So what do you think? E-books or printed copies? I am a true convert to e-books. Take his poll and join in the conversation.
I want to commend Maria Bustillos for her article “Romance Novels, The Last Great Baston of Underground Writing” that appeared on www.theawl.com. There is a link below to a great overview of why romance novels are so popular. As someone who cut her teeth on Harlequin and Silhouette, I understand exactly what she means.
I stopped reading them in college because there was a stigma to being seen with them, especially since I was majoring in English Literature. After college, before I got married, and after I married, I read mostly women’s fiction, such as Ann Rivers Siddons and Dorothea Benton Frank. After I had kids, when they were young, I didn’t read at all. Who had time?
Then everything changed. My husband bought me a Kindle for our tenth anniversary, and I am such a fast reader, I couldn’t keep it stocked with books. I discovered that Harlequin and Silhouette sold book bundles on the Kindle — all the books they published for the month for one tidy sum. I could still read a bundle of nine books in a week, but you couldn’t beat the reduced price. The kicker — no one could see what I was reading. Harlequin and Silhouette have since discontinued the bundling practice. Or they may bundle a story sequence, for example eight books about a single family or company. I’m still reading.
I’m not the only one. Romance readership is at an all-time high because of the e-readers. Women can give in to their guilty pleasure without anyone looking down their nose and making judgments.
The romance genre has really gotten a bad rap because some of the older books can come across as sexist, and even go as far as to be misogynous. Some publishers have also been slow to change some of their formulas to adopt to modern mores. Up until a few years ago, I think Harlequin Presents heroines still had to be virgins, no matter how old they were. Remember that when Mills and Boon was founded in 1908, women weren’t in the workforce, and if they were, it was as household staff, teachers, and nannies. Almost all office positions were held by men. It’s understandable that this filtered through into the books.
In many of the current books, the men aren’t interested in marriage at all, but rather want a no-strings-attached-affair. The heroines won’t settle for that long-term, and eventually win the hero’s heart as he realizes that he does want a family after all. Current books are much more sexually detailed than years past, but everything about our lives is more sexual than the past. The best writers find a way to deepen the relationship through the sexual detail without being obscene, and that can be difficult. For me, it’s tough to decide when to close the bedroom door and when to leave it wide open for my characters.
Yes, I read romance novels. And I write them. Now if I could just get this “hot mess” revised I’d have something.
One of the things about having all of these imaginary people in your head is that they show up in every day life in the oddest places. Yesterday at work I was surprised to see these beautiful roses resting in the wastebasket just inside the restroom door. To me, they still look beautiful. They aren’t dried, they aren’t wilted or faded, and they made the trash smell fabulous. But why were they in the trashcan?
The writer in me envisioned Windsor (the main character in the book I’m editing) tossing these into the trashcan because she was furious with the sender and didn’t want to see any part of him in her office. Would she smell them before she tossed them? Did a thorn catch her finger on the way into the trash? In this little vignette you’ve got four of the five senses: the lush red of the roses, the soft texture of the petals juxtaposed against the sharp thorns, the scent of roses under the antiseptic spray from the restroom, the sound of the leaves crinkling among the plastic of the trash liner… All we are missing is taste. Add in a salty tear… Maybe that’s overkill, or maybe that brings it home. The anger of tossing the roses, the tear for what might have been…
The real story? The assistant of the woman who threw them away told me that they came from Ecuador in a box, and they had died too quickly. I guess her standards for roses are higher than mine, because to me they were still beautiful. My story was better.
I was looking around for quotes that might provide some insight into my background and goals in starting this blog, and I returned to an old favorite of mine, Gone With the Wind. I know that the book has faded from the public eye, because of the painful issue of slavery and the famous “rape” scene where Rhett carries Scarlett up the stairs. Frankly, my dear, I don’t care. The book remains one of my favorite of all times. (And for those not aware of the differences between the book and the movie, there are many, one being that the word Frankly is not in the book. The line is “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”)
“Don’t Call Me Sugar” is directly from Scarlett herself. She made it through the Civil War and started a lumber business in a time when there were few women of business. While sexism has decreased in the workplace, after twenty years of working I still find myself on the receiving end of that condescending tone. My goal as a writer is to create heroines who are strong and independent women, and to help them find their match–someone strong enough to not be intimidated by her intelligence or ambition.
Margaret Mitchell began writing Gone with the Wind in 1926 to pass the time while recovering from an auto-crash injury that refused to heal. In April 1935, Harold Latham of Macmillan, an editor who was looking for new fiction, read what she had written and saw that it could be a best-seller. After Latham agreed to publish the book, Mitchell worked for another six months checking the historical references, and rewrote the opening chapter several times. Mitchell and her husband John Marsh, a copy editor by trade, edited the final version of the novel. Mitchell wrote the book’s final moments first, and then wrote the events that lead up to it. As to what became of her star-crossed lovers, Rhett and Scarlett, after the novel ended, Mitchell did not know, and said, “For all I know, Rhett may have found someone else who was less difficult.”Gone with the Wind is the only novel by Mitchell published during her lifetime.
In one article I read a long time ago, the story is that Margaret Mitchell gave her book to Harold Latham in eleven battered boxes, with scraps of paper everywhere. If she were searching for a publisher today, this is what she would hear:
- It’s too long. Cut it in half.
- No one wants to read about history.
- You can’t kill Bonnie Blue. It’s too much of a downer.
- Why isn’t there a happy ending? You have to end with them together.
- Last but not least, lose those other husbands. The book should focus on the hero and heroine only.
You know I’m right.
The purpose of this blog is to share ideas and thoughts about writing, publishing, and everything in between. Please feel free to leave comments.