11.2.15

Romance Authors Don't Suck

On Saturday, I'll have been a published romance author for five years. Throughout those five years, I've often sensed the disdain that accompanies utterance of the term "romance" in the literary world. It's so far beneath all those other genres of real fiction, right? At my local library, the used book shelf sells old VHS tapes---that most people can't even play anymore---for a dollar, while used romance books sell for ten freaking cents.

Kinda gives a girl a complex. So I was ecstatic to get a bit of vindication this past weekend when I sat on a panel called Real Life/Real Love at the first annual Elgin Literary Festival. While one panelist wanted to make it very clear that she wrote (highly esteemed) literary fiction and not (blechy) romance, edgy YA romance superstar Simone Elkeles explained why romance is the hardest genre to write.

I'm paraphrasing here, but essentially what Simone said was that at the beginning of a romance novel, or often from just the blurb, readers know how the story ends: the H gets together with the h and they live HEA. Romance writers can't rely on simple curiosity to know how it all ends to keep readers reading. We have to work every page to keep the reader vested in the characters and caring about how they get together---enough to read all the way through even though they know exactly where the story will end. 'Tis no easy task.

For the record, I was a writer's conference newb, so this festival was my first event of the sort. I so much loved getting to meet other authors in real life! Here I am (left) with the super cool & sweet AJ Pine (fellow panelist & my book-signing table buddy) & the wonderfully open and approachable Simone Elkeles (right).



FYI, on Monday at the IWSG website, Alex J. Cavannaugh put together a great piece about the pros and cons of small publishers---with input from 12 authors you just might recognize...


15 comments:

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Actually it's the case with most genre fiction authors.

"You write Genre? Oh, well, I guess the masses must read something." (Usually done with the classic lip curling!) :-)

Hang in there.

I envy you the conference experience. I have no free time to attend. Sigh. Enjoy the journey. And thanks for visiting my blog and chatting awhile.

Patricia said...

I hear ya sister! When I tell people that I'm an author and they ask what I write, they generally give me that, "ohhhhh, okay," that has the, "so you're not a 'real' author," not so subtle undertone. Just recently I had someone tell me (when she found out I was a writer) that she'd like to read one of my books, "as long is it isn't romance, I don't read that." She then asked what genre I wrote. I just smiled sweetly and told her proudly, romance :-D

Liz Blocker said...

I have to say that years ago I felt some disdain for romance, which, since I'd never read any, was based entirely on the prevailing literary disdain for it. Now that I know MUCH more about it, I have high respect for the writers and readers of this genre. For what it's worth, romance and other genre writers are laughing all the way to the bank, while so-called 'literary' writers get acclaim and very little cash.

The whole disdain thin is STUPID. Romance, as you said, is a difficult genre to write, and deserves just as much respect. I'm so glad you got to go to this conference, and had such a great experience!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's cool you got to be on a panel!
Don't worry, I think science fiction sometimes vies for the bottom of the literary list.
Thanks again for contributing to Monday's IWSG post.

Crystal Collier said...

I totally get what you're saying. There is a stigma attached to romance writing, but it's a fine art. People who steer clear of it are missing out on one of the most powerful aspects of writing: How to truly and deeply develop relationships. (And I'm not just talking romantic ones.) I think that's what I love most is watching how romance authors can take people from completely different backgrounds and meld them together in a totally believable way.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

That's a great response. I'm going to remember it. I write high fantasy and romance. I love writing the fantasy more but the romance is what makes the money. And it is hard to write.

dolorah said...

I thought fantasy was at the bottom of the "real author" list. I suppose what rung of the hierarchy an author sits on depends on the reading preference of the one making the judgement.

Janie Junebug said...

Congratulations.

Love,
Janie

Carrie-Anne said...

The agents on the Bookends blog, who rep romance themselves, suggested romance might have a lingering bad reputation among some people because they're only thinking of cheesy, badly-written books from the Seventies, or really cliché covers with Fabio-like heroes. Romance has come a long way in the last few decades!

Jennifer Lane said...

I never thought I'd write, and when I started writing, I never anticipated writing romance. Yet that emotional journey of love was what captivated me, and now I almost exclusively write and read romance. (Though I do need a side genre of suspense or sports to keep me going in writing.) I'm so glad you write romance, critique partner!

Sounds like a wonderful first author conference! I have found the few I've attended to be stimulating.

CarolOates said...

For me, romance is one of the most difficult parts of writing. I'm so much better with death, blood, and gore.

I'm not a romantic at heart. I'm actually a very cynical, unemotional person. I'm not being hard on myself saying that, just honest. I've been engaged ** times, more than I wish to admit. :) All of my exs have told me that they just couldn't get at me, if you know what I mean. I'm the original runaway bride.

I find writing believable romance more of a challenge than any other part of writing. I am in awe of those who can make even the oldest tale - boy meets girl- original and fresh. Who can do it with the appearance of ease, with suspense, and such beauty that it can melt even a hard heart like mine.

Congratulations on your panel.

Caryn Caldwell said...

Ugh. That attitude drives me nuts! And, of course, this time of year doesn't help since Valentine's Day reminds everyone that it's time to make fun of romance novels again. I love Simone Elkeles' explanation for why romance novels are actually HARD to write. It makes perfect sense!

Maurice Mitchell said...

As a guy the romance genre feels like fluff only because I'm unfamiliar with it, but you make great points!

Cherie Colyer said...

I write YA and have been asked if I'll ever write a real book. Um, YA is a real genre and not at all easy to write! And you are so right about romance. My current WIP is a Realistic Romance and I've found it harder to write than my paranormal romance. It's amazing I haven't thrown in a witch or demon, yet.

Dee said...

Yes, the complex. After attending and teaching at a competitive university, I do still feel the pressure to prove that I'm smart. And so when people ask me what I'm writing, I lead with my historical novel, and then I mumble "I'malsowritingaromance." I'm getting over it, though, because I see that it's freakin' hard!