Ever since I started on this unexpected, romance-author journey, people have said to me, “Hey, your book is pretty good! Have you thought about writing something else?”
And it’s a compliment, I think. They assume that if I can write decently, I should try my hand at types of books that are traditionally more respected, such as literary fiction, or memoir. And I understand why they think that way. Since most of the people I know don’t usually read romance, to them those other genres represent real writing.
Before I sound ungrateful, let me explain how much I appreciate that my friends and loved ones have stepped out of their usual genres to read my book. There’s this very emotional combination of gratitude and awe in my heart these days. I’m absolutely thrilled that they like my book and honored that they feel like I might be up to a new challenge!
But the answer to their question, like so many things in life, is yes and no. Yes, I’ve certainly thought about writing a memoir. My life story probably contains a few more misadventures than average, and I wouldn’t mind sharing them someday. And I admire and enjoy a lot of literary fiction as well. But no, right now I’m not seriously considering changing genres, and here is why.
In my thirties I had a year where my father passed away from cancer, I broke up with my fiancé, and I was working at a really tough job that left me completely exhausted and drained. In my grief and, sometimes, despair, I found myself disliking most of the literary fiction I was reading. It was depressing! People died and people hurt each other, and I had enough of that going on in my real life.
When I mentioned my lack of reading material to my sister, she suggested that I try reading romance novels. They were perfect, she told me, because nothing very terrible happened in them. They were an escape. Even if there were some sad bits, you were guaranteed a happy ending.
I took her advice and for at least a year, all I read was romance. I loved having that escape! I loved reading about strong heroines who made changes in their lives and were okay at the end of it. I’m pretty sure some of those stories helped me find the courage to make changes in my own life. Changes that have made me a much happier person than I was back then.
I’m writing romance to give my readers the same chance to escape that my favorite authors gave me, back when I so desperately needed it. I want readers to be transported to another place, into the minds and hearts of other people, for a few precious moments of relaxation and fun. I want to help people take a break from whatever cares or troubles might be causing them stress, and give them the happy ending that real life doesn’t always provide.
I’m writing romance because I’ve always been a bit of a rebel inside, and writing romance in our cynical society feels to me like a rebellious act. So many of our movies and books show violence, or focus on all the ways we hurt each other, physically and emotionally. I like that romance novels try to give airtime to the positive. I like that romance writers have the courage to explore ideas like hope, kindness, love, and our ability to change.
I’m writing romance because it’s fun! Creating characters, and exploring what drives them to keep looking for the love of their life, despite the potential for heartbreak, is fascinating. Seeing what my imagination can come up with is pretty interesting too. I had no idea there were so many people, with stories waiting to be told, wandering around in my head!
Someday you might see my memoir on a bookshelf somewhere. It’s even (remotely) possible that I will write literary fiction at some point. But right now, I’m sticking with romance novels!