My first hand experience of the stigma and ignorance the erotic romance genre endures and the potential dangers to authors.
I am back a week early from my vacation, and when I say vacation I mean hospital. I have just spent three week in a pain rehabilitation clinic and let’s just say I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy. As such, I will be easing myself back into writing. I did try and make the most of my time in hospital, not just physically but also artistically. Although I didn’t look at my blog or writings whilst I was in hospital I did try and absorb as much as I could from the experience, both what I went through emotionally and what I witnessed, as material for my writing. I also had some epiphanies about my work that would not have occurred had I not had an extended break (I will touch on these in another post). I like to believe something good can come out of even the darkest hours. However, what I want to talk about today is the genre I write in – erotic romance. I was often quizzed in hospital about what I did with my ‘spare’ time. Because I am not able to work in my old profession and have to spend quite a lot of my time resting my various physical therapists wanted to know what I did with my time to keep my mind active. I am not big on disclosing more than I have to so I simply told them I wrote and that I was close to having my first novel finished. And their response? I quote: “Oh, that’s great! As long as it’s not that romance crap – but someone like you wouldn’t write that anyway.” Let me count the ways in which I was offended. First, their support for my chosen profession was contingent on genre. Never mind the fact that I battle pain everyday to sit down and engage in an activity that not only fosters my mind, heart and spirit. Never mind I am moving past the grief of not being able to work in my chosen profession to find another way to establish financial independence. Never mind the fact that I am learning a new skill and constantly fighting crippling pain, low self esteem and corrosive self doubt to continue learning. No, never mind any of that. If I am writing the wrong genre it is meaningless “crap”. For them to support me, I need to be writing the ‘right’ kind of books. Second, ‘someone like me’ wouldn’t write in the erotic romance genre anyway. Someone like me? Who exactly is someone like me? Indeed – that is the exact question I asked them. Clarification is a good way to drill down into someone’s true thoughts on the subject at hand. It also allows them insight into how truly ignorant and offensive they sound. So, despite the fact I don’t even know myself they were able to sum me up as an educated, cynical and cultured woman who was above that “drivel haha”. Hmmm, really? I am above love and sex? I didn’t realize I had been neutered and emotionally cauterized. Never mind the fact that the reason I was drawn to writing in this genre was because of how the harmony of romance and sex heightened the already intriguing and well paced plots of my favourite writers. And quiet frankly, I like sex. (OMG I KNOW! Crazy, right?) Some examples of my writing heroines include Tiffany Reisz, Laurell K Hamilton, Karen Marie Moning, and Elizabeth Hunter. Are you really going to try and tell me these women are not good writers just because they include sex and love? Sure, it may not be to your taste but these writers sure as hell know how to engage their targeted audience. I count myself as lucky that I don’t need my pain rehabilitation team as a literary cheer squad. But I wont say that I wasn’t disappointed. Also, I am sure there are others out there who, unlike myself, haven’t been hardened by years of criticism endured as part of a PhD, may give up in the face of such ridicule. I believe this is somewhat dangerous because not only would it damage their self esteem but also, a healthy and active body also requires an active and healthy mind – what better way to achieve that than through art? Regardless of genre I think if someone is trying to claw their life back and create something, even if it is just for themselves, they should be supported if not admired. Rehabilitation is a tough process at the best of times. Considering all I have been through it was wonderful to read this article today: “Things no one tells you about romance readers” by Danielle Binks. Danielle covered the Australian Romance Readers Convention that has just been and gone in Canberra. She touched on many of the issues raised at the convention including the stigma and misconceptions our genre faces. It is always sad to read how maligned our genre is, it was nice to be reminded I wasn’t alone. Although, I am hoping that the romance and erotic genres can get the respect they deserve in the near future it was heartening to see some of these misconceptions challenged in Danielle’s article. She summed up with this observation “I encountered thought-provoking literary discussions and truly talented women, who write women, for women.” And she is right. Although I have only been a member of this writing club for a short time, this is exactly the caliber of writer (men and women) I have met… and it has been wonderful. So even on the days I am confined to my bed I still feel alive through deep and passionate conversations about love, writing and all things in between. So damn straight, I am an educated, cynical and cultured woman… who loves sex, has a heart and is passionate about writing paranormal, erotic romance fiction. I write for myself and anyone else who wants to read my work because I believe we should all be free to create and enjoy whatever it is that fills our hearts with passion and joy. Plus, as science tells us, sex is a healthy drive that fends of depression and boosts the immune system so hey – sexy writing is just another part of my rehab, right? Right. Here is a picture of Mads Mikkelsen because, sex. P.S. If you are a writer, of any kind, just keep going.