Friday, October 03, 2008

Guest Blogger: Kati Dancy

The Romance Conversion

Playground Monitor here, with today's guest blogger. I "met" Kati at the blog of our mutual friend Michelle Buonfiglio. Kati lives in Washington, D.C. where she's an event planner for an environmental organization. She's been reading romance for over 25 years and is active in several romance communities. She is a reviewer and columnist for Romance Novel TV. You can visit her at her blog, Adventures in Katidom. Please give a big Playground welcome to our guest today.

I’ve been reading romance a long time, over 25 years. And those who know me well know there is little more that I enjoy than recommending books that I think they’ll love. But these are experienced romance readers. What happens when it’s someone who has never read romance? Or what if they have a disdain (that generally they can’t explain) for romance? What happens then? How do we get them to give the genre that we love so much a chance?

For me, I base my recommendations on what I know about them. If they read sci-fi, I might recommend someone like Ann Aguirre, who wrote the amazing Grimspace and its follow-up, Wanderlust. Both books are set in a gritty future-world where space travel is the norm and there are certain people who are gifted with an almost psychic ability to “jump” space ships from place to place. Or Linnea Sinclair, who writes wonderful sci-fi romances that feature strong, tremendously smart heroines and the sexy, domineering men who love them.

If the person is a fantasy reader, I might suggest C.L. Wilson’s incomparable Tairen Soul series. The series is deeply imaginative and magical and it captures the essence of “if you can dream it, you can make it so” of fantasy writing. Or, perhaps I’d suggest Elizabeth Vaughan’s Warlords of the Plains series, which are some of my all time favorite books. The books are set in a slightly alternate world that has a Native American flavor to it. The story is both a love story between a man and a woman, but also a nuanced portrayal of a woman who is a fish out of water and trying desperately to adjust and thrive in a new and foreign land. As readers, we discover her new world as she does.

If the potential reader loves mysteries, I might suggest the In Death series by J.D. Robb, which features a slightly future world, and a gritty homicide cop, her billionaire husband (one of the greatest heroes ever written in romance) and the beloved cast of secondary characters who work with her. The series has over 30 books in it and describes some pretty vivid murders, so it might appeal to a lover of the gory mystery book. If they want something with a little more heat, I’d recommend Dying to Please or Mr. Perfect by Linda Howard. Both have great mysteries, a very strong romance component, and Howard’s trademark sexual tension.

My latest conversion was my best friend, Amy. She was always slightly derisive of my love of romance. Not in a mean way, but more in that, “Kati, I can’t believe how much romance you read” kind of way. But this year, as she was getting ready to go on a business trip, she called me from Books-A-Million. She was casting around for something to read and wanted a suggestion. Amy happens to have been an art history major. So I suggested Nora Roberts’ The Three Fates. The book surrounds the search for three small, priceless pieces d’arte, the Three Fates. It also features some of the things that Roberts does best: strong smart heroines and delicious, Irish (!) heroes. Amy bought it, read it practically in one sitting, and called again. Now she needed something to read while on vacation. I handed over Homeport by Roberts again. She gobbled that one up, and came back to me. Now it was time to change it up. I’d recently read Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins, a new to me author who had recently won the RITA award for one of her books. I’d thoroughly enjoyed Just One of the Guys, and thought Amy might too. She called me and said, “I was crying on the plane over the book. And I finished it! Now I’ve got to find something to read for the trip home!” Last week, I brought her four more romances.

And there you have it. A romance reader is born. Do I expect that she’ll only read romance? Absolutely not. But she gave it a try, and with a couple of well placed recommendations, I was able to convince someone who had never even considered reading romance a shot.

So, my question is this, what books would you use to “convert” someone? How do you make your book recommendations to friends who are willing to give romance a chance? Have you ever converted someone to romance? How did you do it?


Katiebabs said...

I have two friends I am trying to convert to my romance ways and I have given them each a book from the sci-fi, paranormal, historical and romance genre that I think best promotes all that is great with romance. My givens are JR Ward, Meljean Brook, Nalini Singh, Lisa Kleypas and Ann Aguirre.

BTW, great blog! :D

Problem Child said...

Hi Kati and welcome!

I love converting people to romance--I even have my DG reading a few. I think the trick is just what you have here: find out what else they like to read and find a romance in that subgenre. That, to me, is one of the neatest things about romance--there really is something for everyone!

Kathy said...

Hi Kati! Your passion for romance shows. I'll echo what PC said, finding a potential reader's interest and steering them toward the right book, right author, is the best way to promote the romance genre.

I think as readers we need to be willing to try new genres. As writers we need to remember the joy, companionship, and passion romance offers as we create characters our readers will hopefully cling to, love, and recommend to others.

As an historical writer and reader, my givens are: Sabrina Jeffries, Hope Tarr, Eloisa James, Bobbi Smith, Madeline Baker, Karen Hawkins, Elizabeth Hoyt, Jennifer Ashley, newcomer Kathryn Dennis, and the tried and true, Julie Garwood, Kathleen Woodiwiss and JoAnna Lindsay.

Marisa O'Neill said...

Hi Kati!

I am always giving my older sister, my mother and my aunt book recommendations. I never preface it with the fact that it's a 'romance' book. And slowly but surely they are becoming romance readers.

Like you I first recommend the 'sub-genre' they are interested in. Recently my recommendations to my older sister have been, Lydia Joyce because she likes historicals. Jessica Andersen to my aunt because she likes paranormals and enjoys reading about myths and ancient cultures. And to my mom I've been pushing Susan Wiggs. They've enjoyed each book I've given them and they have asked me for more.

So as the saying goes - one book at a time.

Instigator said...

Welcome to the Playground, Kati!

Most of the people in my life that read love romance so I'm not really ever in a position of having to convert someone. If I did have to though I'd do exactly what you suggested - start with books that blend something they already love with the romantic element.


MK/Kati said...

Mornin' everyone! Play Friends, that you SO much for inviting me to guest blog, I'm SO honored to share such vaunted ground!

The romance conversion, it's such fun, isn't it? There is little more I love than having someone call me after recommending a book and having them say, "I loved it, what else can I read?" Such fun!

Kate - You know you and I share very similar tastes in books, but I find many of my friends wouldn't consider giving paranormals a shot. I find myself most recommending contemporaries or historicals. But I'd agree the authors you've listed are the greats in paranormal romance!

Kathy - It's funny, I'm always recommending romance to other people, but I don't read many other genres. Occasionally, I read a mystery or women's fic, but that's about it. I s'pose I have no right to complain if someone doesn't want to give romance a try. It's more the whole, "trashy novel" thing that gets me going. You've listed many of my all time favorite historical romance authors there!

Carolyn Jean said...

Hey Kati! What a fun post. Well, I wonder if your friend Amy knows she's a romance reader now! As a sort of recent convert, I came in on Outlander and Bitten, two outstanding books that grabbed me by the throat and just wouldn't let me go. Now I hardly read anything else. I sort of feel like...why would I want to?

Playground Monitor said...

Most of my friends already read romance too, so my conversions are more like introductions -- to a new author. Or I'll introduce them to category romance, which is near and dear to my heart.

Last year I tried some new genres and liked some and didn't like others. And this year I stuck my toe in the paranormal waters (liked what I read there too).

I agree that the great thing about romance is there's something for every reader.

catslady said...

I have half a dozen people that I loan books to and they're usually willing to read what ever I give them except I haven't convinced my daughter yet (24) - one of these days lol.

Angel said...

Most of the people around me read romance, so like PM I'm usually converting people to new authors. I love discovering what interests them as readers and recommending my favorite authors in that subgenre.

Recently PC and I were at a booksigning and I spent quite a bit of time with some new acquaintances recommending different authors to them. So much fun!!!

Thanks for being here, Kati!

Now I'm off to prepare my family for rehearsal dinner tonight and a family wedding tomorrow. And pack for vacation... Oh my!!! :)


Anonymous said...

Welcome Kati,
I just popped over to your website, great by the way. I am planning to pickup your latest this weekend. I love being introduced to a new writer. Recently I was introduced to Heide Rice, won 2 of her books & they are great - I do recommend them. So I am looking forward to reading your most recent publication. Some recent authors that I have read include Kate Angell and Heather Rae Scott. And many a year ago I introduced my mom & sister to romances and they love to read as much as I do.

MK/Kati said...

Hi everyone! Sorry, meetings, meetings, meetings all day today!

Hi Marisa - Thanks for popping over to visit! I love Lydia Joyce too. She writes romance for smart chicks, as our friend Michelle Buonfiglio likes to say. She writes with a terrific gothic feel that I love!

For everyone who mostly hangs with people who read romance, how lucky for you! I have a few friends who read romance, but mostly, they kind of tease me about reading romance. Until I start hitting them with the numbers on romance sales. That usually shuts them right up. :wink:

CJ - I agree, if I were going to convert someone who loves historical fiction, I'd go straight to Outlander. Gabaldon is a master at research and her writing has such wonderful descriptions. Great recommendation!

Marilyn - I think it's great that you're branching out. It's so important to freshen things up every once in a while. Sometimes I'll burn out on one sub-genre or another, and it helps to be open to new stuff to "freshen" things up, doesn't it?

Hi robertsonreads! I hope you'll keep stopping by Katidom. I usually review a couple books a week, and also review at RNTV, so if you haven't stopped by there, it's another great resource for recommendations!

Jane said...

Hi Kati,
I would try convert someone by recommending Julie Garwood, Loretta Chase, Lisa Kleypas and Julia London. For suspense and mysteries I would recommend Heather Graham and Beverly Barton.

Virginia said...

Everyone I know reads romance except for the men I know that are readers and I am not sure you can convert a man to read romance.