Wednesday, March 25, 2015

THE ROAD TO HAPPY EVER AFTER


"I’ve always thought the payoff of the HEA depends on the path leading to it."


My guest, is author Nancy Northcott. She writes the Light Mage War series. 

A satisfying ending is a must. But what kind of ending should you choose? The type of ending depends much upon the genre you write. Nancy discusses Happy-Ever-After and Happy-For-Now.


What makes the HEA ending of a book satisfying?  Well, obviously the main characters have to be happy.  And the reader has to be happy.  In romance, at least, there can’t be any niggling little but what about…?

The obvious exception would be in a series with an overarching plot in any genre.  Romance seems to be leaning more toward Happy For Now (HFN), but with the promise of that ever after part down the road.  The hero and heroine generally are settled in their relationship even if other elements of the plot may remain unresolved.

I’ve always thought the payoff of the HEA depends on the path leading to it.  There’s an old saying that those who’ve never known sorrow cannot appreciate joy.  There’s also the theory that we appreciate most the things that don’t come easily.  I think these ideas influence our perceptions of a book’s happy ending.

That doesn’t mean everything has to be dark and super-angsty, at least not to me.  But it does mean that the path of true love, to borrow from another saying, cannot run smoothly. If the hero and heroine never have more than the occasional little spat, we never really doubt they’ll end up together.  There has been no suspense, no growth, and not much conflict.  Without conflict, the book is over in chapter one.

I love Terri Osburn’s and Jill Shalvis’s contemporary romances.  In every couple, one of them has to confront some shadow from his or her past and overcome it.  There are varying degrees of angst involved, but healing and character growth always occur.

Mystery series may use the same couple in all the books.  A romantic arc may start slowly in book one and build as the series goes on.  In such a case, the HEA would be the resolution of the mystery, the sense that the villain has gotten his/her just desserts.

Karin Slaughter’s Will Trent series wraps up its murder mysteries at the end of each book, but the relationship between Will and Sara Linton didn’t start until the third book and has been progressing slowly since.  The books don’t always end happily for Will and Sara--but there are always feelings shown that imply a happy resolution and commitment down the road.  Despite the many complicating factors Slaughter has thrown in their way.

Jeaniene Frost’s Cat & Bones books, which I just recently discovered and then rapidly devoured, take the relationship between Cat and Bones on an arc that extends over the entire series.  Those books and the ones in Nalini Singh’s Guild Hunter series skate the line between paranormal romance and fantasy in that there’s often a thread of the bigger plot still hanging and there may be relationship issues that aren’t entirely resolved.

All the series I’ve mentioned involve heroes and heroines who learn to face their personal shadows and move beyond them.  So it is with Will and Audra in Warrior.  Will has to face the youthful scars that have made him wary of letting a woman get emotionally close, and Audra must learn to appreciate her own value.

I read pretty much everything but horror, and I can be happy with an ending that ties up the big story questions and implies that the relationship issue will be settled.   I can even deal with having the hero and heroine apart at the end of the book if I think they share strong enough ties to get back together in the next book.

My friends who read only romance, however, often want the relationship solid at the end of the book and a new couple for the next outing.  They prefer not to have romantic issues left hanging. 

  • How about you?  What makes an ending qualify for Happily Ever After status for you?
Sia, thanks for having me!  I’ll give away a signed, personalized copy of Warrior to one commenter today.
Leave your email addy if you want to win a copy

 
                                                                                                                                                                                          

BUY: AMAZON, B&N, POWELLS
A Woman Tormented by Darkness 

Archaeologist Audra Grayson hopes the dig in the Okefenokee Swamp will save her career. But that hope is dashed when she finds out-of-place relics and brilliant, sexy consultant Will Davis comes to investigate her for fraud. Worse, working on the site strengthens the evil shadow that has haunted her since childhood, and she knows he will think she’s crazy and unfit for the job.

 
A Mage Who Must Oppose it At All Costs

Mage Will Davis senses the darkness in Audra when they meet. Wondering whether she’s in league with dark forces, he vows to ignore his growing attraction to her. Then deadly ghouls target her dig, and Will discovers they want the ancient bronze pieces to open a portal for demons from the Void between worlds. If they succeed, everything on Earth is an endangered species.

 
The Fate of the World At Stake

With ghoul attacks escalating and mage traitors in league with the enemy, time is running out for Will to stop the portal from opening. The chemistry between him and Audra threatens to combust, but the darkness within her may give the enemy its chance. Must Will choose between the fate of the world and the love of his life?
 

                                                                                                                                                                                           

 
NANCY NOTHCOTT'S debut novel, Renegade, received a starred review from Library Journal. The reviewer called it "genre fiction at its best." Nancy is a three-time RWA Golden Heart finalist and has won the Maggie, the Molly, the Emerald City Opener, and Put Your Heart in a Book.

Married since 1987, Nancy and her husband have one son, a bossy dog, and a house full of books.

You can find Nancy: Website
                 

35 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Congrats on your book, Nancy. I really like to see the main character have a personal struggle that she/he overcomes by the end of the book.

I'm going to let someone else win your book. I buried in my TBR list right now.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I think as long as evil doesn't triumph, that's a happy ending.
Considering how many struggles a couple must go through before the end of a book, it's safe to say the relationship I've had with my wife would make for very poor story fodder.

Liz Blocker said...

Congratulations, Nancy! I've always heard that romance needs an HEA, but I never thought about the other genres. Thanks for this!

Nancy Northcott said...

Natalie, thank you! I totally understand about the TBR pile. I never seem to make much headway against mine.

Nancy Northcott said...

Alex, LOL! Much as I enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations of romance couples, I wouldn't wish their struggles on anyone. Congrats on having a relationship that's _not_ fodder for a story.

Nancy Northcott said...

Liz, thanks! I lean toward books that have some romantic arc, whatever their genre, so I'm always looking at how those are handled.

Anna Sugden said...

Hi Sia and Nancy! Great post!

If I'm setting out to read a romance, I need a satisfyingly positive ending with the central characters. I don't mind following the arc of secondary characters' romance over several books eg in the Suz Brockmann Troubleshooters.

With other genres, though, I can accept the romance arc developing over time, and books. I'm currently reading Allison Brennan's Lucy Kincaid series and following Lucy's romance with Sean Rogan with interest.

Susan Sey said...

HI, Nancy!

You know, I used to be a HEA kind of girl but lately I guess I've been moving with the romance tide & am more likely to be satisfied with a HFN. As I get older, I think I'm more open to the ambiguity of life & relationships, more willing to let them grow & change rather than demanding expectations be met & the whole thing tied up with a pretty bow.

I do really still like pretty bows, however. :-)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I make sure there's HEA in all my romance books but not so much in my epic fantasy books. For those books the heroes don't always survive or give up their happiness so others have theirs.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Sia! Great post, Nancy. I just finished my thriller-suspense for the book included in Brenda Novak's Diabetes Research Boxed Set, SWEET DREAMS, out May 1. My book "Without Malice" has a romantic underpinning but it's very slight. I think you're right when you say it all depends on the genre. Readers have expectations which the writer should fulfill.

Nancy Northcott said...

Anna, thanks! That's a good point about secondary characters. I also like watching them develop relationships, and I enjoy seeing them step to the fore.

Nancy Northcott said...

Hi, Susan--

First, who _doesn't_ like a pretty bow on a package? *g*

I think maybe I lean more toward HFN than some readers because I read so many genres other than romance, ones where the relationship story is more of a slow, multi-book process. Maybe I'm conditioned by all the Nancy Drew books I read growing up. She and her Ned never did grow into an HEA, though they were admittedly young for that.

Joan Kayse said...

Hey Nancy! I think you summed up HEA pretty well. A couple bonds and joins as one when they each face and deal with the pain of their past and the best part? Each of them helps the other achieve it.

Nancy Northcott said...

Susan I'll keep reading a series if a favorite character dies-- but only if other favorites survive.

Nancy Northcott said...

Jo, thanks! That's a great point about expectations. Each genre has ones that are slightly different from others'.

I'm so looking forward to that box set! Isn't it available for preorder?

Nancy Northcott said...

Joan, thanks! It's that working together to heal each other that sets romance apart, I think.

shelly said...

Yes. Congrats, Nancy. Can't say that I read pure romance though.

Nancy Northcott said...

Shelly, thank you. As for not reading pure romance, we all have our preferences, and if there weren't some differences, there wouldn't be such a variety of books on hand!

Anna Campbell said...

Hi Sia! Hi Nancy! I'll have a flat white and a warm apple Danish, please. It's just on breakfast time here in Australia so that will go down nicely. Nancy, love that cover for Warrior! Like a man with a big...sword! LOL!

Loved your take on HEA versus HFN, Nancy. I've noticed HFN in lots of books, especially contemporaries. Because I write historicals, marriage is still the final result for my couples. And I must say I rather like that. There's something very fairytale and satisfying about the hero and heroine recognizing that the other person is their destiny.

M Pax said...

Nice cover. Congrats to Nancy!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Hey Nancy! First, I love, love, love the Light Mage Wars series and am jonesing for the next book. I won't go in for the draw because I already have all the books! Grins.

I love your post today. Fascinating point. I think HFN is often more "real" in terms of the world and the way we doubt love, and love at first sight. Also, it's always seemed to me that if you find love in a pressure cooker situation, you better have some "normal" time to decide if you actually really LIKE each other, much less love one another! Hahah! That's my logical mind, though. :> I do like HEA with the idea that they've worked out the major angsts of their relationship enough to know they want to move forward, together, so I guess either HEA or HFN does well for me!

Christina Brooke said...

Nancy, great post! I used to think a romance has to at least have a happy and committed for now as far as the relationship goes, but recently I've expanded my reading habits and it's not true any more. A book I wept over and actually felt resentful at the author for making me feel so deeply was Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes, which is a beautiful love story but does not have a happy ending. The ending is the right one, however, and very powerful. So while I don't necessarily seek out the love story with the bad ending, that one proved to me that I can enjoy a book like that very much. I think there's a difference between an unsatisfying ending and a happy ending.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

My favorite HEA's are when I am totally in love with the characters, so I am rooting for them to be happy.

Nancy Northcott said...

Anna, thank you! I love that cover.

I agree that ending with a wedding, or at least a betrothal, is much more fairytale-like. I enjoy books that have such endings, but I also enjoy the HFN aspect.

Your Danish sounds fabulous! Now I want one.

Nancy Northcott said...

M Pax, thanks!

Nancy Northcott said...

Jeanne, thank you! I'm so glad you've enjoyed the series.

I agree about pressure-cooker situations. It always seems to me that people need to take a little break from the adrenaline to see how they get along in regular life.

Unless of course, their regular lives are one adrenaline rush after another. *g*

Nancy Northcott said...

Christina, thank you. I also can deal with a less than happy ending, though I prefer the positive finish. The Terminator is a prime example. I love that movie, but it surely does not have an HEA ending.

Nancy Northcott said...

Elizabeth, I like rooting for the characters, too. If I can't root for them, I'm not likely to keep reading.

mshatch said...

I agree that happy endings are better if the characters worked for it and/or made sacrifices for it.

Jemi Fraser said...

Congrats on the book Nancy - sounds great!
You've listed several of my favourite authors! I tend to prefer my HEA at the end of a book, although I can live with a HFN or a hanging ending. JD Robb does a great job of a growing relationship throughout an incredibly long series.

Jo said...

Reading your blog made me think of Gone With the Wind. If ever there was an unhappy ending, I was pretty young when I read it and I cried buckets. With romances I do like happy endings, I like it all done and dusted. However, I have read a number of books such as you described where the relationship carries on through the series and not always happily.

Nancy Northcott said...

mshatch, thanks!

Nancy Northcott said...

Jemi, thank you! You mentioned one of my favorite things about the In Death series. I love the way Eve's character has evolved through the series.

Nancy Northcott said...

Jo, I was also fairly young when I read GWTW. I hated the ending then. It makes sense to me now, but I was still rooting for Scarlett and Rhett to get back together.

Jo said...

I too was thinking about the In Death books and also the Harry Dresden books where relationships improve, or fade in and out.