Live. Love. Laugh. My God, I despise that saying. I hate seeing it on signs in stores or crocheted onto pillows or even carved into gravestones. Oh, for God’s sake, I think. Like we need to see THAT again. Don’t tell me what to do. I’ll live, love, laugh only if I want to, you stupid sign.
And yet, here I am, writing an article on that very subject. Combining love and laughter is a hallmark of my 20-some-odd books. Sure, there may be some cathartic weeping involved as well, but laughing, feeling that warm lovey-dovey glow … I can just about guarantee that response in every one of my books. (Also, most of the characters do get to live, so there is that as well.)
As a person, nothing makes me feel more satisfied, happier, and more brilliant than making my husband laugh ‘till he goes silent, squeaking occasionally as proof of life. Laughing together is love-affirming. Every time you make your partner laugh until they cry, love is affirmed. That’s right, you think as you wheeze. We still got it.
Or maybe you’re on a date, and the person across from you gives a big belly laugh at something you said. The pheromones start rubbing their tiny hands together in deep satisfaction. She could be the one, they say. We like her.
Or you’re hanging out with your sister, and one of you impersonates your mom, and drinks are spewed as you choke and laugh and hopefully don’t die. Having a life full of giggles and jokes and laughter with your loved ones … well, crap, that’s what the sign says, right?
Writing a love story is maybe the most hopeful thing an author can do. The idea that there is someone out there who loves us, who will stand by us and accept us and make us better people is pure optimism. These days, it’s a message we need more than ever. Life is going to be incredibly hard and sad at some point. Writing a book about hope and love, making your readers laugh in a dark time … that’s what I and so many of my fellow authors try to do, day after day, book after book.
I’ve never written a book that’s not a love story. They all contain that strong message of hope and love, whether it’s between parent and child, extended family, siblings, friends, or romantic partners … and usually, all of the above.
There’s an element of the ridiculous in love—the lengths we’ll go to for someone, the sacrifices, the embarrassments, the secrets, the often-comical nature of searching, like Horton the Elephant scouring thousands of clovers for the speck containing Whoville. My characters have made awkward public declarations, avenged their broken hearts, shown their naked bodies, turned themselves inside out for the wrong person, humbled themselves, admitted their flaws, apologized, and done all those things we’ve said we just couldn’t do … until we do them.
Characters in my books have hidden in a closet as their parents role-played. Proposed, naked to a boyfriend, not realizing his parents were over for dinner. Gotten stuck in a window trying to avoid a former fiancé. Gone to church to see a cute guy, not aware that he’s actually a Catholic priest. Drugged and transported a skunk into their ex-husband’s new house.
I love writing these scenes and both the absurdity of the moment and the relatability that leads up to it. The black humor that so often surrounds grief. The snappy one-liners we all wish we’d been able to conjure in the moment. Love and laughter are the essence of being human, of romantic relationships, of any meaningful bond.
As a writer, I try to give my readers a deeply emotional experience. Laugh, cry, laugh again … that’s my tagline, almost as cheesy as live, love, laugh. But hey! I want readers to come to the last line of the last chapter and say, “Man! I loved this book!”
Live, love, laugh. I don’t want the sign hanging in my kitchen, but you know … there’s a lot of the human condition held in those three words.