the centerpiece of my life. I think John Lennon was right when he sang, “All you need is love.”
(The picture above is the Love card from my deck of original "Dream Divination" cards, copyright 2009 by Skye Alexander.)