Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A rerun for a reason

Last night was a late evening of merriment and too much wine responsible drinking in a perfectly adult fashion at book launch party for Making Waves.

That's one reason for the rerun blog post I'm about to give you, but it isn't the only reason.

The single most common feedback I've been hearing from people reading Making Waves is something along the lines of this:

I normally don't like romance novels, but I loved yours and laughed all the way through it.

It's one of my favorite compliments to receive, and I'll admit I'm proud of the fact that so many non-romance readers seem drawn to my book.

But there's a tiny part of me that feels defensive on behalf of my genre. That's the part prompting me to resurrect a post I originally wrote last May. Maybe you already read it, maybe you didn't. It bears repeating in any case, so without further ado, I give you...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Defending pink wine and bodice rippers

The other night, I went to a dinner party with a 2004 Jardiniére Rosé Willamette Valley Pinot Noir.

That’s a complicated way of saying I brought a bottle of pink wine. A damn good wine, but pink nonetheless.

There’s a stereotype associated with pink wines, and it’s not a good one. People think of the sickly-sweet rotgut sold in gallon jugs as “white zinfandel” and think pink=cheap. Unless you’re a starving college student, cheap is not a good thing in wine.

I was recently at Firesteed doing research for LET IT BREATHE, and the tasting room associate lamented this as he poured their fabulous 2008 Pinot Noir Rosé.

A most excellent Rosé.
“Wine critics love it, but the public is reluctant,” he explained. “People see pink and turn up their noses.”

It’s not hard for me to draw a parallel between that and the romance genre.

I’ll proudly tell anyone from my grandma to the paperboy that I write romance. Though most are supportive, I’d be delusional if I said I didn’t see the occasional sneer. It’s a look that suggests I’m either a sexual deviant, an inferior writer, or some combination of the two.

My instinct is to stammer something about how I write quirky romantic comedies that are way different from the stereotypical bodice rippers with Fabio on the cover.

And then I get mad at myself, because so damn what if I wrote bodice rippers? Is there something wrong with that?

Statistically speaking, the romance genre generated $1.37 billion in sales in 2008, and remained the largest share of the consumer market at 13.5 percent (thanks RWA for those stats).

And yet, as the creators of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books noted in their hysterical book BEYOND HEAVING BOSOMS, “romance is easily the most well-hidden literary habit in America. Millions of dollars are spent on romance novels, yet few will admit to reading them.”

I’m not sure what’s behind that. Is it the desire to be seen as intellectual who would never read escapist tripe? Is it the fear of being branded a sexual deviant along with the author?

Or is it something else?

As the recipient of a degree in English Lit, I am qualified not only to serve Happy Meals, but to point out that romance is part of nearly every great work of literature. The Illiad, Hamlet, Don Quixote, Anna Karenina…frankly, you’d have a shorter list if you just tallied up the books without romance (and then skipped them entirely, because really, who wants to read anything without nookie in it?)

While most modern romance novels probably won’t find their way into the literary canon anytime soon, that doesn’t make them any less worthy of respect and admiration. The romance genre is popular, it’s enjoyable, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of – for readers or for writers.

So on that note, I lift my glass of pink wine in a toast to everyone who loves romance. Cheers to all of you – the sexual deviants, the good and bad writers, and anyone who just craves a damn good love story.


Dr. Cheryl Carvajal said...

My husband is a HUGE pinot noir fan, as is his brother. And to hell with what people think.

I'm working on finding romance novels I like... if only because I like so many romance novelists (like you). I hope your book arrives on my doorstep soon.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

You used the perfect analogy and made some excellent points. I must admit, I rarely read a "bodice-ripper", and think of them as a guilty pleasure. After all, (nose in the air) there are so many more "worthwhile" books on the shelves to read, right? Books that expand our minds to new ideas and other cultures, that inform us about the important issues in the world, etc. But ya know what? There is nothing wrong with reading a book for the sheer pleasure of reading. And damn it, reading about a game of strip battleship may not "expand my mind", but I'm sure looking forward to it! Pass the pink wine.

Matthew MacNish said...

I've got nothing against cheap wine, pink or otherwise.

And the part about non-romance readers and Making Waves? That's basically what I said this morning, in my giveaway post, even though, technically, I haven't ... you know, read it yet.

Jessica Lemmon said...

I haven't read that blog post before! Was glad for a rerun so I could catch up! And - I admit it - I heard "pink wine" and immediately cringed. (PS - "gutrot" is a great description of White Zin.)

I write romance and am pursuing publishing. Everyone in my personal circles knows this. At first, when people asked, "What do you write?" I proudly announced, "ROMANCE!" then after a few sneers, I realized that not everyone was supportive of my chosen genre. It's kinda like in January when I went "VEGAN!" and nearly everyone I know either a) recoiled or b) assured me I would die of a B12/Protein/Calcium defeciency.

We should announce "ROMANCE!" with pride - you're right! If not only for the stares it invites from your male coworkers that suggest, "I didn't know she was such a sex fiend..."

Danielle Spears said...

Power to the romance writers! Must have missed this post when you originally posted it, so glad you decided to share it again.

I really think romance writers should be proud. Writing takes talent, especially steamy, sexy shower scenes. I couldn't write that good of a sex scene if I tried.

Thanks for sticking up for our genre!

Daisy Whitney said...

The same thing happens at times with YA - like I have to defend writing for teens! But you know, I love reading romance and reading YA and I am also glad you don't write YA romance because your romance is sexy and clever and funny! (And this comment is kind of all over the place, but you know what I mean, Tawna!)

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, Tawna! I'm guilty of the "I loved it even though it was romance" comment.

I have an uneasy relationship with the romance genre, so much so that I blogged about it back in March:

Since then, I've read a few romances just to get a balanced view, and to be truthful, I still wouldn't seek them out (except yours, 'cause you tell a great story, romance or not).

I think it's because I'm the type to avoid spoilers at all costs, and with a romance novel, well, you kinda know how it's going to end. There will be a bumpy ride along the way, and a storyteller like you can make it worth the read, but ultimately... I know what's going to happen.

Just my two cents worth. Stay loud and proud - you're a great romance writer!

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

I can't drink wine. I'm allergic to something in the mix.

Elizabeth Poole said...

I would actually be a prime reader for romance novels. I don't mind the sex scenes, and I love a good love story. Every single one of the books I've written have a very strong romantic subplot because I love seeing how two different people get together.

But most romance novels are a little too straight forward for my tastes. But it's not just romance. Some fantasy and science fiction plots are a little too Point A straight to Point B for me.

That's one of the reasons why I loved your book. It had the romance, but it wasn't JUST about their relationship. The supporting characters were very well fleshed out too.

On a related note, I seem to get sneers for writing fantasy. A lot of people just see it as escapist dribble, or worst, of the devil (I live in the Bible Belt) because of magic.

So far people sneer at you for writing: romance, YA, and science fiction and fantasy. I know horror writers get weird looks, like they are one step away from becoming axe murderers.

Looks like literary fiction is the only genre that's not sneered at. :D

Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks for rerunning this. I, too had a fantastic pinot rose this weekend. From Morovino. Bright, with a light, dry finish.

And romance can be bright, too and have a very dry wit.

Romantic comedies have been around since Plautus wrote the Menaechmi in 200BC or whenever it was. They were Mr. Shakespeare's bread and butter. Jane Austen wrote some rather popular ones, too.

So when I hear they're "trashy" or worse, "dead." I just sigh.

And have another glass of rose.

Mary said...

Sadly true. I wonder if romance would have a better rep if it had a face. Are we really doing ourselves a disservice with all the bared boobs and man titty on the covers? (Not that I'm really complaining. There are some lovely covers with man titty. I've drooled on a couple.) Or titles like "Love's Turgid Member" or "Unrequited Aching Loins"? Maybe we'd be better off being a bit more...discrete. Prim, even. Just a thought.

Still, pour me a glass of pretty pink wine and hand me a copy of "Desire's Rampant Member". I'm in.

Again, congrats on your fabulous book! I loved it and have recommended it far and wide.

TheLabRat said...

I think that people don't have an issue with romance as an element of a story. But they do, often, have a problem with romance as the defining element. For example, I'm primarily a sci-fi/fantasy/horror reader (for serious, I am a pretty big nerd when it comes to my reading list). A lot of my favorites have a romance element but I very rarely read stories that are marketed as romance first and the other genre second. I've given a lot of it a try and some of it is great but most of it is not my cuppa (the amazing Linnea Sinclair notwithstanding). After years of trying stuff that was recommended to me in paranormal and sci fi romance I finally just gave up.

Part of this, I think, is that folks are hyper aware of the cliches in romance fiction (as opposed to the cliches in other kinds of fiction because they each have them, but whatever). Sometimes it seems that everyone growls/laughs/hisses "low in their throats". Body parts are moved to "grant better access". And some of the names for body parts are especially ridiculous (nubbins and manhoods and members oh my).

Really what this boils down to, though, is that there are a lot of terrible romance writers getting published and that's what most people are familiar with. It's sort of like finding the decent Star Trek novelizations or pieces of video game related fanfic (i.e. very needle in haystack). More than any other genre I've read, I have to dig A LOT to find the gems in romance. It's really sad, too, because there are some excellent stories out there but I've had to wade through a metric crapload of junk to find them.

Lydia Kang said...

What a great post! I found you from Matthew's blog where he was gushing about you!

K.B. Owen said...

Actually, there's snobbery going on in mystery fiction, too, with visions of flat characters and Agatha Christie-ish puzzle plots. Sometimes when I tell people I'm writing a mystery, they picture a Clue game: Colonel the library...with the candlestick. That sort of thing.

The fact is, what has drawn me to wanting to be a writer in the first place is that maybe, just maybe, I could write something to delight readers. Making folks happy and taking their minds off their worldly cares, just for a little while - how cool is that?

I hope to get there someday! Thanks for a great post, Tawna.

RamblingWords said...

Great post Tawna...of course, I do read romances and proudly consume pink wine. I salute you proudly!



LynNerdKelley said...

I'm here from Matthew's blog. Congratulations on Making Waves. Sounds like a winner to me! I love your humor just from reading this post, so I know your book is good. Best of luck to you! Cheers!

Stacey Nelson said...

Admittedly I'm one of the ones who say, "I just don't read romance."

In all fairness, each time I've said, "Okay I'll give it another chance in this genre", I will inevitably pick one that reads less like a story and more like an erotic thesauraus for sexual acts and body parts.

However, yesterday I bought Making Waves. And read it all in one shot. It was perfect - funny, romantic, sexy. And best of all, a great story. I'm looking forward to reading your future books and any other authors you recommend. Glad to know there's more to the romance genre then Fabio.