Sunday, February 27, 2011

Are You Still Writing "Those Little Books?"

Interestingly enough, this question usually resurrects itself at some type of meeting, usually involving women only, and the deprecating “Those Little” refers to my bread and butter, the romance novel. Just as interesting is that this type of remark rarely occurs when the demography of the group includes men as well as women. Men, for some reason, find my choice of profession worthy and engaging. Go figure.

Because my personality tends toward the “scrappy,” my follow up includes something like this: “Did you enjoy Robert Waller’s, Bridges of Madison County, or Nicholas Sparks’, Message in a Bottle? (Not my cup of tea, but certainly popular with millions of readers and movie goers.) Have you read Shakespeare’s, Romeo and Juliet, Taming of the Shrew, Pericles and Cymbeline, or The Tempest? What about Jane Austin and Charlotte Bronte? Can you claim to be educated and ignore the poetry of John Keats, George Byron, William Wordsworth and Matthew Arnold, all romances?”

This is where my misguided interrogator usually replies, “Those really aren’t romances, are they? I mean, they cover so many other areas besides romance.”

I enjoy what comes next because educate is what writers do. “Romance novels,” I explain, “are always about more than the relationship. Romance novels are meticulously researched, their plots formulated and shaped by experience and interest, travel and fact-checking. Romance writers span a wealth of professions. They are educated, sophisticated men as well as women, and their books appeal to educated, sophisticated readers.”

My own books deal with heady topics like Irish history and politics, Irish Lady, and Nell, the demise of the clan system, infantile diabetes and the possibility of DNA memory, Legacy, and Catriona, with the centuries old bias against left-handedness, (Aoife and Strongbow, a work in progress) with genetic mutation, heterochromia iridium, and witchcraft, Witch Woman, with horse racing and dressage, Irish Fire and Spellbound, with autism, The Lavender Field, with the making of wine in California, A Delicate Finish, with the French and Indian Wars in Canada, The Reckoning.

Romance, how to find it, keep it, end it, recover from it and find it again is the subject of songs, television, plays, movies, self-help books, therapy sessions and online matchmaking sites. Romance keeps us healthy and increases our life spans. We travel long distances, gather families together and spend large amounts of money to weep at our children’s weddings. We approve of new marriages, long marriages, remarriages and anniversaries, as we should. What a sorry world we would have without the possibility of new love.

Will I change the minds of women whose mindset is inclined to disparage the literary tastes of 25% of the fiction-reading population? Sometimes I do. Does it bother me when I don’t? Yes, it does. However, the good news is,  25% isn’t bad at all.

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