Oh, You Write THOSE Books – On Writing Romance by Roni Loren

Welcome to Writers’ Uni-Verse-City (or WUVC for short because every university has an acronym), a place where writers/bloggers can meet to discuss the craft of writing in the Internet age. WUVC will involve independent research, setting a curriculum and hopefully finding other participants (like you – readers/bloggers/writers) to: chip in, give tips, suggest books and other materials for study, teach me the ways of the warrior writer, and offer to guest post here at Uni-Verse-City (contact: annotationseditorial@gmail.com).

Today I’m excited to welcome Roni Loren as part of the Literary Genres Blog Series. She’s giving a glimpse into what its like to write in a genre with one of the biggest stigmas and what the genre is actually all about. 

One of the most interesting aspects of being a romance writer so far is the reactions I get when people ask me what I write. The responses can range from one extreme to the other. Many give the wink-wink-nudge-nudge response as if you’ve shared some scandalous secret with them. I haven’t. I don’t hide what I write. Though, I do usually just say romance or sexy romance and not erotic romance because the “erotic” word scares the bejesus out of some people for some reason.

But I’ve also had some pretty negative reactions–a snort and a curled lip from a female doctor (won’t be going back to her), people who immediately jump to the stereotype (“So will Fabio be on your cover?”  Which makes me want to say – Um, have you looked in the romance section in the last twenty years?), or people questioning if I’m just writing this “stuff” to break in so that I can write “real” books eventually.

It’s frustrating and annoying and if I add that to the general public’s perception of…

  • romance as female porn (it’s not, there is actually, ya know, a story),
  • romance readers as old maids who “can’t find a man” (most romance readers are in committed relationships and bonus–have twice as much sex as non-romance readers),
  • and the idea that this genre is “easy” to throw together and formulaic (I say to those people–try to write one and get it published).

It’s enough to make you want to pull your hair out. I also think it’s funny that so many people who pick on romance novels turn around and go see the latest romantic comedy at the movies or watch True Blood. Um, hello? Those are just romance novels on the screen.

So what is romance, really?

It’s a story about a romantic relationship that has a happy ending. That’s the the only rule.

Anything else–the world, time period, heat level, subplots, etc.–can be what you want them to be. That’s why it’s such a huge genre (and if you add in that YA seems to be almost 70% romance these days, it’s even bigger). You can get a bit of everything–suspense, mystery, paranormal, whatever–but you also get your guaranteed happy ending.

A few main subgenres of romance:

  • Contemporary – Takes place in current times, can vary widely in heat level. Includes subgenres such as Romantic Comedy and Chick Lit.
  • Historical – Takes place in a certain historical period (regency, medieval, American West, etc.), heat level can vary
  • Paranormal Romance/Fantasy/Futuristic – Supernatural creatures or powers are present. Or the story takes place in an entirely different world. The romance is primary though and the paranormal stuff is subplot. Urban Fantasy is usually the reverse–romance is usually secondary to the action plot in those. And some are about a 50/50 split–think Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series.
  • Time-Travel Romance – Usually involves one main character from contemporary times somehow stumbling into a situation where they fall in love with someone from another time period. (Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander is probably the most well-known–SO good.)
  • Inspirational – Christian romances, pretty strict requirements on physical relationship between couple, can be contemporary, historical, etc. as well
  • Erotic – These are romances where there are no closed doors for love scenes and euphemistic language isn’t used to describe sex. Passionate Ink describes it best: “The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and couldn’t be removed without damaging the storyline.” There are many subgenres under this one as well–contemporary, historical, paranormal, BDSM, male/male, menage, etc.
  • Romantic Suspense – The hero and heroine are usually involved in trying to solve some crime.
  • Category Romances – These can fall under any of these other genres but are shorter (55-65k) and are typically published by Harlequin. Because these are shorter, there are usually less complex subplots and focus mainly on the romantic relationship.
  • Young Adult – A romance where the characters are teens.

There are many more smaller subgenres and new ones popping up–romantic thrillers, romantic horror–so really, the possibilities are endless. All you need is your happy ending.

Nicholas Sparks is pretty well-known for kind of turning up his nose at the romance genre and insisting his books aren’t THAT kind of book. And you know what? He’s right. He writes romances, but then kills off one of the main characters, so he gets to be shelved in another part of the bookstore and call his books mainstream. If I, as a romance reader, picked up a book labeled romance and then you kill off the hero, I’d be PISSED. Seriously. Letters would be written.

I don’t like reading depressing or tragic books. Some people do and that’s fine. To each her own. But the reason why I write and love romance novels is because I want an escape where I know no matter how bad things get in a story, good will triumph, and love will win. That’s what satisfies and entertains me. I love that warm, fuzzy feeling I get from a happy ending.

So I refuse to apologize for writing in a genre that is all about hope, love, and finding the good in people. And I also refuse to apologize for writing stories that are *gasp* erotic. People expressing their love for each other through a physical connection is a beautiful (and natural) thing. There is nothing ugly or tawdry or wrong about that. So to those who trash romance: *sticks tongue out like a mature adult* You don’t have to read it, but please go bring your judge-y selves to someone else’s party. We’re having too much fun over here at ours.

Feel free to throw any questions at me that you might have about the genre. Do you read or write romance? Have you ever been judged for what you write–I know romance isn’t the only genre that gets flack?

Roni Loren wrote her first romance novel at age fifteen when she discovered writing about boys was way easier than actually talking to them. Since then, her flirting skills haven’t improved, but she likes to think her storytelling ability has. Her debut novel, CRASH INTO YOU, is now available from Berkley Heat. Website: www.roniloren.com

See the schedule of the upcoming guest posts and genres for the rest of this blog series, in this post.

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About Nicole Basaraba

Nicole Basaraba is a Canadian writer focusing on topics of travel (Mondays), writing and literature (Wednesdays), lifestyle (Fridays) and her experiences living in the capital city of Europe: Brussels, Belgium.
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45 Responses to Oh, You Write THOSE Books – On Writing Romance by Roni Loren

  1. TheOthers1 says:

    It’s funny that the genre that sells the best catches the most heat. I think it’s hard to write romance well and even harder to write erotica/erotic romance. I like trying my hand at it simply because it increases mt writing skills in general. To describe a sex scene eloquently and keep the reader glued in the process takes real talent.

    • I think you nailed it on the head “to describe a sex scene eloquently and keep the reader glued in the process takes real talent.” I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for commenting.

    • Roni Loren says:

      It is funny that we get so much heat. SOMEONE is buying all those “trashy” books, lol. And sex scenes are definitely a challenge to write. It’s like any other action scene, lots to choreograph, lots of emotion and inner dialogue to weave in, plot to move forward. It’s much more than tab A slot B.

      • Eden says:

        Maybe that is why romance writers get so much grief. Because they are out there, and they are getting the market share. Simple jealousy and visibility could be working both in your favor and not.

        I admit, I used to be one of those *snobs* who dissed the romance genre (I confess, I do still tease my mother about her book choices, but mostly because she’s my mom). Last year when I was writing details on a scene with my two favorite characters finally getting the chance to admit their feelings toward each other, I realized, I was actually bummed that I couldn’t give them the happy ending they deserved (other characters were not about to let that happen. Seems silly, but it was an epiphany. I wanted that happy ending too.

        I’m glad that someone’s favorite characters are getting theirs.

  2. KM Huber says:

    Yours is the most cogent description of the romance genre I have ever read. Thank you, and I mean that sincerely.
    Formerly, I taught writing. A student of mine did publish a romance novel (late 1980s), with which the class read for her; she showed us a list of criteria–when a certain scene should happen, etc.–until now, that has been my definition of the romance genre. By the way, the class and I thought the genre was most difficult to write, not easy in any way.
    As you say, no matter what happens in the story, it’s going to have a happy ending. Now that makes solid genre sense.
    Also, you just sold a book. Excellent, excellent post. Again, thank you Roni Loren.
    Karen

  3. Lydia Sharp says:

    Such a good post. Thank you!

  4. Hi Roni! I just love it when you rant…you make so much sense & such good points! Keep writing & ranting! :)

  5. This made me laugh because I was just thinking of this yesterday. I was writing up a guest post on making sci-fi more relatable to the masses and it occurred to me that even though I write in one of “those” genres (the kind that, in high school, if you admitted you read it, the jocks would dump you head-first into the trash can at lunchtime,) I looked down on romance too for a long time.

    I guess everyone needs someone to feel superior to.

    • Roni Loren says:

      Yes, unfortunately, everything always has to turn into an “us” “them” thing. Can’t we all just happily read what we want without all the judgement? If you don’t like to read something, don’t read it. But why put down those who do? I don’t get it.

  6. I love this post! It’s interesting to learn about the different romance genres too.
    Personally, I love “cozy mysteries.” The manuscript I’m working on now techincally falls under that category. In the beginning, I was almost apologetic about writing in that genre, but you know what? I got over it! I can read (and enjoy) something more gritty, but at the end of the day, I want something less dark, and cozies fill that need for me. I’m entertained, not drained.
    I have had a couple of people wrinkle their noses at me for writing “fluff.” *eye roll* So they’re not my audience… But a lot of other people will (hopefully) eventually eat it up.
    Great post, Roni! Thanks so much for sharing your perspective!

  7. Natalie Bahm says:

    Well said, Roni! Honestly, I get some of the same responses when I tell people I write middle grade. Most people assume that it’s easy to write for kids. I’ve heard YA and sci-fi/fantasy authors say the same thing. I think the only writers who get universal respect are the ones who write adult literary fiction. Alas.

    • Your comment made me laugh. I think it is true that a lot people think genre fiction is easy to write and that literary fiction is the only deserving merit. Great point that romance isn’t the only one that gets flack.

    • Roni Loren says:

      I would find writing middle grade impossible. I admire anyone who can do it well. And I think you’re right. Lit Fic is the only one that most people are impressed by.

  8. Fantastic post Roni and so well said and spoken! Here here and AMEN to that Sista! :-)

  9. Thank you for writing this! I have to say, I get looks just saying I’m a romance READER. Sad to think about how strong the stereotypes are – but I always feel better when turning to the romance community. So many lovely, happy and confident people always willing to share another recommendation!

  10. Karla says:

    Great post, Roni! So well said. I often use the movie/TV show comparison when people give me the sideways eyes for being a romance author and devoted reader. Not that those romance-ridiculers admit that it’s the same thing. But that’s okay. We know we’re right. ;)

  11. deniz says:

    Brilliant post, Roni! I still remember a friend who, on finding out that I was writing a historical romance, asked if there would be ‘heaving bosoms’. Uh, sure.

  12. susielindau says:

    I am almost done with a book and need to fill it in with some erotic pages. I know I just need to let it fly…..

    • Roni Loren says:

      My best advice for getting comfortable writing the sexy stuff is to read above the heat level you plan on writing. So if you want to write “sexy” then read “erotic”. If you want to write “erotic”, read the stuff that’s really kinky, lol. There is ALWAYS someone writing naughtier than you and somehow that frees me up to let go in my own writing. It takes away that *omg, people are going to read this* factor.

      • susielindau says:

        I had found a guy who was featured in flash fiction last week on WordPress for “The Plumber.” http://kylemew.com/ OMG I felt like a voyeur, but that guy can write. I sensed that I needed to read something in that genre to loosen me up! Hahaha! I know that my friends love books with sexy scenes and my husbands says I have to include them or my book will seem stuffy so I will let you know how it goes…

  13. Julie Glover says:

    Great job! I’d probably classify myself as one of these people who turned up their noses at Harlequin for a long time. I realize now, however, that almost every novel has a romantic aspect to it. When I started actually reading romances, I discovered that I dislike some and really enjoy others — just like almost every other genre.

    You did a great job explaining the romance genre, Roni. I really appreciated the breakdown of subgenre as well. Thanks!

    • Roni Loren says:

      Thanks, Julie. And it seems the biggest critics of romance are people who don’t actually read them to see what the books are really like. And yes, just like any other genre, there are good ones and bad ones.

  14. Jenny Hansen says:

    Great post, Roni! Nicole, thanks for doing this series. I’m busily working on my memoir post.

    My fave decription of romance EVER: a genre that is all about hope, love, and finding the good in people. Exactly why I write them. My fiction straddles the line with women’s fiction, but this is really what it’s all about for me.

    Oh, and I bow to you for finding ease in writing sex scenes. They take so much talent and JUST KILL ME every time I have to write one. Any tips are much appreciated…

    • Roni Loren says:

      Hey Jenny, I’m going to copy some advice I gave above about writing love scenes:
      My best advice for getting comfortable writing the sexy stuff is to read above the heat level you plan on writing. So if you want to write “sexy” then read “erotic”. If you want to write “erotic”, read the stuff that’s really kinky, lol. There is ALWAYS someone writing naughtier than you and somehow that frees me up to let go in my own writing. It takes away that *omg, people are going to read this* factor.

      Also, if you decide to go to RWA Nationals this year, I’m doing a workshop on writing love scenes with a panel of authors from every romance genre (from inspirational up to me with erotics) so that may help.

  15. Kat Morrisey says:

    Great post! I was just telling someone about my writing and they sneered and actually said, in a rather insulting way, “I bet it’s all sorts of romance-y huh?”. I was kind of taken aback. I mean, (1) who care if it is, if that is what I like and am good at and (2) why all the hate in general on romance? Just boggles my mind. So thanks for the post–it reminds me I just need to ignore the haters out there and write what I like!

  16. Stacy Green says:

    Great post! This is one of the best break downs of the genres I’ve seen. There are a lot of judgements passed on romance writers, and it’s kind of mind blowing. It kind of reminds me of the time my sister said it would be easy to write a book. Right. I don’t care what the genre is, putting together a good plot and characters is HARD. Putting together one that sells is even more difficult. Kudos to you for sticking up for your genre!

  17. Some of the most professional and open writers I’ve met are the Harlequin Romance writers. They can actually make a living writing books. I wish I could write that type because it seems to be a nice life/job.

    • Roni Loren says:

      Harlequin writers amaze me. They work HARD. Most put out 2-3 books a year to make that living. I had a book Harlequin Blaze was interested in, but I had to pull back when I got the Berkley deal because I knew I couldn’t produce at the rate I would need to build a Harlequin career and write for Berkley as well.

  18. If that was a rant, Roni, it was a fabulous one. Made me feel great about reading and writing romance and when considered from outside my own “romance is awesome and you naysayers just don’t know it” bubble, that’s rare. It’s irritating that even though romance represents wonderful ideals, it gets kicked around and often quite maliciously. I actually think romances are rather feminist these days which makes any attack all the more frustrating.

    For a genre so many women(and men!) love, it must have some merit. Granted, romance may not be everyone’s preferred genre but it’s emotionally relevant and that alone should give it a place on the human bookshelf.

  19. Riley Murphy says:

    Hi Nicole! *waves* Don’t you love Roni?
    Hi Roni!
    I’m LMAO! (at your judge-y-selves) hahahah! I actually had a neighbor who read my book say, and I quote, “That stuff you write. That kind of thing? It might catch on.” Right. BDSM might catch on???? Hillarious!
    I lub your spunk, girlfriend! *Hi-five*

  20. katmagendie says:

    Okay, I have to admit this — I am irritated when men assume I am a Romance Writer just because i am a woman and a novelist. My novels are southern/appalachian fiction (no one wants to say “literary” because people are as afraid of that as they are romance! Seriously, I could almost input “literary” over “romance” in this post *laugh*). It’s as if they think any woman who writes, has to write romance. It’s the assumption that bugs me!

    But, in the last year, I have read quite a few books labeled as “romance” and have been pleasantly surprised. “Back in the day” romance was always called “Bodice Rippers” and I admit again that is what i thought – until I removed my head from the sand *laugh*

    Then, this month, my publishers called my next book a “Supernatural Romance” and when I saw the contract, I became nervous — I mean, me? I can’t write “that kind” of book. But, then again, maybe I can – the publishing and genre world has ripped open and out spills all manner of books! It’s exciting. And, as my editor said, “Write this book how YOU write, don’t worry that you have to write it in any other way.” Bingo!

    Nice rant – I love a good rant and have been known to let fly some m’sef :-D

  21. Pingback: Writing in different genres: A Blog Series | Nicole Basaraba's Uni-Verse-City

  22. Pingback: Literary Genre Blog Series A Success! | Nicole Basaraba's Uni-Verse-City

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