The Heart of the Matter
If you know me at all or hang out with me on Facebook, you’ve probably seen this graphic before. Life is too short to make a habit of reading depressing books, and it is definitely too short for me to write them. I’m basically an optimist, which is why I love popular fiction in general. Popular fiction gives us all a sense of order. A crime will be solved in the mystery novel; the serial killer will be caught in a thriller. In the romance, the lovers will find their happy ending, which means babies will be born and civilization will go on. The great romance novel affirms our core values as a society–values we may believe are slipping away from us. We write about love and justice, trust and loyalty. About forming families and community. The lovers’ path will be treacherous – and almost certainly paved with deliciously hot sex(!) – but our hero and heroine will eventually find their way just as we hope we will find ours. What’s not to love about that?
I receive e-mail from readers all over the world that clearly tells me how challenging women’s lives can be. I hear from readers coping with the death of a spouse, a child; readers dealing with serious health issues; with job loss; and readers who simply want a little “me time” after working hard all day. Our books provide entertainment, inspiration, and a sense of order. We write to the big emotions, and readers love that. They clearly know the difference between reality and fantasy. They simply want a good story, characters they care about, and emotions they can identify with – exactly what the good romance delivers. What I strive to deliver in every one of my books.
I love what I do! Writing stories that explore love, friendship and journeys of personal metamorphosis is affirming and joyful (even though the process is sometimes arduous – for me at least). There can’t be anything more satisfying than knowing you’ve found the path in life you were meant to take.
But there’s also something special about this genre. Look at its diversity: from historical to contemporary to futuristic settings. We have social issue romances, romantic comedies, suspense and adventure. We have vampires, werewolves, and regency bucks. And – more than any other field of popular fiction – the romance genre has proved to be a fertile creative playground for its authors. Jayne Ann Krentz has an interesting take on this, one with which I concur. She believes that, because the romance genre historically has received so little attention from literary critics and academics, our authors have felt free to fly under the radar and do pretty much whatever they want. No one in the literary establishment (except a few million readers!) is watching us all that closely. This freedom has led to an astonishing degree of innovation that makes it difficult to define exactly what a romance even is these days.
I’ve heard my share of non-readers who don’t get the genre and take joy in putting it down. They don’t matter. Romance fuels our imaginations and, frankly, the publishing industry. Romance and the power of a happy ending fulfill us, entertain us and make us feel better about our world and our lives.
That’s what matters.
Susan is generously donating a copy of the trade edition of The Great Escape to give away internationally (enter here) and a copy of the audiobook of The Great Escape to U.S. readers. 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 midnight EST Aug 8 to be eligible, though winners will be announced the following week.
SUSAN ELIZABETH PHILLIPS is proud of having pioneered the sports romance with her 1989 novel Fancy Pants, which was about golf, a sport she declares the most boring in the world, although she fervently hopes her novels are not. Not long after, she created the legendary Chicago Stars football series. In addition, she has written a number of stand-alone novels⎯21 books in all, which have been published in over 30 languages. She is a New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, and USA Today best seller, as well as the 2006 recipient of RWA’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She is currently working on her next book.
Buy Susan’s books on Amazon.