Home       About Jill       Jill's Blog       Proposals       Extras       Contact

Friday, April 27, 2012

Misconceptions About Romance

Romance novels have been my favorite books to read since I turned thirteen. While I've always read a variety of genres, I still love romance the best.

Kissing
Photo by cnon

Since I have such affection for the genre, I still get surprised by the misconceptions others have about it. In many circles, romance novels are the wart-filled stepsister of other mass-market genres. Even though romance outsells every other fiction genre in the U.S. market--see Romance Literature Statistics here--the books and their authors continue to get snubbed.

In yesterday's On the Ether, Porter Anderson shared a fun article by Larry Brooks via StoryFix called "What I Just Learned from a Room Full of Romance Writers." (Full article is linked.) I loved Larry's open attitude and willingness to embrace the romance genre after he taught an advanced workshop for the Rose City Romance Writers of America. (I've been a member of RWA for five years, and I have nothing but great things to say about this organization.) Larry's piece brought back memories of all the odd things people have said to me about romance over the years.

Here are some of the misconceptions people have about the romance genre:

- The books are all about sex, sex, and more sex.
- Romance writers don't take the craft of writing seriously.
- Romance writers just pop words into a formula.
- Romance novels are less literary than other genres.
- The words Christian and romance don't belong together.

I try not to get offended by these ideas. People unfamiliar with the genre can't be expected to understand it. However, I do try to clear these false concepts up whenever possible.

- There are different levels of spice in romance novels. I write for the inspirational market which is the "sweetest" genre and quite strict about intimacy. You might find a few kisses but everything else will be after marriage and behind closed doors. Mainstream romances range from sweet to extra spicy, and the erotic genres still have a love story, but the emphasis is on the physical relationship.

- I've yet to meet a writer of romance who does not take the craft of writing seriously. We want to be good writers, put out excellent books, and we strive to get better with each book.

- There is no formula for a romance beyond the normal plot structure most novels adhere to. Our readers do have expectations--they want to see the hero and heroine together in the majority of scenes, the romance journey is the main arc, and there must be a happily ever after. That leaves a lot of room for ingenuity in between!

- The literary debate will probably never end. What makes one book more literary than another? Does a steamy cover cancel the literary value of the book? I say no, but many say yes.

- Christians do fall in love---shocking, I know! As I mentioned earlier, the inspirational market does not focus on the physical relationship. Readers of this genre want to see two people fall in love against a faith-based backdrop. While my books feature plenty of attraction, they never cross a line.

The bottom line? People read romances because they want to experience the rush of falling in love.

Have you ever read a romance  novel? Do you like the genre? Have you come across any misconceptions about it?

The winner of Monday's giveaway--hosted by the amazing Jennifer Shirk--is SARAH FORGRAVE!! Congratulations, Sarah! You won a copy of Jennifer's new release Sunny Days for Sam and Teeccino!!

I also want to thank all of the new followers! I really appreciate you supporting my blog. :)

Have a terrific weekend!

48 comments:

  1. Oh if it were only as easy as popping words into a formula. And could you imagine how many hours any one of us has put into learning? If only we'd thought to keep track... :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So true, Ayda. If we logged all the time we spend improving our skills and learning...

      Have a great weekend!

      Delete
  2. Ooh, that's for the "amazing" description. LOL And congrats to Sarah!!

    I am a total romance reading fan, and I'm glad to hear that the "sweeter" closed bedroom door romances are making a comeback. I think that's what the true romances is--falling in love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can't help that you're amazing, Jennifer. ;)

      I love the sweet romances too! I've always been a fan of the Harlequin Romance line for this reason!

      Delete
  3. I do like the genre (especially romantic suspense), but I tend to read mostly YA. My favorites, though, have romantic subplots with HEA endings.

    People who don't believe romance writers take craft seriously should check out the workshops available at the RWA nationals each year!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm with you Stina. Throw a romantic subplot in and I'll love any book! And RWA offers soooo much continuing education. Many chapters offer online workshops, day-long conferences, and contests w/feedback. We take romance and writing seriously!

      Delete
  4. Why yes, thanks to you and your skilled writing!

    Must say, I don't think 50 Shades is doing anybody any favors.
    ~ Wendy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Thanks, Wendy!

      I haven't read 50 Shades, but I've heard plenty about it! Ha!

      Delete
  5. Oh goodness - yes! Lots of people have misconceptions and I hear them a lot. Mainly the ones you addressed above.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, yeah! Hey, I don't know everything about Urban Fantasy novels, but I try not to criticize things I don't understand. :)

      Delete
  6. I've read a few romances, but am more of a fan of science fiction/fantasy, horror,and spy novels. I do like historical romances, too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. CJ, that doesn't surprise me at all. I'll bet you like the challenge of an intricate plot!

      Delete
  7. Congrats to Sarah!

    Ref: Christians do fall in love---shocking, I know!
    LOL! Alert the presses.

    I was someone who had misconceptions about romance novels until one day when I was late catching a plane and realized I had brought nothing to read for my trip. My office buddy lent me the book on her desk--a historical romance. Better than nothing, I thought. But from the first page, I was hooked. I've never looked back.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! Ha!

      My sister-in-law shared a Jodi Thomas historical with me years ago, and I've been a huge fan of historical romances ever since. Ooo-la-la!

      Delete
  8. Excellent points, Jill! You addressed them perfectly!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jessica! Have a great weekend!

      Delete
  9. This is so true; there are definitely these misconceptions out there. I would like to try reading more inspirational romances. Thanks for this good reminder to put some on my "to read" list!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could recommend many of them for you! I recently read Deanne Gist's Maid to Match, a historical romance set at Biltmore Estate--I loved it! I also read a really good contemporary romance by Robin Jones Gunn. It was the Love Finds You series--Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii. For funny contemporary, try Jenny B. Jones. And I can't say enough about Jody Hedlund and Laura Frantz for historical romances. Okay, I need to stop or I will go on all day long!!

      Delete
  10. You hit the big ones, for sure, Jill! I read an article about romance novels recently - can't remember who wrote it but one of those quoted said something to the effect of: I can't believe how much sex *isn't* in these books. Meaning there was more to romance than a bunch of sex scenes book-ended between lunch and dinner. I liked that. A lot. Because it really is about the journey, not just the sex.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well said, Kristi! That's exactly how I feel!

      Delete
  11. Love this! I don't write straight romances but I read them avidly. There's nothing better than a good love story that keeps God at the center. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree, Lindsay. :) So many books have brightened my days!

      Delete
  12. "...and the greatest of these is love" (yeah, I know this represents all types of holy love, but romance is one of them!) I don't know how anybody could manage to get published in today's competitive market w/o writing a well-crafted novel. That is just absurd. And as far as literary, I look on that as the difference between art and great art. Let's be honest, most novels that call themselves "literary" won't be remembered fifty years from now. Most of us aren't cut out to be the Rembrandts of the writing world. And Jane Austen--a Rembrandt who wrote romance. All that being said, there are lines of romance books that are more formulaic than others. I've read them, and they're pretty low art.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jill, I agree about there being some low art out there, but I think that's true with all genres of fiction. That's one reason I strive to get better with each book. I want to be a great writer, not just a published one. :) Thanks!

      Delete
  13. Oh yes, I read romance! It's pretty much the only thing I read, except when my sneaky book club members make read something else. My sister tried to sneak a Nora Roberts book into our line-up at book club because she loves romance, too, but a few members didn't like the idea. I definitely think people have a certain idea about the genre, or maybe even romance writers in general.

    I'd have to say romance is a hard genre to write for, especially after writing in other genres. You have to make readers fall in love with your characters but you don't get pages and pages and to do it because you still have to tell a story and have the characters fall in love with each other. It's a challenge. A fun one, but certainly a challenge. And there are romance writers out there that do it beautifully and masterfully.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, Cindy. We, more than other writers of other genres, have to make our characters sympathetic and lovable for the book to work. I find this very difficult.

      But that's one reason having readers or awesome critique partners like you is a big help. They can show us where our characters need growth. What a blessing that is!

      Delete
  14. I'm a HUGE fan of romance, inspirational historical romance being my favorite.

    There will always be those who pooh-pooh the romance genre, but those of us writing romance know how hard we work to produce great stories and how challenging it can be to receive a contract from a publisher.

    Romance Writers of America® has done a lot to improve the industry's impression of our genre. I've attended RWA Nationals three times, and the level of professionalism in the organization is amazing. The publishing professionals take us seriously, and readers love us, making our genre the bestselling one of all. That tells me we're doing a lot of things right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Couldn't have said it better myself, Keli! Thanks!

      Delete
  15. Who are some of your favorite inspirational romance authors?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, Heather. You just opened up a big old can of worms! I have soooo many! Susan May Warren, Denise Hunter, Jenny B. Jones, Jillian Hart, Robin Jones Gunn, Rene Gutteridge (although her books aren't strict romance), Laura Frantz (I have a massive author crush on her!!), Jody Hedlund, Kathryn Springer, I know I'm missing some!!

      And for mainstream romance, I am completely obsessed with historical romance author Stephanie Laurens! Her Cynster series melts me! Yum!! (These are steamier, just warning you!)

      Delete
  16. Ha - never mind - I see that you offered a great list up above. Sorry about that! And thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi Jill. I love romance novels!! Great list... Siri Mitchell is awesome... I'm reading Sue Duffy's new spy thriller (romance included for free)... Why save the day if you don't have someone to share it with in the end? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll have to check both authors out, Cheryl! And I'm with you--we need someone to share our triumphs with!

      Delete
  18. Great post, Jill! I don't read romance myself, but only because I gravitate toward other genres. I think YA books sometimes have a stigma attached to them as well, but there's more respect building with the success of so many great stories and talented authors. Hopefully this will happen/is happening for the romance genre as well!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Julie, I think it's true of any genre--maybe it's human nature? I'm just not a fan of the superiority complex toward ANY author!

      By the way, there are some fabulous YA books out there!

      Delete
  19. Every time I talk to my friend about the book I am writing, her husband gives me a smirk and criticizes my genre! (All in good fun - I think.) Finally I asked him: "Have you ever read a Christian Romance novel?" "Well, no, not exactly," he told me, "but I know what's in them. It's just like the other 'romance' novels out there, but with a Christian label." His impression was the opposite of the idea that a Christian novel can't be a romance - his idea was that it was still spicy, but the name God was inserted enough times to label it Christian. Boy did I have fun setting him straight! :)

    Fun post today, Jill!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Too funny! Why do people hear romance and automatically assume a bed's involved?? Love your reply!!

      Delete
  20. Here here, Jill! You're a great spokeswoman for our genre. I love romance.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Great post, Jill, and I do like your blog! I love romances that also have a touch of mystery, intrigue, or adventure. And I prefer the sweeter kind. I made the decison to make my own first Regency intrigue (Dangerous Deceit, published last year) one that kept to the morality of the times for young umarried ladies - but with a little bit of awakening desire (not consumated in the book!)

    ReplyDelete
  22. I love romance novels. Sometimes I get books that are too "spicy" and I either quit reading or try to skim to the end so I can go on with the story. It's sometimes hard to tell the heat lever from the cover or the book description. I don't read the paperbacks with the steamy pictures.
    I do agree that a great romance can be the most literary of all books and I have my favorites to prove it.

    ReplyDelete
  23. I think misconceptions exist for all genres. I've read a couple of romance books but never really got into it until I read Talli Roland's BUILD A MAN. So I suppose chick lit is my kind of romance. :)

    J.C. Martin
    A to Z Blogger

    ReplyDelete
  24. My favourite type of romantic reads tend to be the "classic" romances - the ones of Thomas Hardy, the Brontes etc but I have read the near enough all of Barbara Cartland and Mills and Boon when I was 12! LOL! Oh and modern romances are beautiful too - AS Byatt's The Possession being one of my all time fave!

    Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
  25. Aw! I just read JC's comment! :)

    I so hear you on this, Jill. I hate it when people look at me like it's oh-so-easy. Any book is hard to write, regardless.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I think we all deserve a little romance, and should never tire of it! Julie

    ReplyDelete
  27. Jill, lots of writers give me the same reactions you descrived when they learn I write animal fantasy, and it's NOT for the picture book/easy "level" readers, either, but that level of simplicity is not my best thing, at all.

    Anyone who can write that simple and tight and not be boring deserves a Nobel Prize, seriously!

    It's not easy to write animal fantasy, especially if like me, it's not for preschoolers, the same way writing readable romance is harder than it might look.

    I mean, just the speed at which lots of good romance writers go from one book to the next is frankly (Enviously)bone-chilling to me, because I just can't conceive writing a dozen books a year, how can you possible maintain any level of quality at that pace, just because you can fast draft doesn't mean it doesn't need editing after the fact, and most of us can't afford our own private staff of editors and copy editors, so I'd love to know how people work around that problem.

    Just in terms of output, Nora Roberts puts me to shame. Even in her slower output early years, she was cranking out more books a year than me, and that's before she went big.

    I know this isn't a race, but I just wonder in general how people increase quantity without quality suffering. What's that click that seems to occur in people who can do that.

    Click here if you're curious in my take on the misconceptions of animal fantasy for the non-preschoolers.

    ReplyDelete

I love to hear from you!