Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Mighty Genre

I did a series of posts on genres and gave a few tips on how to write in certain genres I know a bit about.

I like genre fiction in all its variety. I even like the genres I don't write, but enjoy reading. Lately, there has been quite a stir on several local blogs regarding genre, snubbery, snobbery, and lit elitists on all sides.

Someone once asked me what I wrote. The shortest and easiest answer back then was "romance." As if that one word bottles up everything that goes into one of my books and then slaps itself, a little stickered label, onto the bottle.

As I've branched out and become more prolific, I wonder about labels. I've been to conferences where I've been paraded around as the romance author and everyone is thrilled to have me there representing that genre. I've been to others where any of us who wrote romance stuttered, and stammered, and tried to deny what we wrote.

Why? Why would any writer in any genre feel less than worthy? Why would I cringe to tell people I wrote romance? Is there really something so wrong with love that I feel I must hide the fact that I write it and pay penance when anyone catches me writing it? Even now, when my genre has shifted to the classification of YA and middle grade (which is also either applauded or snubbed depending on the audience) I am still--in effect--writing romance.

I believe love works. It's everywhere and affects everyone. It's there between parents and children, between friends, between sisters, brothers, and grandparents, and yes--even between a man and a woman. Love exists. So we write about it. Just as childhood exists. Fear, mystery, days of fanciful thinking and day dreaming, science, days where we need a little pick me up, or days where we need information on how to build a playhouse . . . those things all exist and as writers, we write about them. We record those moments to let others in the world know they are not singular in their thoughts and needs. Writing connects humanity in a way that offers validity to the existance of humanity.

What we choose to write will appeal to someone, somewhere. We should make no apologies for that.

I met a guy on the train when I was comin' out. It was one of those things that kind of makes you mad. I was out on the platform — I was in pants and coat that didn't match but I was riding first class. I was making conversation with a guy who asked me, "Goin' to California?"
"Yeah, I'm goin' out there."
"What business are you in?"
I said "The motion-picture business."
"What do you do?"
I said "I make animated cartoons."
"It was like saying I sweep latrines." "Some people make you mad, and you want to prove something to them even though they mean nothing to you. I thought of that guy... when we had the premiere of Snow White. --Walt Disney

If you write what you love and write it the very best way you know how, you will never have to apologize for it.


Amanda said...

Ah, well I think the reason a lot of people stutter when they say they write romance is because in today's world romance is often equated to Harlequin, with trashy sex scenes and oftentimes very little character development. I've written some romance books, and when I tell people that, I always make sure to specify that they aren't the Harlequin kind.

Kimberly said...

Brilliant post, Julie. I needed to read that. Not that I apologize for what I write so much as the fact that I've begun to. I feel like telling people, "But I'm not taking myself seriously! I don't think I'm good enough to be published, really I don't. I just...write. Because. It makes me happy I guess and, umm...no, no I'm not neglecting the kids. Too much. Ummm....dang."

What a mess.

Sue said...

Great post and thoughts. I ditto what Amanda said - when I tell people I want to write a romance, they assume I mean porn-lite.

Heather B. Moore said...

Great quote from Walt Disney, Julie. I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there about romance and romance writers/novels. LIFE is a romance.

Melanie J said...

Hear, hear! I write ROMANCE! And HAPPY endings! Because I like them! I am working on no longer cringing inwardly when I say this. I love this post!

Sue said...

Also, not related to the post, but - I love this blog! You have some very helpful stuff in your archives and I just wanted to say thanks. So THANKS. :>

Tamra Norton said...

Amen, sister-friend! :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

When I tell people I write historical fiction, most of them think I mean like Regency novels, which I don't. Genre terms are a little confusing at times, it's very true.

Jennifer said...

"Writing connects humanity in a way that offers validity to the existance of humanity." This is exactly why I love to read and why I write books that I hope will be published some day. Awesome quote by Disney, too. Thanks for your thoughts. I love to read your posts. There is always something helpful in there.

Anna Maria Junus said...

Hey, romance is the basis of all life.

Without it we would die off.