Saturday, February 12, 2011

IN DEFENSE OF THE ROMANCE NOVEL

HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!
On a recent trip to the library, an acquaintance walked up to me and said, “I heard you write romance novels. Do you really read that stuff?”


Mmm, I mused, how often have I heard that question?

Taking my usual bold stance—on quivering legs—I replied, “Sure, I do. Why not?”

I’ve learned one important thing in my mature years. If I don’t particularly like the question, I’ll ask one of my own. It’ll throw the person off track every time. Well, usually.

“Why not?” my casual friend asked. “Well, for one thing,” she stammered, “they’re…trite, with the same plot in every single book. A learned person wouldn’t waste time on them.”

Of course, by the time I arrived home, my busy brain had made a list of “why I read that stuff, and particularly why I write it.”

Answer Number One: Defending romance novels falls in the same category as defending myself. If I probe for a real answer, the person might say, “A reader of romance usually doesn’t have a life of her own, or a poor love life at best, or she reads to live vicariously through a character.” My reply might be, “Statistics show that 75 million people read at least one romance novel last year. So, you’re saying you know how all these readers feel?”

Answer Number Two: Some romance novels are better than others. True, the first romance novels were written differently from those today, but one might say that about all fiction in general. Advice to my friend-of-the-moment: “Try a romance novel. Begin with a few of the tried and true authors: LaVyrle Spencer (my all-time favorite), Susan Wiggs, Penelope Williamson, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Judith McNaught, Kathleen Eagle, and Karen Robards. Neither you nor anyone else needs to waste time on any bad book. That applies to romance novels, as well.”

Answer Number Three: Perhaps readers and writers of romance are actually readers….period. To my detractor, I might reply: “Oh, by the way, if you’re looking for a good book, you might want to try Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Societies; The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; Plainsong; or The Dust Bowl Years. I highly recommend them.” Would that be tacky of me?

Answer Number Four: A simple statement. Reading and writing romance novels are my inalienable rights under the constitution. After all, this is a free country.

Answer Number Five: I’m easily entertained. When I choose a movie, I do not need to select one that has garnered critically acclaimed praise over the entire globe. The same is true with my reading material.

Answer Number Six: In response to the statement “Romance novels are just fairy tales, stories that never happen in real life.” Maybe, maybe not, but I might reply, “Sometimes, I just like to escape reality.”

I’m not the first writer to pen an article titled “In Defense of the Romance Novel.” I Googled the title and found quite a few. By the time I finished reading several, I realized the question, “You don’t read that stuff, do you?” has been asked many times.

Celia Yeary-Proud to be a Romance Author

33 comments:

  1. I don't usually have time to comment but this one is well worth it.

    Love you Ce! Wrap your knuckles and take the naysayers to town! *wink*

    Yes, it's been asked many times, by people of all ilks. Because it takes as many to write it as to read it as to decry it.

    Happy Valentine's Day hon.

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  2. Hi Celia:

    I’m writing a book on the romance novel and I’m probably not as polite as you are. My first reaction would be to say, “Why would you come up here to insult me? Did I do something to you?”

    However, this is what I suggest a nice person say:

    “Oh my goodness, you can’t be serious, are you? Some of the best books being written today are romances! The romance novel is now being taught in colleges. Every genre now offers romances. Every single one of them! There’s SF, Mystery, Police Procedurals, Historical, Biographical, Horror, Western, Fantasy, Vampires, Comedy, Religious, Inspirational,even Amish, all of them have romance stories.

    All a romance means today is that the story has the love of two people as a central focus of the narrative. So does life! Romances are as different as each human couple’s story. You need to get out and read some good romances. You’ll be amazed and delighted with what you'll find!”


    Keep up the good work! I'm reading "Texas Promise".

    Vince

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  3. Your acquaintance who asked about your writing and reading of romance novels has a case of foot-in-the-mouth disease. She knows not of what she speaks. I've found ignorance is often the cause of most close-mindedness.

    If it were me, I'd find out what her interests were (sewing, gardening, political fundraising, etc) and then I'd find several romance novels on that very topic and gift wrap them especially for her. Ask her to read at least one of them and get back to you.

    God bless you, Celia!

    Maggie

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  4. DIANA--thank you for coming by! I do appreciate it. I understand tha lack of time to read and comment on blogs--so I do appreciate your comments. I know there are many of us who have had to defend the books we write and read. Gets really tiresome, doesn't it? On the other hand, I'm very pleased when someone else says, "I didn't know your wrote romance. How wonderful! I wish I could do that." Celia

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  5. VINCE--I should take notes! You have a great response to those irritating people who thingk they know best. That's what gets me the most--those who think what they read is what everyone else should read. How boring is that?
    And thanks for reading Texas Promise.I do appreciate it. Celia

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  6. MAGGIE--oh, I understand people, just as you do. Someone who would voice that thinks she/he is superior somehow because she reads only from the NY Times Best Seller list. Oh, wait. Several romance novelists routinely hit that list! Thanks for commenting--Celia

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  7. I'm so annoyed at the people who think romance is beneath them. If you're reading a mystery, you know the murderer will be caught by the end. I always tell people romance offeres hope to readers that they can overcome the obstacles in their lives to achieve happiness. I also say readers want something uplifting because if someone wants to be depressed, they can listen to the evening news.
    Once again, we have the same soap box. LOL

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  8. I think I'd have to ask just when that person last read a book or watched a movie that didn't include romance. Bet she couldn't pick an example. Even horrors have romance. It's the center of our lives!

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  9. Celia-- I stop defending romance or my books. To those who say you write "that stuff"? I answer: You should read my books, you'd learn a lot about keeping how to build a happy relashionship." I convinced many that a romance writer is like a psychologist very knowledgeable in love and marriage. Now people believe me. My Pilates trainer was asking me whether her boyfriend was worth keeping.

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  10. Oops, I meant: you'd learn a lot about how to build a happy relationship.

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  11. “Why not?” my casual friend asked. “Well, for one thing,” she stammered, “they’re…trite, with the same plot in every single book. A learned person wouldn’t waste time on them.”

    I'm afraid my response would have been something like...

    "Well,It's a good think I don't have to impress you. I'm sure my fans wouldn't be so kind in a reply. They tend to be a little over protective of their favorite authors."

    Great post Celia. Happy early Valentine's Day

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  12. I've read that romance readers are educated, in happy relationships, and another fact is 51% of the books sold are romances. And I liked the other comments made by others here that most books have a bit of romance in it.

    Your acquaintance might be jealous of you. You are an awesome writer and have people waiting for your new books to release so they can buy them too. She might be irritated because she's not getting this attention in her life.

    Great post as usual, my friend. Have a terrific Sunday!

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  13. Wonderful post, Celia! Yep, some would-be buyers, if they find my stories are romance, will say, "All romance books are the same. Yawn." or, "I can't stand fiction, period." Well, to each their own, of course.

    But how many of them will--really and truly--sit down to watch a movie if it doesn't contain SOME element of romance? Even the old WWII movies will have a couple of scenes where the hero is smooching a gal. C'mon, does any of these folks who won't dare crack open a romance book be happy to watch a film that absolutely shuns it?

    I think we'd have zero show of hands.

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  14. Celia,
    Late to the party as usual, but I just wanted to say what a great post this was (as always!) and how much I enjoyed it. My favorite time of defending my novels came when my husband, his ex-wife (we'll call her Terry) and I were in a hospital waiting room. She asked me if I was "still writing" (the last she knew I was writing short stories for anthologies such as Chicken Soup, etc.) and I said, "Yes, but I mainly write romance novels now." She has become very religious -- crackpot religious --- in these past few years. She said, "OH. Why do you write that stuff?" I just smiled and looked at Gary and then back at her and said, "What else am I supposed to do with 25 years of wonderful research?"
    Love you!
    Cheryl

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  15. CAROLINE--that's it in a nutshell, Caroline. We always know how a mystery will turn out, and any historial novel, for heaven's sake. Of course, most movie goer want a little romance--even though nowadays it might be the Creature from the Black Lagoon! Ewww. Celia

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  16. YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Celia, YOU ARE AWESOME!

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  17. Great blog, Celia. It's always been my view that people who make derogatory remarks about romance novels either imagine themselves to have 'superior' reading habits (if indeed they read at all!) or else they are just wildly jealous because they wouldn't have the first idea how to write any kind of book.

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  18. I think everybody here had valid points. Thanks, Celia for offering those wonderful suggestions for what to say. Love the new look of your blog, too.

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  19. Loraine--that's the sad part--so many people don't acknowledge romance in their lives. Maybe they haven't experienced it. Celia

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  20. MONA--I never thought of us romance authors as a kind of psychotherapists. And now, I don't really try to defend my stance--notice I wrote all these defense statements after I left the person. I couldn't think of much to say, except, Oh, well, I'm sorry.
    Usually when someone feels the need to say something negative about romance books, she say, Oh, I only read mystery (I've heard that one a few times.)Celia

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  21. ADELLE--thanks for the suggestion! I probably should say, "Oh, I know! I don't like that kind of book you have in your hand, either. No problem!" Celia

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  22. DIANE-- Maybe--you listed some very distinct possibilities. I've had a few women friends--casual ones--who I used to chat with here and there. Now, some of them sort of mutter and turn away, sort of embarrassed. My husband thinks it's because they are not as educated in the first place as I, and now I'm doing something they can't begin to identify with. It's like they see me as someone else. Celia

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  23. MISS MAE--oh, amen! I forgot about movies. I wonder how many people saw "The Notebook" and cried and thought it wonderful? Did they not recognize it as a romance story? Celia

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  24. CHERYL--I knew you'd say something to make me laugh! That's a grand comeback to the woman--hahaha on her, losing a romantic guy who knows how to treat a woman! Celia

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  25. SANDRA--you're great, too! Glad you liked this--Celia

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  26. PAULA--I imagine it's a little of both. I hate when someone says, "Oh, I wish I had TIME to write....but I'm just so busy." Ugh. Celia

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  27. LIANA--thanks! I'm glad you like the new look. Too bad I, myself, don't have a new look.
    Yes, everyone had great points, every one on the mark. What fun.Celia

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  28. Love your answers, Celia. Here's another one: No, I write that stuff. What have you published? OK, a bit snarky but sometimes snark is the way to go.

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  29. Celia, I love your answers and I like you answer with a question. I'm going to have to try that one. It reminds me when people as how I'm doing. "I'll reply: I'm awake or I'm l'm sleepy or I'm crabby." It throws em off all the time.

    Keena, I agree. A little snark goes a long way.
    Smiles
    Steph

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  30. KEENA--I'm prone to being snarky, yes, at times, but my mother's voice ringing in my ears stops me everytime. "Now don't be tacky!." Oh, I'd love some snappy comeback--I'm usually too slow on the uptake. Thanks for the suggestions--Celia

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  31. STEPH--that's funny! I learned the trick of the question I didn't like by teaching teenagers. They're mostly easy to throw off the track!.Celia

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  32. Romance novels do mirror real life. There aren't too many people out there who have not loved someone at some time, whether or not there was a happy ending. At least in romance novels, you get the good ending.

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