Last year at the Brooklyn Book Festival, a man approached the RWA/NYC table and announced he did not believe in love as it is portrayed in romance novels. He believed real love had three stages.
The first was Romantic Love. During this period the couple meets and does not see each other’s faults. The second was Realistic Love. At that stage, each party in the relationship begins to notice the other’s faults. The final stage was Mature Love. At this time, the couple decides to loves each other despite their faults.
Once the monologue was over, the author sitting next to me asked the gentleman if he ever read a romance. His answer was, “No.”
This year, another man approached the RWA/NYC table and rolled his eyes when asked if he read or wrote romance. For a second I thought I was going to have the displeasure of listening to another monologue. However, instead of bursting into a lecture he asked, “aside from the obvious eroticism, what is in a romance?”
I explainedthat romances involve two (or more) people overcoming internal and external conflicts to have a happily-ever-after or happy-for-now. I also mentioned that a novel does not have to have sex in it to be a romance.
The conversation evolved into a discussion about research, the publishing industry and critique groups. Approximately fifteen minutes after he stopped by the table, the gentleman shook my hand and wished me well.
Though neither man read romance novels, the second was more pleasant to deal with. Instead of approaching the table and expressing a narrow-minded view, he asked questions.
It is easy to make assumptions about works we do not read or write. Authors unfamiliar with erotic romance may not realize that character growth is essential to the plot. Others may believe that characters must act a certain way (i.e. an African-American character must listen to R&B or Jazz music) in order to stay true to their culture.
When exposed to a sub-genre you’re not familiar, don’t simply turn your nose up and make assumptions. Keep an open mind and ask questions. By doing so, you may develop an interest in reading or writing something new. Even if you cannot be convinced to try a new sub-genre, by approaching it with an open mind you will have earned the other person's respect.♥
Ursula Renée is the President of RWA/NYC. She is the author of SWEET JAZZ, a historical, interracial romance. When she is not writing, she enjoys photography, drawing and stone carving. Visit her at www.ursularenee.com.