Once upon a time, a fair number of years ago at this point, I used to be a teacher. When I started writing romance, I was still teaching, and as a result, I was pretty neurotic about keeping my writer life and my professional life separate. Even after I quit, it was still just instinct to protect that part of what I did. A lot of my friends were literary snobs, and a lot of them were religiously conservative, and I feared both would judge what I wrote.
Since moving last summer, I’ve loosened up a little. I’m not exactly sending my husband’s co-workers the buy links to my explicit male/male stories, but I at least admit to the genre I’m writing in. Most people are interested, even impressed. Some are curious. Some brighten up and say they love reading romance!
And others…well, others say some really annoying stuff.
And so today, I share with you my top list of the most annoying things people say when you tell them you write romance:
5) So…like, bodice rippers? Oh, geez. Are those even really a thing anymore? Not all romances are tawdry, and not all of them include bodices, and very very few of them still refer to turgid members and heaving bosoms. Get with the times.
4) …Does your mom know you do this? No. Are you insane? I’m 32 and have been married for almost a decade and I’ve yet to admit to having had sex. Of course she doesn’t know about this.
3) You should write a book about that! Okay, honestly this is a headache for authors in all genres, but I’m including it here regardless.
You know the drill. You’re sitting in a coffee shop and your friend is telling you about her brother’s cousin’s best girlfriend’s run-in with a violent platypus. Then she freezes. She smacks the table. And then she says, “You should write a book about that!”
It’s hard to even start with why these suggestions are never worth pursuing. Usually, the anecdote isn’t actually interesting. It pretty much never has a satisfying narrative arc. It’s definitely never fleshed out enough to carry a novel.
And it is never, ever, ever the makings of a good romance.
2) So…do you think you’d ever write something I would actually read?
First off, you’re insulting my entire genre, and me by association by implicitly informing me that you would never read it. Second off, you’re showing a profound lack of understanding for how the publishing industry works. Yes, people can write outside their genre, but it’s a really, really difficult sell. It makes building an audience and brand more difficult. And it may require maintaining alternate pen names, which in the age of social media is a huge amount of work.
And the number one, worst thing to say to your romance-writing friend is…
1) Wait a minute. Did you write those ‘Fifty Shades’ books? Again, so many issues here. One, the writing on those books is…let’s say it shows room for improvement. Do you really think I did that? Two, the identity of Ms. James is well known at this point and I am not her. Three, Ms. James is a multi-millionaire, and I just asked to go dutch on lunch with you because I am broke. No, I am not her.