Thank you, romance! An open letter to romance.
Thank you, romance, for bringing back my crazy-about-reading sixth grade self.
It 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!
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).
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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