Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rant for August Arrives Early

I’ve heard a lot of feedback from other authors and readers within the romance genre about the way other people see us from the outside. Heck, there are even uber-popular sites that go ahead and make fun of it. *cough*sidebar*cough*. But I have to say I have never really experienced it first hand.

My husband (bless his heart – he is already out there marketing for me) gets more flack than I do. He receives plenty of taunts from ‘the guys’ about his reading choices, as he makes an effort to keep up with me. His standard reply: “You don’t know what your missing. You should give it a try. You would understand women a lot better.” No, really. Guys - if you read romance, I’m confident this is the best possible response to such testosterone-laden posturing.

I, however don’t usually get harassed. I get the glazed eyes and plastered smiles, and the ‘that’s nice’ from people who just. Don’t. Get it. As a result, I have reverted to a slow-reveal technique, hooking people with the other premises and dynamics of my book before revealing that it stands among the ranks of *gasp* romance.

Alas, in light of the recent RWA, the arrival of my newsletter and the general commaraderie among readers and writers alike permeating the webveins recently, I’m feeling pretty proud to be a part of it. Like I know something a lot of other people don’t. Like they are missing out on something great, and I’m glad I’m not one of those brainwashed drones anymore.

You see, my family is proud of me. They understand they don’t see much of me because I am persuing a passion and trying to turn it into a career ON TOP of working a full-time job and finishing a degree. They already claim me as ‘the author of the family’. (I know – no pressure, huh?) So, the ‘and she’s a WRITER’ always gets tagged onto my introduction. At which point, the acquaintance usually feels obligated to inquire into what sort of writing I do.

This is where it gets tricky.

Usually, my breadcrumb trail goes something along the lines of: popular fiction > novels > paranormal (compare to fantasy) > action/adventure > romance.

But LATELY, I’ve been feeling more and more like I should be proud of the romance part. I should say that first, because whether my stories fit the formula or not, they certainly are about love. I should hold my head high and declare it!

Or at least, that was the high I was on until an acquaintance at a recent social gathering down-shifted from, “That sounds really cool,” to “Oh, no, I don’t waste my time on that smut.”

Excuse me? What gives you the write to assume I write smut? I do not. In fact, most romance authors don’t. Hell, most erotica authors these days have strong, emotionally grounded stories behind the sex. Romance DOES NOT EQUAL smut!!! And that so-called smut that you are so vapidly against? It accounts for almost half of the books that are read in the WORLD. It dominates the bestsellers lists. It makes dreams come true.

So, needless to say . . . I lost that potential future reader. Maybe the slamming my drink on the counter after instabitching and storming away was a bit overdramatic. *sigh*

Now that I've faced the derogatory attitude head-on, I’m on a crusade, or uh . . . officially joining a crusade. As other creative masterminds before me, I will find a way to do my part . . . *cogs start turning*


Unhinged said...

Yes! Atta girl. You took one for the team and the world is a better place for it.

Srsly (as you would write).

I'm on this crusade with you, too.

Cora Zane said...

Ah, the "what do you write" question... :D

I love your explanation tree / diagram. LOL! That was perfect! Mine ends in erotic romance, and it's very conductive to drawing out that "smut" word.

Gwen said...

I really mean it! I'm going to find a way to get a mass-message out there. We have a large hold on the interwebz - I'm thinking our takeover can start there.

Cora - no doubt it does! I used to be one of those closed-minded folks. *shame*

I think the best stance to take with erotic romance is that it's actually about empowering women, sexual liberation. America is way behind the curve on that front and erotic romance and erotica help women get in touch with and accept their sexuality - not to mention portraying them as equal partners (and sometimes more than equal) in the act and not simply an object/vessel.

But I s'pose I'm preachin' the the choir there, huh?

Yours is a harder sell, but I say OWN IT. =)

SciFiGuy (Doug Knipe) said...

There always seems to be that great divide between mainstream fiction/writing and genre fiction. It doesn't matter whether the genre fiction is romance, westerns, scifi or anything else, there are always those that feel genre fiction is somehow lesser and I am willing to bet men in particular look at romance with disdain, cliche that that may be.

But it is all entertainment no matter how you look at it and there must be reason why paranormal fiction is one of the fastest growing genre segments in publishing. The majority of paranormal contains romance and that adds an extra dimension to the story.

I think there are a lot more men out there reading the genre that may not admit it. Like many, for me it started with L.K. Hamilton and I was hooked. Of course many wouldn't consider LKH paranormal romance and they are probably right. But it was the paranormal that was the original hook and the fact that other writers included romance in the package was only a bonus.

To me the whole paranormal/urban fantasy genre is only an extension of that broad category we call speculative fiction. And romance is just fine. Critics have been decrying the lack of characterization in speculative fiction for decades. It's obvious that romance in paranormals is getting attention.

So I say go for it Gwen, fly that romance flag high.

Gwen said...

Thanks for that, Doug!

I think you're spot on with the genre/popular fiction vs. literary. There is definitely a divide there. But it still feels to me like sci fi, fantasy, horror, and mystery have proven their worth and gained more respect than romance.

I hate to say we're getting picked on because it's mostly women writing and reading it, but I do have a small inkling that's got something to do with it.

I hope you're right about the more men reading it. I just wish they would own to it! IMO, really well-written romance is a nice round mix of things, and as you say, it adds another dimension to the story.

I appreciate your feedback, and I think I'll take your advice.

*runs pink romance flag up the pole*


SciFiGuy (Doug Knipe) said...

Here's a guy owning up to reading paranormal romance and he's getting lots of attention for reading Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Check out

Gwen said...

Wow. Not only does he have three websites, a radio show, and a novel on the way, but he also composes music to go with his novel.

And he's only NINETEEN! Makes me feel like a total lame-ass slacker! =P

Your point is made, though. Thanks for the link.

And come to think of it, there might even be more men that read my blog, but don't commment because I write it in such a way that it's geared towards women.

I'll endeavor to be more gender-neutral in the future, *lol*