One of the most amusing side effects of becoming a romance writer has been the ideas other people have formed about me after learning that I write this stuff. I’ve been flattered, offended and bowled over with laughter at some of things to come out of people’s mouths about what I do. Here are the five biggest preconceptions I’ve found that people have about romance writers. Are you a romance writer? I’d love to hear what assumptions have been made about you!
1. I write porn.
This is, perhaps, the greatest myth about romance novelists and has likely contributed most to the widely-held belief that romance novels are not considered “real” literature. Well, I actually take offense to this one. It usually takes me a year to write a romance novel, and the majority of that time is doing real research, then weaving a story and editing it. I cannot even exaggerate how tiny the amount of time is that’s dedicated to writing a sex scene. I, along with most romance writers I enjoy and know, don’t write gratuitous sex scenes. Like any other plot element, sex scenes are used to enhance or progress a story. They are not just thrown in for the sake of making a racy book. I personally believe that writing sexual tension is far more important than writing sex scenes, and I try to keep mine minimal and tasteful. The fact that people think I write porn is laughable. I’ve read more graphic sex scenes in a Dean Koontz novel.
2. I am a sexpert.
This is quite flattering. It also reminds me of stories my aunt would tell me from when she used to host “fun” parties and sale scandalous goodies to womenfolk around town. She’d conduct her sales in a back bedroom one-on-one and when her customers would shut the door, they’d unload on her as if she was a sex therapist, just because she sold sex toys. I’ve had similar happenings, and while I’m happy that I appear to know what I’m talking about, I find it difficult to say anything more than, “hmm…you should really talk to your husband about that” or “what’s normal for me may not be normal for you,” and all sorts of awkward one-liners like that.
3. I’m writing about my sex life.
This usually comes from men, and it makes me laugh. I may or may not be into the kind of sex that my characters are into, but it is a mistake to think that I am translating my nocturnal activities into print for the world to read.
4. I’m writing about my sexual fantasies.
This usually comes from women, and makes me laugh even harder. I think that romance is the highest grossing of all literary genres because romance writers are tapping into other women’s fantasies, not necessarily our own. I write stories that I want to read, and I care more about the love than the sex, and you’ll see that in my books.
5. I am my heroines.
When I published my first contemporary, I had so many people ask me if I had ever been in an abusive or controlling relationship because my heroine had been in one. I had to explain that I am not Mackenna. I would never accept things that she did. I had family members come to me and say they never knew I felt a certain way about somebody or something and I’d have to say that I didn’t. She’s not me! This is such a hard thing to explain, because my characters are borne from me. They come through me like my own children, but they are not me. As a writer, you write what you know. So, of course experiences from my life, socially, emotionally and romantically, make it into my stories. And I like to think that there is a piece of me in each of my characters, but they are not me, and I am not them. I wish I had half their strength.
So, what about you other romance writers out there? What do readers believe of you?