Day 13 Carolyn Crane – Grateful for Romance

Thank you, romance! An open letter to romance.

Thank you, romance, for bringing back my crazy-about-reading sixth grade self.

OffTheEdge-CarolynCrane-500x750It was somewhere after sixth grade that I got the idea that smart girls read only smart, good-for-you books. As a card-carrying smart girl, I went all in for that, and I spent years and years restricting myself to books that fit that bill. My reading grew out of ‘shoulds’ instead of pleasure.

It was only when I got trapped on a plane with a copy of Outlander (see below) that I rediscovered the breathless passion I once had for reading. Once again I was that young girl who wanted nothing more than to sit in the corner with a book and read ALL DAY. Seriously, it was a type of rebirth. I feel like my life is 100% better now that I have all that reading exhilaration back. Every day I wildly look forward to the moment I can get back to the book on my nightstand.

Thank you for compassion.

In the stories I love, the heroes and heroines often start out screwed up, or they’re making mistakes, or in desperate situations, but those dark moments aren’t who they are; they are points on a journey toward better times, toward self understanding (and maybe a little groveling!) and always, love. I find it satisfying to see characters make big mistakes and come back from those mistakes (especially heroines! Which sadly, isn’t as common as heroes coming back from mistakes).

This has changed how hard I am on people in real life who do screwed-up things. I used be quick to condemn, but romance has given me a taste for transformation. Nobody is hopeless, not Zsadist, or Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent from Devil in Winter or the person at the center of the latest Internet kerfuffle. Of all the wonderful genres I have loved in my life, it is romance, with its HEA and belief in the transformative power of love, that has given me more compassion for people, and a model for seeing the long view.

Thank you for making me a better feminist.

I think if you told my twenty-something self that romance novels, of all things—with their clinch covers and seemingly restrictive recipes for female happiness—would have made my feminism stronger and more vibrant, I would’ve smashed you right in the face with a Patti Smith CD.

But reading and writing romance has forced me to reach down and answer big questions that I would answered in an automatic and maybe lazy way before. Questions like, how can a marriage HEA love story be pro-woman? Are certain sexual fantasies and storylines inherently anti-woman? What about domination or non consent? Are some sexual fantasies dangerous or is it infantilizing to women to suggest that? Can romantic suspense, with its emphasis on brawn and violence, be truly pro-heroine?

Reading and writing romance has tested my feminism and made it more alive, which is to say, I’m less automatic in my thinking and judgments about what women get to have for themselves—and what they get to take for themselves. And I believe that Patti Smith, who continues to be one of my idols, would approve of that.

Thank you, romance, for letting me sit at the FUN TABLE!!

It’s no secret that romance is the uncool genre. And we’re not even cool-nerdy-uncool like sci fi. No, we’re seriously uncool. Most of the world thinks we’d be reading/writing in a different genre if only we had better taste/weren’t so mentally lazy/wrote better or less formulaic books. Journalists feel free to mock us without bothering to learn anything about us. Yeah, we’re the loser table in the lunchroom.

But when you’re at our table, you know it’s a wonderful place to be. The books we read are secretly awesome. Our bonds are fierce and our discussions are vibrant. We’re open-minded and welcoming. We have fun parties. Our pie is huge and delicious. The camaraderie is like nothing else. We are at the dork table and it’s the most wonderful table ever. I love this community. Thank you, romance!

Recommendations:

I have been enjoying the work of so many great authors lately:

Rebecca Rogers Maher has been writing beautiful, innovative contemporary romances that take risks and really deliver.

Mary Ann Rivers, in her own contemporary romances, has this way of articulating the nuances of emotion that blows me away.

I’m addicted to the wonderful intensity of Jill Sorenson’s romantic suspense books—and she writes her characters with a level of depth and realism I can’t get enough of. (Jill wrote a great “Celebrate Romance” post here.)

Cara McKenna keeps coming out with these bold hot works with juicy themes. And then there are Meredith Duran and Anne Stuart, authors I read and reread to with total admiration.


 Questions For the Author

1 – Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did. 

You can’t believe how long I pondered this question, thinking, surely there is something I can say. But apparently I lead a safe and boring life and I have done nothing inspiring, daring, or adventurous other than various foolish things. This question is kind of inspiring me to do something radical.

2 – Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

I have loved to write for as long as I can remember, and I’ve had different writing projects going since high school. I wrote for a long time before I got published. Today, I work as a freelance marketing writer, and my absolute dream is for fiction writing to be my full-time job. Maybe quitting my freelance job can be my adventurous thing to do!

3 – Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

I would have to say it’s Outlander. My mother-in-law gave me a copy of it years ago before a long plane ride where I had nothing else to read, and I was completely swept away! Outlander was one of the books that reconnected me with the pleasure of reading, and the delights of genre fiction, and most importantly, it introduced me to romance, which has improved my life 1000%.

Carolyn is generously offering  3 copies of her RITA-winning romantic suspense, Off the Edge to U.S. readers (choice of signed print or digital – entry form below) and 3 digital copies for international readers (enter here).


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Carolyn Crane is a RITA-winning author of romantic suspense and urban fantasy. She also writes erotic romance about bank robbers as NYT bestselling Annika Martin. She makes her home in Minneapolis with her husband and two cats. *If you wish to receive more information about Ms. Crane and her work she encourages you to check out her website,  newsletter, or even to follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

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  • Christine Maria Rose

    You’ve listed a host of my favourite authors there! And I love Outlander too, read it several times (luckily I read it when it first came out so I’ve had 20 years to devour it). I was one of those kids in junior high whose idea of a perfect day winter day on a weekend was to snuggle into my comforter in my room with a pile of books and read the day away. I’ve gotten more social since then, though it is still romance books that catch my attention!

    • Carolyn Crane

      Hiya, Christine! *pinky shake* Yes, reading the day away still has a certain magic, doesn’t it?

  • Kathleen O

    You are a new to me author, but I am looking forward to reading your books.. I love romantic suspense…

    • Carolyn Crane

      Kathleen, thank you!! I hope you enjoy them!

  • LisaVH

    Man, the way you describe the loser table in the lunch room makes me with I was a romance author. Ha!

    • Carolyn Crane

      Hey, Lisa! I was thinking readers are at that table, too. This is me moving over to make room. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Kim

    I am rereading Outlander 😉 I watched the first episode of the new series and just had to read it again lol

    • Carolyn Crane

      I haven’t watched the first episode yet, but I’m hearing such great things! Thanks for stopping by!

    • Britt

      Oh I can’t wait to watch the first episode! I’m waiting until hubby goes out and baby is asleep so I can devote myself for the whole hour! Good to know it’s great!!!

  • Sue G.

    I sometimes get grief from one of my friends for the “type” of books I read. She also thinks that they make women weak. She just doesn’t get it. I love how women can overcome anything for their happy ever after. To me, that makes them strong!

    • Carolyn Crane

      Sue, YES!! exactly!! Thanks for stopping by!!

  • Patty Vasquez

    This is an excellent essay. When I see photos from the various romance writers conferences, it does indeed look as though you are all sitting at the fun table! I hope you get to realize your dream of writing romance full-time. Stepping off that cliff would definitely count as a life-changing adventure.

    • Carolyn Crane

      Thanks, Patty. Well, as a romance reader, you, too, are at the fun table. *passes cookie plate*

  • Kristen J.

    I love that it was a long plane ride that brought you back to reading for pleasure! I also love Cara McKenna

    • Carolyn Crane

      Thanks, Kristen! And, thank goodness I was trapped there.

  • Britt

    I totally get it. I read a lot of books but the ones I take the most flack about is the romance but it is my favourite table to sit at for sure!

    • Carolyn Crane

      Thanks, Britt! Nice to have you at the fun table! *moves over, passes the chips and dip*

  • Michelle Harlan

    This may be one of my favorite posts so far! I love the Thank You letter!
    I hate that the romance genre is judged and found “lesser”. It’s definitely the most fun table at the party! I’m thankful for romance novels because they’ve helped me through some of my darkest days. I think that my overwhelming certainty that things will work out stems from all of the fabulous books I read each year!

    • Carolyn Crane

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Michelle! So true about romance novels being amazing to read in hard times, how they keep up your spirits. I have friends who have gotten through really hard situations with them. And, I once started crying reading comments about JD Robb’s series, and how it helped women who suffered from abuse. So powerful!!

  • Debbie Fuller

    I love your post. I agree with everything you said. It really has made me a better wife, person, friend, mom, a better me.

    • Carolyn Crane

      Thanks, Debbie! Love to hear that.

  • Timitra

    Great post Carolyn!

    • Carolyn Crane

      Thanks, Timitra!!

  • Carrie

    I used to hide that I loved reading romance. I didn’t want to be judged for reading “those types of books.” I remember in high school my favorite English teacher saying that people only read romance novels for the sex. Now, I really don’t care what people think of what I read. They can make fun but romance novels make me happy. Romance readers and writers are the best.

    • Carolyn Crane

      Aw, sorry to hear that a fave English teacher said that. There really is still a lot of judgement. Who knows, maybe that teacher has discovered the joys of romance reading.

  • Sheila M

    One of the best things I have seen about romance in the 30 (yikes) years I have been reading it is that readers are more open to admitting that they enjoy the genre. The more we embrace romance openly, the harder it will be for people to denigrate us for reading it!

    • Carolyn Crane

      I love this comment. I’m not in touch with the long view of it, so it’s really interesting to hear. And I agree with your comment, I think openly embracing it may cause people to denigrate it less…or, I do hope so.

  • cheryl c.

    I rejoice in my lifelong love of reading. I am so glad that I have never lost my love for it. Reading books (especially romance) has brought me so much enjoyment and enlightenment. Thanks for your post and for your author recommendations.

    • Carolyn Crane

      I love that attitude. Thank you, Cheryl, for stopping by.

  • Glittergirl

    Wow what a wonderful post. I’ve been hearing and seeing your books on the internet but I’ve got to add you to my list of authors I follow. I loved your post and I’d loving that romance has made you a better feminist :). My favorite quote (and there were several was “…but those dark moments aren’t who they are; they are points on a journey toward better times, toward self understanding…” Yes!

    • Carolyn Crane

      Thank you so much, Glittergirl!! 🙂

  • Emmel

    I’m proud to tell people I’m a romance reader. It’s fun to watch them reconcile that with their knowledge of me as a smart, capable woman. And yes, romance readers are both smart and capable!

    • Carolyn Crane

      I love the idea of forcing others to reconcile that – because we certainly don’t have to apologize for it or explain it away. Yes!!

  • Courtney Cogswell

    I think social media and the digital world have really enhanced my love of romance (and books in general) in that I am easily able to interact with favorite authors, find great forums and blogs about books I love and discover other “dork table” romance-loving fan girls like myself 🙂 I love your post and I have never completely given up romance novels completely to read “good-for-you” books but I definitely spent time trying to focus on more genres. However, somewhere In the last decade or so, I gave up and primarily stuck to romance because I love it and it makes me happy. And isn’t that the point? I also am an Outlander girl…I devoured those books and the Clan of the Cave Bear books one summer in college and I just adored them. I just watched the first episode of the new TV series Outlander and I think I’ll love it too…fingers crossed that they keep the show true to the books so it can be another amazing escapist treat for me. Thanks for your contribution to RARM and I’m looking forward to checking out your books too!

    • Carolyn Crane

      I agree so much, Courtney; social media has been so good for the community, from the reader side and the author side, at least, to me, it has. In real life, I barely know any romance readers, but I feel surrounded by them now. Fingers crossed along with you on Outlander!!

  • donnas

    Congrats on the RITA. And while the mass culture may call it an uncool genre. I want to know how many have a romance on their nightstand!

    • Carolyn Crane

      Hah! Yes! lol

  • Martha B

    Oh, I couldn’t agree with you more. The sentence that resonated with me the most was this; ” But when you’re at our table, you know it’s a wonderful place to be.” YES! We ARE a fun group, a welcoming community, enthusiastic readers, and caring people. I like where I am sitting.

    • Carolyn Crane

      Me, too, Martha!! Thanks!!

  • Joan Varner

    I will willing sit at your table and enjoy every wonderful minute of it. Thank you.

    • Carolyn Crane

      Thanks, Joan!!

  • Glenda

    I’ve pretty much always sat at the uncool but fun tables — both romance and scifi/fantasy

    • Carolyn Crane

      Thanks, Glenda. And I love that there is crossover with our tables.

  • M Kuxhaus

    Loved the essay!

  • mariannewestrich

    I’ve just recently learned to be proud to read romance. And it has been liberating! 😎

  • Ellie

    Loved your post. I’m proud of reading romance 🙂

  • Stephanie M.

    Thanks for letting me join you at the fun table(s)! 🙂

  • Tammy H

    I’m so glad you rediscovered your love of reading.

  • Eileen Aberman-Wells

    Enjoyed your post & the description of your journey to reading romance. I’ve read all genres for years, but romance is my fall back read. It relaxes me, it takes away my stress, it can make me laugh, & it can take me away from the demands of life. Don’t let those nay sayers win saying romance isn’t real writing. I’ve read many romance books better written than a number of fiction & non-fiction books. BTW, hello neighbor!!! I live in St. Paul, MN

  • Jen C

    Oh, Outlander. It took awhile after someone suggested I read it, but once I did, the race was on!

  • LSUReader

    Congratulations on your RITA! I’m so happy you made it to the “fun table.” As always, thanks for a good post.

  • Judy Goodnight

    I love reading romantic suspense – looks like I need to check out your books!

  • rebecca moe

    OMG, yes–the day I realized I didn’t have to only read “smart girl books” for the rest of my life was one of the best days ever! HEAs (and our dork table) rock!

    Thanks for posting, and congrats on your RITA 🙂

  • Ann Mettert

    I’d love to join you at the uncool table. 🙂

  • Erin F

    lol… what a fun post!!! I tried the “smart” books and was bored out of my mind. Back to romance I went and I’ve never looked back 🙂

  • Pamby50

    I so agree. We romance readers have fun. We swap stories about why we enjoyed the book we just finished reading.

  • Ruth

    Love this post. Thanks, Carolyn!

  • Toni Linenberger

    I love sitting at the uncool table. I make great friends there.

  • Peni Anne

    I’ll take your table any day. It is so much better to sit at a table where you don’t have to get stressed out because someone may think this or that. I can just be me and that in itself is celebrated. The common ground of loving love. So much to share good books to talk about and recommend. Just, … everything.