No romance, please. We’re mystery readers.

Every so often, I pop over to the newsgroup rec.arts.mystery to check out their latest chatter, and I came across this particular topic: “Do romance writers have an advantage?”  It asked, in short, do romance writers have an easier time getting published as mystery authors, and how on earth would such awful writers as Sandra Brown, Janet Evanovich, Nora Roberts, and — ahem, yours truly — ever manage to get their mysteries published otherwise? 

Normally I’m a rather mild-mannered person, but there were follow-up comments on this topic that made me want to get out a gun and start shooting people.  The majority of those comments said, essentially: “Romance writers are talentless hacks who write purely by formula.  I read one (or two) romances back in the Pleistocene Age and wouldn’t dream of even picking up another one, unless I was sick and dying of boredom in the hospital.”  There was this one comment that pretty much sums up what they think about romance:

 Romance seems to be pretty much nothing *but* formula —
the identical formula of the love triangle and the woman who
has to “tame” the “wild” man — maybe 90% worth.
  

Mysteries, while they do have formulae, have a huge field of
variations — serial killer procedurals, psychological thrillers
told from the killer’s pov … So far as I
know, Romance doesn’t have anything like that.

Mind you, these are comments coming from people who actually admit that they haven’t read a romance since they tried Barbara Cartland as teenagers.  That’s like saying, “oh, I ate chop suey once, when I was ten.  I haven’t tried it since, because I know that Chinese food is awful.  And of course I’m an authority on the subject.”

Or: “I read a Hardy Boys mystery when I was twelve, and it was awful.  So I’ll never read another mystery because I know what they’re like.”

As Tabitha King once said, “That’s a really powerful position to argue from!  Ignorance!”

But, okay.  Deep breath here.  I’ll ignore the post that said GRAVITY was such a poor book it goes to prove Tess Gerritsen’s a hack.  (GRAVITY has enough glowing reviews and awards and a listing in Stephen King’s ON WRITING as one of his favorite books to take away the sting of that post.)  I’ll just address the topic here: Do romance writers have an unfair advantage when it comes to selling mysteries? 

Since I’ve been honored in both genres (a Rita Award for THE SURGEON; a Nero Award plus an Edgar nomination for VANISH) I think I’m qualified to address this issue.  And my first reaction is this: why would anyone think that being published in romance makes selling a mystery any easier?  There are legions of romance novelists who have not been able to break into the mystery/thriller genre.  Just as there are legions of writers of all stripes who haven’t been able to break in.  The examples cited in this discussion thread (Sandra Brown, Nora Roberts, Iris Johansen) happened to have been mega-selling authors before they started writing mysteries.  (Oh, and by the way, Nora Roberts’s mysteries weren’t even written under her name, but under the name J.D. Robb, and they sold well even before anyone knew who J.D. Robb really was.)  So, imagine you’re a publisher.  Imagine that an author who regularly sells a  million paperbacks a year says, “You want to publish my new thriller?”  Do you suppose you MIGHT want to publish that book?

Of course you will.

So the examples cited on the discussion thread have nothing to do with the fact these ladies are romance authors.  It has to do with the fact they have a zillion fans and a proven track record.  Their romance writing isn’t what gave them the advantage; it’s the fact they’ve already demonstrated they can reel in readers.  Stop attributing it to the fact they’re romance writers.  They are bestselling writers, period.  No wonder they’re published.

When I sold my first thriller Harvest, I was not a bestselling romance novelist.  I was earning, oh, about ten grand a book.  My previous sales were definitely not an advantage to my being published as a thriller writer.  Do you suppose the editor who bought Harvest thought: “Oh!  An unknown!  But she’s a romance author, so let’s put a ton of money behind this book!”  Of course not.  They put their support behind the book because, I assume, they thought it was a great book. 

Do romance writers in general — even those who aren’t already bestselling writers — have an advantage when it comes to selling a first mystery?  The fact that they’re already published, in any genre, is of course an advantage.  Just as a published SF writer or horror writer would have a better chance — because they’ve already demonstrated they know how to write, unlike the millions of merely aspiring novelists who can’t even land an agent. 

But romance novelists, as a group, may actually face more challenges than other genre authors when they try to break into mystery.  And the reason is written all up and down that discussion thread: many mystery readers loathe a romance plot in any way, shape, or form. Some of them even admitted that if an author at any time in her career ever wrote a romance, they wouldn’t pick up her mystery novel. Their hatred borders on the irrational.  They think they are too discriminating and literary for such drivel.  A brush of the lips, a longing glance, and BAM!  They slam the book shut.  They will eagerly devour pages and pages of spattered blood and glistening entrails, but a man and a woman falling in love?  Horrors! 

Those who’ve read my books know that I do not shy away from glistening entrails.  Heck, I’m one of the few who’s actually seen glistening entrails and I’m not afraid to write about them.  I can write about them with more authority than 99% of mystery writers.  But I also write about human beings.  So how do we human beings get on this earth?  We fall in love, have sex, and have babies.  We’re much more likely to do these things than commit murder.  And to ignore such a powerful emotional force as sexual love is to revert back to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys sexlessness — mysteries which are far less realistic than any romance novel.  (Does anyone really think that Nancy and Ned weren’t getting it on in the back seat of her convertible?)

I’ve blogged in the past about my struggles to be accepted as a thriller writer.  Even though I’ve now written more thrillers than romance novels, there’ll still be some critic somewhere who’ll dismiss me as “just another romance author.”  In BLOODSTREAM, I wrote a four-paragraph love scene.  This was in a book filled with autopsies, gory deaths, an amputated thumb, and school shootings.  Yet the critic zeroed in on those four-paragraphs as evidence that, yes, I was just a romance author.

So no, I do not think that romance authors have an unfair advantage.  I think we have a disadvantage, because certain jerks think that once you’ve written a romance novel, you are somehow tainted for the rest of your life and no one should ever take you seriously. 

Lawrence Block, an award-winning crime novelist and one of the most gifted writing instructors around, has never been shy about his past as a writer of paperback porn.  Why should he be ashamed of it?  It was a writing gig, it paid the bills, and he used it as a vehicle to hone his craft as a storyteller.  No one ever puts down Larry Block as “just an ex-porn writer.”  Dammit, he’s a crime writer.

But those of us who once wrote romance will, it seems, never be accepted as crime writers.  We’ll always find our names popping up in “they’re just stupid romance authors” discussions.  And the comments are always along the lines of “and because of romance writers horning into the genre, serious mystery writers don’t stand a chance.”  Because of course, mystery authors are the real artists here, the ones who never write a bad book, the ones who never write by formula.

Well, lemme tell you the mystery formula:  “A crime is committed.  An investigator seeks out the truth.  The truth is revealed.”  Most crime novels cleave to this formula.  Some writers do a dazzling job with it.  Some writers are, to put it plainly, hacks. 

Is there anything wrong with the formula?  No.  Just as there’s nothing wrong with the formula for a romance novel: “A man and woman are attracted to each other.  Conflict or crisis keeps them apart.  The conflict is resolved.”  There are a million different ways to tell this story, just as there are a million different ways to tell a mystery.  And any mystery reader who continues to insist that romance novels are all exactly the same doesn’t know squat. 

Why do these discussions keep popping up?  Beyond sheer ignorance of the romance genre, there’s another theme beneath the surface.  And that’s jealousy.  Whenever I hear a mystery writer whine, “These ex-romance authors are crowding the mystery market!”  I think: “Ah.  You can’t sell your book because it’s just plain lousy and no publisher wants it.  And you have to find someone else to blame.” 

It’s so much easier to blame “those romance novelists” or “the narrow-minded industry” or “ignorant editors” when one’s book doesn’t sell.  I’ve taught enough writing courses and read enough amateurish manuscripts to know that there’s a reason that 99% of those manuscripts remain unsold.  And I’ve also heard the writers of those same awful manuscripts complain bitterly about how well Patterson or King or Cussler sells when “my book is obviously so much better!”

They have to blame someone.  And it might as well be the evil romance writers

 

 

72 replies
  1. Joshua James
    Joshua James says:

    Folks are always looking to blame someone else for anything they’re unhappy with . . . it’s sad but it happens.

    I’ve never understood the bias against types of books, certainly I have my own tastes, but that’s just mine . . . I don’t like Patterson, but I love thrillers . . . Patterson’s a bad writer, in my view . . . my only bias has been against bad writing.

    Have you read THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE? It’s a wonderful love story, very much a romance wrapped in sci-fi wrapping paper.

    What’s wrong with romance, with thrillers, with family dramas, with any of it?

    I’ve loved Stephen King since the age of nine (first adult book I read was THE STAND) and remember the furor when he got the National Book award?

    Because he wrote a lot of horror and fantasy, for some reason he wasn’t considered a “serious” writer, which is ridiculous, in my opinion . . . . but when one looks at his work, he’s pretty much got game in any genre he would choose . . .

    I think it was the ancient greeks said, we define ourselves by drawing boundaries around that which we are not . . . to which, I would add, and then hating them for it . . .

    Hope you’re well, Tess . . . I just sent ya an email!

  2. bob k
    bob k says:

    OK, I am still trying to figure out how The Surgeon earned you a Rita Award…but I do suspect that you are correct – if Romance writers have any advantage, it is because they are already successful authors.

    I mean really, if Stephen King suddenly decided to write a romance – don’t people think it would be a bestseller regardless of whether is was a good romance? Success builds on success. After all, I clearly remember buying a book that I suspected I wouldn’t like, written by an author I had never read (Tabitha King) solely because of her husband’s success.

    And I didn’t like the book – but that doesn’t mean she can’t write and had an unfair advantage because she was married to him. All it means is that I took a risk and tried a book I normally wouldn’t. It happens all the time – I pick up a book that a friend highly recommends…I read a review that intrigues me, etc.

    I personally tend to default to the concept that if the author got the book published, they are very likely to have talent – because I know the competition is tough. But not everything that is published fits my tastes…they can be talented, whether I like their writing or not.

    I think successful writers, like movie stars and other celebrities, become targets because people feel better about themselves if they can denigrate someone of that staure.

  3. miladyinsanity
    miladyinsanity says:

    Evil is a good quality in writers, especially when plots involve murder. Therefore, an evil romance writer ought to at least be able to come up with a good plot idea.

    I’ve heard more than one writer say “I’ll write a romance since it’s easy to get published and then write what I really want to write” and it makes me cringe.

    Guess it upsets those readers that romance makes up the greatest proportion of fiction sold in the United States.

  4. MF Makichen
    MF Makichen says:

    Dear Tess,
    I was part of the discussion on rec.arts.mystery and I would like to clarify a few things. First of all I’m the person who said that when I was 12 I must have read 150 Harlequin/Barbara Cartland romance books and that I haven’t read one since. This was in no way intended as a slam against romance writers or romance books. I think we all go through phases as readers and for whatever reason I just wasn’t that interested in straight romance books after that. I have read a few romance books by current authors but for whatever reason I still prefery the mystery/thriller genre now.

    However, personally I especially like reading mysteries when the protagonist is involved in a relationship or simply has a personal life that goes on. I completely agree with you. Real life is messy. People fall in love, they break-up and all this goes on while they go to work, pay the mortgage and raise kids. Why shouldn’t that be a part of the story.

    As I said on the other list what I find more interesting is what readers say they will or won’t read without ever even giving a certain book a try. Some readers don’t like the personal life stuff, while other readers say that won’t read anything with animals in it. I just find it fascinating.

    I was also the person who pointed out that the mystery genre has its share of formulaic books just as much as the romance genre does.

    As far as I’m concerned anyone who can write a book of any genre and get it published has my admiration.

    Let’s face it good writing is good writing I don’t care what the genre. Oh and for the record I really like your books and before the recent discussion on the rec.arts.mystery list I didn’t even know you had previously written romances. If I had it wouldn’t have mattered to me one way or another. Again, the fact that you make your living as a writer is as Martha Stewart would a good thing.

  5. Ali M
    Ali M says:

    Mmh. Jealousy and bitterness are often the reasons for such slammings. Don’t let it get to you though, because I think knowing that would give the jerks the most satisfaction.
    The only writers that have an advantage are the ones with talent. Unfortunately that doesn’t always ensure success. 🙂

  6. struggler
    struggler says:

    Put the gun down Tess, chill! It’s touching (to me, anyway) how you kind of wear your heart on your sleeve on this topic, but I’m sure you know that although it must get on your nerves when you – or your original genre – get derided in the way you describe, you will equally know that if there’s one thing worse than people talking about you, it’s people NOT talking about you. I’m in the latter category. If I shot myself in the head right now, chances are my skeleton wouldn’t be found for at least a year and no-one would care anyway. Much the same currently applies if I published a novel. You hardly need reassurance (do you?) but you are right up there at the top of the tree and one of the prices you have to pay for that success and celebrity status, I guess, is to be ridiculed or criticised by the plain ignorant – but I’d guess also that a fair chunk of your income is, ultimately, sourced from the ignorant anyway. Not everyone who buys a Tess Gerritsen novel is a literary connoisseur, or even possesses an opinion worthy of distribution. Personally I have purchased all six in the Rizzoli/Isles series and read each one, but although I own GRAVITY, HARVEST and UNDER THE KNIFE I have to confess to not having read them yet. Just three among my ‘to be read’ pile that is probably taller than my house….

  7. jlanham
    jlanham says:

    I am a new reader who just discovered you and your books (I have only read The Surgeon), and I have to say one of my favorite parts of the novel was the relationship between Moore and Cordell. Funny, when I choose a series to read, I pick those that have some relationship dynamics as part of the plot. I want to know what motivates the detective – what makes them human.
    I always wonder why certain readers find it necessary to “bash” authors. There are so many books out there – if you don’t like soemthing, just move on to another author. Anyway, loved the first book and I am looking foward to reading about Rizzoli and Isles – both their professional and personal sides!

  8. Meeka
    Meeka says:

    Hi,
    I’ve read your Maura Isles series, the Medical thrillers and I’m now working my way through your romance books. After reading the series, I decided to see what else you had out there and it turns out that you had quite a few books.
    I like your style of writing, but I think what draws me to read more of your books is how realistic it all is. Whats a thriller without a good sex scene (and vice-versa) 😉 Its what makes the book come alive for me!!

    I totally agree with Bob k! I think if you wrote Sci-fi books or any other genre for that matter you would be a success!!!
    Tess YOU ROCK!!!

  9. GerritsenFever10
    GerritsenFever10 says:

    I agree that narrow minded people should be drawn and quartered 🙂 but why do you care so much about what people say about romance authors when you haven’t written a romance novel in what, a decade? I’m not trying to get on your case about it or anything, but it seems to me that if you didn’t want people just claiming that you are a hack because you were once a romance writer then you should write a new romance novel that blows the socks off of people. It would deffinitely show them who’s boss, eh? And Sai King is on such a higher level than most other writers we really can’t compare him to anybody. He’s a stand-alone act and a damn good one at that. Not that you aren’t a stand-alone, but your genre is pretty much widely done by many other authors. You’re deffinitely not the first “doctor-gone-writer” out there Dr. G. I wanted to ask you a question though, when you gave up your practice to write, did you also lose your license? I frequently wonder if you still have your medical license or not, just wondering though, not trying to be stalkerish haha.

  10. Tess
    Tess says:

    Hey, GerritsenFever,
    when I moved to maine — oh, 17 years ago — I simply did not bother to apply for a Maine license to practice medicine. Because by then, I knew I wanted to be, exclusively, a writer. So I don’t have a valid medical license at the moment.

    As for, why should I care what people say about romance writers, I think what I was responding to, in my own thin-skinned way, is the unfairness of the attack on a particular genre of fiction. While I no longer write what most people consider romances, I still feel outraged that an entire genre would be relegated to the “fluff” pile.

    THE SURGEON, which most readers would consider disturbing, dark, and very much a thriller, is also a romance. It was recognized as such by the Romance Writers of America when it received the Rita award for “best romantic suspense novel” of 2001. I think it’s important that all readers understand that romance is a very wide-ranging genre that includes fantasy, SF, thrillers, and historicals. And to tar the entire genre with one nasty brush is just wrong.

  11. cjewel
    cjewel says:

    Thank you for your defense of Romance genre. Sigh. Writing anything well enough to get published is hard. Just plain hard.

  12. SassyDevil
    SassyDevil says:

    I’m insulted, both as a romance reader, and a hopeful future romance writer. I had comments as I read through your post, but then you addressed the points I was going to make, so I’ll only say, Thank you for getting those points across.

    People make ignorant judgements like that about all kinds of things. Romances today include strong heroines, paranormal and fantasy characters, romantic suspense, erotic romances (more sexual and sexually graphic than mainstream romances), two men and a woman, gay and bi pairings, and more. And, formulaic or not, if a story is written well, it means the author has actual skill and talent.

    Thank you for such a great post. I agree with your anger and irritation, and even more so, your counter arguments. I’m going to tell some of my romance writing friends to check it out.

  13. Allison Brennan
    Allison Brennan says:

    Thank you for so eloquently addressing this on-going debate (if I can even call it that.) I am an avid reader of romance, mysteries, suspense, thrillers, and even some paranormal now and then. A good storyteller can make it wherever their voice takes them.

  14. Vanessa F
    Vanessa F says:

    I love your novels even more because there is romance *and* intrigue. So don’t worry, you have plenty of loyal fans 🙂 The people on that site only made themselves seem unintelligent by arguing about something they know nothing about. And I think romance writers are at somewhat of a disdavantage. People hear “romance novel” and think of Harlequinn romance novels. And when people ask my what my novel is about, I’ll admit I feel a little silly saying “it’s a romance.” But the romance noveks I’ve read and love are wonderfully written and have intricate plots. They’re about much more than men, women, and sex.

  15. Jude Hardin
    Jude Hardin says:

    I appreciate good writing, no matter the genre.

    And, if you want to make a living writing fiction, it’s rather self-defeating to dismiss the market segment that sells the most. The novel I’m pitching right now is a hardboiled detective story, but it also has a fairly substantial romantic subplot. It’s part of my protag’s life, and I think it adds texture and tension. It’s an additional source of conflict (and potential resolution) and, in fiction, that’s always a good thing.

  16. Patricia Wood
    Patricia Wood says:

    Yanno
    You struck a chord in me Tess!
    This is the same futile argument I hear at conferences (commercial versus literary). It makes me tired. What’s easier, what’s harder, who is published and who writes like crap.
    All sour grapes. Bottom line reading is entertainment and / or informing. Readers have so many choices now. We should celebrate this. For every person who rolls their eyes at a genre there are 20 behind them putting down their money at the bookstore to buy it.
    The most recent comment I personally received (wrapped into a “congratulations your book is being published”) was someone saying how fortunate I was not to have to put much effort into writing as I am a “commercial’ writer and do not have to “craft my sentences the way say a literary writer would.” wha????
    This of course was said to me by an unpublished “literary” writer.
    Elitism at its finest.

  17. bob k
    bob k says:

    I have to agree with Patricia Wood – even if I roll my eyes at the romance genre…I know that millions of people love those books (and truthfully, if The Surgeon can validly be considered a romance novel – maybe I just haven’t been exposed to the right romance novels previously!).

    There are a lot of books (or types of books) I generally choose not to read – but there must be demand for them. Other than Stephen King – I don’t read horror – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some fantastic horror writers out there.

    And I don’t care what you choose to read – I think people who read regularly Have a lot more going for them in life than those who don’t.

  18. GerritsenFever10
    GerritsenFever10 says:

    Not to be picky or anything, but in saying that The Surgeon was a romantic (thriller/suspense?) novel would really be saying that any other novel with a love thing going on in the background is a romance novel. Take all, or most, of your novels. They have some semblance of romance in them but they aren’t described as romance novels. And I understand that you wanted to defend your first genre, and I’m not bashing it at all it’s just not my cup of tea and I can honestly say that I’ve never read even one romance novel. But I like romantic involvement with most of the other genres. How boring would it be to just have a straight thriller, or straight horror novel, with no sidequests with dame, hero, and their romantic romps?

    And back on track with medicine. Would you/could you get your license back if you wanted to practice again? Medicine intrigues me IMMENSELY as I’m going into Nursing (but I secretly want to be a surgeon but don’t want to spend the years in school) and am genuinely curious. And thanks for the reply although I didn’t mean to strike any cords with you haha. I still love your writing and can’t wait till your next awesome novel!

    (and P.S: I always feel like I have to spell check myself when I leave comments b/c all of you are damn published authors haha, just a little side comment)

  19. tuttle
    tuttle says:

    Tess-
    I’ll tell you what-
    I joined a book of the month club-
    What arrived?
    John La Carre (Mission Song)
    James Patterson (Step on a Crack)
    Nelson DeMille (Wild Fire)
    among others—including Mephysto Club
    I follow many of their blogs but your blog is the most interesting so I picked up your book first- four thrill packed days later I was done.
    GREAT book! It had both thrills and romance and some family dysfunction and I loved every page!
    (By the way GRAVITY is the only other book of your I have read and I really enjoyed that as well!)

  20. IndyGail
    IndyGail says:

    Pausing to paint a nice big bull’s-eye on my chest before starting…

    I think that readers should be just plain grateful that a lot of writers have cut their teeth in the Romance genre. Look back at the booklists for Sandra Brown, Nora Roberts, and Iris Johansen. Look especially hard at the publication dates for their early books. When you are putting out five, seven, TEN moneymaking books a year, you are practicing your writing craft like no other genre. The way to become a good writer is by practice, practice, practice and the Romance crucible made for great practice. So, while they were writing Romance, they were also simply writing a lot and they got GOOD! Why wouldn’t someone with that kind of tenacity and persistence in developing their craft be earning success?

    As for romance, I am writing two books that I personally call thrillers but they both have plots that will qualify them as Romance genre novels. Why am I doing this? Because, in my thinking, how much more immediate is the threat than when it is to you and your loved ones? How much bigger can the betrayal be when it might be coming from someone you love? When I have a nice juicy external plot of murder or drugs, why not muck it up with a harrowing internal conflict about who to trust as an ally? Loving someone is the deepest trust there is so you can bet that I’m going to use it and hit hard.

    I have the opportunity to read a lot of beginner work. One of the biggest problems out there is that newbies have a hard time convincing the reader why their main character enters the fray. I think it was the late great writing teacher, Jack Bickham (don’t quote me, I haven’t had caffeine yet) who said that you have lost your story and your reader as soon as your reader wonders why the main character isn’t just packing up his toys and abandoning the plot. Well, what is more likely to get you off the couch and keep you swinging at the bad guy: a threat to you, your spouse or child or a threat to someone you never met before who lives a life that will never touch yours? Those are real to us and are therefore real to readers.

    Because we humans make attachments to others, attachments are a great place to mine the motivations that make a character fight the story battle. It doesn’t have to be a story that fits the Romance genre to use these things to drive a story. Even books with a cop at the core where he cares because he is paid to care mine the plots that strike close to home and threaten the family, the partner, the love interest.

    Making the presence of these real human situations the measure to judge a book unworthy strikes me as, well, if not just plain stupid, definitely all the way weird.

    Okay, the paint’s dry on my bull’s-eye.

  21. Tess
    Tess says:

    IndyGail, your bull’s eye won’t get fired at here. But try wandering over to a mystery readers’ site, and you might have to duck!

    GerritsenFever, guess what? When you read THE SURGEON, you read an honest to god romance novel. Didn’t realize it, did you? But RWA recognized it as a romance. Which points out the fact that many people have too narrow a concept of what a romance novel is. The genre is large enough to encompass many different elements, including a bloody good crime story.

  22. SassyDevil
    SassyDevil says:

    Let me tell you how I decide how a book should be categorized (and this is my way, doesn’t have to be yours): If the main story is about love, it’s a romance. It might be a paranormal or suspenseful romance, but its primary genre is romance. If the main story is about the suspense or thrills, it’s a thriller. It can be a romantic thriller, meaning there’s a significant sub-plot of a romance, but it’s a thriller. Most people seem to categorize what I’d call a suspenseful romance as romantic thriller/suspense, rather than differentiating between that and suspenseful romance, and sometimes it can be hard to define the more prevalent genre, but this is how I define genres. If the story is more horror than anything, it’s horror.

  23. SassyDevil
    SassyDevil says:

    Oops, I meant, “Most people seem to categorize what I’d call a suspenseful romance as romantic thriller/suspense, rather than differentiating between the two…”

  24. Cynthia Reese
    Cynthia Reese says:

    I’m coming to the party late, but hear, hear! Thanks, Tess, for the defense of the romance novel.

    As a newly-pubbed Harlequin writer, I run into all sorts of comments, like, “Aren’t those books all the same, you just fill in the blanks?” But witness the many, many would-be writers who have ever gotten a rejection letter from Harlequin, and you will know how hard it is to sell to them.

    If you haven’t picked up a Harlequin in a while (or ever), I’d recommend that you take a closer look … I’d say mine, but that might be too close to advertising! 😉

    As for why it’s important for authors like Tess to come to a genre’s defense, it’s because NO genre (or sub-genre) should ever be denigrated. Like people, there are good stories and bad in any genre — and if you’re lucky, you’ll read the genre’s truly exceptional stories as well.

    I don’t read fantasy or sci-fi unless it dips into either romance or mystery or thriller … but you don’t hear me consigninig the whole fantasy genre as “just a bunch of fairies and wizards.” It wouldn’t be fair.

    I knew that Tess was due for great things after I read her Harlequin stories when they were first out … I didn’t recognize her name when I picked up HARVEST, but it didn’t surprise me that she had turned out such a good book — I’d already enjoyed a great story by her in the past, one that was a cut above the rest. It was HARVEST that put her on my auto-buy list.

    Good luck to any writer, in any genre, who wants to break free of the preconceptions of that genre and hit the NYT list!

  25. drosdelnoch
    drosdelnoch says:

    OK then,
    Now having read this I tend to get annoyed. Im not an author but when a person gets a number one best seller and is known for the type of work that they do, the only people left who can call others hacks are unsuccessful writers who hate the fact that others have obtained success when they haven’t.

    As to Cynthia’s reply, well done, although most people put fantasy down as “Pixie Shit and stuff.” lol It just goes to show the ignorance of a number of people, for example fantasy covers a whole range of subjects, Solomons Mines was originally a fantasy which is a novel I loved. I also tend to read quite a lot from different genres and wouldnt dream of calling a person a hack. Hell they made it, all power to them, I may dislike a book when I read it but as the old saying goes not everything is going to taste like peaches and cream.

    In response to the real subject here, theres an old saying that probably applies here :
    Never get into an argument with an idiot.
    They get you down to their level and then beat you with experience.

    Always worth remembering.

  26. Frank Hood
    Frank Hood says:

    Over genre-ization can be a real pain. When agents want you to summarize your book in 5 words or less–and then dismiss it because of your oversimplification (Chick-lit is so 90’s), you’re bound to have ruffled feelings. All I want is a good story. Now true, I prefer to skip over the glistening entrails stuff–not my taste, but people who read Time Traveler’s Wife or Hand-Maid’s Tale, and then say they’d never read SF just sound foolish. In fact I wish I could have the hours of my life back that I wasted listening to silly people argue over what is Science Fiction versus what is Fantasy. Just keep on writing good stories.

  27. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    nobody would ever suggest Cormac McCarthy writes romance,but in “All the Pretty Horses” there is a story of young love at the center of it-romance finds its way into all kinds of novels

  28. GerritsenFever10
    GerritsenFever10 says:

    But, Dr. G, you see my point in that it wasn’t classified as a romance novel specifically. It’s what, suspense/thriller, something to that effect. And no, I didn’t really realize that it was a romance novel because of all the other involvement, but that’s not to say I like it any less now knowing the truth.

    What I don’t understand about the whole mess is why not just say okay, I’m writing a romance novel, so let’s call it a romance novel. That seems much more in line with what you are trying to accomplish than listing the novel as suspense/thriller/mystery, etc.

    Is it mainly a marketing thing to list your novel in a different genre than you wrote for? I promise I’m not trying to be a pain in the rear, I just don’t understand how the Surgeon could be classified one thing when you say it’s actually a romance.

    But I do understnad that you don’t have to have the romance genre tagged onto a novel for it to contain romance. It’s just confusing to me.

    Let’s put the safety back on those triggers, eh? I’m going to wind up the next bull’s eye and I like this blog haha.

  29. alternatefish
    alternatefish says:

    I’m going to poke my head up as a mystery buff and just say a couple of things… please nobody shoot me.

    I am one of the people who could be categorized as hating romance in mystery novels, but I would like to clarify that: I hate gratuitous romance, and that is what most romance in mysteries seems to be. It’s just there because, well, we have to show the detective’s character somehow, and having him/her randomly fall in love seems easy. That is the situation in which I hate romance in mysteries.

    I strongly prefer my mysteries without romance so that we can concentrate on the mystery, but if it seems reasonable–if, as someone said above, the romance is part of showing that the detective has a personal life–I’m ok with it.

    To be fair, I also hate gratuitous anything else in my mysteries–in all my books, really, and movies. Gratuitous violence, gratuitous sex. I don’t like to be distracted from the main story.

    And I wanted to note that Agatha Christie wrote romance novels (as Mary Westmacott) before she wrote, y’know, those mystery books that have sold billions of copies worldwide. (She never entirely lost her romantic inclinations–a lot of her books have couples falling in love, and you can sometimes narrow suspects down by figuring out who is going to live happily-ever-after and eliminate them. Random sidenote.)

    I’m just going to say, if it’s good enough for Agatha Christie, it’s good enough for everyone else.

    That was a very long first post. Like the blog, Tess.

  30. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Hi Tess,

    interesting post, thank you. That is exactly what happens in Germany too often. All other genres (and the readers of those genres) seem to look down on romance books. I often get postings in my guest book or see postings in bulletin boards that someone read one of my books (romantic suspense, by the way) and thought she was getting ‘that sobstuff’ again and was surprised she was actually entertained and liked the book. Well, why the hell not? Why do people watch films with lots of romance (even in thrillers) and have no problems with it, but in books … I don’t get it. In September my next book (a serial killer novel with a great love story) will be out and I know what many comments will be. But I love writing romantic suspense and I’m not stopping it just because some jerks think less of it.
    By the way, Tess, your books are sold as thrillers in Germany and there is no shadow of your romantic past that will stop your success. 🙂

    Bye, Michelle

  31. SassyDevil
    SassyDevil says:

    Responding to some comments since my last post:

    drosdelnoch, thanks for that “old saying.” I actually hadn’t heard it before, but I love it!

    alternatefish, I actually feel the same way, although I’ve never thought of it as “gratuitous romance.” I have said it of horror, because while I love romance (which is why I read the romance genre), I generally don’t care about it in a horror novel, but I don’t mind it sometimes. I feel the same way about thrillers and other genres.

    In general, I think romance gets criticized for an additional reason: Romance is about emotions, specifically tender emotions (even when the romance is about powerful and passionate love, which it usually is), and society tends to see those emotions, or “being emotional,” as weak. Women also criticize romances, but women are also conditioned to see emotions as weak. Physical strength, emotional weakness. But the truth is, both are strengths, and both are weaknesses, in different situations, and should be seen as equal in ability to be a strength and a weakness.

  32. SassyDevil
    SassyDevil says:

    Didn’t mean for the last paragraphs to be all bold, only alternatefish’s username; I guess I screwed up the closing tag. Sorry.

  33. Tess
    Tess says:

    Michelle,
    my readers in Germany have been unaware that I was a former romance author — and there my thriller novels received the highest respect from reviewers and mystery readers. Which goes to show that just KNOWING an author used to write romance colors a reader’s judgment of her books.

    Now my romances are getting distributed in Germany, and I worry that mystery fans are suddenly going to turn critical!

  34. Meeka
    Meeka says:

    I gotta say, there is ALOT of fuss about people writing Romance. To me its like any other genre! These days there is alot of mixed genres in books. I find its better to have the genres mix a little because it gives variety in a book.
    I don’t see why people have such a problem with it. Its life! Anyone who doesn’t like reading a romance or reading a paragraph of romance in a thriller book. I got some advice, Build a bridge people. Get over it! Gee I’m getting a bit fired up here. Maybe I should get on that forum and give em What For!!! Ha ha. 🙂

  35. struggler
    struggler says:

    A three-headed tri-sexual alien impregnates an 85 year old former Democratic Senator and mother-in-law of a Medical Practioner who’s having an illicit affair with an undercover CIA agent seconded to an American Air Force Base in Syria who was the key suspect in a violent serial killing spree that took place 31 years ago in Reno and who faces fatal retribution from the psychopathic gay son of a dominatrix known to be one of the seven victims.

    Would this come under the romance genre please. As far as I know, only the science fiction is gratuitous.

    (o:

  36. Meeka
    Meeka says:

    Tess,
    I don’t see how writing romance novels can affect peoples opinions of your thrillers. To be honest I find that you being able to swap genres so easily shows that you have REAL talent!!

  37. Tess
    Tess says:

    struggler, it’s a romance if the story is focused on one of the couples (be it the alien and senator or the M.D. and CIA agent) who must overcome conflicts and crises to fall in love!

  38. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Tess,

    there are readers in Germany who know and read what you wrote before ‘The surgeon’. I, for example, started with your romantic suspense novels ‘Peggy Sue got murdered’, ‘Harvest’, ‘Live support’, ‘Bloodstream’ and ‘Gravity’. All of those books where translated into german and I think, many readers here knew you before you started your Rizzoli-series. I sure liked your older novels and I like your new novels. The one novel that immediatly comes to mind when your name ist mentioned is ‘Gravity’. It was a new theme and perfectly done.
    Now some of your really older books are published as Mira Books, but I think mostly romance readers will read them. Thriller readers won’t be aware of them and even if they buy them, it’s their own fault, because the cover text shows, it’s a romance.

    Michelle

  39. Alex
    Alex says:

    Just wanted to quickly say that I loved your rant. Writing is hard, and getting a book published is even harder–so screw ’em if they want to point fingers and lay blame in absurd places!

  40. Amy MacKinnon
    Amy MacKinnon says:

    Tess, your blog inspired my own this week. I’m still stunned by what you wrote. Isn’t one of the benefits of being at a certain stage — both personally and professionally — the knowledge that no one else defines who you are?

  41. april
    april says:

    I’m primarily a romance reader. When I branch out, it’s still genre fiction. I like to think all genre fiction is fairly formulaic. I also believe that there’s a romance novel for everyone – the subcategories are unending with contemporary, historical, fantasy, suspense, futuristic, etc. I certainly don’t proclaim to love all romance. There are many bestsellers that I don’t even like. I’ve also actually never read one of your romances.

    I actually picked up a book at my college bookstore one summer and went from there. I didn’t find out there were romances until the Body Double book tour.

    To slam all of one genre is ridiculous. I find that, in the romance genre, there are plenty who hate horror books. That said, they’ll read the new trend of vampire/shapeshifter books. The horror is just as pronounced.

    A good book is a good book. That’s all there is.

  42. GerritsenFever10
    GerritsenFever10 says:

    This is one of the longest posts going on your blog Dr. G. Does anyone read Dean Koontz’s stuff anymore? I’m reading Brother Odd right now…interesting is what I’ll leave it as.

  43. Alyssa Day
    Alyssa Day says:

    You know, there are these people in every genre. I’m published in both, romance and mystery, and also in chick lit. There are the literary types who bash all commercial fiction, the mystery readers who bash romance, the thriller readers who bash cozies — the list goes on and on. I’ve always sort of shaken my head over it all – who has the time to carry that kind of reading prejudice around? Re: the mystery v. romance, filleting someones’s body parts is somehow inherently more “worthy” than falling in love? I just don’t get it. Love your blog and your books, btw.

  44. spyscribbler
    spyscribbler says:

    “No one ever puts down Larry Block as “just an ex-porn writer.” Dammit, he’s a crime writer.”

    I hate to bring up the gender issue, but is it possible that a small part of it is the old double standard? Gender prejudices and bias?

    A story is a story. The genre is more of a choice of setting for your career than an indication of your ability to tell a story.

  45. struggler
    struggler says:

    Spyscribbler, I agree. The trouble is we consumers need a ‘point of reference’ in order to evaluate things – not just books, but all manner of things. If I went on holiday to Greece and returned to describe it, it might be difficult to do so without mentioning another neighbouring country that my listener has visited and say that ‘it’s a bit like that’. A new local restaurant (apart from being categorised country-wise) might be compared to another local and popular restaurant, perhaps being better than or not as good as. I’m sure many writers use initials (e.g. P J Tracy, P D James, J R R Tolkein) to neutralise gender prejudice, although I have to admit that if I buy a book from an author who is new and unknown to me, one of the first things I will do – indeed it might influence my purchase – is check out the thumbnail photo and bio on the inside back cover to see how I relate to that writer. Male/female, old/young, from my country/not from my country, previous occupation, and so on and so on. It would be interesting to see how book reviews changed if the writer was kept absolutely anonymous and the obsession with genre was abolished completely. It might well remove pre-conceptions based on a writer’s previous work and race/origin/religion etc, and if it was not permitted to classify the genre, my guess would be that more people would read the review because at the moment so many refuse to do so because of preconceived discrimations against (or plain lack of interest in) specific genre groups. I wonder how many consumers are not buying a whole range of books because of their literary sectarianism and how many more books as a whole would be sold if every book was considered – and marketed – equal to another.

  46. Ekiushi
    Ekiushi says:

    I like to stay away from Romance novels. They annoy me. I’m all for blood and murder. Romance within a thriller is fine. Movies that do it annoy me a fair bit, often they appear to be last minute decisions to throw in a sex scene. Anyhoo, that’s not the point. Romance probably annoys me thanks to bloody Shakespeare. And I bet all you people are going to rave ‘Ohhh Shakespeare is sooooooo good. He’s great! They are wonderful, and sooo not boring.’

    Romeo and Juliet. Weded, Beded, and Deaded in three days. Stupid. The Tempest – Miranda and Ferdinand fall in love at first sight and preparing to be married like less then an hour later. Anyone seen the film version of The Tempest by the BBC? The two actors that play Miranda and Ferdinand are like cousins. They didn’t do anything in the film, but I still find those longing glances they were giving each other disturbing. Sure, call it acting. I call it disturbing. So, perhaps that is why I have such an objection to just romance novels. Yes, it is all Shakespeare’s fault. I like blaming him. He should have put a copyright on his work so it couldn’t be studied in schools, or something.

    Dean Koontz. I have on his books. I got half way through it and got so annoyed at it. I can’t remember which one it was. It was just…bad. I despised the main character, wanted him to fail. He was trying to protect his coma girlfriend or something. I wanted the coma girlfriend to die, that is how much this main character annoyed me. However, I dunno if he did or not, because I stopped reading it.

    I’m not a fan of Stephen King. I admit, I read my only one of his several years ago. I probably would have been fourteen. I probably should give him a second chance. Just like I should give Patricia Cornwell a second chance. I can’t remember why she annoyed me, but she did. I guess that’s even more reason to forgive her… I do remember my issue with Stephen King though. I read Dreamcatcher, I think, and I just so weirded out. I later watched the movie, so I didn’t have to read it. I did the same with the Da Vinci Code. Although, I read like the first page of the Da Vinci Code and decided to wait for the movie.

  47. SassyDevil
    SassyDevil says:

    Do you seriously think the romance genre is like Shakespeare??? I’ve never read Shakespeare on my own. The only story I ever read was Romeo and Juliet, and that was because we had to read it in high school. Good grief! Before you judge a genre, read a few books in it, at least!

    Putting a copyright on a work doesn’t mean it can’t be studied in school. And I don’t know what copyright laws, if there were any, back in his day were like, but these days, the moment you create a work (writing, art, or whatever), it’s copyrighted. Registering a copyright gives you more proof and more rights to compensation should anyone violate your copyright, but you don’t have to register your copyright.

    What does Dean Koontz have to do with romance? That’s what this blog was about. Do you judge the whole horror genre the same because you don’t like Dean Koontz? And, if I understand you right, you’re saying you’ve only read one Koontz book, so you’re judging all of his books, plus the whole horror genre, because of it?

    I’m not a big fan of Stephen King, either, but I’ve found that I did like a couple of his books, nevertheless. One I absolutely loved. But again, that’s the horror genre.

    Movies often stray far from the books they came from. The books are almost always better. You say you “watched the movie, so [you] didn’t have to read it.” Why did you have to read it at all? Was it a school assignment? Movies often change much of the book.

  48. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    ekiushi;sassy devil-doesn’t the short story/novelette format seem more appropriate for horror?it’s hard to sustain at novel length from what i have seen,and i go way back to the days when arkham house classics were available at $ 3 or $4 apiece as new books

  49. Ekiushi
    Ekiushi says:

    Sassydevil – Someone above, I’m not bothering to go back and look it up, commented about Dean Koontz. He has nothing to do with romance. Take it up with that person. And I haven’t read ONE book. I’ve read HALF of ONE book. At least get my reading achievements correct. I won’t be trying Koontz again, until I can convince myself to get over the last half book of his I read. Did I say I was judging the entire horror genre on him? Unless you are reading into the’inner meanings’ of my comments, then I didn’t say that.

    So what, Stephen King isn’t my favourite author? I don’t have time to read a book every single moment of every single day. If I don’t like an author, even based on one book, I am more likely to read the books of authors I already like.

    No, I do not seriously think all romance is like Shakespeare. I’m not an idiot. However, I still don’t want to throw myself into just pure romance novels. If I want romance, I’ll watch a movie. (I have tried to read a few romance novels before, perhaps they were just bad ones, but they were really boring. Of course, they came from my school library, there is no accounting for the taste of the librarian) If I want blood and gore I’ll read a book. Oh, I’ll probably hope for a movie too.

    As for Shakespeare, come back to me when you’ve been subjected to five years of him, six plays including The Tempest, and have had to write countless essays on what you’ve LEARNED of yourself and others from studying the text. AND you’ve had to watch the film versions of these, namely Macbeth and the Tempest. Okay, I’m touche – I have a speech on the Tempest tomorrow.

    The comment about the copyright – it was a joke. I know damn well there isn’t one. Never could be one.

    Was the Da Vinci Code a school assessment? No. I just didn’t want to read it. Then I realised the movie wasn’t far off and decided I could wait. Or are we talking about the Stephen King book I read? And No, that wasn’t an assessment either. I believe that was a present. Movies often stray from the books? Oh really? I really wasn’t aware. I always wondered why the ending was different in the film version of Hannibal.

  50. Cynthia Reese
    Cynthia Reese says:

    Ekiushi, one more question … if you feel that strongly about Shakespeare, why on earth have you spent five years of your life writing, reading and learning about the man? You sound so outdone and burnt-out that I feel a tad sorry for you. Go do something you enjoy (READ something you enjoy) and let Will bug you no more.

  51. SassyDevil
    SassyDevil says:

    I didn’t say you said you were judging the whole horror genre on Dean Koontz, or Stephen King. I asked if you were, since you definitely implied that you’re judging the whole romance genre on Shakespeare: “Romance probably annoys me thanks to bloody Shakespeare.” Additionally, I think you insulted people here by assuming they’d not only disagree with you on Shakespeare, but they’d have an attitude about it.

    And I didn’t say there’s anything wrong with not liking Stephen King. Your manner of speaking suggests judgements based on limited exposure, and I’m commenting on my understanding of what you’ve stated.

    You should make your jokes more obvious. Your sarcasm and attitude are certainly clear enough.

    I think Cynthia’s got some good advice for you as well.

  52. Ekiushi
    Ekiushi says:

    Shakespeare isn’t optional at my school, and most people on the board of studies seem to think it is “important” to learn about. I would much rather waste my time doing something more interesting.

    Oh, I like to read some things. I am currently reading Hannibal Rising. I’ve had to stop reading it though, I can’t find it.

    No, you don’t have to have an attitude about Shakespeare. If you feel insulted that’s fine. Surely I don’t have to explain my assumptions behind why I suspect most people (or at least some) here have favourable opinions on Shakespeare.

    Yes, limited exposure. You are right. I haven’t really given Stephen King a chance. Or even Dean Koontz. I still don’t plan on reading anymore of their books anytime soon. Wait, that isn’t true. I do plan on reading a Stephen King book. Someone lent it to me. I probably should find out who what was. However, considering that I’ve got heaps of work, assessments, exams, other books, I probably won’t have time to read it until the end of the year.

    If I actually had the time I would read more, that’s not to say I’ll jump into romance novels, but I would probably try Stephen King at least. You make my dislike of romance sound like a great sin. Perhaps I should insert the fact that I’m only 18.

    Next time I make a joke, i’ll put a joke tag on the end. Hell, I’ll even put sarcasm tags on the end.

  53. Jude Hardin
    Jude Hardin says:

    Damn, Ekiushi. I love all those writers. Even Shakespeare. 🙂

    Koontz and King have really transcended any sort of genre labels. They are what they are. Brilliant.

    I thought Dreamcatcher was a masterpiece. The movie sucked, IMO, but the book is as skillful a piece of modern lit as you’ll find anywhere. Bag of Bones is my fave by King. Give it a shot if you find the time.

    You never answered the question. Who DO you like? Do you even like to read? Just curious.

  54. Ekiushi
    Ekiushi says:

    No, I didn’t answer the question. I had to go to school. So, I kind of rushed the last comment.

    I like reading. Really. Well, I like Mary Higgins Clark, Jilliane Hoffman, I suppose I must like Harlan Coben… I can’t remember much about them. I have six of them, so I must have liked him. Ben Elton, I like James Patterson, err… Michael Connelly, Patricia Cornwell. Oh, Thomas Harris, Douglas Adams, John Grisham. And I am undecided on Sandra Brown – I have read two of her books, and I have a third still to read. I’m not sure about them yet. There are a few more, the names just escape me. However, when I went over to look at my books I found Hannibal Rising!

    I would have been 14 when I attempted to read Dreamcatcher, perhaps that’s why I didn’t enjoy it… I’m still not going to read it. I also have Lord of the Rings over there, doesn’t mean I am going to read it. Well, even if I refuse to read Lord of the Rings because the font is too small. That’s not really the point.

    So, yes I do like reading. Just not Shakespeare or Dean Koontz (He will always bother me). Of course Shakespeare is meant to be performed, not read out in a classroom. I watched the Australian Shakespeare Comany do A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Probably the only thing of Shakespeare I enjoyed. It didn’t make the theory side any more interesting.

  55. SassyDevil
    SassyDevil says:

    I never said I was insulted because you don’t like Shakespeare or romance. But you’re being 18 explains a lot.

  56. Ekiushi
    Ekiushi says:

    Additionally, I think you insulted people here by assuming they’d not only disagree with you on Shakespeare, but they’d have an attitude about it.

    And you’re lucky that I’ve decided not to take the comment about my age as an insult. I easily could.

  57. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    it’s encouraging to know that 18 year olds enjoy reading books and discussing them-it seems to be an endangered activity for that age group these days :))

  58. vividexpression
    vividexpression says:

    Ekiushi – I’m almost twenty and have never read Stephen King either. It’s not that I wouldn’t it’s just his books are so incredibly long.

    I think you’re narrow-minded for saying you don’t like romance novels because you don’t like Shakespeare. Romance as a genre really has nothing to do with Shakespeare. Shakespeare is not written in modern language and yes, most of the plot lines are quite ridiculous.

    The comments above me prove how diverse the romance genre is and there is something for everyone. Take for instance the book Savannah Breeze by Mary Kay Andrews. It’s a romance, but there are also elements of suspence and plotlines besides the main character’s love affairs.

    As a last note, I think you should read some Meg Cabot before you think twice about never reading romance. (I really liked Queen of Babble)

  59. Katydoeswrite
    Katydoeswrite says:

    {{sigh}}

    This “issue” never fails to puzzle (and irritate) me. I wrote my MA thesis on British detective novels, and I’m published in romance fiction, so I’m familiar with both sides of this essentially spurious debate. (Romeo and Juliet is a love story, btw, not a romance. It’s not really about love, it’s about the divisiveness of hate and how destructive it is. And Shakespeare wrote as fast as he could to make a living, so he could be called a hack, too.)

    It’s one thing to present a well-reasoned, well-informed opinion about what is in fact a matter of personal taste. It’s quite something else (read: immature, insular, bigoted, ignorant, tactless, and utterly arrogant) to condemn an entire genre and its writers and advocates because one dislikes it.

    Interestingly, the romance readers who join in this fray are usually also readers of mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and a whole bunch of other genres that aren’t under discussion. They tend not to preface their remarks with “I’ve only read one mystery but…” or “I read a few Nancy Drews when I was a kid, so…” They are also the reason that the romance genre has become mother to a wide variety of sub-genres that combine the conventions of romance fiction with those of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, action, espionage, futuristic, and a laundry list of paranormal sub-genres. The genre expands to reflect the interests of the readers and the authors.

    Are there formulas in genre fiction? Well, gee, how else can you “categorize” something without a concensus about essential standards? Are there poorly written romance novels? Yep, just as there are poorly written novels in every other genre and sub-genre. (There was a time, not so long ago, when mysteries were considered suitable only for compost and “real” readers and writers did not indulge in such “trash.”)

    Do romance authors have an unfair advantage in transitioning to mystery/ suspense/ thrillers? Given the vitriolic tone often aimed at romance authors and their work, it’s hard even to ask that question with a straight face. Romance writers have to create vivid and engaging characters involved in not only a romantic situation but a plot of some kind. They have to make the obstacles between hero and heroine big and bad enough to keep them apart yet not ultimately insurmountable, and they have to integrate those romantic problems with the plot. Writing romance novels is like what some wise person said about Ginger Rogers: She did everything that Fred Astair did, only she did it backwards in high heels.

    Are romance novels less realistic than mysteries, etc.? Hmm. Well, we all know a fair amount about pair-bonding (even those among us who seem to be against it, judging by the vehemence with which they reject any inclusion of it in their mystery reading). And sure, we watch CSI and Cold Case. But how realistic is it for an average person to stumble over one dead body, nevermind an unending series of them, then have to help the cops solve the crime?

    As for the professional investigators, surely they’d all retire (if they didn’t die of heart failure first) early if they spent all their time dodging bullets and other lethal things. Every PI I’ve heard talk about their work says there are some exciting moments punctuating mainly grunt work and the boredom of surveillance.

    Here’s a point that no one has made during this discussion, one that seldom gets made during any debate on this topic: At their essences, Romance and mystery/ suspense/ thriller literature (and all the other genres) have the SAME THEME. They are stories about the survival of the human species, whether through pair-bonding despite apparently insurmountable obstacles, or through the discovery and removal of someone or thing that threatens the survival of the human species.

    Otherwise, what’s the point of detecting and solving brutal crimes, of bringing the bad guys to justice, either legal or cosmic? Surely it’s not just to solve the “puzzle.” Why else bother to hunt down the bad guys if not to make the world safer for those who seek a suitable mate with whom to create the next generation of humans?

    As someone here (Tess?) said, people who can’t get their own work published need to blame someone else in order to feed their denial. The mystery/ suspense readers who vigorously and viciously condemn romance fiction, the ones who loathe and ridicule even a hint of pair-bonding in the books they read, make me wonder what they’re afraid of.

    BTW, RWA created the awards category of Single Title with Romance because of the many suspense, etc., novels that have some romance woven in but are focused more on the external plot.

  60. april
    april says:

    It’s funny because when I was younger, it was more much permissable to read horror and suspense than it was romance. There are a lot of romances out there that emcompass traits of different genres – action and military with Suzanne Brockmann, action, violence mixed with vampires with J.R. Ward. I love it when I get to be on the edge of my seat with a book and yet know there will be a relationship somewhere.

    I still don’t quite understand how vampires translate to the romance genre, but they are very popular right now. As with everything, there should be a sense of evolution with books, change is good… grey areas between genres are good. A good book is a good book. One author does not define an entire genre, any genre.

    As for Meg Cabot, as much as I love romance, I can’t stand chick lit. That’s a whole different topic, but I didn’t mind her Size 12 Is Not Fat. I found the mystery thin (er, no play on words intentionally), but she is clever.

  61. Ekiushi
    Ekiushi says:

    I am really getting tired of going over this, however, it seems I will have too. And to the person that called me narrow-minded, I think you are annoying. Because that’s my mature response.

    What I said was, going back to my original post, Romance annoyed me. Do I need a reason to dislike romance? It’s a matter of taste. For instance, not everyone likes reading fantasy novels. Not everyone wants to read Jane Austen. Not everyone likes Harry Potter! Are we going to curse them to oblivion over this horrible crime? They don’t agree with you on something. Something must be wrong with them. Because if someone disagrees with me then they are complete idiots, who obviously haven’t given the book/genre a try! Jehovah Witnesses aren’t allowed to read Harry Potter, or stricter ones at least, they obviously haven’t given it a try, those narrow minded people! Honestly, some of you people make it seem like because I happen to not like the romance genre there is something wrong with me. I’m an 18 year old female, I don’t want romance, I want blood and death. We have a paradox! Wow.

    My comment about Shakespeare, possibly became unclear because I’m the one that had the speech on Shakespeare, so therefore had to think about him way to much. And that was a really weird sentence, but anyway. What I meant was, when you have to study Shakespeare every day, look at detail in the romantic plots of the story, the supernatural events, I for one, don’t want to come home to read MORE romance. I want to read blood thirsty novels that get me weird looks when I run into book shops to buy them.

    You can argue that Romance isn’t like Shakespeare, and you’ll be right. And can we get off Shakespeare already? I don’t have to explain my dislike towards him. The fact that I’m 18 should be enough said. Anyhoo, back to my point. I don’t like romance. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind some romance. Just other ones, where the main focus seems to be the romance, I’d just rather not. When I come across romantic subplots in various stories, I spend the rest of the novel hoping that the love interest will die. Are romance writers bad? I don’t know or care.

    And finally, I’m not going to read Meg Cabot. What do I have to say to get the point across? I don’t want to read a romance novel. If I want romance, I’ll watch a movie.

  62. Ekiushi
    Ekiushi says:

    As for my comment about wanting love interests to die, allow me to give an example. In the Surgeon, I wanted Cordell to die. I actually can’t remember why, but she annoyed me.

  63. lwidmer
    lwidmer says:

    Talentless hacks? Look, anyone who can write and sell ANY story is a writer, NOT a hack. A hack is someone who tears up the efforts of others publicly. Pretty much what you have here Tess is the cyber version of the grade-school bully.

    Laugh all the way to the bank. They have no idea how damned difficult it is to write a winning story.

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