Creating a Rough Road to a HEA
By Romance Author Kelli A. Wilkins
My name is Kelli Wilkins and I’m a romance writer who loves torturing my characters. Why? So I can get them back together for a happily-ever-after ending!
Let’s face it, romance readers know they are going to get a HEA before they pick up a book. The hero or heroine isn’t going to die—unless you’re reading a paranormal and someone turns into a vampire.
People read romances for different reasons: for great storylines, to live vicariously through the characters they care about, and to know that whatever obstacles these lovers face, they’ll overcome them together.
I write stories based around characters who find each other, fall deeply in love, and live happily ever after—but not without going through some emotional ups and downs. Although my characters love each other, everything isn’t always roses and sunshine. As they work through their challenges, they have to learn a few lessons about themselves, trust, honesty, or whatever their personal internal struggles are.
For example, Princess Elara in A Most Unusual Princess has to open up and develop trust. In Dalton’s Temptation, Elara and Dalton learn important lessons about temptation and fidelity. Lord Adrik in The Dark Lord is moody and misunderstood, until an innocent girl teaches him how to love and trust again. In my most recent gay romance, A Secret Match, Everett has to come to terms with his sexuality and be open about who he really is. These trials and emotional hardships are realistic challenges that people face every day. Once the characters have learned what they need to, they can live HEA.
But sometimes love can be a surprise. In a few of my stories, the characters aren’t looking for love—it’s the furthest thing from their minds—but there it is! Lauren in The Sexy Stranger found herself falling for her ex-con “captor.” Claudette from The Pauper Prince had Prince Charming stroll into her dress shop, and Brian found his true love on a deserted beach in Confessions of a Vampire’s Lover. Although these types of relationships are uncommon, the characters focus on commitment and “being there” for the other person for the long haul, no matter what.
Many of my characters find true love when they are willing to open their hearts and risk sharing their deepest emotions, darkest secrets, and intimate desires—and then discover that the other person loves them even more for it. (David and Jack from Four Days with Jack and Julian and Annabelle from A Midsummer Night’s Delights are excellent examples of this.)
One of the things I like about writing romances is that I can make life miserable for the main characters and keep readers wondering: How are they going to live happily-ever-after? How will they get past this? For me, the how is the fun part.
In my books, I make sure the characters get on each other’s nerves, and I add lots of conflict (external and internal) to pull them apart. The conflict can be anything that will destroy their happy world: maybe he won’t compromise; his parents don’t approve because she’s from a different ethnic background; the hero finds out the heroine has a secret; the man he loves cheated on him (or so he thinks); his beloved princess was kidnapped; or a blackmailer wants her dead.
In The Viking’s Witch, Odaria is nearly burned at the stake and is rescued by Rothgar, a brutish Norseman she can’t stand. Over the course of the book they fall in love, but at the same time they bicker, keep secrets from each other, people are trying to kill them, and it seems that Rothgar has betrayed her to her sworn enemy. Yet, under all that conflict and heartache, their love is a constant, and they learn important lessons as they fight for their HEA.
Whether you read historicals, fantasy, gay, paranormal, or contemporary romances (or a combination) you’re always guaranteed a great story, troubled characters you can’t help but root for, some steamy love scenes, and a happy-ever-after ending. Because in the end, love conquers all, and that’s how it should be.