What are the odds that you would ever pick up a book with some half naked man/woman on the cover and buy it? Would you read it? Is it a guilty pleasure or do you proudly stalk right up to the register and slap it on the counter?
The Erotic Romance genre is a HUGE market, especially in the world of e-books, and it’s no secret that 99.9% of the readers AND writers are women. Slow your roll, this isn’t a debate about men vs. women. What I’d really like to talk about, is stereotyping. The title “Romance Novel” has an unfortunate stigma attached to it that keeps many readers from even skimming those shelves, physical or virtual. And that’s just sad. Here’s why:
Most every single one of the “Epic” Fantasy or SciFi classics is either centered around a love story, or has one woven into the plot that plays a major role in how everything pans out. Whether it’s Aragorn and Arwen, Anakin and Padme, Leia and Han or Jake and Neytiri… the human emotion of love is a necessary element, because as with all of the other struggles, sorrow and triumphs in the story, we can relate to it. It’s like a pearl of realism in a world made of sheer fantasy. It allows us, even for just a couple of hours, to believe in the possibility of that pretend place, those supernatural creatures, being real.
So, what are the odds that you could actually find all of that inside of a “Romance Novel?” Very high, actually. I have read some Erotic Romance novels that, if ever adapted into film, would rival shows like Game of Thrones and Spartacus, movies like 300 and Immortals. But the odds of them ever garnering such “Epic” attention is so very, very slim. Because they are written under the category of “Romance.”
Listen up, Judges. Just like everything else, Romance novels have also evolved over the last 50 years. They’re not all just purple prose and Jane Austen with nudity.
“Well, the characters are just too unrealistic,” I often hear. It’s true that most of the female characters are exceptionally beautiful and the men outrageously gorgeous, but I honestly didn’t see anyone complaining about that as ‘exceptionally beautiful’ and ‘outrageously gorgeous’ actors took on the roles of their favorite characters for the big screen.
“Men are never really like that” – This one, believe it or not, is a common complaint from both genders. This is derived from the old “I’m Tarzan (looking), but I also spout poetry and give awesome foot massages, because I’m totally in touch with my feminine side” personae that most people believe Romance novels are all about. Can you see me rolling my eyes? Trust me, this is definitely NOT the case in most current works of romance. There are no more or less ‘bad’ romance novels than there are any other kind of novel and it truly saddens me that so many in the literary circles look down on romance novel authors as if they are “less” of a writer, simply because they choose to focus on love and sex. Two of the most basic, easy-to-relate-to human connections in the world.
The point is, that’s not all they are about. Just as with some of the “Epic” fantasy and SciFi favorites, a good majority of Erotic Romance novels are packed full of action, suspense, politics, family hardships, personal and spiritual growth, inner-demons, real demons, etc… They have much bigger plots surrounding the relationship between the main protagonists. What really bothers me, is when Hollywood does finally decide to make a movie out of a “Romance Novel,” it’s Fifty Freaking Shades of Grey. Like it’s the first ever BDSM novel to hit the shelves.
No, I’m not here to slander E.L. James or her books. I’m here to say that I would much rather see Gena Showalter’s Lords of the Underworld series adapted to film. Why? Because the action is bloody, the suspense is crippling, the supernatural elements are unique, the humor is amazing and the plots would stand up all on their own even if you took the graphic sex out. If you took the BDSM aspects out of Fifty Shades, you’d be left with a YA romance about a young couple coming from two different worlds – one excessively wealthy, the other not – Wow, I’ve never seen that movie before….
Look, I really don’t care if you never touch a Romance Novel in your life. All I care about is being looked down upon for choosing to write it. You know, don’t judge a book by it’s cover? Yet that is exactly how Romance Novels are treated, and likewise, their authors. Everyone writes what they love, and are no more or less “Great” at it than they have a natural talent for. Even then, writers – of EVERY genre – are always learning how to refine their craft.
One day, I hope, Erotic/Romance Novels will speak for themselves and show the literary world all the “Epic” greatness they’ve been missing because of their preconceived notions that it’s all just trash. Until then, I’m going to keep writing what I love and writing it to the utmost of my ever-evolving ability and unless you’ve actually taken the time to read any of it, I’d hope you’d have the courtesy of keeping your mind open or at least your mouth shut. Believe it or not, we don’t look toward your favorite genres with aspiring longing. We got this.