I thought there would be more sex.
These are the words my husband uttered after he read his first romance novel – my romance novel. I looked at the man with strange curiosity, wondering what he thought a romance novel consisted of.
…and then a couple of pages that lead the characters to more sex.
That’s what you think I’ve been reading all these years? Just pages and pages of sex?
Yes. Your book has a plot. It has complicated emotions. Is that normal? Is there enough sex?
–and therein lies the problem. One of many I’ve come across in my very short time as a professional writer.
When I announced I had written a book, I could split the reactions of my friends and family straight down the line into two categories. The half who said they weren’t at all surprised Romance was my chosen genre and the half who posed the question: Really? Romance? Why don’t you write a real book?
I’ve come to find over the last several months that being a romance novelist still comes with quite the stigma. I get that some people don’t understand the appeal of the inevitably predictable plots, but I have to admit I am somewhat taken aback at their dismissal of what makes up 40% of the paperback trade. That’s right, 40%. Romance novels are, all by themselves, keeping the lights on at your local bookstore. According to a recent Huffington Post article, the Romance novel business has an over billion dollar worth, and its novels sell more than sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery combined. With 70 million households buying at least one Romance novel annually, I wonder how these are not considered to be “real” books.
I’ve also come against those who claim that I am taking the easy road. Anyone can write a romance novel. Yes, anyone CAN write a romance novel. But will they be successful? This is a far harder goal to accomplish. Did I mention romance novels make up 40% of the market? Imagine you own your own company, and almost half of all companies out there are YOUR competition. What makes your company stand out? What makes you memorable? Not to mention the sheer diversity of people who read romance novels. Let’s look at that for a minute. I tapped a few people who I knew to be readers and asked them if they would like to have an advance reader copy of my first book. All of them took me up on the offer because they love me and wanted to be supportive. And thankfully, those who love a good sweet romance, loved it. Those who didn’t offered me notes which read very similarly to each other: This is well written, I just don’t read romance. I read (fill in the blank). They read Science Fiction, they read Fantasy Fiction, they read Historical Fiction, and even one guy spends his day reading technical manuals. I have a diverse group of reading friends, who are each very passionate about the genre in which they explore. If I ever wrote the next psychotic thriller, I know exactly the guy who I would want to read it. Romance Novel fans, guess what they read.
E V E R Y T H I N G.
Love really does conquer all in this case. As such a diverse group, romance novel readers tend to be well versed in just about everything, and because they are, they are very hard to impress. If you are a Science Fiction reader, I guarantee somewhere on this planet (or maybe a different planet) is a love story that will impress you with its plot. If you are Historical Fiction reader, I promise you that you can find beautifully captured moments of history forgotten between the pages of a Romance novel. It isn’t just about sex, and no…you are not going to find the personal notes of my own love life within the pages. Not every hero is my husband, and not every heroine is me. While I do stand by my guarantee of always having a happily ever after, I want you to be surprised, delighted, concerned, confused, excited, and possibly even have a good ugly cry before we get there. Every Romance novelist faces the challenge of pleasing one of the most diverse group of readers in the world.
Take me, personally. Before I was a writer, I was a reader. On my bookshelf you will see the works from Nicolas Sparks to Jane Austen to Paul Riser (Yes, the actor) to Nora Roberts (Ok, she may have her own shelf…or four) to JR Ward. Each of these books could NOT BE MORE DIFFERENT. But they are all romance novels. Over the last couple of years, like millions of others, I have waited at my mailbox for each and every new edition to the Black Dagger Brotherhood Series. I can’t get enough of these books. There is war. There is violence. There is treachery. There are demons, and Gods, and really emotionally screwed up vampires. Guns, lots of guns. The metal kind, and the sexy kind. By my count, I have learned to properly gut a person 27 different ways. Straight after I finish the latest installment I read a romance novel written by a colleague scheduled to come out in June. A twist of contemporary & period romance, where love blooms within the fields of a vineyard. I adored it. No guns, no Gods, no emotionally screwed up vampires. Hell, there wasn’t even sex!
Say what? A Romance novel without sex?
Remember that one scene in Anne of Green Gables the TV movie where Gilbert sweetly tucked Anne’s hair behind her ear while they were standing in a field and you damn near lost your mind? Yeah, there doesn’t always have to be sex to make your heart leap.
So no, this is not the easy road. It is, in fact, one of the toughest out there because there are no boundaries for a romance writer.
I never really gave this much thought until I was having a breakfast date with one of my favorite girlfriends in the whole wide world. Having little to no knowledge herself about the Romance genre, and all its sub-genres, she admitted she was surprised at how vast the business was and how much planning goes into it.
That led to the bigger question: Why Romance?
At the end of the day, be a reader of any kind. Open your imagination and heart to whatever makes you happy. As a writer, I want to do the same. I don’t WANT to say no. I kid you not, the other day I was standing in my kitchen and I could feel this man standing behind me. He’s seven feet tall, his body is riddled with scars, he has gigantic black wings, he’s angry, he’s resentful…..and he’s in love. Am I supposed to tell him to go away because he wouldn’t fit into the category of which I write?
No, I’m going to follow him….and I hope you come along. I have no idea what his story is but he is patiently waiting for me to tell it.
My imaginary friends are as equally diverse as my real ones, and there is room for them here.
I am also incredibly thankful to be part of such an amazing community of writers. Remember when I mentioned being competition with 40% of the market? Yeah, well, the thing is, it’s a really big market and with 70 million people buying across a multitude of genres, they’ve got room for me. I have said it before and I will say it again, I would not be here if it weren’t for the amazing people I have met through the Romance Writers of America. Every writer I have come across has been more than happy to share their wealth of knowledge in efforts to help my little light shine. When was the last time you had a friend who has sold hundreds of thousands of products and they took the time to tell you how proud they were of you for selling your first ten? I am forever humbled by the generosity of these people.
So yeah, I write romance. And I hope, for some of you at least, this answers the question of why Romance and it opens up the door for a better question.
Why NOT Romance?