Redheaded Neanderlady

Redheaded Neanderlady
This is a photoshopped version of something I found in National Geographic about the time I started researching

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Why I will never write romance novels

Now that I've explained why I'll never write "literary fiction", I've found it's now time to explain why I'll never write romances, either(well, perhaps I should never say "never"). Like yesterdays's "guy books/gal books/battles" post, it grew out of some rather heated discussion on Yahoo's Historical Novels e-mail list. One person on that list, grew extremely huffy when described my experience with romance novels(especially historical ones), and why I tend not to read them.

My reasons for not reading historical romances are several, and I won't discuss all of them here. The main reasons I won't write a romance novel --- at least not the "historical" kind, is, that the romances aren't historical. They really aren't. I'm no history expert, but I can often spot the inaccuracies the proverbial mile away.

For the record, there was a time when I used to read a fair number of romance novels. But I began to get turned off of them when I started noticing that the names of the heroes and heroines tended to be really "out of period". They were the kind of names that some "upscale" suiburban, and possibly "progressive" parents might give their kids if they were living in some modern suburb, but they tended not to be the kind of names you would find in, say, some medieval English pipe roll. And then I began to notice other discrepancies, especially in periods I knew something about. In one case, the writer put an important personage(and one who plays a very important part in my Invaders trilogy), in the wrong part of England! She also used last name --- really, in those days, what is called a "toponym", because they didn't have last names then --- of another famous personage who plays a small role in my book. This author is still writing, and has "transferred" this name(which, by the way, I recognized as that of a real person of the time I was writing about) to some fictional character operating in Ireland. It was at this point that I realized that many romance authors just didn't know what they were doing. I suspect that it was things like this that "got" me enough to decide, half unconsciously, that I should start writing something myself.

In the meanwhile, I had also been told, by two different groups of romance writers, and very firmly, I might add, that I wasn't writing a romance, though I thought at the time I might be able to market it that way. They told me in no uncertain terms that a romance must be About One Man And One Woman And Their Relationship. Trouble is, if you're writing something in a historical setting, as I have ended up doing, you have to consider the context. And unfortunately, One Man And One Woman And Their Relationship is just too narrow a context for me. Besides which, I have discovered since then, from some other sources, that publishers, editors, and some readers, just don't want a lot of "context" when they read a romance.

Partly, this is due to editorial and publishing considerations. Romance is a huge market, and the bottom line is, the publishers and editors want to publish what they think will sell. Since a lot of readers of romances only want a story about a relationship, perhaps dressed up in pretty costumes or exotic locales, but without much of the context that I, at least, think should be there, that's what they tend to get. And there are plenty of romance writers out there who write this stuff "to order". As I said, I met a few of them. And I wasn't all that impressed.

To be fair, there seem to be a few romance writers out there, who do better than this. For example, I like what I've read of Mary Jo Putney and Mary Balogh; they appear to know what they're doing, and they provide more of a context that existed in whatever time they are writing about. Mary Jo Putney also has a way of inserting "issues" which still affect us today, in a very entertaining way, and I like this. But, unfortunately, most romance writers avoid this like the plague.

Again, to be fair, on the forum I mentioned above, the "huffy" writer of romance said that some editors actually tell their writers to go easy on the history because most readers aren't interested. I suspect this is probably true. And the "huffy" writer had cause to complain, I suppose; she seemed to think I was criticizing her for not doing any research. Which I wasn't. I was criticizing the genre, and many writers in it, in general.

But these are some of the reasons I won't be writing romances, historical or otherwise. They are too narrowly defined --- even the "modern" ones; such romances tend to be the female equivalent of the more extreme "guy books" I've mentioned earlier. There just isn't enough depth to them for me to be interested in. Some of these authors think there ought to be a "bedroom scene" every 20 pages or so, and while I don't mind "bedroom scenes" per se, I do mind the excessive reliance on such things to hold a story together. Perhaps, that may partly be an editorial insertion, not the author's. In any case, I tend to write "big", and while I have to curb this tendency, my stories just won't fit into the romance formula, although I insist that they all have a strong romantic element, and that they end on a happy, or at least hopeful, note. And these are some of the reasons writing romances will never work for me.
Anne G

No comments: