Disclaimer: in this post I only address my fantasy romances, not my rom coms.
If you ever went through some sort of existential crisis, you’ll sympathize with what I am about to say. Specially if you’re a writer like me who does not know where she stands as an author anymore. If you didn’t, maybe this blog won’t make any sense to you, but I must write it anyway. As a writer I have always found that sometimes the mere act of writing things down helps alleviate stress and confusion.
Not that this is a new question in my mind, but it came back in force after the release of my latest book, Foxy Tails. Reviews for this book have been a true mixed bag, and if you follow me you will remember that I even wrote a blog recently about how confused I felt with some of those same reviews. Now that I had some time to think about it, I believe that the biggest problem with my book is that it’s been misunderstood. The other possibility is that my writing totally stinks, but I prefer to go with my first option.
The truth is that I have been having serious doubts about the wisdom of marketing my fantasy/paranormal books as romances. Romance lovers, don’t get all upset. I’m not putting the genre down at all, but hear me out.
To make some sense of it, I must go back to when I fell in love with a good love story. I have always been a bit of an eclectic reader, going through stages when I read all mystery or fantasy or what they called mainstream fiction. The one thing in common among all the different genres I have been reading since I was old enough to do so (maybe even a little younger) is that my favorite reads were always the ones that had some kind of love story within the plot. I think I have always been in love with the idea of love so when I started writing for publication I immediately turned to the romance arena. However, what I didn’t realize at the time was that what I call romance is not necessarily what others call it.
Let me explain.
For me, romance is all about the longing glances, the touch of the hand, the sexual tension between two characters, the things they are willing to do for each other, the developing friendship, the passionate kisses…
For most people today though, romance translates in great part (I’m totally generalizing) to sex. More specifically to in how many different ways the couple can have sex and make it as detailed as possible, please.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with that. Reading, like everything else in life is a personal choice catering to a personal taste. The problem is that that’s not how I like my romance.
I suspected I was on the wrong track when I found myself going back to finished manuscripts and inserting sex scenes (which I try really hard to make as romantic–my definition of romantic–as possible) just because I knew that readers would want them, not because I felt they were necessary for the plot. Furthermore I realized with some measure of surprise that I don’t read that much romance at all.
Many years ago I would read a lot of Harlequin romances (historical and contemporary) but in recent years I read mostly other genres with romance sub-plots. I also was shocked with myself when I quickly tired of watching the ever-popular Bridgerton TV series despite the hot male lead and the interesting take on the historical setting. But I am yet to tire of Grantchester or Miss Scarlet & the Duke which both feature strong romantic sub-plots but are not marketed as romances.
I’m also a huge fan of Chinese period fantasies/romances where sex is non-existent and even simple kissing is normally just a touch of the lips. But man! are they romantic. Even my toes tingle when the main couple kiss for the first time…
I love a good sex scene when the couple reaches a new level of intimacy, but I don’t need all the details. I like allowing my imagination to run wild while I read. And I don’t want to read chapters-worth of very detailed sex scenes described sometimes in crass language that I will always associate with not-so-romantic things (see my blog about this here).
So, my question is: am I doing the right thing by marketing all of my books as romances first and then either fantasy or paranormal? Am I really doing my books and my readers a disservice by “promising” something I won’t deliver? Or should I change things around?
I would love to hear your take on this.