“When Happily Ever After Fails” – a debut rom-com by Courtney Deane
San Diego, California – For anyone who has ever felt “dead-ended” in life, work, and love, Courtney Deane has penned a delightfully funny debut rom-com that proves all tragedies can be rewritten, and happiness can bloom where you least expect it: “When Happily Ever After Fails” (SparkPress, April 9, 2023).
About the novel: Abigail Gardner’s life is circling the drain. Her parents are dead, her “like a brother” BFF is in love with her, and her career as an art teacher has been squashed by an unfortunate viral incident involving sophomores and Spanx. But just as that whirlpool feels poised to suck her under, she’s granted a second chance: she lands a teaching job at Excelsior Primm, one of Philadelphia’s oldest and most prestigious preparatory academies. Only problem is, instead of teaching art she’ll be stuck teaching her least favorite subject — literature — and her least favorite theme: tragedy.
Tired of being stuck in her own tragic tale, Abigail starts rewriting every sad ending she can get her hands on, in and out of the classroom. To her surprise, her life soon begins to resemble the fairy tales she adores—great job, hot guy, a career gaining recognition. But when an unexpected plot twist threatens to derail her happy ending, Abigail starts to realize why these outcomes are so hard to come by.
COURTNEY DEANE has been a writer and pursuer of happily-ever-afters since she can remember. As a full-time freelance writer, her days are spent working for print, digital, and broadcast entities, as well as for a variety of PR and marketing clients.
She continues her craft by dedicating some space each day to work on her fiction books. After both of her parents died, Deane worked to turn those tragedies into something beautiful—an effort that inspired her debut novel, When Happily Ever After Fails.
She holds bachelor’s degrees in English and sociology from UC Irvine and a master’s in journalism from USC. Deane lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, daughter, and rescue dog—her very own happily-ever-after. Visit her website to sign up for a newsletter, or find out about book store appearances and more http://www.courtneydeane.com/.
“An entertaining read that will keep you turning pages. The reader is taken on a ride with Abigail as she grows into herself and finds her voice. Deane makes it easy to root for Abigail along with the other quirky characters who have distinct and interesting personalities. When Happily Ever After Fails is a fun debut.”
— Leslie A. Rasmussen, award-winning author of “After Happily Ever After” and “The Stories We Cannot Tell”
“Courtney Deane offers up a radiant debut in When Happily Ever After Fails. Whip-smart and relatable, Abigail’s search for her own happy ending will have you on the edge of your pool chair. An absolute must read this Spring!”
– Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, authors of “Forever Hold Your Peace”
Interview with Courtney Deane
First, can you briefly introduce us to the characters we meet in “When Happily Ever After Fails?”
Of course! We’ve got Abigail, the lovable, fallible protagonist who is dead set on righting (and writing) wrongs and ensuring everyone gets a positive outcome. You’ve got to love her for it. She tries!
Then there’s Quinn, the not-as-lovable, but-we-love-him-because-he-loves-her BFF who is Abigail’s No. 1 fan. Yes, he’s head over heels for her and just waiting for the day when she realizes it, too.
And no one could forget about Mathilda. She’s our “tell it like it is” North Star, who doesn’t mince words. She’s got advice for everyone but herself! Abigail’s second BFF is funny and factual with the right amount of spunk.
Lastly, we have Nate. Abigail can’t figure out if this fellow teacher is initially a friend or foe, but his presence and advice is solid enough for her to keep him around and find out.
Why did you choose your title? What happens “when happily ever after fails?”
Honestly, I took the inspiration from a Don Henley song I’ve always loved, “The End of the Innocence.” This song always reminded me of my family’s situation, particularly the line “let me take a long last look before we say goodbye.” Part of the song’s chorus is “But happily ever after fails.” I don’t love the “but,” because HEA doesn’t always fail permanently; it just changes. It morphs – as do our expectations of life – as we collect different experiences and encounter various situations. So, our notion of happily ever after will likely fail and falter at some point (thus, the “when”), but we can recover, pick ourselves back up and continue working toward a modified version of whatever “happily ever after” is for us.
Fun sidenote: There’s a few Easter egg references to this inspo in the book!
You started writing this book after your mom passed away. How did the writing process impact your grief process, and vice versa? And how did both evolve as time went on?
I would love to slap an Abigail-style happy ending on this and say writing the book allowed me to work through the grief process and – wow – I’m GREAT now! It wouldn’t be true. I think it was a nice thought and an admirable effort to try to get some resolution on these two pivotal deaths through writing.
While I didn’t necessarily get the “resolution” I was looking for, writing this novel DID help me express some of my thoughts and feelings on the grief process, my parents’ loss and how many well-meaning individuals can actually make the situation worse. I very much hope that comes through in the book.
This might not be the answer anyone’s looking for, but what truly helped me move on from these deaths and this situation was having a family of my own. I don’t say that in an advice-driven, “go out and find you a man and have a baby” way, but chasing my dream and my happily ever after of starting my own family did make a huge impact. Suddenly, phrases like “mom” and “dad” weren’t dirty words anymore. And they were words that were back in my vocabulary. You have no idea how foreign those phrases seemed for a very long time!
Now, having a child certainly brings up my parents in different ways, especially where grandparents are concerned, so this issue isn’t entirely put to bed, but THAT is what has truly brought me closure.
What did you enjoy most about writing “When Happily Ever After Fails”? What did you find the most challenging?
I loved most everything about it! This was so much fun. I loved developing the characters and losing myself in their world. As I wrote, I would find that I wasn’t sitting on my mom’s former bed with my laptop, but was IN Abigail’s apartment as her and Quinn blasted the Beatles, etc.
This being my first foray into fiction, I found the opening to be the most challenging. I wrote and rewrote and consulted, then rewrote again and again. I’m very happy with the final result, but, man, did we go through a lot of changes! I learned a ton about the book-writing process, and have made sure this next book has the opening it deserves from the get go!
Rom-coms have always been wildly popular. What are you bringing to this genre as a writer?
I’d like to think I’m bringing a fresh spin – though I’m sure every author would like to think that! I appreciate that tropes and formulas exist for a reason, but I’m not a fan of predictability or sticking to “what works.” Yes, this is a rom-com and some of the expected elements are there, but I believe this book has a modern, unique take on these traditions. Because, as we know, happily ever after IS possible…but it may look different than you pictured! 😉
Do you see yourself in any of the characters?
It would be weird if I didn’t say Abigail, right? LOL. There are certainly elements of myself in Abigail, though we are two VERY different people. Like Abigail, my father died of ALS and my mother kind of didn’t recover after his death and failed to take care of herself, which was ultimately her demise. Many (okay, all) of Abigail’s thoughts and perspectives on the subjects of death and parents are from my own experience, but the way she processes them is different from my own.
In thinking about this, though, I guess I kind of did what Abigail did in that I went out and wrote a book hoping that would give this situation a “happily ever after.” That’s not all that different from Abigail changing a play’s ending in the hopes of dodging tragedy for herself and her class. Interesting…
What is your favorite romance movie of all time, and why?
I’m kind of an irreverent person (if we’re not laughing, what’s the point?), so I lean toward the love stories that have some heart AND humor. On that note, you can’t beat “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” “Always Be My Maybe,” and “Chasing Amy.”
Stories that tug at you and make you feel the longing really resonate with me as well. With that in mind, I love “The Notebook” and the “Before” trilogy (Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight).
Finally, you have to hand it to “Love Actually” for capturing so many different types of loves – and bonus points that not every plot has a happy ending!
What do you hope readers take away from “When Happily Ever After Fails?”
One, I hope it gives them a glimpse into what grief and survival can look like for someone who has seemingly “lost it all” (or, at least, a BIG part of who they were and how we identify – our families).
Two, I really wrote this book for anyone who’s ever felt alone in a crowded room. Your grief, feelings, and circumstances don’t have to reflect mine to understand what it’s like to feel marooned on an island where no one else is around and help doesn’t seem like it can be found. Please, please know that THESE are the people I wrote this book for.
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