First of all, I’d like to thank the lovely Seekers for having me here today! While I’ve been a long-time lurker and occasional commenter, this is my first time blogging on this site, and I’m truly excited to interact with all of you. Since I’m a huge tea lover, I’d like to invite you to enjoy a steaming cup of Earl Grey and chocolate chip scones.
Have you ever been standing in line at your favorite coffee shop, patiently waiting to order when you discover a total stranger has generously paid for yours? Or sitting at your favorite restaurant waiting on the check when your server informs you that another patron has paid for your meal? Well I have, and it felt fantastic! An unexpected kindness is something you won’t soon forget. That’s how I see epilogues. For 200+ pages, I’ve struggled right along with the hero and heroine, shedding tears for her, railing at the hero, so when I get to the end, I feel like I’ve earned the right to see them actually happy together. Don’t get me wrong, I live for that final scene—the tender apologies, the whispered words of love and commitment, the fireworks-in-the-sky kiss. But the epilogue, that’s the bonus, the last cookie in the bag when you thought your kids ate them all. As my editor, Emily Rodmell, has said, “Our readers love epilogues. It gives them a chance to see the happily ever afters in action. It’s like the icing on a cake.”
Epilogues come in all shapes and sizes. They can be fun and flirty, emotionally intense, crowded with secondary characters or private interludes with the hero and heroine. They can be long or short or somewhere in between. And there’s no rule that says they have to center around a wedding ceremony. Maybe your happy couple is on their honeymoon or renovating their new house. Maybe your final scene didn’t end with a marriage proposal. Wouldn’t it be neat to do it up right in the epilogue? This is the perfect time to show resolutions or dreams-come-true that weren’t possible in the final scene. What if your heroine has struggled with infertility in the past? Since you can fast forward into the future, you have the chance to show her joyfully sharing her happy news with her new husband. Or giving birth to their long-awaited bundle of joy. Or perhaps your hero was planning to switch careers or start his own business. You can allude to his success in his new venture.
I sometimes use the epilogue to give readers a hint about the next book in the series. Here’s a brief excerpt from my November Love Inspired Historical release, The Husband Hunt, book four in my Smoky Mountain Matches series. Nathan O’Malley is the hero, Caleb is his younger brother. The whole family has gathered for a Thanksgiving feast. The day is nearly done, and Nathan notices Caleb trying to slip away unnoticed.
He caught sight of Caleb slipping out the kitchen door and followed.
“Hey,” Nathan closed the door behind him, “where are you sneaking off to?”
Caleb pivoted back, kicked up a shoulder. “Just going to check on the cows.”
“Too much togetherness for one day?” he stepped off the porch and joined him, sensing the nervous energy his brother radiated. Sorrow overtook him as the truth sunk in. Caleb was leaving.
“You could say that,” he hedged, his restless gaze scanning the horizon.
“When are you leaving?”
His brows shot up. “How did you know?”
Nathan settled a hand on his shoulder. “Wasn’t that hard to figure out. I’m surprised you’ve stuck around as long as you have.”
“Figured I’d ease the workload for a while after your wedding,” a ghost of a smile crossed his lips, “give you and Sophie time to adjust to married life.”
Nathan huffed a laugh. “Thanks, bro. I appreciate that.”
“Are you sure you won’t stay a little longer?”
Caleb’s gaze darkened. “I couldn’t, even if I wanted to.”
What did that mean?
Seeing the unspoken question, he continued, “My presence around town bothers Rebecca. Well, let’s be honest, it bothers more folks than just her. But she’s the one I’m most concerned about.”
“You can’t let others’ opinions rule your life. If you’re around more often, seeing you wouldn’t come as such a shock.”
Pulling away, Caleb’s jaw set in stubborn lines. “I’ve already made my decision, Nate.”
The door opened then, and Sophie joined them, linking her arm with his.
Copyright  by [Karen Kirst] Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.
By inserting this conversation, I’ve hinted to the reader that Caleb’s story is next. The reader now knows that Caleb is leaving town and that he has a problem with Rebecca, who I introduced earlier in the story.
I’ll be honest, I usually squeak by the minimum word count requirement, and epilogues are a great way for me to reach it. But the main reason I include them is that I’m simply not ready for the story to end. And I’m hoping the reader isn’t either.
Here’s a brief description of the book I’m giving away today, The Husband Hunt, recently awarded 4.5 stars from Romantic Times.
Wanted: A Husband
Sophie Tanner gave up hoping for Nathan O'Malley's approval—and love—long ago. Getting married is the only way to protect her younger brother and keep her family's Smoky Mountain farm. As much as she'd like Nathan to be the groom, he can't seem to get past their friendship…or their differences.
Since they were children, Nathan has known Sophie was too impulsive, too headstrong. She's forever rushing into situations without thinking them through, like this scheme to snare a husband in under a month. Nathan always thought he'd fall in love with someone like himself—sensible, cautious, levelheaded. Sophie is his polar opposite. So why can't he picture anyone else at his side?
Smoky Mountain Matches: Dreams of home and family come true in the Smoky Mountains.
What are your thoughts? Are you for or against? Apathetic? Or does it depend on the story? For writers, what influences your decision on whether or not to include an epilogue?
Karen Kirst was born and raised in East Tennessee near the Great Smoky Mountains. She attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, where she received a B.A. in Speech Communication. A lifelong lover of books, it wasn't until after college that she had the grand idea to write one herself. The pursuit of her dream would take longer than she first anticipated...years, in fact. In the fall of 2010, she got the happy news that Harlequin Love Inspired Historicals wanted to publish her manuscript-a true blessing from God. Now she divides her time between being a wife, homeschooling mom, and romance writer. She and her husband, along with their three boys, recently said goodbye to military life and are thrilled to be back home in Tennessee.
You can find her on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/KarenKirst.author
Twitter @KarenKirst or swing by her website www.karenkirst.com for information about her books.
Karen is giving away a copy of her November release, The Husband Hunt, to one commenter. Winner announced in the Weekend Edition!