I spent a lovely couple of hours today meeting a variety of writers at a “Romance Author Event.” If you think you hate romance novels, stop groaning for a second and listen.
First, according to the first conference on the “literature of love,” held this week at the Library of Congress, romance fiction constitutes “21% of the adult fiction market.” That’s huge, and readers include women of all ages and lifestyles, and oh yeah – men.
Second, writers of “romance” and styles of romance-writing are just as diverse as the readers. Today I picked up a book rooted in Greek mythology (Elizabeth Andrew’s Hunting Medusa), a sensitive look at the continuing struggles some young men face in coming out as gay (Wade Kelly’s Misplaced Affection), and a dystopian sci-fi examination of the damage humans do to each other through exclusionary racism (Anson Barber’s Outer Banks). Many of these books just happen to include a love story as part of a broader look at human nature, or an action-packed thriller, or a fantastical tale in an alternative universe.
My books, I think, will also fall into this category. If we’re talking about humans, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the topic of love. Where would we be, after all, without that primal drive to join with another (or more than one other, as in M.Q. Barber’s fantastic Neighborly Affection series – an astonishingly nuanced story of three people trying to navigate the delicate balance of a triad relationship – and you thought dealing with ONE lover was hard!?)?
So if you’re one of those who disdains “romance” as beneath you (as I once did), stop. Just stop. Love – or its lack – is the root of every great story. I may never market my books as romance, but romance will always have a central place in my stories. The finding, the losing, the regaining of love. It’s what makes the world exciting.
Happy Valentine’s Day!