I am in love with love.
I think a lot of people who know me well might raise their eyebrows if they heard me say that out loud. I’m not sure they would believe it about me, being as fiercely and determinedly single as I am, but it’s true.
The kind of love, specifically, that I love the most is the yearning that prefaces the fall.
I yearn to yearn.
The other day, my daughter, who is eleven, told me about a boy who she has realized that she likes. Or, as we call it, like-likes. “I don’t want anything to happen,” she said. “I just like liking him.”
We hiked through the forest as we talked, the leaves at the magical tipping point between green and red, hues of orange and yellow. When the wind blew them down, she reached up to grab them – if you catch a leaf before it hits the ground, you get a wish – and each time, she wished and I knew just what she wished for. The sun dappled the ground with shadows and light and her voice sparkled and glowed.
She was yearning and I envied her. She has never had a broken heart. She hasn’t been hurt or betrayed or left or abandoned. She doesn’t have any reason to do anything with this yearning except lean into it, expecting joy, her arms open, her smile expectant.
That is the love that I love: The love that comes before the relationship, the one that doesn’t fight about who said what and when they said it, the one that doesn’t get to know your most deeply felt fears only to use them, later, to cause damage. The love that makes anything and everything feel within reach, magical, possible.
That kind of love is powerful. Powerful enough, even, to defy death.
The beating heart of my novel, You Are The Everything, is that exact kind yearning. It is a book that I had been simmering in the back-burner for a long time as I forged my way through other projects and jobs. I knew it was going to be a love story, but I wanted it to also be a yearning story. And then I hoped it would also go on to be a story about falling, and then about being held safe in a love that had seemed unattainable but became real, much like how the velveteen rabbit became real when he was loved.
I fell in love with the idea, much the same way as one falls in love with a person.
Then, when I was ready, I wrote it down.
As soon as I sat down and began to write it, I typed the words at the top of the blank screen: “You are on a plane.”
Then I stopped.
I hadn’t realized this book would be in the second person until I started to draft it, and once I wrote that line, I knew it had to be that way. The reader wasn’t going to see this story from Elyse’s eyes, from her yearning heart. That wasn’t enough. It needed to be all or nothing, like the best kinds of love. The reader was going to become Elyse. They were going to feel Elyse’s feelings. They were going to yearn alongside her.
And then they were going to experience the love that followed.
I knew, as I wrote, that this book was going to be unique, and maybe – probably – impossible to sell, so I wrote it not thinking about sales figures, or who would publish it, or how it would be received. I didn’t worry about reviews or gatekeepers or marketing. I simply wrote Elyse Schmidt and Josh Harris’ love story, the story of their lives, the story that felt like it had to be told.
Writing this book was a transformative experience for me. Being unhampered by my usual worries was liberating. I assumed that I was writing this book for myself, that it would go nowhere, that no one would ever see it.
I wrote it from a place of joy.
And then, like all love stories, this story ended and it broke my heart.
But I’m definitely a better person for having written it, for having gone there, for having loved Josh Harris and Elyse, for knowing them, for sharing them with you. After all, as Tennyson said so long ago, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Now please go read it. Here, I’ll start it for you:
You are on a plane.