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writing romance is the smartest thing I’ve ever done

Those of you who’ve been around the blogosphere long enough know that I totally lost my shit over something similar to what I’m about to blog about. And I promised I never would again. And I haven’t.

Until now.

I guess there are certain things I can’t sit down and let pass by. And I’m seeing people saying, what a great article, and thinking, wtf – am I reading something completely different because I see nothing great about it.

I get that the author tried to layer it like, here were the misconceptions, here’s what happened and now I realize that all writers are awesome. But it didn’t work for me at all.

You know, why? Because the article starts out, “I’m pretty sure I used to sit at the smart table.”

Where do you sit now? Were you voted out because you write romance? I honestly don’t see that clarified anywhere in the article. And why did she used to sit there – because she has degrees? Because she read literary novels?

At the end, she realizes that she doesn’t have to worry about the fact that she writes fun novels because some romance writers went to college, and that in general, writers are writers no matter the genre! Awesome! Another way to justify writing romance! Does this mean there IS no smart table? How could you ever have sat at a table that didn’t exist?

So that’s how it came off to me. And it’s like, you’re a goddamned WRITER for Christsakes. Words are your living. If it came off that way, I’m betting that’s how you intended it to come off. So if you didn’t realize that saying things like, “I’m pretty sure I used to sit at the smart table,” implies that, now that you’re writing “fun” books (I guess that’s a new euphemism for Romance – let’s all look in the FUN section) you’re no longer at the smart table, then why should I, would I, buy your books? I want to read smart books by smart women, no matter the seating chart.

And let me clarify – romance novels can be ‘fun’ and they all have happy ever afters. But love is just about one of the most difficult and rewarding things in the world, both in real life and on paper. There’s nothing easy about it.

It’s one thing to admit you used to be a literary snob and now realize that you were missing out on the breadth and depth of a genre that’s been around for as long as a lot of those dead white males I studied in school. But saying things like, “I now know they’re (romance novels) great books in their own way,” isn’t helping me understand your situation. What does that mean, in their own way? Are all books great books in their own way or is romance a special snowflake?

That’s the problem with being embarrassed about what you do for a living – it always comes through, no matter how hard you try to hide it. This whole things reads like an apology of, I’m smart, but I write romance despite that!

Oh, but wait, I forgot, you don’t sit at the smart table anymore…

 

19 thoughts on “writing romance is the smartest thing I’ve ever done

  1. I’ve always been a tad annoyed at people who apologize for writing romance. As long as I get a good story I don’t really care what genre it is. But you know what I usually don’t like? Literary novels. I find them BORING. So as far as I’m concerned, you’re still at the smart table. :)

    • Hey Tori :):)

      It’s just like, bad enough when outsiders do it, but when a romance author does it (and I’m guessing she wrote what she considers to be a provocative piece in order to rouse interest in her sale) it drives me up a wall!

    • Aw, Lee, thanks :) And you’re right, I know. I just couldn’t stop myself with this one. We will resume our normal programming asap!

  2. I agree with you. I think that if you are embarrassed to write romance, then don’t write romance books. Romance is just another form of book. Romance novels are not just about love they have a story line and action. It is like watching a friend develop, whether it is intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, or physically. Reading is a journey and every genre gives you that; romance novels just give it in a different way.

    • *waves to Kim* I like the way you put that re the watching a friend develop :) Obviously, I love romance novels and I do love other genres too for sure…but there’s something wonderful about mixing a love story in with other aspects and balancing it all out!

  3. A comment such as the one you mentioned is also a bit of a slam against those of us who read romance. I’m a Regional Supervisor for a multinational grocery store. I STILL sit at the smart table, and yes, I choose to read romances. I read mystery and fantasy, as well. My first love is always the love story, though.

    When my mother had cancer, I reached for a romance. My 17 year old daughter is currently hospitalized out of state, and guess what I took with me when I went to see her? Yep, romance novels. And they helped more than I can say, to just take me completely out of the moment, and into a different state of mind. I can’t tell you how much that helped, to be able to just…I don’t know…escape, for a little while. And one of the books I took along was Dire Wants. So a personal thank you from me to you for giving me a few great hours of peace.

    • Hi Sharon!

      And yeah, absolutely, I think it’s a slam on both writers and readers of romance. And you made me cry (in a good way)…first of all, is your mom okay? Mine’s recovering from breast cancer. And how is your daughter?

      I have to tell you (and you may know this already b/c I’ve talked about it)…but I started writing romance novels when my daughter was really sick and in the hospital. I needed happy endings and romance novels did the trick. And I thought, I want to write this. And on my old website, I had a section where I talked about this – I wanted to help other people to be able to escape while still being close to their loved one. So when I write, I’m writing for me, when I was next to that hospital bed, refusing to move. And I said that if even one reader wrote me to say that my books helped her through a tough time, I’d done my job.

      Thanks for sharing. Smart, tough and a romance lover – exactly the type of person I’ve come to expect in this romance corner of the world ;)

      • Hi Stephanie,

        My mom is doing fine. She is 5 years cancer free, and more active than I am. I hope your mom is doing well in her recovery. It’s a long road.

        My daughter is hospitalized with an eating disorder, in a treatment center 5 hours away. It’s been 5 weeks, and I’m honestly not sure how well she is doing. We are kind of at the mercy of the insurance folks as to how long she can continue inpatient treatment, which causes a unique sort of stress. It was actually while I was waiting to hear if she would be approved for further treatment that I read Dire Wants. The fact that I was able to concentrate on the book says a lot about how captivating it is!

        You know, watching Kate come into her powers, even when she didn’t believe she actually had any power, was very uplifting for me. I kept thinking if only my daughter could see she has strengths, if she could see what I see, she will be okay. So I’m hoping she will be like Kate, who, even though she didn’t necessarily believe in herself, decided to trust the belief in her strengths that others pointed out to her.

        I did read the story of how you decided to write romance, and I am awed that you are able to accomplish what you do, given the demands you have in your personal life. And you can consider it a job well done in my case.

        Thanks again,
        Sharon

        • Awesome on your mom (mine’s doing well – she’s done w/ chemo & radiation and is on the 5 years of chemo by mouth)…so grateful! And I’m going to say prayers for your daughter. I swear, I feel so old when I say this but I don’t think I could do the teenage thing in today’s world. It was hard enough when I did it, but girls especially today just have it tough. But she’s got a great mom who believes in her, so I know she’ll get there.

  4. I’d have to agree as well. I battle the misconceptions of being an avid romance reader every day. And I’ll admit that sometimes, I just beg off when someone ask me what I’m reading, because its just so not worth the frustration of not being able to combat the stereotype. Sure, there are smut books that are literally written pron (and those can be fun to read as well), but the vast majority of romance is about just that…romance, whether found during dire times, struggles, or between species (for those that love the paranormal).
    And yes, romance books are my escape from “real” life. Recently, one of my college instructors mentioned something to me about how I was wasting my brain cells doing extracurricular reading between classes. To him, I should be studying. Never mind that I have an A in all my classes. My answer to him…this extracurricular reading is what saves my sanity when I’m stressed to the max from having 2 teen daughters in high school, a husband who works way too much, a house & dog to maintain, overloaded school schedule (word to the wise, never take Chemistry and A&P at the same time), and work. I work in tax and bookkeeping…want to take bets on how many books I’m gonna need the first part of the year? ;-)

    • Wasting your brain cells?! OMG, please.

      I love the escape reading gives me – I always have. I think if you’re not a ‘reader’ beyond school reading and such, it’s hard to understand what it gives you back.

      And I so feel for you come tax time…I want to cry just having to think about getting all my stuff together, and you have to deal with people like me times who knows how many..

  5. Well, we shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed or embarassed for any genre of romance we read. As a reader, it feels like that’s what Megan is doing – shaming me for enjoying and getting lost in a good love story, making me feel as though I’m not quite as smart as the people who read “literary” works. And to me, the term “literary” is subjective anyway. I’d much rather sit down and have an intelligent, spirited conversation with someone over a romance I just read than I would some boring novel that didn’t make me smile when I finished the last page.

    As a writer, I want to shake her until her teeth rattle. Romance as a whole has enough detractors from the “literary” world. We certainly don’t need someone who actually writes it working against us too. It feels like a betrayal from the inside.

    • I want to believe she meant it to come across differently but that first sentence was just so purposeful. I can’t move past it. It’s one thing to admit, I used to be a snob and then I got over it, but that’s not the way her argument comes across.

      And the literary thing always kills me – in his day, Shakespeare wasn’t even close to being considered quality literature.

  6. I haven’t read the article you linked to and am somewhat afraid to now, but I continue to be confused why there’s this need to justify why we read and write romance. Like, we have to prove we’re smart and drag out examples of people in the genre and say “see, this person is scientist, so romance can’t be that bad” every time someone puts romance down? Good grief. Do the horror writers have to prove their IQ? I’m betting no. Read whatever you want and write whatever you want and stop apologizing for your choices. That’s what people at the grown-up table do.

    • HelenKay, don’t bother to read – I took one for the team this time. It’s the proving of the smart and dragging the Ivy Leaguers out of the closet that always kills me.

  7. First off,if you’re embarrassed by your job–why do it??? I work for the school district in Child Nutrition, aka–Cafeteria lady. Am I embarrassed? NO! Among other reasons–I have a job and I make an honest living! I have met some of the most hard working and dedicated people. Cooks who take what they do personally, it’s not just a job.
    How does that relate to your blog….It amazes me a writer would be embarrassed about a talent/joy that they can make a living at. I am in total awe of you and the imagination/talent you have. Stay proud! You rock and I applaud you and your talent!!!

  8. I got my M.A. in English Culture and Literature in January. A fact which should make me a literary snob. That being said, I’d much rather read a romance novel than any piece from the Western Canon. In my opinion, the genre of romance is one of the most neglected and widely ignored literary genres out there and I cannot understand why. There is no shame in writing it or reading it. Literature should bring you pleasure and that’s a highly subjective matter. Unfortunately the world does not look at it that way. Romance still remains to be the worthless and ugly little sister of other genres and I am afraid it will remain being so. When I told some of the professors I’d like to focus on romance in my PhD studies they just sneered. Ironically it just made me more determined to pursue this idea and I am currently putting together my thesis proposal :D Planning to knock them off their high horse…

  9. I seem to recall reading about a smart table that existed years ago. It was the Round Table at the Algonquin Hotel. The original twenty members, including Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ferber, Connelly and Kaufman referred to themselves as the Vicious Circle. Perhaps that’s the table Ms. Mulry wants to reserve for lunch. Before she unfolds her napkin, I would like to remind her that some of the literati didn’t lead very happy lives. Perhaps they could have used a bit more romance … just saying.
    I am a communications consultant for a global energy corporation. I’ve sat at smart tables and participated in meetings where I directed well-educated men and women how to communicate highly complex and technical documents. Guess this puts me at the “square” table, but we call them conference tables. Our discussions are collaborative, and the people sitting at those tables are accorded respect whether they work in the field or the executive offices. Okay, the CEO probably gets more deference, but everyone receives courtesy. I wish the same were true of writers.
    You are the Pied Paper of my literary leisure time and I have followed your characters to many destinations. I’ve recommended your books to several people I work with and all have enjoyed them. Please keep up the good work and keeping us “squares” entertained.

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