Thursday, August 03, 2006

Makes you want to write romance fiction

Long ago when I started writing fiction, my older brother and I had a conversation that went something like:

"Why don't you write a romance novel?" he said. "They always sell."

"But I don't read romance novels," I said.

"So what? Write one anyway."

"I can't!" I said.

He could have done it, no doubt--he's always been a talented writer, but he's never been that moved to write. He just reads a ton.

Over the years the romance genre continues to be one of the strongest selling fiction markets. The romance writers met in Atlanta last week, their 26th annual conference. Here's the stats the Los Angeles Times cited:

In 2004, romance novels generated $1.2 million in sales (40% of fiction sales).
Romance novels have expanded into sci-fi and military tales, increasing male readership from 7% in 2002 to 22% in 2004.

Readers and writers of romance novels are a tight-knit group, enviably so. When PEN ON FIRE came out, I spoke at the Romance Writers of America-Orange County chapter's monthly meeting. (Debbie Macomber was the main speaker.) There were a ton of enthusiastic members present, and some were writers in other genres who enjoyed the community.

There's community in the mystery field, too. Lots of mystery bookstores, lots of events and conferences for mystery writers and readers.

Wonder why that's not so for literary fiction writers. Any guesses?


Amy said...

Because we're too busy staying home reading our literary fiction?

I dunno. It's a good question. But I think there is community, just in a different form. I don't know that I'd want to go to a convention, but I spend a lot of time online at, and I spend a lot of time discussing books with like-minded friends.

Nienke said...

I am a member of RWA (as well as my local chapter, TRW), one other thing I can add about romance writers is that they go out of their way to help their fellow writers - of any genre. The majority of advice information they offer is not specifically related to romance and applies to any genre (although you can find lots on romance related stuff, too).

When I started writing, I had the intention of getting into literary fiction. However, since much of my research on how to write led me to romance writers (and their websites and blogs), I ended up starting to read in the genre and now I am writing in it.

Now my goal is to write literary romance. ;)

Victor Infante said...

I think there's some community among literary novelists, but they by-and-large tend to be a solitary lot.

Also, I think there's more of an undercurrent of competition among them, probably comes from being in a genre that's got both high expectations of it and relatively low sales.

Poets? We don't make money, so we might as well party.

Nicholas Borelli said...

There's no literary fiction community because Cormack McCarthy wouldn't show up. Neither would Updike, Doctorow, Nabokov or Delillo!

Serenity Now! said...

Because literary writers seek to remove themselves from any sort of genre peghole that they can. Generally I find that they believe they are 'better' than just about any other genre.

That type of attitude isn't really conducive to writerly bonding, even with their own kind.

bigjay said...

As for the "Writing Mother" - just another example of mothers always being right in any genre.

IRENE said...

I love guessing the human soul. Let's see:

*Romance writers are more tenderhearted, cuddly, loving beings.

*Romance writers are not competitive per se. There is so much going on in the romance field. By sharing it with one another writers only become richer.

*There is so much more to learn from each other about gender relationships, than about, say, trekking or office intrigue. Plus, who wants to actually discuss horror?

*Sharing love never leaves anyone feeling at loss. Sharing possible war/work/murder/sci-fi scenarios always gets one feeling depleted, anxious, irritated. So why bother?

*It is a class thing. Even Park Avenue romance is regarded as higher litterature than say, a Maine saga, or an Aga saga. I wonder,if Euripides or Shakespeare were to write today Antigone or Romeo and Juliet, would they be snobbed?

*Romance is more fun reading it, writing it, discussing it.

*There is no life without romance; be it man to woman, or man to man, or man to woman to man or nun to Christ, or bee to flower there is love and romance connecting everything worth talking about, all around us. We all need it, even sci-fi or mystery writers.

So, fellow readers and writers. Keep writing, and keep reading. Romance included.

bigjay said...

So that's what it's all about!! I didn't know.

Peter said...

Romance fiction is sort of a guilty pleasure. maybe that has something to do with it.