Romance Writer, Out and Proud
When I first started writing romance I kept it a secret. I was an English teacher with a higher degree and any writing I might do was supposed to be “serious” and “literary”. I knew I would cop a lot of flack from friends and work colleagues.
But I loved writing my stories, and when my first book was published I started telling people. From then on the jokes flew thick and fast. You? Writing romance? That rubbish? What a joke! Yeah, right. Hilarious.
Beneath the “fun” and “joking”, there was a good deal of scorn for the genre I’d chosen to write in. Writing crime fiction would be far more respectable, apparently. What does it say about our society that books about murder are more highly regarded than books that celebrate love?
Of course, none of these people had read any of my books. They didn’t need to — they knew what they were like. They’d ask, “When are you going to write a real book?” or “Are you still writing those little books?” My books are about 100,000 words, so by “little” they didn’t mean length, but that the books were trivial.
I tried not to let it get to me, but sometimes it did.
A letter from a reader changed my attitude. This letter:
I have just finished your novella The Virtuous Widow and I had to write to say how much I loved it. I don’t usually read historical romances, but I got a collection called Regency Brides with another collection and decided to keep it.
I have a lot of time to read now. Up until May 10th this year I was a 24 hour carer for my dad but he died on that day. Just last week I was told that I have a degenerative spinal disease (my spine is crumbling) and I will be in a wheelchair in the future. My husband is disabled and we have 2 sons aged 5 and 8. Because they need me, I usually tend to my own pain control at night time when I do most of my reading. I really couldn’t put your book down until I had finished it. It took my mind off everything that has happened, and took me back to Ellie and Amy’s home.
I intend to look for some other books of yours at my local library as this story really whetted my appetite. Up until I started this, I hadn’t been able to settle to read, but this story got me going again. Thank you.
It was my first piece of hard evidence that romance matters. Really matters.
When we’re struggling through hard times, or needing escape, or hope, or reassurance or simple entertainment, how fabulous that we can find it in a romance novel.
Never doubt that romance matters. It does.
It’s also fun! And that’s an unbeatable combination.
Recommendations: A new author I would recommend is Anna Cowan. Her debut book, UNTAMED, is just out and it’s highly original, unconventional, beautifully written and a little bit raw in places. Her book is available as an e-book internationally, and a trade paperback in Australia. www.annacowan.com
Questions for Anne:
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
It’s this lamp, made by a wood turner friend of mine for an auction to raise money for an artists’ space. The wood is Australian native wood, the “lamp” is a car head light, and it’s an eye. It’s crazy, it’s ugly and I love it to bits.
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
There’s a song by singer Paul Kelly called “I’ve Done All the Dumb Things” and it would be the soundtrack for a movie of the same name. As for who would play me, maybe Renée Zellweger.
What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?
A dog. A dog is a creature full of love.
If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be?
The first meeting between the hero and heroine in The Perfect Rake is fun, I think — part of it’s on my website. You can read it here.
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.
Anne is generously donating one copy of The Autumn Bride for international readers and one copy for U.S readers. 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 30 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!
Anne Gracie spent her childhood on the move when her father’s job took them around the world. The gypsy life taught her that humor & love are universal languages and that favorite books can take you home, wherever you are.
Anne lives in Australia, but writes regency-era historical romances for Berkley books, USA. Her bestselling books have won a number of awards, including the National Readers Choice Award (USA) — twice– the Romantic Book of the Year (Australia) also twice, and have been nominated four times for the prestigious RWA RITA. She’s a former president and lifetime honorary member of Romance Writers of Australia. Find her online at www.annegracie.com