Keira: Bella Summer, the heroine of Bella Summer Takes a Chance, has never been in love with her boyfriend of 10 years. Why do you think people stay in relationships like that if they are looking for love?
Michele Gorman: I think there are a couple of reasons. Lots of people start relationships with their friends. After all, if you connect deeply on that level, why shouldn’t a romantic relationship work? And sometimes it does – you fall in love with the person you were friends with first and live happily ever after. But sometimes “in love” never comes. And that’s okay for some people. The friendship is reason enough to stay. But for others, like Bella, it’s not enough. So the book centres around the question: Must you be in love for a relationship to last, or is loving someone enough?
Other people have to try very hard to get where they are in the relationship – maybe there were a lot of compromises along the way, rough patches and incompatibility. If you’ve worked very hard at something for a long time, you’d understandably be reluctant to walk away from it. Aside from all that work being for nothing, you don’t know if there’s anything better out there.
And that may be the other reason that people stay in relationships that aren’t as fulfilling as they should be. Sometimes it may seem that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t.
Keira: Bella has realized at the start of the novel, that she is no longer a musician with a day job but a consultant with musical ability. Why do dreams stagnate? Is it because a person lacks the talent or is it because the person lacks the courage to try?
Michele: In Bella’s case it was that “life” got in the way, and I think that’s the case for many of us. If we think about anything we really like to do (going to the theatre, having dinner parties, writing, painting, whatever it may be), and think about how often we do those things versus how often you’d like to, most of us find that there’s a mismatch. When we do them we think, oh I must do this more often! And then our daily lives get in the way and these things get put to the side.
There’s probably also an element of fear (and doubt) when thinking about pursuing a dream. How do you know you’re any good, or whether you’ll be successful? Well, you don’t. But you never will if you don’t try!
Keira: What do you feel is the hardest step in letting everything go to start fresh? How does Bella do it? Did this apply to you when you left the US for the UK?
Michele: It’s much easier to move to a new country than it is to end a relationship or quit a job. At least your old country will take you back if you realise you’ve made a big mistake! I didn’t have any qualms at all about leaving the US for the UK, precisely because I knew I could always go back if things went terribly wrong. Luckily they didn’t!
The hardest part of making any of those life-altering changes is the risk that the life you’re leaving is better than the life you’re pursuing. The hardest step isn’t actually making the decision (although that’s agonizing enough). It’s actually saying the words (I quit, or I’m leaving) that will irrevocably change your future.
Since Bella is an optimist, she believes that leaving her boyfriend, and pursuing her musical ambitions, will work out for the best. That’s what gives her the courage to make those leaps. If I’d written her as a pessimist, she wouldn’t have been able to do it.
Keira: If you could give a single piece of advice (each?) for love, life, and career what would you say?
Michele: Focus on what’s important in relationships, and I mean what’s really important. Having a list of ideal criteria for a partner is all very well and good, but at the end of the day, your critical list is actually probably pretty short. There were just four things on my list, which related to what I wanted intellectually, emotionally and creatively. What he looked like didn’t really matter, as long as I fancied him. So I didn’t care if he was tall, short, fat, skinny, black, white, bald or hairy. He could have been a banker, a barrister or a barista, a homebody or a jetsetter, a social butterfly or introvert. When I dropped all the less important stuff, I met the perfect man for me. And I’m going to marry him this October!
Life: My parents never said, “You can’t”, but instead they said “Why can’t you?” This has seemed like pretty good advice to me!
Career: I may not be the best person to ask about a career, since I’ve never thought of myself as having one. I make sure that I enjoy whatever it is I’m doing to support myself. So I guess that’s the advice I’d give. Don’t worry too much about where you’re going. If you enjoy what you’re doing, it’s probably a pretty good way to make your living.
Keira: Give us three reasons to pick up Bella Summer Takes a Chance! (Not that we need much persuading…)
Michele: It’s an empowering book, full of witty and fun characters that will make you laugh, and it will give you lots to think about when it comes to what’s “enough” in your life.
Thanks so much for inviting me here to chat!