Romance has the bad rap of being fluffy-lighthearted-gossiping-oh, look at the size of his package-lipstick stained-nonsense that doesn’t really classify as writing. Perhaps, its history is tainted with bodice rippers and admittedly poor writing but how many more Nora Roberts do we need before I can walk into a writing group, say I write erotic romance without getting those knowing nods and murmurs, “Oh, she’s one of those.”?
Damn Skippy—I write romance—hot, sexy, smutty, unapologetically wanton romance. And here’s a fun little fact: erotic literature is good for your health and increases libido. How many authors can tout that claim? Actually, quite a lot of us can flaunt that little tidbit. Let’s not mention the current booming market for one hot minute and go with 2008 figures. According, to RWA in 2008 7,311 romance novels were published generating $1.37 billion in sales and making up 13.5% of the consumer market with over 74 million people enjoying at least one of those titles that year.
So say what you want about us “fluffy” romance writers.
It may not be what my husband would want me to write but romance is so much more than a sexy story. Romance novels are love, sex, betrayal, action, adventure, suspense, and all the facets of life.
I think the better question to ask is: Why wouldn’t I write romance?
Funny thing is I didn’t always want to be a writer. My family would probably disagree, unanimously hollering, “Yeah, ok. Sure Jewel. Whatever.” They’d tell you that I’d always been a writer but I just didn’t know it. And I suppose there’s some truth to that. When I was a young girl I wanted to be a million different things. I always waffled—changed my mind—I’m still like that with lots of things in my life. Hell, at one point if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would have told you a Navy Seal.
Diving and blowing things up appealed to me at the time.
My resume reflects the whirlwind of my whimsical personality. I’ve done everything from working at an art supply store, answering phones at a real estate firm *waves hi to dad*, waitressing very badly, washing dishes, legal transcription for an ambulance chaser, beta testing video games (yeah, it kicked ass), web testing, help desk, and being a dirty hippie.
Q: How does one get paid to be a dirty hippie?
A: You don’t really want to know.
It doesn’t pay very well and it ruins your credit. I refer to that time period in my life as my idealistic and naive stage when I still thought I could save the world, the environment, or whatever. I got paid to eat lunch in the park, smoke a little… (Never mind. Strike that part.), hacky sack, collect donations and organize volunteers for four hours, then party like it’s 1999 and wake-up around noon to do it all over again. I worked as an environmental activist if you want to get technical about bullshit job titles. It wasn’t a real job but it was a lot of fun. Worst thing I ever did to my hair. I think my dad is the only one who still has an incriminating picture of me with dreds.
And I worked in the finance department at a hospital. Yeah, they trusted me with numbers. Scary. Thank god for calculators! 😉 After that I played with ICD-9 codes and did medical coding and billing.
I did the 1099 thing as an independent contractor working for this really wealthy and eccentric woman. I did any number of things ranging from planting impatiens, walking her dog, paying her bills, organizing her taxes, managing her rental properties, or fixing her computer. And I did anything clerical or otherwise pertaining to her business—from sorting her mail, to replying to emails she couldn’t be bothered with, answering the phone, designing advertisements, or making flyers. Basically, I was her personal bitch. 😉 Sometimes random duties included picking up milk on my way to work and making her bed in the morning. Pretty much I did everything short of wiping her ass. She was a pain in mine but she had a good heart—may she rest in peace.
And it paid really, really well and I only had to do it three days a week. Plus the tax write offs since I was technically self-employed were fabulous.We’ll leave out all the direct sales products I’ve carried over the years from Lia Sophia jewelry to Lemongrass Spa. And let’s skip the time I attempted to open a yoga studio in my mother in-law’s living room. It was one of my less brilliant business plans. Hysterically, my ex-husband thought I was hiding a mountain of income from it when he saw a sign at the end of my driveway and attempted to take me for alimony. No, I’m not kidding. I really wish I was but at least I can laugh about it. The judge certainly did. 🙂
Q: So how did this lead you to writing?
Well I guess that I’ve always had it in me. As many of you who read my blog well-know, I’m an unapologetic bookish geek. When I was young I used reading as an escape. I wrote poetry that, in my opinion, wasn’t very good. Although, my mother who snooped through my notebook proclaimed otherwise, I think it was just motherly pride. After poetry I wrote some short stories that I never showed anyone.
When I was in sixth grade the school tested my reading and writing ability and I tested at a college freshman level. My husband who I met in college jokes and says that doesn’t say very much about college freshman. 🙂 I think my writing ability combined with my capricious personality led me to be a jack-of-all-trades. I look really good on paper and you wouldn’t believe what I can write in a resume from the aforementioned list of jobs. It all looks very clean-cut and on the up and up, right down to getting paid to hacky sack! Inevitably, dipping my feet in so many career paths gave me a lot of different experiences to pull from when I write.
That’s all writing really is.
It’s pulling what you’ve gleaned from your background and experiences and adding the elements that you don’t know—writing within and beyond your comfort zone. If it doesn’t make you hesitate or give you pause, then you’re not pushing your writing to the limit. Yesterday, I emailed short story #3 for my upcoming erotic paranormal anthology to a beta reader and I hesitated on hitting send. It took a heavy topic—rape—and explored how that affected the character.
I love reading romance. Perhaps this is a surprise because it conflicts with my not so girly-girl demeanor but to me it’s a world that I can get lost in. And I love writing romance even more—bringing two people together, even if it is only in my quirky imagination. I love broken heroes and shattered heroines. I love punch-you-in-the-gut sexual tension, the chemistry of a first kiss, and the relationship road blocks people face when they realize they love one another. I love the idea that even at the worst of times, at those heartbreaking moments when life throws its curve balls; two people can find love despite the odds. I love the idea of good conquering evil, of the hero and heroine finding those little things that make them complement each other, and the bad guy getting what he deserves. Love is a fundamental part of all human relationships. It can bear forgiveness, it can heal emotional scars, and it can teach us to believe.
There is nothing more real or gritty or vitally human than writing romance novels.