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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Bias Against Romance, and Acting Like a Professional

When I started writing romance two years ago, I had an idea of what I was getting into. After all, romance is famous for nothing so much as being "formulaic," "easy to write," and "just about sex." True, romance specifically requires a happy ending--or at least a happy-for-now, so in that sense, many people consider it predictable. After all, if you know the main characters are going to get together in the end, what's the point? As I was writing, however, I realized that in romance, it isn't the destination that's important but the journey, and that journey took me to some fascinating places. I noted on a friend and editor's Facebook post about a similar topic that for this trilogy I've had to research, among other things, Russian culture and language, bipolar II disorder, what happens when a skate blade completely severs a tendon, the NHL Players' Association's collective bargaining agreement, the process for investigating an alleged sexual assault in New York State, and bronchoalveolar carcinoma. (So tell me again that romance doesn't require any research?) 

What I did not anticipate is how deeply the horror community misunderstands and despises romance--and as someone who has spent most of her career writing horror, this enrages me. I would expect the horror community of all people to understand what it's like to be disparaged and disrespected. Horror in any form is frequently dismissed altogether because of its associations with violence, its critics not taking into account the wealth of psychological and "quiet" horror that balance out the more extreme variations. When I see horror writers doing the same thing to romance, when the extent of their knowledge is revealed to be thirty-year-old Mills & Boon paperbacks, I'm reminded of insecure playground bullies who make others feel bad in order to boost their own self-confidence. It's sad and more importantly, it's unprofessional. In the past few months, I've seen a horror writer refer to romance as "mindless," and I've come across this gem in a horror publisher's guidelines: "Dark Fantasy/Supernatural Romance – Yuck." I fully expect a publisher to list the genres they don't accept. What I don't expect from an alleged professional is their opinion on that genre, rendered in so juvenile a way. (Not to mention that dark fantasy and "supernatural" romance are not the same thing.)

Listen--I was one of those people who used to deride romance and tout myself as superior because I didn't read or write that crap. Then I met a bunch of awesome romance writers. I learned. I grew--which is the most important thing you can keep doing as a writer. I discovered that I wanted to write it, that I loved writing it, and that I put more time, effort, and research into The Firebird Trilogy than anything I've written thus far. But one thing I cannot conceive of doing is to publicly insult an entire genre and by extension all the people working in it.  

If you don't like a genre, that's your prerogative. No one likes everything. But if you're going to conduct yourself as a professional, it would behoove you to educate yourself and act like one. It's a tough business, and we're all in this together. Let's give each other some support. 


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