I wanted to blog about something more fun this month than life advice. I started thinking about all of the people I meet who ask why I read and write romance. I’m usually slightly offended and tell them rather soundly that it’s a genre I like, and that generally ends the line of questioning. However, I do ponder why it’s something people ask. I wonder if they think I don’t look like a romantic. If that’s the case, why not? Or do they feel the genre is less than—say mystery or sci fi, or even nonfiction? If so, what wrong impressions do they have? Some I sense stop short of asking why I don’t write a “real book”. (Grrr!) Those people I want to stomp on their toes.
But I decided to reflect on my reasons for reading and writing in the romance genre. My reasons may be very different from any of yours. If you’ll indulge me today, here goes:
I grew up in a rural Oregon farm community where reading was more than a pastime. It was a way to escape a fairly unexciting life. It was a way during pre-television to explore the world. Today’s kids would probably think I lived a hard life. My dad was a logger, a machinist, and a farmer. He didn’t give my sister or me spending money. We earned it. I hoed rows of onions under a hot sun, or strung miles of poles for pole beans to climb. We’d get up at four a.m. to do outside chores like water gardens before catching a bus to go to fields where we got scratched picking blackcaps, boysenberries, raspberries, or crawled down wet rows picking strawberries. The next crop was bush beans. We filled metal buckets then dumped them in gunny sacks. Dragging full sacks to the end of the row was backbreaking. The same was gathering walnuts, filberts, or prunes in rainy, pre-dawn hours before school days in the fall.
And yet because we all did the same thing, there were sing-alongs on the bus, laughter and fun. And looking back I see these were jobs that didn’t interfere with my daydreams.
My friends and I talked about finding the perfect mate. We talked about traveling to exotic places. We imagined meeting a man of wealth. Someone who’d love us as we wanted to be loved. Yes books fed those dreams, and yet I can’t think of anyone in my circle of friends who didn’t know the difference between a pie-in-the-sky dream and reality. (That’s what some people think romantic fiction does. Feed young, impressionable minds with impractical whimsy.) Naysayers really think readers can’t distinguish fact from fiction. Really? Baloney.
Love stories can give readers a respite from normal lives. Or they can show that the readers that their lives aren’t so bad.
Yes, wouldn’t it be fantastic if a white knight rode into my kitchen today and swept me away? Since I know there’s a fat chance of that happening I can smile and enjoy it when he saves a worthy heroine from her hum drum existence.
In truth most of our characters are mature, savvy, average people. They suffer with and wrestle quite ordinary or complex problems. Romance heroes and heroines could be our neighbors, or our ancestors. I believe love extends a global connection and has worldwide appeal.
Because I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t think love is attainable, that brings me back to not understanding why some question my wanting to read and write in this genre. I happen to think the universality of love is what keeps readers pulled time and again into stories with similar plots.
I do know some of the questioners think romance books are formulaic. Bah humbug. They should check out the variety of romance sub-genres. I’m happy to write for a broad market. I’m equally glad to read in that same broad market.
So if you’ve ever had anyone ask why you read and write romance, I’d like to hear if you answer them, and if so, what do you tell them?