Monday, October 23, 2006

Romance in the News

As you all know (or should know by now) I represent a great deal of romance and obviously read a great deal as well. I love these books, as do the millions of fans who spend $1.2 billion a year on romance novels. So why is it that romance writers—no matter how successful—editors, and agents have to continually defend the genre and what we do? Do you know that there are times when we even need to defend it to other industry professionals?

Lately, though, the defense of romance has reached national proportions with two recent, and very different, news articles. For those of you who aren't in the romance loop, or from Texas, you might not have heard of the political race for comptroller between Democrat Fred Head and Republican Susan Combs. The race took an ugly and very interesting turn when Fred Head uncovered a romance novel Susan Combs wrote more than ten years ago. Besides calling the book pornographic, among other things, the most disturbing thing about this is that Fred Head is implying that because Susan Combs once wrote a romance novel she is not capable of representing her constituents. What if she had written a western, mystery, or science fiction? My guess is that no one ever would have taken notice. It is still shocking to me that in this day we have to defend these books and the people who both write and read them. Not only are we constantly defending the contents and how well they are written, but most
exasperating is that we are defending the intelligence of those involved, me included. Because here we are, in 2006, still looking for ways to prove that women are the lesser sex and that women who read romance are even worse.

The second incident ocurred in a recent Dear Abby column (http://www.uexpress.com/dearabby) in which several romance writers were inspired to write in and defend the genre, giving Abby the what-for and letting her know that we've come a long way, baby. To paraphrase, romance is no longer the damsel in distress needing help from her manly lover. Romance novels are strong women looking for equally strong men and hoping for a little passion along the way.

So fight on, romance warriors! Continue defending your genre. And for those of you who still consider romance novels not worthy of your attention, read before you judge. If you're a mystery or suspense reader, pick up a book by one of our fabulous romantic suspense authors; if you prefer a little SF or fantasy in your books, buy yourself a paranormal romance. You might be pleasantly surprised, even inspired to join our fight.

—Jessica

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

What if Ken Follet, Dean Koontz or Nicholas Sparks ran for public office? Would they have received the same flak? I doubt it!

John M. said...

I am from Texas, and I heard about the Susan Combs issue. Although, I see it as a non issue. I planned to vote for her before the article came out, and now I want to vote for her even more now.

Chris said...

Thank heavens I have come across your blog. Having written a historical romance novel with some passion included :-) I felt despair at reading this type of material is no longer required. I keep wondering what has happened to all those Catherine Cookson readers. Knowing that there are others out there who also like to read romances with strong heroines as well as strong heros i will keep trying. Thank you.

Kate Douglas said...

I read Dear Abby's original post, and it infuriated me to see her perpetuating the old "bodice ripper of yore" mythology. I write stories that empower women--my heroines are sexy and smart and willing to fight for what they want. I was angry enough to fire off a letter to Dear Abby, and absolutely shocked when she reprinted my message in her column, along with my name. Point being, it never hurts to take the time to correct a misconception, and in the case of my Dear Abby letter, it can turn out to be extremely effective advertising. My website had a ton of new visitors the day after the column appeared and my ranking at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble online stores improved!

Chumplet said...

An updated post showed up on my rogers.yahoo page this morning, which includes the responses from Kate and other romance writers. It seems Dear Abby backpedalled a bit, and admitted she hadn't read romance in a while.

I read the Susan Combs articles along with excerpts from her book, and I feel sorry for the people involved. Too much energy is being wasted on stuff that matters little, when you compare that issue to others like education, poverty and human rights.

Chris, don't worry... Regency Romances still sell.

Chumplet said...

Jessica, I see you made it back unscathed from Beautiful British Columbia. I Hope to see a post about the trip.

elysabeth said...

wow - that really takes the cake - I may not read "romances" but I still support my friends who write them as well as other genres - we can't all write the same things, so more power to them - those that write romances and are published - way to go- the rest of us have to really work hard to stay up with the top selling genre in the nation - hum that's a lot of readers and lot of books being bought -

My guess is that this male person is "old school" and probably of the belief that it is okay for the gander but definitely not okay for the goose to do any thing remotely different. I wonder how many male writers out there write romance and publish under a woman's name (I know I've heard several names but can't think right off the top of my head about any in particular) - if they would be destroyed like this - but I think john said it best - his decision was made before the "issue" came about and it just confirms his thoughts even more - he wasn't voting on a book published 10 years ago, but apparently the politicians have to attack their opponents in some way - oh well - I hope Susan Combs beats the pants off him - E :)

Kim said...

Several members of my local RWA chapter (NJRW) wrote both to Dear Abby and Fred Head (sorry, I gotta giggle when I write this fool's name) and Dear Abby answered one writer's letter and apologized.

As for Fred Head (**snork**), he has been pummeled by e mails, but I don't think he really gets why. There has also been mention made over whether or not he's violated copyright laws by posting the pages from Ms Combs' book. Which makes me wonder, which is worse - writing romance or breaking a law? In that case, who is the better candidate?

As an aside to Chris, don't worry about the passion in your book. I write historicals and trust me, they are as hot as ever. Only the heroine is kick ass :)

Anonymous said...

I don't care, I'm still voting Democrat.
I'll defend romance novels until I'm blue in the face, but the state of the nation comes first in this case.

amy m said...

I have witnessed an argument like this. It's ridiculous the attitudes that come through about these books, from being called 'vapid' to 'pornographic'. I review romance books a lot at work, and a couple of guys have asked, why? They sell big time, guys! This also illustrates why I hate politics, they will find the littlest thing to make a big deal out of.

Linda Adams said...

I'm writing a thriller for women readers and have had the same problem. Thriller by itself, okay, no problem; add the women part in, and suddenly all these people make it their business to tell me why I'm wrong to write for women. Some have been quite hostile! Admittedly, I'm still not sure why it gets such a negative reaction. Do I have cooties or something?

Chumplet said...

Strike the question about B.C. You weren't there. I am a dumbass. Forgive my stupidity!

But... it is a beautiful province. I wish I was there right now, hiding under a pile of pine needles.

Shelli Stevens said...

I was following both of those incidents! Ugh! It annoyed me to no end.

I don't know if we'll ever have to stop defending ourselves. I've certainly become quite adjusted to the raised eyebrow and snicker under the breath when I say what I write.

Kimber An said...

I'm one of those who have not considered the romance genre worthy of my attention in a very long time. The only ones I've seen have been wimpy heroines with plots which seem to justify and even make sexy domestic abuse. Blek! So, if you want to convert me, please provide specific recommendations for novels with strong, intelligent heroines with heroes who love them for it and a meaty plot that won't leave me rolling my eyes and chucking the book out the door. Being happily married for a long time, I know romance has more to do with a man willing to sacrifice for his woman than a man bringing flowers and candy. No silly plots please! Oh, I LOVE my word verification! It's so appropriate for the romance novels I've seen out there lately "Euuuuu!" Gimme something good! Maybe we just have a really lousey bookstore.

Kimber An said...

Oh, linda, I've had a similar problem writing science fiction with female lead characters. (rolls eyes) Why do some people insist on perpetuating the myth that girls hate science? Come into the 21st century!

DAVID THAYER said...

Being attacked by Fred Head may not be all bad. It may turn out that Fred was a Dead Head in his youth or a Curtis Mayfield fan ( Freddy's Dead.) Or, Fred's brother Ned writes Regencies.

Anonymous said...

I also heard about the Texas case and blogged about it myself. I am not a romance writer, but I admire and respect the genre. Many of my favorites are romance writers.