Monday, June 25, 2012

Romance, Up Close & Personal

Today Julie James (contemporary romance author of awesomeness) is interviewing four of her male friends to get their perspective on the experience of reading her romance novels.  (And she's doing a giveaway for the I-love-winning-stuff inclined.)  I've never had conversations like this with the fellas in my life because if they've read my books, I don't know it.  And I like not knowing.  I really like not knowing.

But you know, I don't think that's a gender thing.  I've been ruminating on this one I think it boils down to familiarity with the genre.  And familiarity with me.  

When friends and family members who are romance lovers read my stuff, I'm perfectly happy to talk with them about it if they want.  And meeting strangers on a train in Cinque Terra and giving them my name so they can look up my books even though they've never read romance because they are so excited to meet a real live author - that's just fun.  But I have actually discouraged some friends from reading my books - not because of gender, but because I got the sense they were using my books as a tool to judge me and judge the genre.  Or maybe "judge" has too many negative connotations.  We'll say form an opinion of, instead.  With people who know me really well, obviously I don't think a book is going to materially alter their perceptions of me, but with people just getting to know me, I hate the idea that they will think all I am is contained in my books. Not to say you can't learn anything about me through my writing, but it's a Venn diagram, not a one-to-one match.

But it isn't just that I don't like feeling judged personally.  Sometimes it isn't about me; it's about the genre.  When I first started writing romance (after years dabbling in fantasy) my mother was not a romance reader.  She'd always been a big supporter of my writing and loved reading my manuscripts, but I explained to her that I wasn't comfortable with her reading my romance novel until she had read at least one other romance, for a frame of reference.  So I got her hooked on Jennifer Cruise and Nalini Singh and other purveyors of romance awesome, and then let her read my first romance attempt.  I never doubted she would love it (because she's my mom and she's totally biased) but I was more comfortable knowing I wasn't her first exposure to the genre.

Does that mean I don't want anyone to read my books who doesn't already love romance?  Hell, no.  When The Sexorcist was picked for the Crasstalk Book Club, it was the inaugural romance for many of their members and I loved broadening those high-brow literary horizons (even if it was somewhat unwillingly for some of them).  I'm perfectly delighted to devirginize non-romance readers - provided those readers are complete strangers. 

It's something about the personalization of someone who knows me forming an opinion of me, my books, and my genre in a bubble that wigs me out.  Which I actually feel mild twinges of guilt for, like I'm failing in some way if I don't badger everyone I know to read my books.  (Damn that self-promotion brainwashing!)  It isn't insecurity.  It isn't any sort of shame over what I write. (I'm proud! I'm confident!)  I think I could be writing The Greatest & Most Important Novel of All Time and I would still be telling people that they don't have to read it to support me and be my friend.  Perhaps it's about separation of church and state.  Being able to keep some distance between my Author-Self and my non-writing-self.  But there really isn't any distance, is there?  They're both me.

And I think we've officially gotten too philosophical for ten in the morning. 

So, moral of the story, go off and check out Le Blog du Julie James and her fellas, but don't expect anything like that over here any time soon because apparently I am a crappy ambassador for the genre.  At least when it comes to the people I know directly.

1 comment:

Vivant said...

Thanks for the link to the Julie James interview. Very entertaining and interesting to see the guys' perspective.