I recently sat down with a co-worker from my day job who knows about my books. To be honest, I don’t really publicize my writing to those at work or to even extended family members. It was a secret that I even kept from my best friend for nearly a year. Crazy, right? Not really when the few times I did open up to a few family members did the conversations go like these.
Me: “So, I write romance novels.”
Them: “What kind?”
Me: “Biker Romance.”
Them: “Like Sons of Anarchy? *Laugh* You’re kidding, right? What do you know about bikers?”
Or my personally favorite, the thin-lipped response of “Oh. That’s nice” before changing the subject completely.
Those words you’ve just read have happened to me more than a dozen time, and one the biggest reasons that I don’t advertise my books with some of my more extended family and friends. It hurts when those who you think would respect and be interested in a new successful direction in your life scoff at it like a child trying show off a new skill that they see as trivial. Some of my friends thought this was just a phase. A new “thing” that I was trying out to pass the time. Little did they know that this “thing” was and had been a dream of mine for quite some time, and that losing my father was what spurred me to start living life to the fullest.
You see in writing romance, the stigma is always there for those who don’t really understand the drive for what we do. I can’t tell you how many different times I’ve been asked by those around me who I have eventually told if my books were all Mommy porn. A term that again, let’s be honest, came about with the popularity of Fifty Shades. But, romance novels have been around way longer than the early 2000s. In fact after I did a little digging, I discovered scholars site the first romance novel to be published came in 1740 with Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded. While wildly popular in its time, it wasn’t until Jane Austen began publishing her great works, personal favorites of mine, that romance as a genre began to really sprout in the industry we see today.
People, women especially, love reading about love. The intimacies of it. The anxiety and excitement of starting a new relationship. The heartbreak and soul-searching that comes with it.
So let’s to circle back to the title of this post, why is writing romance so hard for those who don’t write to grasp? To those who aren’t fans of the genre, it’s not realistic. I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten reviews about “that’s not how romance works” or “she would never go back to a man that keeps secrets from her.” They don’t see the possibility of meeting your soul mate on the first date, and just knowing they’re the one. Magic. Lust. Romance. Concepts lost in translation from critics of the genre. You see, skeptics want to apply real world principles to fictional stories, and it just doesn’t work. If you are one of those people, I hate to break it to you, but for some, that’s exactly how their romantic lives have occurred. Are they unorthodox stories of love? Of course, but just because you don’t find them to be realistic in your view of the world doesn’t mean they aren’t truth dripping from the pages for someone else.
Think about it in other genres. Paranormal romance, for example. Shifters, vampires, and all those different creatures that go bump in the night aren’t real, but yet readers devour those stories. Why? Because despite the fact they aren’t real, we can step into a different world and still find the love stories we crave. It’s different. We as people like the odd and different. It breaks up the monotony of everyday life. Escapism and the feeling of diving into a new world full of romance and adventure.
On top of that you get the added stigma that romance writers are just women or men unhappy with their home life. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m pretty happy in my normal life. My writing about two fictional people following in love isn’t some unfulfilled need for passion in my life. The last time I checked, I had plenty of passion and fulfillment so does that make me an outlier? Highly doubtful, but haters will hate, and just find something else to complain about to discredit anyone who differs with their opinion.
So let’s circle back to my co-worker and the conversation we had at lunch about writing. A question that literally took me aback for a few minutes. K’s not a reader. In fact, she’s a self-proclaimed non-reader, but her genuine interest about the other side of my life is intriguing. She has known the research scientist part of me for nearly 10 years so when I finally revealed to her about my writing, she didn’t scoff or brush it off. She asked me questions. The hows, whats, and whys. Just like today’s lunch, her question wasn’t any different.
What is the hardest part about writing romance?
Because writing about love makes me happy.
No bells, whistles, or adornments needed. Writing about love simply makes me happy. A better me because in a world where I often find myself muted in social settings with my husband’s career, the entirety of my being came be unleashed with the words that I write. So many special nuances about my female characters are plucked straight from the side of me not many people really get to see. The real me. These stories may be fictional, but to me, they are pieces of me presented to the word one page at a time.
Avelyn Paige is an Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY bestselling Motorcycle Romance author.