Romance By Catherine: Pssstt.. "I write romance." Shhhh!!!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pssstt.. "I write romance." Shhhh!!!

So tell me... when did killing, abuse and hate become respectable and love and romance take a back seat?
This year's Christmas letters to my family included my exciting news about my book contracts. In the replies I had many different responses. But the one that stuck out was,

"Well done on your writing, though I won’t judge you for your choice of material."

Wow, sounds like judgment to me. But this response wasn't the only one like it. And whats funny is what some of these people choose to read they see as respectable, but my stories are not???

When did the killing / death chase of Steven King become respectable and the love / romance chase become something that needs to be hidden? Don't get me wrong... I enjoy Steven King's books. Well some of them anyway.

I know I should expect this response but WOW! I mean... Wow! It isn't like anyone other than my publisher, editor and cp's have read my stories yet so how can anyone pass judgment before they even come out?


Susan Macatee said...

I hear you, Catherine! Most of the readers who put down romance, don't read it.

Catherine Bybee said...

Amen, sister. Crazy!

Bliss Addison said...

I'm with you, Catherine.
Romance rocks!
~~Bliss Addison

K.T. Bishop said...

I get teased by young in-law family members for liking romance stories. I enjoy them. I write about the genre. To hell with those critics.

Catherine Bybee said...

I just don't get it, K.T.. Why is romance such a 'shhhh' genre? Everyone... well most everyone will have sex at one time in their life. But we don't all kill someone or know someone who's been murdered. Ya know what I mean?

Yeah, Bliss. Romance does rock!

Lara Dien said...

Two things--one, as to your death v romance comment--sci-fi writer Spider Robinson once wrote something in one of his Callahan books that has stuck with me for years--something about what's wrong with us, that we'll let kids watch multiple murders (etc) on TV, but have to warn them if there's going to be sex. And that THAT was the real perversion. We don't mind if you see people hate, but to see people love?

Second -- IMHO, not biased at all, of course (LOL), romance is among the more difficult genres to pull off realistically. Believable characters exhibiting believable emotions? Not to mention, if you write it (which I do), believably hot sex that doesn't come across as either trite, gratuitous, or pornographic. Then there are the romantic suspense authors who draw you into the most outrageous scenarios -- and dig you into the story until you couldn't possibly question it.

I guess my answer is--I choose to write romance. We're all storytellers, we writers. Some of us put more romance in our writing, some of us more terror, some of us more philosophy. But it's all stories. And all that matters, really, is how good you are at telling them.

Lara Dien

Lara Dien said...

Oh--question I get asked the most:

How do you research (wink, wink) your love scenes?

Question I get asked the least:

How do you research your murders?

Catherine Bybee said...

Well put, Lara. We do 'hide the sex' but 'exploit the murder'. You've made my point. As for research... Yeah... I get that, too.

Angel Martinez said...

Now, see, Catherine, depending on the reader, Stephen King isn't really considered any more 'respectable' than romance. It's genre fiction, all of it. And in some circles genre fiction is still considered fluff.

You know I write SF and fantasy as well as romance and I get the same reaction to the Science Fiction.

"Oh" wrinkled nose "you write THOSE kinds of stories"

Never mind that Salman Rushdie writes fantasy works. Never mind that some of our greatest minds have written SF. Never mind that some of literature's best and most celebrated works are ROMANCE (see Bronte sisters, Jane Austin, D H Lawrence, need I go on?)

The answer to such ignorant and ridiculous statements is "Oh, yes? And what's your next book about?" (said with an innocent smile)

Catherine Bybee said...

Ohhhh, Angel. We so need to meet in person one day. I'm with ya. Innocent smile and all.

Michele said...

You made me think with this question.

I'm a mom with kids. And you are SO right. Violence is easier to watch and say, "It's wrong".
Death, violence,murder, wrong doing -- it's a black and white thing. It's wrong on so many levels, you just don't do it.

It's easy to say, "Just don't do it". End of subject. WE have laws to back us up, both in religion as well as the civilized laws.

With sex?
Wow, shades of gray. Tons of gray.
How can you differentiate good sex from dirty? From sweet to porn? And why should sex be dirty? Yet the mixed messages they'll be exposed to in society say that sex is dirty. Yet people do it. It promotes life, celebrates life yet at the same time, is hushed.

Why is it easy to ignore sex? Perhaps because we are unsure of its place in our own lives and we're scared. Scared to say the wrong thing, feelings of guilt and worry that we'll say the RIGHT thing but not in the right way.
With all that quagmire in our psyches, it's much easier to deal with the violence then the sex.

We don't have a freedom of speech in our society when it comes to sex. It's weighed down with invisible bonds.
Romance has tugged on them in the past fifteen years and has made tremendous leaps.
Bodice rippers?
The tug of war between secret yearnings and the expectation that we ignore our natural selves.

We are good at denial.
We therefore deny reading romance and the sex that naturally comes to each and every one of us makes us uncomfortable.

I'm glad there are awesome and wonderful romance authors out there, in every genre,sub-genre and topic. They celebrate the hope that love conquers all, even in desparate times and physical expression of that love is a beautiful thing.

But for a lot of people out there it's still about sex, even when it's not.
Fear is a sad thing, isn't it?
They are missing out on so much FUN!

Yet...I still squirm when a sex scene is even alluded to on TV.
Because, I don't know what to Say.

Guess I'm a contradiction.

Skhye said...

Hmmm, I once told a literature professor that the point of a story was about human aspirations--people have to aspire to some set standard. We take in the story and learn from it--whatever that may be. Grant it, aspirations are culturally relative. They prove equally relative to genre readers. ;)

Most people who don't read romance hear sex when you say I write/read romance novels. I don't think they realize a romance novel has two plots--the romance and something external (sci-fi, fantasy, mystery, etc.) to push the romantic internal growth. A romance is like a grand choreographed dance. The folks who think sex just hear taboo or frivolous. In a romance, there has to be the evolution of the romance to appease the reader. The story has to work and be realistic.

I've had my professors and educated friends laugh at me for wasting my time in writing romance. But I have so much fun creating new worlds that work for readers that you can't make me stop if I can sell them. We'll never please everyone. Although, it does hurt when someone we respect insults us. Ignore that some people are clueless when it comes to our genre of fiction.

Christina Phillips said...

People's reactions are just weird. From in-laws I've had the - oh so you write bodice rippers (said with that annoying smirk on the face) well um, no actually I don't. lol.

And why is it, when they discover you write erotic romance, do so many immediately want to know if everything you write is based on your own experience? My brother asked if my debut was autobiographical. HEE HEEE!!! Obviously he thinks I'm a witch!!!

Kris Eton said...

Wow, Catherine. that one comment was just awful. Sounds like something a disapproving older aunt would say...

One time I had a visitor at my home, an acquaintance of sorts. She was looking over my bookshelf, which had maybe 3 or 4 historical romances mixed in with other books (thrillers, literary, reference). She said to me, "I could give you a few reading suggestions for books that are much better than these. Have you ever read (famous literary female author whom I've already read)?"

It was so insulting. As if I was too stupid to realize there were 'better' books that silly romance novels. Like I was wasting my time and my brain reading those books on my shelf. Ugh. Some people are just jerks.

Kim Smith said...

and isn't it funny that sex is said to be the oldest profession! apparently, people have been in love and falling in love since adam and eve, but no one wants to respect it. sigh.

Lea Schizas - Author/Editor said...

The problem is many out there hear 'romance' but really hear 'porn'. Their loss.

Catherine Bybee said...

It looks like I'm not the only one with an opinion on this subject. Thank you all for proving my point.

Rebecca J. Clark said...

I, too, get the "how do you research your sex scenes" question a lot. My answer: "The same way I research my murder scenes." That generally shuts them up because it makes them think. :)

What kills me about those who criticize romance fiction is if you ask them what their favorite movie is, generally it's a romance. Go figure.

Anne Sorgeson said...

You'd be surprised. I don't even tell my mom about it cause well, umm she wouldn't like it anymore than other stuff I have done. lol