I have a confession, when I decided to take down my lawyer shingle and write, one of the reasons I chose romance was that I thought it would be easy. After all, there’s a formula: boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, they live happily ever after. Two books later, and well into my third book, I’ve learned my lesson. Writing romance isn’t formulaic or easy. For those who’ve never tried it, though, that phrase “it’s just a romance” sometimes tumbles too easily from their lips.
Recently, I attended a conference, and sat on a panel with several other writers from a variety of other genres. I expected a little push-back from the literary and old-school folks, but the level of resentment and disdain startled me, and the audience. The romance industry is undeniably the juggernaut of the publishing world. It accounted for over $1.4 billion in sales in 2013 according to the Romance Writers of America. That’s more than 3 times the sales in literary fiction. Enough to get the hackles up of someone who wants to write the next great American novel.
Why should anyone, whether literary or sci-fi or thriller writer, be threatened? There’s not a finite amount of reading that can occur in the universe. A romance lover can also buy a classic or a mystery or a high fantasy. Many do, including me. I routinely rotate my nightly reading between all genres and non-fiction. And many don’t. My mother read every single Harlequin romance written for probably a 30-year time span, until her deteriorating vision moved her to audio books. Whether she was reading the latest romance or Moby Dick didn’t matter squat to a 5-year old girl. My mom read. And loved it with an unquenchable passion. She turned that book-addiction over to both my sister and me, both of us becoming avid readers and writers of romance.
So, if I don’t write romance because it’s easy, why do I? The same reason I think every other romance writer does: because a great love story is transforming. Maybe not everyone dreams of finding a soul mate, but most people do. A romance raises our spirits and reminds us of love’s transforming power over men and women, as individuals and as a couple. It brings happiness to many people’s lives who have little else to celebrate. And, I hope that in my erotic romance novels, that women see not only the power of love, but the impact that a fully realized sex life can have.
So when someone accuses me of writing “just romance,” I tell them, “Hell, yeah, and proud of it!”
Why do you read romance? How much do you read? Do you write romance? If, so, why?