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...