HEA, HFN, and What the Author Brings to the Table

If someone doesn't like what I write, or it doesn't ring true for her, that's okay. Honest. It's an opinion, and it stems from what that reader brings to that book - which is, of course, as individual as what writers bring to their stories. I'm only bothered when readers apply what I’ve written to me personally, and get it wrong.

Yes, writing is art, and art is personal expression. But I'm not a character in my books, even if there are bits of me in every single one of them. My friends and family aren't in my books, though I may steal slivers of their personalities, their names, and stories they've relayed over the years. How my characters react to given situations is often not how I would react, and what they do and believe is a reflection of how I see that character, not how I see myself. (For instance: I don't assume that Stephen King plots actual murders, and I don't assume that Melissa Marr can see faeries - though if she could that would be so cool.)

I grew up in a Disney world - Cinderella, Snow White, and Sleeping Beauty (my favorite). Each of these featured a girl with a prince who fell in love with her, who ultimately fought evil spells, social constructs, wicked queens and/or dragons to get to the girl he loved. My kids got a different sort of Disney. Ariel, Jasmine and Belle were stronger and just as inclined to be the rescuer as the rescued. Still, all of these stories were of impossible relationships that ended with everybody in a castle, smiling and in love (and exceedingly wealthy... but that's for another post). Against the backdrop of these childhood influences is the real world - unfaithful partners, high divorce rates, custody fights and a general disbelief in love's ability to withstand the pressures brought against it.

One reader a while back wondered what kind of 16-year-old boys Tammara Webber knows. Well, I have one in-house. I have one six years past that. And finally, I have the one I fell in love with in high school... to whom I'm still married. I've sought their counsel on the thoughts and actions of the guys I write, because I want my characters to be as real as possible. These three men in my life are all very different in how they view themselves, and women, and relationships. Each is capable of making selfish mistakes, of loving deeply and loyally, of withdrawing or lashing out when hurt, of choking out apologies when proven wrong, and of holding onto a faltering relationship for no reason beyond being in love.

I've struggled through disappointments in and near-loss of my primary relationship and I've watched friends and family do the same. Readers of romance talk in terms of HEA and HFN. (For the unfamiliar, that's Happily Ever After and Happy For Now.) The truth is, there is no guaranteed HEA for anyone. My husband and I were teenagers when we got married. The first thing we were asked by everyone was Are you pregnant?!? (We weren't.) My husband's friends thought he was insane. My parents-in-law objected vociferously. My maid of honor told one of my bridesmaids, "This won't last a year," the night I got married. (File under: (1) Things you shouldn't say when you're the maid of honor and (2) Things you shouldn't tell the bride when you overhear them.)

My husband will be glad to know I'm not going to rehash all the stuff each of us have screwed up in the past nearly three decades. It's enough to say this: It's not been easy, or perfect, but it's absolutely been worth it. We've weathered storms others haven't on sheer luck alone, and that's what I try to throw to my characters - a little luck with the adversity. In return, what I expect from them is growth from the losses and screwups, determination to make it work in spite of expected and unforeseen challenges, and faith enough in each other to hold on tight through it all. Because those are the things this author brings to the table.

Tammara Webber

New York Times and international bestselling author of contemporary romantic fiction