Welcome to Read-A-Romance Month 2016!
If you’re a new visitor to RARM, I hope you’ll come back every day in August to read all the wonderful pro-romance posts this year. Check out the full calendar here. You can also find links to the last three years’ posts from the boxes in the sidebar, and if you’d like, you can follow RARM on Facebook. Enjoy August!
Back when I started writing novels, in 2003, chick lit was all the rage, with novels such as Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Nanny Diaries, and Something Borrowed bringing a whole new generation of readers back to books. I was in my twenties then, and the genre spoke to me enough that I decided to write in a similar vein. When How to Sleep With a Movie Star, my debut novel (not a how-to guide, I promise!) came out in early 2006, I was very proud of it, but I was unprepared for the way I would sometimes have to defend myself against accusations that I wasn’t a serious writer.
I knew that some people dismissed chick lit and romance as worthless fluff, but I’d always assumed those people were uptight and uncreative —the kind of people I wouldn’t be drawn to. And yet my excitement at having my first novel published was quickly dampened by friends saying things like, Oh, but it’s just a girly book, right? Or Its just one of those fluffy books with the pink covers. No offense, but I don’t read those.
I was twenty-six then, and my initial reaction was to blush in embarrassment, stammer something about how the book was a bit deeper than they might expect, and slink away feeling deflated.
Now, it makes me sad to look back and think that I ever felt I had to defend myself. I’d written a novel —a novel that Warner Books had decided to publish—and I should have been allowed to be unabashedly proud of that. Had I written the next Great American Novel? Absolutely not, but I hadn’t tried to, and I had no illusions about it. I had written a book that was fun and entertaining. And isn’t that exactly what it was supposed to be?
And yet there are people who have decided that to be great, a book must be erudite and lofty. And while I do truly love that sort of fiction, romance and chick lit have a place at the table too. A huge place. After all, books are meant to entertain us and make us feel something, arent they? When we were toddlers, we loved books by people such as Dr. Seuss and Margaret Wise Brown because they were amusing or touching or silly; they drew us in.
When we were reading on our own, many of us gravitated toward books that transported us to other worlds—The Chronicles of Narnia books or The Hobbit for example—or books that allowed us to stretch our imaginations in our own world, such as the Nancy Drew series or Judy Blumes wonderful novels. We weren’t reading these books for their literary merit (though certainly many of them were well-written), but because they took us on a journey.
That’s what books are supposed to do. And who has the right to judge the journey each of us chooses to go on? Why is it considered more meaningful to go on a journey with a literary novel than with a romance novel? It’s your journey. And if you want to read about love and passion, you should get right on that!
The books I write these days lean more toward historical or contemporary mainstream fiction, but you’d better believe that the books I read span the spectrum. And I’m proud of that, because it means that I know who I am. I’m not reading to impress anyone. I’m reading to escape, to be entertained, to be moved. You should too. Books are supposed to be fun. Books are supposed to transport you. Books are supposed to make you feel. And if it’s wrong to seek out a book purely because I know it’ll entertain me, then I don’t want to be right!
So do I #loveromance? You’d better believe I do. And I love young adult fiction, middle grade fiction, sci fi, chick lit and literary fiction too. The genre doesn’t matter; what matters is that I’m reading books I enjoy. There aren’t enough hours in the day to waste your time on anything less.
So embrace your love of romance novels, and proudly rock your girly book or your fluffy book with the pink cover. Inside their pages lies a world that some people will never be lucky enough to visit because they just didn’t give it a try.
The loss is theirs.
Megan Crane (also writes as Caitlin Crews) Meet Megan & Caitlin at megancrane.com
I’ve been friends with these two romance novelists since 2005, when we were all part of the launch of 5 Spot, an imprint from Warner Books (now Hachette Book Group). Both had been published before, and I was a debut novelist at the time, and they both took me under their wings right away. We were all writing chick lit at the time, but now the two of them are wildly prolific romance novelists, and I have a huge amount of admiration for their work ethic, their creativity, and their talent. They’ve both written scores of books, and they never disappoint. They remain incredibly generous with their time to both their fans and newbie writers.
I’ve known Wendy for many years; she began as a young adult and middle grade writer, but last year, she released a novel that I’d describe a more of a young adult/womens fiction crossover called Reds Untold Tale. Its an official Once Upon a Time novel, pegged to the ABC television series, and it tells the backstory of Little Red Riding Hood. It’s a really good book, and I know Wendy has more in store for us.
Former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan is a friend of mine and a darned talented writer. She recently released a book of her columns called Hope Possible: A Network News Anchor’s Thoughts On Losing Her Job, Finding Love, A New Career, and My Dog, Always My Dog, and I will tell you that even though Id read many of the columns before, re-reading them in book form made me laugh and cry many times. I think it takes a special talent to write about romance from a nonfiction perspective, and Daryn does just that, opening her heart on the page and letting readers in on the most important journey of her life.
Questions for the Author:
Tell us about a moment in your life when you felt romance surrounding you.
Back in 2013, I was on a book tour in Europe, promoting my 2012 release, The Sweetness of Forgetting. I stopped in Paris for a night to have dinner with my good friend Lauren, who’d been my roommate in Paris in 2002. After dinner, she suggested taking a walk by our old apartment, which sits just a block and a half from the Eiffel Tower. I was exhausted, having just flown in from Madrid, and I was getting over the flu, so I declined, but she was insistent. I really, really want to see it at night, she said. Remember how beautiful the street is at night? Come on. I’ll carry your suitcase for you. Please?
It seemed important to her, so I shrugged and agreed. Fifteen minutes later, we rounded the corner to our old street with the Eiffel Tower sparkling ahead of us. I turned with a smile to tell her I was glad shed suggested coming after all, but she was several feet behind me, a strange smile on her face. She nodded at someone walking toward us, and I turned.
The scene seemed to develop in slow motion. Backlit by the Eiffel Tower, my boyfriend who was supposed to be at home in Florida was striding toward me on a street in Paris, dressed in a suit and tie. As I stared, he dropped down on one knee in front of me, held up a ring and asked me to marry him.
I can’t remember everything he said; I was so stunned that the world felt like it was spinning. But of course I said yes! We celebrated at the café down the block with two glasses of champagne, overlooking the Eiffel Tower, and we were married nearly a year later. To this day, I can’t believe he coordinated such a surprise. Now, I can’t think of Paris or the Eiffel Tower without thinking of the proposal. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.
Tell us about someone special in your life (other than your partner) with whom you share romance.
My dear friend Lauren Elkin ( laurenelkin.tumblr.com ) who was also my roommate in Paris in 2002 has always been someone to share romance with. Not only did she help my now-husband arrange his proposal in Paris (see above), but she has always been a person who follows her heart, which has been a wonderful example for me. Shes a talented novelist, essayist, literary critic and lecturer who left her home in New York to begin a whole new life in Paris, simply because it’s what her heart told her to do. While I was sitting around making practical decisions, she was living a life full of passion because she always dared to leap. She has always encouraged me to follow my passions too, and she’s someone I know I can always discuss love with. She’s the perfect blend of logical and emotional (which illuminates her beautiful writing too, by the way), and she’s taught me to be a more open version of myself and to always go where my heart leads me.
Do you have a place in the world or a sound that you equate with romance?
Yes. Paris. Of course that sounds obvious, right? Who doesn’t associate Paris with romance? But my now-husband proposed to me there; our wedding was partially Paris-themed, and we returned to Paris on our honeymoon. It’s also the place where I began writing my first novel all the way back in 2002, so it has always been filled with love and romance for me.
Who is your (or a) favorite romantic couple?
I’ve always really liked Helen (played by Gwyneth Paltrow) and James (played by John Hannah) from the 1998 movie Sliding Doors. Their chemistry is wonderful, and the situations in which they find themselves feel very real (whereas movie romances often feel a bit contrived). I also like the idea that they were somehow fated to find each other, no matter which direction their lives took.
Tell us about your dream date.
It’s funny; back when I was single, I used to think of dream dates in terms of huge romantic gestures. And I certainly went on a few of those types of dates. But my favorite date I’ve ever been on was my first date with my husband in December 2011. We’d been friends for years, but our timing had never been right; one or the other of us was always in a relationship, and because of that, I’d never really considered him a romantic option. But then we found ourselves single at the same time. He asked me out, and although the events of the date—dinner at McCormick & Schmick’s followed by a movie (2011s The Muppets)—weren’t anything extraordinary, the date itself was. The air just felt charged with something magical. I’d never been on a date before where my heart pounded every time the guy looked at me, and I’d never had conversation flow so perfectly and naturally. The goodnight kiss felt beautiful and oh-so-right—like coming home. It sounds crazy, but I knew by the end of the night that I was going to marry this guy. Everything just felt so different with him, and I knew it was exactly how it was supposed to feel.
Kristin Harmel and Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster are generously giving away a copy of both When We Meet Again and The Life Intended to one lucky US reader, apologies to international friends.
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment below or on the *Facebook post you’ll find here (or both – Share the Love!) ;o) by 11:59 pm PST August 25, 2016. Good luck!
(*You don’t have to like the FB page, but we do recommend it. It’s easier to contact you if you win. Also consider joining the Read-A-Romance Book Club page, where we discuss romance of all kinds and will have drawings and events throughout the year.)
Kristin Harmel is the international bestselling author of When We Meet Again, The Sweetness of Forgetting and The Life Intended, along with several other novels. Her work has been featured in People, Womans Day, Mens Health, Runners World, and Ladies Home Journal, among many other media outlets. She lives in Orlando, Florida.
Buy Kristin’s books:
*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and many text links connect to a Read-A-Romance Month affiliate portal. Thanks so much for your help & support!