light up, light up
as if you have
even if you cannot hear
I'll be right beside you, dear
"run," by snow patrol
At dinner one evening while my husband and I were on our trip one of his professors asked me in a jesting way if I wrote romance. I don't think any of them have a clue what I do write; when I was given the opportunity to share with the class what I had scribbled that day I backed out for the scene was of the sweet, intuitively companionable kind; I'm not good at reading aloud, it would not have made sense out of context, and I didn't want them to think all I write is romance. I made a confused attempt at an answer, informing the professor that I neither read nor write merely romance (I think I said "straight romance," which, looking back on it, was perhaps an unfortunate choice of words...) but that I can almost never avoid having a thread of romance in my stories.
I don't go out of my way of avoid it, of course. We all love to love, and while Abigail and I have had a lot of good to say about companionable love (as between, say, her characters Justin King and Ethan Prince) which is an attachment that doesn't get enough press, in my opinion, people love reading about people in love. I love writing people in love. I know that in the blogging circles I run in there have been, on almost every blog, some post or another about the topic of writing people in love, or about being in love itself, or whatever conventional phrase you care to use; there has been trepidation, interest, doubts as to the writer's competence in pulling off such an attachment, complete appreciation for literary attachments, the works. It's a big deal. Whether or not a writer feels able to write romance is up to the discretion of the writer, but now that I'm sitting at a keyboard and can think clearly I can say that I love writing romance. I love it with a Doctor Who take-my-hand-and-run kind of thrill, as if every romance I embark upon (real or literary) is an adventure too terrible not to laugh about, and I am standing on the brink of it looking down so far that I can't see the bottom. It's all very well to talk dully about whether or not romance ought to be in "Christian" fiction and whether or not people do it well; you simply don't think about that kind of thing when you're hand in hand on the brink of a high cliff with all the world and time below and before you, and you're about to jump off with the one person in all of time and space that you really care about.
Whether that description is at all clear to you or not I cannot say, but that is the best I can do at making my approach to romance concrete for anyone who cares to know. The attachments are never really about anything: they simply are and cannot cease to be. ("There's a moral somewhere in that, if you like morals.") This was perhaps one of the few things I liked about the film "Centurion." I don't recommend the film: it was very bloody, contained quite a plethora of obscenities, and didn't have a lot of plot. In light of that I was bracing with a sinking heart for the obligatory sex scene, and was surprised when it never came. The romantic attachment between Centurion Quintus Dias and outcast Arianne was instantaneous, intuitive, sweet and strong. I have never - never - seen a romance handled so much to my delight as the one placed most incongruously inside that film. Their mutual care and protection of the other after even a very short acquaintance was as tender as it was fierce, as determined as it was unquestioned. I was shocked. Out of a ridiculously gory movie full of slaughter and conspiracy stretched a single shining thread of sanity. Romance, so often belaboured, jaded, written off, and avoided as if it were the plague, stood out in a raging sea and spoke its piece clearly. It didn't have to offer an apology: it was itself, and that was all it needed to be.
Whichever side of the romantic fence you may be on, either for it or against it, or ambivalent to it, I hope this makes clear why I think and do what I think and do. Life, in a sense, is all made up of our loves and our hates: in myself (and my people) there is often very little difference between the thrill and power of either love or hate, but as far as romance goes it is to me both awful and tremendous, too ancient to be removed, forever too young to keep its feet from dancing on Pook's Hill.
"Keep your chin up, leman. Not long now."