Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Writing romance and why it isn't wise to try and teach a pig to sing

My name is Susan Hayes and I'm a published romance novelist. 

It's a simple statement, isn't it? My name, a quick mention of my credentials, and the genre I write in. What I have come to realize is that not everyone takes away from the same information from what's written above. Some people focus on the word published. Some on the word novelist, and then there are those who hear the word "romance" and dismiss everything else I said. After all, romance isn't a real genre and those who write it aren't real writers. As if the time and energy I expend crafting a tale is somehow devalued by the fact that my book contains a love story. 

**There's another subset that hear/read the word romance and assume that I am clearly a hedonistic hussy living a lifestyle Hugh Heffner would envy, but that's a topic for another blog.**

I didn't notice how often I found myself defending my genre choice until I went to my first romance reader's convention last year. It was the first time I'd been surrounded by people who all had a passion for romances in their infinite variety. No one had to hide their book covers or blushingly confess that yes, they read romance. The sense of camaraderie and enthusiasm was addictive and quite unforgettable. It wasn't until I was flying home afterward that I could put my finger on one of the reasons it had been so amazing. Not once in my time there had I felt the need to defend my genre as either writer or reader. No one assumed anything about my IQ or education based on my reading choices. No one asked why I was wasting my time writing in a genre that is constantly dismissed as "trashy." On the last leg of my journey home, I found myself talking to one of my fellow passengers and the moment she asked me where I'd been and what I'd been doing, reality came crashing through the bubble I'd been living in for the past few days. The conversation went something like this: "You write? That's fascinating. What have you written? I'll have to look up your books--oh. Romance. I see. I don't read those sorts of books. Have you written anything that's not a romance? No? That's too bad. Have you thought about it. Surely you'd like to write a real book someday?"

I get the same reactions everywhere. Even from fellow writers. I write sci-fi romances, but I wasn't welcome to attend a local sci-fi writer's coffee group because I don't write real science fiction. Just last week a writer I'd recently met asked if I ever intend to write in a different genre so I could be taken seriously as a writer. No, I didn't smack him upside the head with a copy of my latest book. (though I was sorely tempted.) Three years into what I intend to be a lifelong career, I've finally learned not to defend or apologize for what I choose to write. (I'm Canadian, so apologizing is something of a default setting.) I've discovered the hard way that there's nothing I can say or do to change the minds of those who believe that romance is a lesser genre. In the wise words of Rober Heinlein  "Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and it annoys the pig." 

Instead of wasting my time trying to instruct proverbial pigs in the art of serenade, I'm packing my bags and heading to a couple of romance reader conventions instead. I know who my tribe are, and I can't wait to be in the company of those who share my love of romance. If you love romance books and have never been to a convention, I recommend you try it. You'll make friends for life, find new authors to read, and maybe even run into one of your favorite writers. 

If you're ready to spend a weekend with your fellow romance lovers, I invite you to join me at TNEE in Atlanta  April 7-11, 2016  or Romancing the Capital in Ottawa May 6-17, 2016.