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Characters in Love: A Little Romance with Claire LaZebnik

Friday, February 17, 2012
Claire LaZebnik

I was recently talking to my agent and my editor about my next adult novel, and they were encouraging me to do something a little more serious, a little grittier, a little more mature. And I said, "Sure. But it still has to have a romance in it." Silence from the others.

Crickets chirping kind of silence.

I said, even more firmly, "There's no point to me if there isn't a romance."

Later, it occurred to me that maybe that was a weird thing to take a stand about. Why did I feel so strongly about it, anyway? I've loved plenty of great novels that weren't at all about two people falling in love.

So I made a list of the novels I've loved that don't have a romance in them:

  1. Ender's Game

That's where I ran out.

That list is short, but the list of novels I've written that didn't include a romance is even shorter. As in none. Even the one short story I published was romantic.

What's up with me? Is this need for reading and writing about love a response to some void in my life? Am I trying to capture in fiction what I'm lacking in real life?

Doubtful: I've been happily married for over twenty years.

So what is it?

I honestly don't know. Maybe my taste in fiction was formed during the years that I was devouring every one of Jane Austen's novels, along with Jane Eyre and The Scarlet Pimpernel and Gone with the Wind and countless more books that featured smart, determined heroines and the passionate men who loved them.

But wait--that's a chicken and egg kind of thing. Did I love these particular books because they were romantic or did I get addicted to romance because I loved these books?

I do know this much: action may move a story along, but emotion grounds it. You have to care about a character to get invested in what happens to her. All the brilliantly plotted storylines in The Hunger Games trilogy wouldn't be nearly so compelling if Katniss weren't the kind of girl who would sacrifice herself for her sister and who two noble guys like Gale and Peeta would lay down their lives for. In the end, it was their love triangle that kept me reading breathlessly through the saga, not the fate of the entire world.

Also? I do love a happy ending. And--to me--nothing's happier than two people in love who survive all the obstacles in their way to find each other at last and forever. It's just so satisfying. And hopeful.

I know that in real life, finding someone--even someone wonderful--doesn't solve all your problems. That real life is complicated and messy and all that complication and messiness doesn't go away when you say, "I do." That in real life, the true challenges to love come when you have to worry about money and kids and keeping your house clean and doing the laundry. And that romantic love doesn't always survive life's relentless banality. But given all that, why not relive the magic of the "before" as often as you can through fiction?

Whatever the reason, I love my romance. And don't plan to write a single novel without one.

About Claire
Claire LaZebnik's novels include Epic Fail, Knitting Under the Influence, Families and Other Nonreturnable Gifts, and upcoming The Trouble with Flirting. She has also co-authored two non-fiction books about autism with Dr. Lynn Kern Koegel (Overcoming Autism, Growing Up on the Spectrum). She lives in the Pacific Palisades with her TV writer husband and four children.


One lucky winner will receive a copy of Epic Fail.

Open to United States residents
Ends March 20th
To enter, fill out the form below. Do not include your email in the comments section.

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25 comments on "Characters in Love: A Little Romance with Claire LaZebnik"
  1. I agree - romance adds more to the story as I think that makes the character know who they really are and what they are capable of. Great post and giveaway!


  2. I completely agree with what you said about the Hunger Games.

    Even action-packed, socio-political books need some kind of romance, some feeling in them, in order for us to invest our hearts in what happens to the heroine.

  3. I mean, if you think about it, if the heroine doesn't have someone to love, someone she cares about, someone she hopes for, what's the point in fighting all the enemies?

  4. I won't read a story if it doesn't have some aspect of love in it! I love the idea of love in a book!!

  5. All stories. Need. A little. Romance its what. Captures the heart.

  6. Life is messy and work is hard. When I read, I want to escape all that and enter someone else's world. There isn't anything that feels better than falling in love, and I get to experience that vicariously when I read a book with romance. A lot of people must agree with your thoughts, Claire, because Pride and Prejudice has never been out of print.

  7. I love a good romance, but I am willing to read and enjoy reading novels without it. Why? I think everyone enjoys a change of pace now and again.


  8. I agree Nayjf but I think I enjoy if only a little romance it just grips at my heartstrings lol!

  9. I definitely agree with you, since I always tend to read books that involve some romance. If there is no romance then it has to have a good plot in order for me to read.

  10. I agree, especially about the Hunger Games! It's enlightening and less depressing to read a dystopian fiction when there's still some romance and hope in it. Otherwise, I'll find it boring and never finish the book!

  11. Great post. I realy enjoyed it and I comepletely agree with what you said about "action may move a story along, but emotion grounds it. You have to care about a character to get invested in what happens to her"If I dontfeel and care for a character I just cant get into it. Thank you for the chance to win have a great weekend

  12. Real life is absolutely messy. No one is perfect so no relationship is perfect.

  13. Love it! Great post!

  14. Thank-you for the giveaway.

    No great story excludes love.

  15. Thank-you for the giveaway.

    No great story excludes love.

  16. I forgot to tell you I really love the cover!

    So cute:)

  17. Ah, this makes me feel so much better to know there's someone else out there who views books the same way I do. I actually can't remember the last book I read that didn't have a little romance in it, to be honest. Besides, what better way to make your book an escape from reality than to add a little romance it in?

  18. Thank you for the give-away, can't wait!

  19. Thanks for the giveaway! I've been wanting a copy of this!

  20. Romance is the first thing I look for in a book. If it doesn't have a good romance i just cant get invested. It why the hubby and I clash over books so much. I guess I'm a bit too touchy feely in my choices for him lol

  21. I have read Epic Fail recently and I absolutely love it. Pride and Prejudice has always been my favorite romance novel, hence my love for Epic Fail. My eyes devoured this book, I finished it in one night because it was so good. I would say the romance is the best part about the novel since it is so classic and Derek isthe type of man every girl dreams of: respectable, good-looking, smart, chivarlous. Thank you for such a wonderful novel!

  22. I love this post! I agree Claire; one of the reasons it's so fun to read about romance is that it simply doesn't happen that way in real life. There's no real "happily ever after" but books let you feel that anyway, and it's nice.

  23. I'll admit that I am a sucker for romance. I think love is the most basic emotion and people can do some pretty crazy things when suffering from it. I think it can either bring out the best or the worst in people and those are the kinds of stories I can't get enough of.

  24. Every book needs a little bit of romance! Thanks for the giveaway!

  25. I enjoy a bit of romance! This sounds like a book I would enjoy! Thanks for the chance.


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