Wednesday, May 19, 2010
In defense of romance
Raise your hand if you've ever heard anyone snicker about trashy romance novels and refer to them as bodice rippers.
Raise your hand if you've heard anyone insinuate a romance is easier to write than another genre.
Raise your hand if you've heard anyone say a romance novel isn't a "real" book.
Hmmmm. I see quite a few hands raised, my own included.
I can assure you the novel I wrote was NOT easy to do, and the Silhouette editor who requested it considered it a real book even though she rejected it.
Trashy? Well, I don't read trash and I read romance novels so...
On my recent excursion to the Smoky Mountains I picked up a free magazine at a coffee shop. It featured "stories, poems and ideas" and included two pieces by poet laureates of North Carolina -- one present and one past. The publisher is also the editor and photographer, and she has an ad in the magazine for her editing services.
In her editorial offering, she writes, "Since the release of our first issue of ~name removed~, the most frequent question we've received has been 'What is literary versus non-literary writing?' or variations on that same question. After many discussions with my fellow scribblers and research, here is my own answer: Literary writing examines and defines human emotions, compulsions, actions, etc., the way a diamond cutter examines a rough stone before he strikes the first cut. Authors of literary works create (as in fiction) or report (as in history) the impacts of place, time period, political and social structures on their characters. All those impacts can happen inside one individual head, as in The Yellow Room by Margaret Atwood or in multiple worlds, as in Dune by Frank Herbert. OK, that last one will get me in trouble because Frank Herbert is firmly classed with science fiction authors, but, folks, his work does meet all the criteria for literary writing, so academia, suck it up and reconsider. Maybe there should be some crossover classifications to cover such pieces, but that is a subject for another time."
I dare say this publisher would scream at the top of her lungs that romance novels are NOT literary writing. But look at her definition. Isn't a romance about human emotions (and sometimes not-so-human as in the case of vampires, werewolves and zombies)? Doesn't a romance novel show compulsions and actions of the characters? The romance novels I've read may create the impact of place (I've wanted to visit Scotland ever since I read "Son of the Morning") and time period (Hello! Historical romance!!) I'm sure some have dealt with political issues, and Regency romances show the impact of social structure on the characters.
Since I'm not the argumentative type, I'm not going to write her and get into a spitting contest over this. I feel certain it would be like slamming my head against a brick wall, and I've had enough of that lately in other arenas.
So why DOES romance get such a bad rap, especially since it sells more paperback books than any other genre? What's so bad about books dealing with love and relationships?
Have you defended a romance novel lately? And what would be YOUR response to Ms. Publisher's editorial?
P.S. Remember a few weeks ago when I said I was running away with a biker gang? I won't be running away with them after all. I learned the hard way that people misrepresent themselves online. When I went to meet up with them, I found this! OMG!!