My book, River of January is not, I repeat, not a romance novel. Does it contain a love story? Yes indeed, and a good one too. However, the two destined to find each other, Chum and Helen, meet later in the book.
The manuscript has made a small circle of rounds, either for review or because someone felt they could help promote the work. And of all the folks who have read it, only two readers complained that the romantic part didn’t come soon enough in the story. I have to admit that was frustrating to hear, because so much cool stuff transpires before they meet in the book. Paris, London, Rome, Vienna, dancing, singing, and ocean liners for Helen. Tragedy, endurance, ambition, aviation, air racing, and adventure for Chum. And all of the action is true and verifiable. What do these readers think? Is real life no more than a love story? Is their life no more than a love story?
I understand enough to say that these folks are looking for a marketable formula. They look for the effort to possess the elements that sell in fiction. However my work is creative nonfiction and follows no predictable pattern, just like any persons life. These two people pursued avenues that opened to them, as we all do. It’s just that their paths included vaudeville stages, the silver screen and the golden age of aviation. Isn’t that enough? I wrote the book to chronicle two actual lives. If the work sells on that merit, that will be wonderful. My limit is changing the story up to fit a commercial template. To even think of shuffling the events around feels sleazy and unethical.
It was my son, my sage, who reduced the conundrum down to a simple truth. He explained that once I commit the words to paper I lose control of how readers perceive them. And he is right. After the telling, the tale belongs to each individual and their unique interpretations. And that means letting go of the outcome.