Once in a while I go through my Facebook inbox, and all my old email, so I can delete old message that I’ve archived for one reason or another. I tend to read through them and then zap them if there’s nothing relevant to keep. Gone are the days when weeks would go by and I’d never get a message on Facebook–which goes to show just how much time is spent on that site now when so many folks message me there. (And no, I’m still not wild about being on Facebook most of the time, but what the hell, it is what it is, as the expression goes…)
I ran across a couple of messages that made me think today. Several people have told me over the past few years they’d read my books if they weren’t all romance. The expressed feeling being that romance books are trite, hastily tossed together crap that anyone can write, I guess. One point that came up a couple of times was the belief that romance novels deceive readers into an unrealistic expectation of what relationships are, and that too many younger women reading them are setting themselves up for disappointment. An interesting observation, but I have my doubts about any real validity to it in most cases – notice I said most, not all. I think romance novels fill voids for many readers, and allow them to dream and hope – but most of all, I think feel good romances make your heart smile and in the end that’s what good books are supposed to do – entertain readers on some level. (Obviously talking fiction here, not educational non-fiction.)
There are exceptions to the positive, of course. I will always maintain that Fifty Shades of Grey is a deeply negative story, teaching young women in particular a very warped and unhealthy idea of romance. Christian Grey is no hero, he is an abusive bastard dressed up in the trappings of wealth, and the entire story is enough to destroy all the progress women have made over the past few decades. Thankfully, stories like this pass and are not the standard for the industry and genre. The unwholesome and psychologically abusive relationship between Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey aside, MOST real relationships are based on respect and trust, not a desire or need to change people or make them bend to your will. This is true in real BDSM relationships, and your basic “vanilla” romantic relationship. It is only my opinion, of course, but I don’t see fear of your partner as a big turn on, and it shouldn’t be presented as such. That is the kind of fantasy that’s does lead to all sorts of skewed expectations and confusion, especially for the inexperienced and innocent.
I’ve been in a bit of a limbo on many things for a long time, even wondering if I should try to relaunch my writing efforts under a new name in order to distance myself from the past styles and honest upsets and malice that’s often plagued me for various reasons. In the end, I doubt that will happen, but I do know the coming year will see very different kinds of stories from me. I’m not going to pretend to be an erotic romance writer when it’s never really been my thing anyway. I do know whatever I write, in whatever genre, there will be elements of romance to carry the plot forward, and allow readers to connect on that special level with the people they’re reading about. Love, in all its glories and tears, is what connects and bonds us all to each other.
Some books carry very negative messages–that big blockbuster trilogy is one of them, as are so many of the copycats that exploded onto the scene in the wake of the success of Fifty Shades–but most of the time, I think we’re going for better things. Destructive messages are in all creative works, in all medias, and truthfully, I think romance is often the last place people find hope and beauty, so I will never apologize for loving to read it, and write it. I hope at least a few of the creative works I offer readers will and have made them smile and feel lighter at heart from time to time. Thoughts, anyone?