Posted by: Katie | October 1, 2009

Am I too sensitive?

I am a *huge* fan of the romance genre. I have been reading it for 20 years. I’ve known bigger fans with a greater depth of knowledge I hope to one day emulate. I’m also a huge proponent of reading what gives you pleasure. I don’t get the knocking of other genres to make yourself look better. When you do that, it makes me want to pull out the Romance Writers of America stats to knock you back down a few pegs.

What bothers me the most, though, is when an author dips their toe into the romance genre and then proceeds to give it a few backhanded slaps across the face. There are a ton of romance readers out there, and they like to explore outside the boundaries of the genre, and if an author can pull those kind of numbers in, she will be doing very well for herself. I completely understand wanting to tap into the genre.

You know, I’m less bothered when a literary-leaning author does it than one who has her roots in another genre. The literary authors think they don’t follow genre formulas (they really do), and so all “formulas” are “beneath” them.  Authors from other genres, however, seem to feel the need to especially knock or mock the romance formula. Am I going to deny there’s a formula to romance? Hell, no! Romance is the story of two, or more, people falling in love and overcoming the obstacles, internal and external, to their commitment to each other. Mystery is the story of a protagonist successfully solving a puzzle. Science Fiction is the story of the effect of science, lack thereof, or development of on the world and characters in the story. Fantasy explores a world with the existence magical beings or happenings for which there is no scientific basis in our world.

Every genre has its own formula and tropes. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be a genre! Yes, there are genre-benders, but they are more often than not combining the “formulas” or tropes of two or more genres to go in an altered direction.

I came to the realization that romance was “my” genre by reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. Witch is by no means a romance, the relationship is not the focus of the story, but the plot point that I was most interested in was the developing relationship between Kit and Nat. Reading books with elements from other genres strongly present can lead readers into a genre they had not previously considered exploring. Or, conversely, draw in readers who tend to read your sub-element as their main genre. That’s a very good thing.

But, as a reader, I want to warn authors. Coming into the romance playground through a side door (again, usually very welcome!) and proceed to tell me that you’re better than those romance books with their “dull and boring formulas”, you’re going to lose a reader if not more. Also, saying this on a blog where the majority of the readership are primarily of a non-romance genre isn’t going to do you any good. I, and other romance readers, tend to be very knowledgeable of what’s happening outside of our genre and we will catch you in the act.

Honestly, I do believe the source of this rant was trying to promote the romance genre and publishers as a good place to find stories where the romance is a strong, but not primary, element, but she put in too many of what I perceived to be backhanded slaps.

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