Miss Match: Searching for a Happy Ending
May 01

Miss Match: Searching for a Happy Ending

Fiona Riley blogs:

**There’s a song out right now by Lukas Graham called “7 Years,” it’s delightful and really moves me. (Take a second to listen to it sometime, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHCob76kig) It’s on loop in the background as I write this blog)**

As the release of Miss Match approaches, I find myself doing some things I never imagined I would do. I’m answering Q&A’s, planning podcasts, doing interviews, sharing things that feel like secrets…I often wonder if I am giving too much of myself away in these instances. Am I too free with my truths?

I was once told that true success in life comes from finding joy and passion in all that you do: your work, your home life, your play, the way you love, etc. It’s about the delicate balance of juggling all the parts of yourself that make you feel whole. And for some of us, there are many, many parts to juggle.

The most common questions I am asked these days are: “What made you want to write Miss Match?” And “What makes Miss Match special to you?” The answers to these questions are much more complicated than I can sort out truthfully in a few easy sentences. 

I want to tell you about a story, a story about someone searching for a happy ending:

As a little girl, I loved to read. I wrote poetry and played music and was endlessly creative. As I got older, I pushed aside some of that creativity in the pursuit of academics and a career in the medical field. I became a professor. I had students to teach and a business to run and I probably worked too much. But I was happy. Blissfully ignorant and happy.

In the fall of 2012, two months after my twenty-eighth birthday, I was diagnosed with advanced metastatic cancer. I wasn’t given a lot of time to think about the weight of that diagnosis--within two weeks I was rushed into surgery and treatment in hopes of saving some semblance of my life. After a long and complicated surgical intervention with subsequent hospital stay, I was sent home to heal enough from the surgery to start chemotherapy. The worst of my treatment was ahead of me, not behind me, and unfortunately for me, I knew all too well what to expect--this was something I taught my students about. 

I’d been fooling around with words for a while when this happened. I’d written a few one-shots and even drafted an outline for the beginnings of what would become Miss Match about two weeks before my life got turned on its head. I went from being very busy, juggling two full-time careers, to being essentially trapped in my house while undergoing treatment. I had a lot more time to reflect on what I wanted to accomplish in my life and suddenly was faced with the fact that I might have a lot less time to accomplish those things than I had originally thought.

Miss Match came to me as a dream on the summer before my diagnosis but became a reality when I needed a distraction from the side effects of the treatment that was intended to keep me alive. I wrote every day for as long as I could tolerate sitting. I wrote as often as the neuropathy from the chemotherapy in my hands and feet would allow. I dragged myself out of bed even when I felt my worst because I was dedicated to making sure that I would give my characters something I may not get for myself: a happy ending.

That’s why I decided to write a romance novel. I wanted to write a story about two people, overcoming obstacles in their lives and finding someone else to help them realize their true potential for happiness was within themselves all along. 

The process of Miss Match getting published was a long and difficult one for me. I submitted the story to Bold Strokes Books just as I was finishing chemo. I received a note from Radclyffe with some advice to rework the story a little and resubmit. I used the summer after chemo to do just that and was making great progress...until three months after I finished treatment, they found more cancer, this time somewhere new. 

It was like hitting the reset button and tumbling back to the bottom on the long and windy path I had been on for almost a year. It was only eleven months after my initial diagnosis, and I was back in surgery and facing another six months of chemotherapy.  As I recovered, I spent my time trying to learn and improve my craft because I had made the decision that I was going to be a published author no matter what it took. I resubmitted my manuscript and by winter 2014 I had signed a contract: Miss Match was really happening. 

When I was diagnosed at twenty-eight, I never thought I would live to see thirty. Suddenly, getting to the next decade of my life was something I was desperately hoping for, instead of running from, like most of my peers. Getting older doesn’t scare me--never seeing “older” does. Even with a contract, there was no guarantee I would ever see Miss Match in print. That was a difficult but important thing for me to accept: life goes on whether you are ready or not.

As sobering as my diagnosis was, it gave me the opportunity to reflect on the things that had been forgotten along the way. It gave me the chance to put all of my “adulting” responsibilities to the side and really focus on the parts of me that had been neglected for some time. Remember that little girl I mentioned earlier, the one that loved music and art? She made her presence known in a way that could not be ignored. She reminded me that once upon a time I wanted to be a writer and that the possibilities were endless. Had I not been diagnosed and subsequently treated for cancer, I don’t know that Miss Match would ever have been published.

Fast forward to today: a copy of Miss Match sits next to me as I write my next WIP. It’s a little surreal, looking back, organizing my thoughts, recounting the events that brought me to this moment…it almost feels like it happened to someone else.

Miss Match came to me as a dream, but in the end, writing Miss Match got me through the darkest time of my life. Samantha and Lucinda were so vivid and so real to me because they came to me when I needed something to help me get through the difficulties of my own life. I was able to express the usual levity and playfulness of my true nature through their dialogue and flirtation. I could put my passion for life on display when they danced and *truly* showcase it when they loved. Writing a story about a matchmaker who has failed to find love for herself when she finds it for everyone else was just the right distraction I needed in my own life. And when a beautiful dancer with a troubled past, resigned to living a life alone, crosses paths with that same matchmaker? Well, that felt like a story that needed to be written. 

The reason that Lukas Graham song gives me all the feels is because I really hope I see sixty years old. I really hope my story gets told and I really hope I have many more stories to share with everyone. Miss Match is about two women searching for their happy ending and wading through all of life’s challenges with hopes of finding it. It was a dream to write, even if the reason I wrote it was kind of selfish. ;)

As I embark on the next part of my life, I am looking forward to all of the adventures Samantha and Lucinda have in store for me. As of right now though? I’m living my life every moment.


Fiona Riley