Openly Straight – The Ending

Okay. So I get lots of feedback on Openly Straight. I get it via email, I see it online on blogs and on reviews on sites like Goodreads and Amazon.

The one aspect that is discussed more than any other is the ending.

Now I promise: no spoilers here. Well, that’s not exactly true. I will try to not get too specific, but it may be hard as this post goes on. Still, if you want to know how the book ends, you’re going to have to read it! Suffice it to say that some readers love the ending because it isn’t wrapped up so neatly. Other readers reported throwing the book across the room for exactly the same reason.

Incidentally, my first novel, Out of the Pocket, was knocked for being wrapped up too neatly. So yeah. Hard to win. But that’s okay. I just want to discuss for a moment my reasons for ending the novel the way I did, and some of the lessons I’ve learned from having done so.

Openly Straight cover

1. Why did you end this novel as you did? (OK: I guess I should say that if you haven’t read the novel, perhaps you’ll want to stop reading now)

I ended it this way because I simply cannot see how else it could close. Given my characters and their backgrounds and motivations, it just doesn’t make sense to me that everything would be all hunky-dory after Rafe does what he does, and says what he says. I love Rafe. I don’t want him to hurt, but then again I don’t think by the end of the novel that he is hurting that much.

Oddly enough, I thought I was ending the novel in an “open-ended” and upbeat fashion. Where some readers have called it a less-than-happy ending, I think that next semester could indeed be very happy for Rafe! I think his love interest needs some time. And frankly, I think he needs some time, too. To reflect upon his motivations for having done what he’s done. To reflect upon being who he is for once. And by the way, I reject the idea that “nothing happens” at the end of the novel. The final scene, to my mind, absolutely ties up a shift in Rafe’s understanding of his role in the world and reflects a significant shift in philosophy for Rafe. Re-read the first chapter, think about the cameras, and then read the final two pages again. Along the way, reflect upon the role of the camera in Rafe’s world.

(Sorry, I hate to tell people how to read my book. Readers are free to read it as they choose. But to say nothing happens? Not sure about that!)

2. What did you learn from writing this novel, and from ending it as you did?

When the author Julie Anne Peters read Openly Straight before it came out, she had some strong opinions. She said she really enjoyed it, and she also said, and I quote, “You readers are going to HATE you.”

I had no idea what she meant!

It turns out she forecasted correctly the impact of my ending on some of my readers. What I didn’t understand, and what she very much did, is that for the first time in my life I had written a romance. Rafe falls in love in this book, and his love interest falls in love back. This wasn’t what I set out to write, but it happened.

What i didn’t get is that there are RULES in romances. Now, some authors subvert the genre, particularly those writers who are writing literary novels that happen to include a romance (see Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park). But readers who read romances have expectations, and when you flaunt their expectations, they tend to want to throw the book across the room.

To those readers I say, Sorry! It was not my intention and I totally get it. But as I said before, I don’t think the relationship is without hope in the future. I think, in fact, that the two characters will be friends next semester. Maybe even more. I just don’t know yet!