I'm just back from the phenomenal Brattleboro Book Festival and I'm honored to have Alma Katsu on my blog today, writing about the mysteries of love. (Her book The Taker is fierce, thrilling and gorgeously written.) Thanks, Alma!
The Truth About Love
When I decided to write a novel, I decided that I wanted it to be about love. Not just any love story, though: I wanted to write something epic, a tragic story that would grab readers right away and sweep them up in a story that would break their hearts but that they could not stop reading.
I knew all about love, didn’t I? I’d been married over twenty years. You don’t stay married for that long without knowing about love. Or so I thought.
Funny thing about writing a novel: all those wisps of feelings and fragments of situations that are the fabric of your story come from somewhere inside you. Your story comes from your subconscious. Your subconscious knows what you’re afraid of, what really drives you, what you’d like to stay hidden and what you never want to face. Writing a novel is an exercise understanding yourself—if you’re brave.
So I started writing The Taker and quickly found, oh damn, this isn’t a conventional love story. It’s not going to be tied up with a pretty bow at the end, with the main characters living happily ever after. This story is a knock-down, drag-out examination of the nature of love.
The Taker is not a sixteen-year old girl’s idea of love. It’s not about having a man who makes you the center of his universe. It’s not about the white poofy dress and the perfect wedding. It’s not about being in love with the idea of love, of confusing love with romance. Romance is nice, but love is hard. Romance is sweet, but love is rewarding.
What if you loved someone who couldn’t give you what you wanted? What if you knew you were the best thing in the world for him, but he still couldn’t commit? What if you gave him everything you could and it still wasn’t enough? What if making him happy meant letting him go?
Don’t be too quick to think you know the answer to those questions. The divorce rate wouldn’t be so high if we all knew what we were doing when it comes to love. People wouldn’t stay in relationships that are bad for them, parents wouldn’t cling to children when they should be teaching them to be independent.
We do funny things in the name of love.
Do you know what really draws us to another person? It’s not the color of their eyes, or their pretty/handsome face. It’s not what they do for a living, or where they went to school, or that he finds all your jokes funny or that she loves how handy you are with tools.
I thought about giving you the answer here, but I decided not to (hey, I want you to read the book.) But I’ll give you a clue. It comes right out of The Taker:
“Looking back, I know we were only filling in the holes in our souls, the way the tide rushes sand to fill in the crevices of a rocky shore. We – or maybe it was just I – bandaged our needs with what we declared was love. But, eventually, the tide draws out what it has swept in.”