Women writing about women for women. That’s definitely a recipe for social dislike. Think about it, things that smack of the female or feminine tend to have negative connotations. Pink. (Too girly!) Housewives. (Pathetic!) Romance novels. (Trash!)
Mention Jane Austen or Pride & Prejudice, the highest selling book ever worldwide, and you might get eyerolls. “I’m very used to people assuming or saying outright that romance is second-rate,” commented Sarah Wendell, founder and owner of the website Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. “In many ways, romance narratives are a subversive threat to a lot of patriarchal, white supremacist power structures, so of course there’s going to be derision and dismissal.”
Mention Jane Austen or Pride & Prejudice, the highest selling book ever worldwide, and you might get eyerolls. “I’m very used to people assuming or saying outright that romance is second-rate,” commented Sarah Wendell, founder and owner of the website Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. “In many ways, romance narratives are a subversive threat to a lot of patriarchal, white supremacist power structures, so of course there’s going to be derision and dismissal.”
Unlike romance lovers who can hide behind the anonymity of their eReader – okay, yeah, a muscly torso on the cover of your book can be a bit embarrassing – authors, who are not only lovers of the genre but its creators, put themselves and their work out into the wider world, and because of this, catch the strongest doses of all this negativity.
“I’m picky about who I tell that I am a romance author,” Nan Reinhardt wrote “because inevitably, someone will smirk and say, ‘Oh, like Fifty Shades?’ No, not every romance novel is like Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Author, Karin Enders, related a similar experience. “The reactions I get from people when they find out what I write spans from the awkward smile and ‘Oh? Really? That’s nice,’ to ‘What, like Fifty Shades? You write all that dirty stuff?’ to ‘OMG, I love romance, where can I get your books?’ I think romance is something readers either love and want passionately, or they feel like it’s beneath them and they’re not real books worthy of their time.”
Author, Karin Enders, related a similar experience. “The reactions I get from people when they find out what I write spans from the awkward smile and ‘Oh? Really? That’s nice,’ to ‘What, like Fifty Shades? You write all that dirty stuff?’ to ‘OMG, I love romance, where can I get your books?’ I think romance is something readers either love and want passionately, or they feel like it’s beneath them and they’re not real books worthy of their time.”
Yes, romance books are proper novels and, as the authors are well aware, it takes a lot of skill to write one that is compelling and emotionally satisfying. On the surface, the formula is deceptively simple. Two people meet, they fall in love, they live happily ever after. But, if that’s all that happened, there would be no story. A romance is all about the emotional journey between the heroine and hero, and because it’s completely character-based, the majority of conflict happens internally.
Look at Pride & Prejudice, for example. Darcy is wealthy, has a high position in society, and is arrogant; Lizzy’s got no future income, low family connections, but she’s lively and clever. The twists and turns that bring these two together are so compelling that two-hundred years later people are still reading P&P for pleasure. Yet the entirety of the novel takes place in homes, dance halls, and out in the countryside. All the characters actually do is dance at balls, play cards, dine with friends, or take walks into town.
Another challenge in writing romance, particularly for a contemporary, is that there are two consenting adults, madly attracted to one another, and who can pretty much have sex whenever they like.

The trickiest bit is creating believable reasons with strong enough motivation that keep apart the hero and heroine emotionally, if not physically, until they earn their happily ever after, or HEA.

All fights or disagreements have to both drive the story forward and connect to each of the characters’ internal flaw – for Lizzy that was prejudice and for Mr Darcy pride. Kissing and sex is not there for titillation – okay, well, not entirely – but, again, it must work within the context of the story. So, the scene with a hot one-night-stand is framed by the hero’s goal of getting the heroine out of his head, and the heroine treating herself before going off on a mission for Doctors Without Borders.

Despite dismissive attitudes, romance just continues to grow and evolve.

No longer is the domineering alpha male (or alph-hole) the industry standard. Authors have created a whole new range of delicious, emotionally fluent heroes who no longer need to be leveled-up by his heroine. Authors and readers are being better represented. People of color are writing and publishing books about people of color. Gay and lesbian novels are extremely fashionable. Atypical authors are creating romance stories about heroes and heroines on the spectrum.
Whether you want to laugh or get your heartstrings tugged, or if you’re looking for a kick-ass heroine who can shapeshift into a honey badger – you are covered. “There’s no right way or wrong way to write romance (as long as there is a happily ever after at the end),” says author Susan Stoker, “and that’s what I love so much about it.”  ♥
#blushmagazine #writingromance

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