Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thursday Thoughts with Karen Stivali

The Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Person

Do you remember any of your old crushes? Maybe someone you liked in high school or college. Maybe the person liked you too but the timing was wrong and you never got together. Or maybe you were both too shy to say anything. Or the other person didn’t know you existed or didn’t think of you “that way.” Or maybe there was an awesome kiss or even a night together, but for one reason or another it never turned into more. But years (or even decades) later, you still think about the person. About the “what if...”

Those are the woulda-coulda-shoulda people who haunt dreams and fantasies. The ones you may go long stretches of time without thinking about, but can never quite forget.

I think most people have someone from their past who falls into this category. I know I do. Even though they were people I knew ages ago and haven’t seen in years, every once in a while something will spark a memory and that old feeling will return. And even when it’s not that overt these are the people who make repeated guest appearances in my dreams.

The dreams that I recall most vividly are (unfortunately) the nightmares. The anxiety dreams where I suddenly realize I’m about to walk into a final exam and I haven’t been to a single class all semester or read the text. Or the ones where someone I love is in peril and I can’t get to them in time.

But then there are the occasional equally vivid ones where the woulda-coulda-shoulda person appears. While my subconscious never seems to forget these people, it also doesn’t let me have too much fun with them. Maybe that’s what kept us apart in the first place. Or maybe it’s because my conscious self is happy with where I am and who I’m with and how it all worked out. But there’s still that delicious moment in those dreams where that second chance is just a breath away. I love that moment. The anticipation and the wonder of it all.

That’s why my favorite books to read and write are usually friends-to-lovers stories. I like them because there’s that element of history between the characters, but I love them because so often they’re a chance to explore what would have happened if you’d taken a chance on your woulda-coulda-shoulda person. What if you were reunited and got another shot? What if you turned that single kiss into more? What if you confessed your feelings to see if they were returned?

In Moment of Impact, book one of the Moments in Time trilogy, Collin and Tanner are college roommates who’ve secretly crushed on each other for a while, but neither of them knows the other is into guys. The book opens with Tanner taking a chance. And since the next two books in the series are about the many ups and downs their relationship takes as they go through the next phases of their lives, obviously that chance was worth taking.

Taking that first step doesn’t guarantee the other person won’t become a woulda-coulda-shoulda person down the road. I think you need to get pretty far along in a relationship before you can truly say you’ve escaped the possibility of that zone. That’s why their journey continues in Moment of Truth and Moment of Clarity. (It’s also why the spin-offs I’m working on put other characters from this trilogy in a position where they have to either make a leap or wind up wondering, maybe forever, if they should have.)

So, since I’m nosy and love hearing about other people’s lives, tell me---do you have memories of one (or more) people you wish things had gone differently with? Did anything ever happen? In retrospect do you think you missed an opportunity? Or are you one of those rare individuals who’s always put your heart on the line and taken that shot when you had the opportunity?

Please Note: The Moments in Time series is a trilogy that’s meant to be read in order. Books one and two (Moment Of Impact and Moment Of Truth are available now at all major retailers. Book three (Moment Of Clarity) is available for pre-order at Dreamspinner Press and releases everywhere May 6, 2015. A paperback volume of all three novellas also releases May 6. 


Karen Stivali

Karen's lifelong fascination with people has led her to careers ranging from hand-drawn animator, to party planner, to marriage and family counselor, but writing has always been her passion. Karen enjoys nothing more than following her characters on their journey toward love. Whether the couples are m/f or m/m, it’s guaranteed that Karen's novels are filled with food, friendship, love, and smoking hot sex—all the best things in life.

When Karen isn’t writing (and often when she is), she can be found on Twitter attempting witty banter and detailing the antics of her fruit-loving cat, BadKitteh. She loves to hear from readers (and other writers), so don't hesitate to contact/follow/like her at:


  1. Got the first two, need the next one :)

  2. I like friends-to-lovers stories, also. I have a woulda-coulda-shoulda man in my past. Well, actually, we were teenagers. He was my first real crush. He was a couple years older than me and I was still jailbait when I moved 3000 miles away. I think about him from time to time, and his was the first face that popped in my mind when I read your post. Bittersweet memories.