Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Q&A with Courtney Deane




Courtney Deane is the author of the new novel When Happily Ever After Fails. She lives in Las Vegas and San Diego.


Q: What inspired you to write When Happily Ever After Fails, and how did you create your character Abigail?


A: The death of my mom, who was my last living parent and nuclear family member, inspired me to write this book. I was in a grief spiral and – despite having already experienced the loss of a parent – navigating the really terrifying and unfamiliar process of feeling like I was alone in this world.


Writing had always been my passion and profession, so I turned toward the craft as an outlet and source of comfort.


Abigail…Abigail actually materialized fairly organically. It’s weird, to me she is kind of an actual “being” or, at least, one that still exists in my head. I don’t have to put forth too much energy to see her there, in my brain.


I had a shell of a character in place – a young adult, on the more timid side, who feels like her wheels are spinning but she isn’t going anywhere. Someone who kind of considers herself the tree that falls in the woods, wondering if she makes a sound. From there, Abigail just sort of created herself. 


Q: The writer Lizzy Dent said of the book, “Abigail is a perfect heroine--equal parts messy and lovable--and this story is as much about her personal journey as it is about her blooming secret romance.” What do you think of that description?


A: I agree with it completely. One, Lizzy Dent is a goddess. She has such an astute mind for characters, plots and everything that makes the rom-com genre great – you only have to read a few lines of The Summer Job to know that.


Two, I wanted to make sure Abigail stood on her own. Yes, there is a romance and we all swoon for a love interest and that’s great.


But this story – the crux of the book – is about an unmoored 20-something coming into her own and trying to figure out what the eff to do with her life that might bring herself and others a little happiness.


She experiments, she fails, she realizes some urges shouldn’t be acted upon. She grows. This is Abigail’s story. This is not “boy meets girl.”

Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I thought a lot about this question. To be honest, I started writing When Happily Ever After Fails in 2011 – so long ago that I couldn’t remember! Even I got curious about whether I always knew how it would end! So, I went back through my trusty Google Drive.


It turns out I did not know how the book would end. I will say that I do remember thinking this will not have a traditional, “fairytale”-type ending, and I think I stayed true to that, though I’d love to hear others’ opinions.


Q: How was the novel's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: The title was there from Day One. There was no other title this book could have gone by, in my opinion. I think it perfectly captures the essence of the book and the struggles Abigail faces as she tries to right wrongs and wants everything to work out for everyone.


In a more literal sense, the title was inspired by a line in a Don Henley song. “The End of the Innocence” includes the line, “but happily ever after fails” and the sentiment has always stuck with me.


Here’s the thing, though. I think our sense of “happily ever after” will, eventually, be debunked and fail at some point. Or, at least, falter. But we can rebound, rebuild and redefine what that “happily ever after” means to us.


So, I like “when happily ever after fails” better because it’s something we can act on, which kind of infers the fate of it still lies with us.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: Aside from promoting the release of this book, I’m working on my second novel. It isn’t a sequel to When Happily Ever After Fails (though I do know how Abigail’s story plays out), but a stand-alone book.


It’s more rom, less com, but I’m very, very excited about it. Just like Abigail and her gang – this current bunch of characters continually play out in my head, making sure I don’t forget about them as I tend to my first book baby.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’d say you should know that this book is fiction – it’s not a memoir and it’s not based on my life – but I did write it to allow myself to express some feelings and opinion that I hadn’t otherwise been able to get out.


While I’m not Abigail (she’s a much better, purer person than I am!), her experiences and sentiments are inspired by my real life losses. Those include the death of my father from ALS when I was 14 and the death of my mom from neglecting her health when I was 28.


Everything else is fiction.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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