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  • Writer's pictureSharon Michalove

Sad Endings to HEA


As a teenager, I was all about the tragic. I searched out sad endings. I was an avid reader of Shakespeare's tragedies and nineteenth-century novels, including Russian novels like War and Peace and Anna Karenina. I reveled in the melancholy.

Listening to Frederic Delius’ “The Walk to the Paradise Garden” from his opera, “A Village Romeo and Juliet" always makes me sad. This performance from 2015 is from the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Delius comes up a lot on the radio and I definitely prefer "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring.'" As you get older, there is a lot of sad in real life, so why not look for happy endings.

Photo from Classic FM

When I was young, I read a lot of poetry. In 1957, I received the newly issued Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris. It was the volume I turned to most often, even as I got older. As an aficionado of tragic endings, I was drawn to the poem “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. I even wrote poetry--sad, teenage angst poetry. I was sixteen and my publishing ambitions were high, Classy literary magazines, "The Saturday Review," "Poetry Magazine" and "The New Yorker" among others. I papered my walls with rejections. I even put a book of poems together and sent them to my mom's first cousin, who was with a big New York publishing house. He was very kind but told me that I needed to have a body of work published in magazines before a book would be a feasible proposition.

Fast forward to my freshman year in college at the University of Illinois. It was a Friday night in October and I was at The Etc. Coffeehouse. A folksinger was performing for a few patrons. He sang “The Highwayman.” I was blown away by the idea of someone setting my favorite poem to music. I thought he was the composer, but when we talked afterward he told me that the composer was Phil Ochs. We had a record store on campus and I went out and bought the album, "I'm Not Marching Anymore," the next day. Here is a YouTube video of Ochs singing it.

The Etc. Coffeehouse at the Wesley Foundation on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

As I got older, my choices in fiction changed and were usually in usually centered on mysteries, a genre I had read all my life. I also did a yearly reading of all of Jane Austen's novels and Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. For years I hoped that I could be a mystery novelist as well as a historian, but plotting was a real weakness and I never managed to get past chapter two. I concentrated on academic writing and left fiction behind. I only started writing fiction for real in 2018 after a few years of reading romantic comedy. Authors like Aven Ellis, Jill Bengtsson, and Penny Reid are a few of my inspirations.

When Cress writes, she usually listens to classical music, as do I. But she does have a play list that she turns to when she struggles.

Do you seek out happy endings or are you all about the angst? A puzzle solver or an adrenaline junkie? What kind of music makes a difference in your life?

At First Sight is available for preorder on Amazon.

Release date is October 22, 2021

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