Why Did You Write This Book, Emma?
I’m glad you asked.
And Maybe They Fall In Love wasn’t part of the plan. It’s the second full manuscript I’ve refined to a final stage, but it’s the one I chose to self-publish, while my YA cult novel is still in the querying trenches.
So why did I choose to self-publish this weird little romance?
It started with a short story of mine that won an award at a small university and was published by another. That short story was one in a long list of stories with zero percent happily ever afters.
Part of that was probably a student’s reach for conflict she understood and could easily manipulate.
Part of it was that happily ever afters are hard work.
And, as someone who hadn’t read a lot of romances, they weren’t something I particularly trusted.
But I got married a year before graduating from college, and with that particular life choice came some of the weirdest pressures I’ve ever experienced.
People expected me to drop out of college (??), get pregnant (?!?), stop writing (!!), and effectively throw my life away. Almost everyone, professors and family friends included, expected me to regret it.
Before the wedding, there were plenty of people warning me that this wasn’t what I really wanted, that I wasn’t thinking clearly, and (in one person’s words), “He just wants what all Black boys want, you know that”.
Obviously, there are many infuriating elements there to unpack.
But the gist was: they saw me as obtuse and my best friend/love of my life as a brute.
And they were so, so invested.
What if I could take that investment and tell a story about a happily maybe after, one that was as uncertain and ill-advised on the outside as ours, but as strong and genuine on the inside as the love that got us through the criticism?
What if I could show other people, in other bad circumstances fighting for their chance to be happy, that they as individuals were worth the risk?
I could meet another scared woman’s eyes through the pages and whisper as she faced a loud and hateful world, “You are worth the maybes.”
After the wedding came the Afterthoughts.
I’m not certain because it’s entirely possible that the origin was just as irrational as the thoughts themselves, but I believe they were born of the intense few months of constant commentary we endured.
Every choice I made in that time felt wrong.
Every step led to a mistake, to someone shaking their head at me and telling me I should have known better.
So the Afterthoughts stepped in and made me more careful.
Wash your hands again. It wasn’t right that time.
Remember that friend with a shellfish allergy? Remember how sick that can make someone? You better eat something besides the shrimp.
You know it would just take one mistake with an open water cup and some surface cleaner in this restaurant, and you’d be gone. Not a thing anyone could do about it, either. Where’s the closest hospital? Have you checked?
The carefulness that the Afterthoughts provided made my world so small. I lost weight until standing up made me feel lightheaded and none of my clothes fit. I starved myself on nights that my husband worked because I was terrified something I’d eat would make me sick and I’d be alone.
My hands cracked and bled, and so did my lips, because lotions and lip balms had chemicals that one friend had called dangerous, didn’t they?
And the funny thing is, as the Afterthoughts did actual damage to my body, people STILL noticed enough to comment on physical signs like my weight loss as if they had a claim to that kind of conversation.
Through all of this, I realized that most people are unequipped to do two things.
First, to celebrate a relationship that doesn’t look like they expected; second, to empathize with someone who’s experiencing a difficulty they themselves have not encountered.
These two concepts are so novel that they become a spectacle; there must be commentary, but there can be no understanding.
I felt (and whether or not this is true is entirely debatable) that my dignity as a human was stripped away by this particular brand of curiosity. I was reduced to a too-young, naive little bride, and then to another girl who needed to plump up (no matter that my weight loss had nothing to do with body image and everything to do with those intrusive thoughts).
And the only way anyone would listen to me was if I told them a story.
I told the truth dozens of times, shouted it at friends and family a little more aggressively than I should — all in vain until I tried telling a story.
And Maybe They Fall In Love is my first attempt at writing a romance novel.
It’s a book I wrote when I was at my lowest, when the Afterthoughts were undefined and I needed to find the words to communicate their effects to the world around me.
It was a book I wrote when I was at my happiest, because my husband loves me and I love him and not even unsolicited advice from dearly-loved old friends and family could take that away.
And it was a book I wrote first for myself, and then for you.
Chances are, either you or someone around you have done something that other people disagree with. The negativity might not affect you or them as much as it affected me, or it might affect you or them just as much and be leading some pretty bad places.
I wrote a little love story with intrusive thoughts, community college students, and adoption because I wanted to show as many “unconventional” people as I could that their value did not decrease with others’ judgment.
For pregnant mothers in the workforce: your value or ambition does not decrease because you’re bringing a child into the world.
For people with intrusive thoughts like me: your value doesn’t decrease because eating pecan pie is a triumph. You’re sick. You’re getting better. It’s okay.
For people like Elle and Christopher who don’t quite have a plan for their lives yet: your value isn’t built on your career success or your passion about a vocation. You don’t have to have a dream you can monetize to matter.
For babies and children like Tali: your value doesn’t depend on the circumstances through which you entered your family. Adoption doesn’t make you less of a child. And it doesn’t make you less worthy of love.
You, whoever you are, whatever you’ve done — you have value.
And even in a world rife with uncertainties, you are worth the maybes.
Here’s the thing.
I’m a Christian, which means modern-book-related conversations can get real awkward real fast (ask me about my feelings on Lessons in Chemistry). But, despite the harm moralistic traditions-based church bodies have visited on so many people, I know that Christ didn’t come to save the conventional. He came from a line of wicked men and broken women to save a world of broken and wicked people.
His love isn’t conditional on whether or not you look or act a certain way; all he requires is that you follow him, give your all to him, and live a life worthy of the calling.
Because the world we live in is very much a mess. Within that mess, it doesn’t matter if you have a tattoo or have intrusive thoughts; you are both incredibly worthy and incredibly unworthy of love, just like everyone else.
You are worthy of the love of your fellow man because you were created by God to be cherished and holy. That’s what And Maybe They Fall In Love attempts to convey.
But, at the same time that we are worthy of love from our fellow man, we are incredibly unworthy of the love Christ offers because from the moment we exist, we try to run away from it. Whether we worship financial success or relationships or celebrities or the right body weight, we try to find another god instead of him. And that search tends to hurt others and hurt ourselves, but most importantly it spits in the face of the one being in the universe who’s actually worthy of worship.
And he gave his life when we deserved to give ours. His death provided substitutionary atonement for what had to be paid because we ran.
We are worthy of love from fellow humans. We are unworthy of God’s love.
Yet he loved us so much he gave us his only son — while we were still running — so we could have eternal life and love with him.
And so often, we are so cruel to our fellow humans.
Church/fellow Christians: is viciousness how we plan to repay our savior? Petty traditions and societal expectations of what someone’s life should look like? Meddling in lives Christ has redeemed? (Matthew 21:18-35)
People who aren’t into this whole Christianity thing: is it Christ who hurt you, or a church? The gospel is offensive, don’t get me wrong. But it’s also healing. Christ demands your life, but he makes it so much better. The church you were involved in might have made the same demands without the knowledge or integrity to follow Christ’s example.
And Maybe They Fall In Love isn’t a Christian novel. It certainly won’t stop people from prying into my life — if anything, I’m expecting that to worsen. But I needed to write it, and it needed to be shared.
Human dignity and worth has to be preserved in our daily lives if we are to survive.
More than tradition, more than expectations, more than popular movie franchise catchphrases: human dignity is simply a part of your identity on this earth. It cannot be taken away.
Because of that, you are worthy of love.
And the one man in the history of the universe who had every right to hate you? He’s the one who loved you the most. So the least you can do is give your fellow humans the common courtesy of keeping your judgments to yourself and looking for ways you can show them they’re loved instead.
You are worth the maybes. And I hope you find that in this book.