Nostalgia and writing the romance novel

Join romance novel author Bette Hawkins for an exploration of nostalgia.

Can you be nostalgic for something you’ve never had?

When I look back on writing Running Deep, my Bella Books April new release, that question has resounded through my mind. I read the pages of my new novel and can see how the book is driven by a longing for experiences that have passed me by. The words “nostalgia” and “longing” might evoke feelings of sadness, but I’d describe my writing process as joyful imagining. Writing romance novels is always a form of play—the ultimate exercise in living vicariously—and Running Deep was a particularly fun book to write.

Why have characters fall in love only once, when I could double the romance?

So, what was I longing for when I wrote this romance novel? A young love, one that grows. The characters in Running Deep fall head over heels as teenagers, and find one another again ten years later. Why have the characters, Hannah and Angie, fall in love only once, when I could double the romance? I liked the idea of the two women discovering that they’d each changed, but that their feelings for one another had stayed the same. It also meant I could play around with a different time. ‘80s nostalgia is everywhere now, and I couldn’t help myself from having fun with references to Walkmans, scrunchies, and snail-mail.

romance novel nostalgia Running Deep
Bette Hawkins’ Running Deep is out now!

The high-school sweethearts narrative appealed to me because I didn’t even know how to long for it when I actually was in high school. I was too busy being shy, withdrawn, and confused. Adolescence is hard for everyone, but growing up as a member of the LGBTQ+ community is a unique experience. I watched my friends get into relationships but felt indifferent to them myself. When I came out in my early twenties, I went through that fabled second gay adolescence. I thought that I had a lot to make up for.

Now, I am in a long-term, happy relationship, and I’d never let myself lose sight of how fortunate I am. Most of the time, I believe wishing for a different past is a waste of time and energy. Still, now and then, I let myself grow a bit wistful for the idea of a history in which in my teenage years had a bit more love in them. If they had, I could only hope they’d be something like what Hannah and Angie have with one another.

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