Friday, September 24, 2010

Romance is not a dirty word

by Lauren

 
Oh, Danielle Steel! First Nicholas Sparks, now you. How can we help you make peace with romance novels? It may be true that your novels are not romance, narrowly defined by some conventions of the genre. I'm not sure I agree, but I'll grant the premise isn’t completely without merit, not least because I’m not immune to the packaging efforts of publishers. Which is not to say your books are without their conventions—I hate to judge*, but formulaic is a word that comes to mind—but perhaps in some way those conventions are quite specific to you and your prolific output, possibly distinct enough to consider them in a separate category from other titles. However, I get the impression here, Ms. Steel, that you don't want people to think of you as an author of romance because it devalues your work, which it turns out is some kind of lofty thing about the human condition, and that is a problem. (To be fair, you handle the issue with quite a bit more grace than Mr. Sparks.)

Romance novels can be totally fabulous. Not all of them are, sure, but that's true in any category including whatever category you’d each like to be in. More than that, though, if you think a different label will change how seriously people take you, you’re being a bit naive. You're both giant targets, especially you, Ms. Steel, with your shelves and shelves of bright and shiny spines branded more thoroughly than any other set of books in any store. When I worked at Barnes & Noble, you took up half a bookcase all by yourself, even without duplicate copies of anything. Trust me when I tell you that that’s a noticeable amount of gold foil and fuchsia. When people notice success, they deride it. That, my friend, is the human condition.

But you're also massively successful with more readers than you can count and dedicated fan bases who come back for more every time it's on offer. Let the haters hate, as they say, and take a look at your bank statement when you're feeling insecure about what people think of you. Not because money matters more than respect or makes up for all the world's ills, but because it proves that people keep buying your books in droves, so you're doing something right.

Oh, and, don't make us link this blog to the Ducktales theme again, because you know we will.




*I love to judge.

6 comments:

  1. Labels are a funny thing. I write YA and I always kind of hate it when "getting the boy" is the focus of a YA, so when I write, I usually try to make any relationship like that part of the sub-plot. Ironically, when my first YA came out, the people at Romantic Times loved it and gave me a great review, plus did a feature on me and my book, asking me to write a piece about romance, no less! I found it very funny, but also quite flattering. While I would've categorized my book as an adventure, and my publisher put the dystopian label on it, I'm happy to have romance attached to it too.

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  2. I've long thought this about her disdain of the romance genre. It's an insult not only to other romance authors, but to her READERS, many of whom do think of her as a romance author. If she's trying to be highbrow and say she's too good to write romance, she's setting herself up to be knocked down a notch. There are so many terrific stand-out romance novelists out there. Danielle Steel came along at a time when there was a need for what she was writing...she fulfilled that need and found her niche and I won't belittle her that. But she needs to embrace the reputation she's gained and admit that it is what bought her that billion dollar mansion she's living in.

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  3. i'm with stephanie. what about her readers? by dismissing the romance genre, she is dismissing the genre's fans. and that's one mighty loyal fan base.

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  4. I don't care what anyone says. I know most people love romance. I don't know why they're scared to say it, but it's true. Look at all the movies in any given year and figure how many of the most successful ones included a romance or romantic elements. It'd be easier to count how many didn't have it. The market is huge for the genre. I'm amazed so many people still degrade it.

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  5. I'll never forget in the seventies there was a male romance writer who wrote under a female's name. When he was outted, he confessed he planned to write a "real book" after he earned some money. I refused to buy any more of his books. Not because he was male, but because of what he said. Funny, not too long after that he disappeared. Fans don't like to be treated as if they were insignificant. Who does?

    I wonder if he ever wrote that real book?

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  6. I don't think she's dissing romance writers at all, just pointing out that her books are not romances. I've read most of her books and while there is usually a romance or two in the book, it's not the main focus of the story, which is the woman's journey and relationships with family, business etc.

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