Ironically, I think I had an epiphany moment earlier today in the most unexpected of ways. I have a business page on Pinterest, and lately I’ve been using it more as I try my hand at visual boards for some new works. Mostly I love to peruse the new pins and things in the evening via my tablet, it’s quite relaxing. This afternoon I was killing some time and decided to have a look. As I looked over the new collection of images added over the past couple of days, one thing struck me hard and fast… fantasy… people are getting so into their online fantasy games and lives, they’re disconnecting from their own lives. It led me to make a post on my Facebook page: It's actually getting irritating to see how many people are more content to live in Fantasyland than deal with life in any way. Is pretending to be sexy and adventurous really preferable to actively making your real life the place that makes your heart smile? It's sad to see so many people running from themselves. What surprised me was the array of comments that followed quickly… mostly in support of the observation, I might add.
I have been writing romance for approximately ten years as a professional author. Prior to this, I wrote romantic elements into thrillers and high fantasy tales, but pretty much did not write straight-up romances. I’ve always read romance novels, started when I was about eleven and I go back to them always. But, it never occurred to me to write them. Then I started and discovered I really loved telling love stories. The past year or so, that has slowly changed in ways. The market itself has changed. The sudden explosion of erotic romance into the mainstream market has been a boon to many writers, and a death knell for others. I thought I was keeping up, but I know now this is not the direction for me. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not truly an erotic romance writer, and if I continue to attempt to push myself into that mould, I’ll hate it more all the time. All this crashed into clarity because of a bunch of images on Pinterest that were supposed to be “sexy” and honestly–I look at these pictures and the words that come to mind are anything but sexy or appealing. Exploitive, crass, vulgar, in some cases pushing the boundaries of abusive. Is this how sexy is defined now? Women and men tied up and hurting each other? This is not BDSM, (that is a lifestyle choice based on trust in its truest form), this shit is abusive and ugly.
Over and over on Facebook I see the streams of images, and the commentary that ranges from sublimely inane to just totally off the fantasyland parade track. When on earth did people get so caught up in this online Lalaland? At what point in time do you look up from the make-believe world on your screen and deal in terms of real life? How many people are pretending to be what they’re not–every day of their lives–because somehow they have the idea this shit makes them popular or cool?
There was a time when romance was a love story, not a battle. When a hero and a heroine falling in love was the lure. Even historical romances are falling into the crapper with language and terminology that would make an editor laugh out loud in horror ten years ago. I’ve used my share of explicit language and sexual content, so I’m not pretending otherwise. There are times when it’s appropriate and is part of the story-telling. I suppose what I really wonder is when did this become the entire story? When did a romance book require this much detailed sex to be considered a romance story?
Some people have long said that romance novels encourage unrealistic expectations in real relationships. Others have said that reading romance novels enhances real life relationships and keeps them healthy and thriving. BUT, when did these books become an excuse to avoid the real relationships we have? I can think of many people I know on social sites who would rather talk about their “hot” fictional crushes than sit down to dinner with their spouses, and honestly–how can that be positive? Living in a fantasy world might be a fun escape, but when you spend more time there than in the real world–I think we have a problem.
For me, I have to rethink my approach to many things in the coming weeks. I know I’m not cut out for the current romance rage. In an ideal world I’d be writing romance with sensual overtones and relationships that exist well beyond the sexual escapades. Personally, I don’t find pain and suffering sexy. I don’t think fucked up billionaires and tortured “boys” who need psychiatric help are remotely sexy. And, I don’t want to be just another writer selling out because these dysfunctional stereotypes are being lauded as sexy.
I’m not against erotic romance, and I will likely still write it when the story fits it. But, in the end, I guess it will always remain about the story for me, not the feeding frenzy of fantasy fucking that seems to be the favoured escape at the moment. For whatever reason, we’re reaching a place where people have to be reminded to treasure their realities as much as they do their entertainment escapes. If the fantasy is taking more time than your reality–look at yourself and ask why? Then fix what is wrong, because the real world is where you need to live, and fiction is the complement to that reality, not the alternative option. The farther you drift from the reality of your life, the more alone you become... and that is very sad, indeed.