Day 28 Evelyn Pryce – Romance Revolution

Romance as Subversion and Subculture

When I first got word that my debut novel, A Man Above Reproach, was going to be published, I started jokingly referring to it as my “little sex book.” My husband was the one who put the kibosh on that—he actually got quite angry and felt that I was belittling my own book. “You have to stop calling it that,” he insisted, “even if you think it’s funny.”

He was more than right. When I first started writing romance, I realized I had found my voice, something that mattered to me, but yet here I was…still weirdly embarrassed and making it seem like it wasn’t a serious occupation. I was going through this fight with myself; an internalization of the way a lot of the literary community critiques our genre. I didn’t just want to write about Romance, I also wanted to talk about its implications. Why should I feel bad about writing something that felt so natural? Who convinced me I should feel conflicted about this?

Genre is weird—it can be constricting but it can also be freeing. I didn’t really find my footing until I started using Romance as a template, genre as a starting point, combined with my past influences. Love as an idea, as that feeling that you can’t manufacture or pin down, is at the center of most stories, even if they’re not classified as a capital R romance. Try to think of a story for which some form of love (romantic, friendship, family) doesn’t drive the plot. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

The romance genre has a lot of aspects that are understudied and undervalued. It’s subversive, women writers talking directly to women readers. If it’s critically unaccepted, it might be better for us…we can work in a grey zone, a bit away from prying eyes. There’s a certain freedom in that, but there is also this weird shame that goes with it. We shouldn’t be writing about sex. We shouldn’t be talking about our pleasure or making demands. Women’s truths are often made to look silly, so it’s past time to stop making excuses for romance. There’s a little piece of me that feels angry that the fact that ‘romance matters’ even needs an explanation.

The night I started writing this essay, we also went to see Psychic TV. That’s an intense experience in the first place, but near the end of the show it got even weirder. Genesis, the vocalist and mastermind, said during a song: “Do you know why they demean love? Because it’s the most powerful tool we have.” After spending the whole day thinking about just that—the sentiment came out of the mouth of one of my totems.

Somewhere along the way, the purple prose trope of Romance started to disappear. Women started becoming the heroes of their own stories, not the ones in need of rescue. It’s a relatively recent development and it makes me giddy to think we haven’t been “found out” yet. These essays—about innovative women, both readers and writers—are about a community in constant engagement. Maybe we should enjoy the time when we’re not being studied, because it’s bound to happen. Ideas and change slip by when they’re wrapped in a package of fiction. This is an exciting time to be a little sex book writer.

So, let ‘em laugh. We’ll just keep getting the work done.


Questions for Evelyn:

What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?

The Matador

I have a velvet painting of a matador and it’s right in my living room. I love it, but practically every other person who enters my house hates it. I know it’s an eyesore, but there’s something comforting about it. The stance of the matador is fantastic, but he’s not harming the bull, which looks oddly serene. Matadors also remind me of Orson Welles, so the painting has my affection.

If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)

It would be called “Extra Magic Nervous Breakdown” and I had no idea who would play me, so I asked my friends. It was a widely varied list, so I assume they think I’m a schizophrenic shapeshifter. They suggested: Aubrey Plaza, Famke Janssen, Lizzie Caplan, Sara Rue, and Sir Ian McKellen. Let’s go with that last one.

What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?

When my husband and I first started dating, for one of our anniversaries he modified a Barbie to look like me. He found clothes that looked like one of my outfits, a bag just like mine, my glasses, shoes, everything. He even had a little replica of the comic book I was writing at the time to fit in her little Barbie hand.

If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be? (Any picks for romance novels in general?)

Since my debut novel comes out in October, I don’t have much of a field to choose from, but I do adore my main characters, Josie and Elias. There’s a particular scene where she tries to seduce him because she thinks that’s all he wants and I’m fond of that one. I have another favorite romantic scene of theirs, but it’s a huge spoiler.

As for romance novels in general, a lot of my favorite writers have written essays here, so that’s a great place to start. I love Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series, any of Lisa Kleypas’ historicals, and Eloisa James’ Desperate Duchess series.

The last eBook I bought was Celeste Easton’s “Deal With A Demon,” which is a paranormal. The plot makes you race through that book and, bonus, it’s super sexy.

Even if none of these recommendations are your thing, I assure you that there is a romance that is your thing. There’s very little left out of our genre umbrella; if you want to read romance, you’ll find something that hits you.


You are reading this essay at ReadARomanceMonth.com. Be sure to visit the About Read-A-Romance Month to learn more, or the Authors & Contributors page to see a list of all the great romance writers who are participating in celebrating the romance genre during the month of August.

Evelyn Pryce is generously donating one ARC of  A Man Above Reproach to a US reader and one to an International reader (International readers enter here).  To enter the domestic contest, either leave a comment here or enter the weekly drawing on the contest page. Or both.  (Only one entry per commenter per post, though – multiple comments on one essay does not give you more chances.)  Comment entries must be posted by 11:59pm EST Aug 27 to be eligible, though winners will be announced at a later date.

Also visit the Awesome Contests page to register this week to win a Kindle Paperwhite and “A Month of Romance” (31 books) from Amazon Montlake, or  the Grand Central Grand Prize, an iPad mini. If you love romance, then this is the place to be!

 


Evelyn Pryce writes Regency and Victorian historical romance. Her first novel, A Man Above Reproach, won the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in Romance. It will be published in October by Montlake Romance. Her mind is often occupied with etiquette, the 19th century, particulars of the American Revolution, the evolution of human interaction, and the Internet.

Pryce lives in Pittsburgh with three gentlemen–her husband and two cats. She can be found blogging at her website, on Twitter and Facebook, and behind her computer working on her second novel. She studies literature and history at one of America’s many universities.

 

Buy Evelyn’s Debut Novel on Amazon

  • Melanie Backus

    You just keep on working and you will see who has the last laugh. Romance thrives!

  • Laurie W G

    A loving relationship involves time, commitment, trust and compromise. Not easy to achieve but well worth the effort. Romance books offer differing viewpoints and ways to find love and a HEA.
    Thanks for sharing your interesting views.

  • Cheryl C.

    Your book looks interesting. I’ll have to check it out.

  • MK

    What a great point, that women have started rescuing themselves in romances. I love it!

  • Valerie

    I’m so glad you feel like you’ve found your voice. I look forward to reading your novel.

  • Tonda Galloway Hargett

    I tried to think of a book that didn’t have romance of some sort driving the plot. I couldn’t.

  • Evelyn Pryce

    <3 to all of you! (I can't wait to send out AMAR to the winners of the giveaways.)

  • Kim Cornwell

    Love meeting new authors. Thanks for stopping by and sharing!

  • Bernadette Long

    I am looking forward to reading A Man Above Reproach when it is published in October.

  • Melissa Cowling Terry

    I enjoyed reading your essay. Your book looks interesting. I am going to check it out.

  • mariannewestrich

    Just love adding new authors to my to-be-read list! Thanks for sharing with us!

  • Karin Anderson

    Haha. Ian MacKellan is a fantastic actor. 😉

  • Kareni

    What a fun gift — a personalized Barbie!

    A Man Above Reproach sounds intriguing; I’ll be on the lookout for it.

  • Courtney Chance

    I havent read much in historical romance, I read a lot of contemp, but im def excited to check this novel out! And I love the fact your husband made a barbie replica of you 🙂 it was unique and sweet

    • Oh, Courtney! Courtney, Courtney, Courtney! So much amazing in historicals right now! (enough exclamations for you…?) I am so excited for you to get started. All the ones mentioned above, but also Juliana Gray, Sarah MacLean, Jennifer Ashley… Oh such treats await you! (And I can’t wait to read Evelyn’s book, too.)

  • Larena Hubble

    When you look at books to find some sort of relationship that isn’t driving it I don’t think it is possible to find not really. Like you said they have some sort of relationship driving each story.

  • Katy M

    I love that you shared your past feelings of embarrassment and that your husband clearly respects you and your work enough to say something about it.
    I especially love your second to last paragraph about heroine’s saving themselves, our wonderful romance community and this quote:
    “we should enjoy the time when we’re not being studied, because it’s bound to happen. Ideas and change slip by when they’re wrapped in a package of fiction.”
    Right on!

    • Evelyn Pryce

      He’s a peach, that husband of mine!

      That second to last paragraph is kind of a mission statement. 😉

  • Beth Re

    Love all the authors that you mentioned

  • Alissa

    A personalized Barbie! (Envious sigh…..) Seriously, I would have swooned.

  • Britney Adams

    Keep writing and laugh louder! I love the gift of the modified Barbie!!

  • MaryC

    Your husband sounds wonderful! Enjoyed your post – look forward to reading ypur book.

  • Marcy Shuler

    You’re right. Romance does drive the plot of all stories.
    Congrats on your debut book!

    • Hi, Marcy –

      Could you please send me an email at bobbiwrites at att dot net? Thanks so much. xoxo

  • Ann Mettert

    Congratulations on your book. 🙂 Nd yes, there can be romance elements in all books.

  • So happy you’ve found your voice. 🙂 It’s a wonderful thing! Congrats on your first novel. Thank you so much for stopping by, today!

  • Cat C

    Looking forward to your debut–congratulations in advance! The heroine plays piano and is called the “Bawdy Bluestocking”–that is so my catnip!

  • Laura

    Fabulous thought- women as heroes of romance hasn’t been noticed by literary critiques yet!

  • Stephanie M.

    Thank you for your essay. I agree, love is a powerful tool. I look forward to reading your book. 🙂

  • Tin

    Hi, Evelyn!

    So glad to discover you through RARM! I’m a big supporter of debut novels and look forward to yours releasing in October!

  • Nancy

    It is fascinating how men are allowed to love romance when it’s in a male-friendly environment like a superhero movie and non-romance female readers can adore Jane Austen, but the second you suggest a romance book with similar themes and tropes, they back away. Romance is in most entertainment, as it is one of the primary needs of people, but it is demeaned when it is considered a “genre.”

    Congratulations on your debut!

  • Ann

    Looking forward to reading your books!

  • Glenda

    Good for your husband in strongly supporting your work! You are right, love is a major part of pretty much every story out there.

  • Meredith Richardson

    There are so many people that look down on this genre but it’s so uplifting and entertaining. It wasn’t too long ago that women didn’t have the ability to vote, work in certain professions, and be seen as equals to men but now that we are there are still stereo types. Romance books give us the freedom to be anyone and do anything… they also give us the chance to dream and have hope… I love them!!!

    • Evelyn Pryce

      So true–I think people forget that it really wasn’t that long ago that we got the vote. And it’s ever-changing, women finding their places in the world. Sometimes I think it’s much better to be the underdog.

  • Mary McCoy

    I look forward to reading your book. Your post reminded me of something I heard on NPR about a kind of poetry (Persian I think) that was in its own “genre”, oral poems passed on by women to women only, remarking on life, love and even the war. Nothing silly about that, or romance books.

    • Evelyn Pryce

      I’ll have to look into that…sounds inspiring!

  • rebecca moe

    A Barbie made up to look like you? He’s definitely a keeper! (Does he have a twin? ;))

  • Patty Vasquez

    Your husband gets high marks for being proud of you and your writing and insisting you be proud of your effort as well. He’s a great spokesman- pun intended- for the romance genre!

  • leah g

    I love that your husband got angry about belittling your book. It seems like it’s always the ones we love that can remind us to celebrate our victories and not be embarrassed or so hard on ourselves.

  • Ketta Peters

    Congrats on Reproach, it sounds great, and has been added to my wishlist.

  • Marcia Berbeza

    Why is it that we tend to minimize our own accomplishments? Is it because we think that if we do it first, it will hurt less when others do it? Or is it out of a sense of modesty that it is wrong to beat one’s own drum? Whatever the reason, I have the same tendencies. As long as there is one other person in this world that appreciates and values your work, you have done a good job. Any more than that? It just makes you a rich woman where it counts. Keep up the great work!

    • Evelyn Pryce

      Such a good point. I think it’s a combination of both. Us women have been taught to both value modesty and be very aware of what others say about us. Both of those are kind of unhelpful to us, at least living in modern times.

      • Marcia Berbeza

        Isn’t that the truth? The most successful women in the eyes of the world are those that could care less what others think of them.

  • Beverly DeeAnjello

    I am glad that you have a supportive husband and I could see how proud of you he was. I love a strong heroine who can take care of herself.

  • BookLady

    Congratulations on the publication of your award-winning first romance novel!

  • Flora Segura-Buchler

    Congratulations on your debut novel, Evelyn! I completely agree with your husband taking offense to calling your book: “little sex book.” I’m glad to know that he sees it as so much more, even when you meant it as a joke. I do have to disagree with the velvet painting, however. That bull has already been harmed by the three “picadores” sticking out of his neck!

    • Evelyn Pryce

      OH NO! Flora, you’ve just given me a context for the matador that I didn’t know! I suppose I have to adjust my view. (I will admit, using the the picture might have been a little ploy to see if anyone knew any more about it…)

      • Flora Segura-Buchler

        You’re a good sport, Evelyn; happy to help, even if it was bad news.

  • E.L. F.

    (I’m confused about the time limit for the contest but I guess I am late to the party). Very big congratulations on your debut novel and good for your very supportive hubby! Thanks for the giveaway and good luck on the new release!

  • Kim

    I love that story about your husband! I do love Lisa Kleypas! I’m looking forward to your first book!

  • Evelyn Pryce

    All of these responses are just making me ever more grateful to be in this group of women; thank you guys for reading, thinking, responding…all the time.

  • Anne

    Thanks for sharing! Congratulations on the award and the best of luck for the future.

  • Pamby50

    Congratulations on your debut novel. It sounds like you found your HEA.

  • Jen C

    Wonderful piece! If I ever get a chance to teach romance lit, your post here would definitely be part of the supplemental reading!