Nose scrunches, general disgust, raised eyebrows, and repulsion.
These are sometimes the reactions when I say I'm a romance author.
I understand the genre isn't for everyone. Still, over the past three years as a published author in the romance genre, I'm come to learn there are so many unfair stigmas about romance reads. Some automatically assume whips and chains are a part of your stories, Fifty Shades forever changing the way we think of romance.
Others have told me they only read "real literature" or only like books with "complex characters," so romance isn't for them.
Some simply say they hate cheesy works and stories when eyeing my books.
When I'm met with these responses to the romance genre, I smile politely. Like I said, I understand the genre isn't for everyone.
But as both a writer in the genre and an avid reader of it, I know these stigmas and stereotypes are so often untrue.
My First Love Affair with the Genre
When I first decided to write a novel, I knew without a doubt it would be in the romance genre because I'd fallen in love with it years before.
In junior high, Nicholas Sparks's stories became my obsession, my own love affair of sorts. I adored the way he could weave together two seemingly different lives, two broken people, into a single, working unit. I loved reading about their journey, their first kiss, their connection uncovered. I loved the way he could make the most complex, frightening human emotion seem to make sense.
Thus, putting pen to paper, I knew love stories were what I wanted to write. I wanted to explore the depth of romantic connections. I wanted to uncover romance where there seemed to be hopelessness. I wanted to help broken characters find their way to redemption down a rocky road of love.
I knew when I started writing romance there was a certain stigma about it, but I didn't worry about that. I worried about telling my stories, stories of complexity and emotion. Stories of reality and harsh truths. My romances aren't always about skipping into the sunset and finding a simple solution to life's problems. My romances are about the struggles we as humans face when trying to meld two different lives into one. It's about the obstacles that threaten not only our love, but our identities.
The Truth About Romance
Romance stories aren't cheesy, easy reads or lighthearted, unrealistic sagas.
They aren't all about abs and sexual encounters.
They aren't all about boy meets girl, love, marriage, and happily-ever-after.
As a reader and writer in the genre, I've come to learn that romance is a broad genre with so many nuances in its offerings. There are stories of escape, stories of depth, and stories of gut-wrenching pain.
I know no matter how many articles are written about the value of the romance genre and the depth of its literary value, there will always be stigma. Romance will forever be pictured as shirtless men parading women into the sunsets of forever.
Still, I want to make it clear: I will never apologize for writing romance. No matter how many sighs or shriveled noses I see at my work, I will stand proud knowing I write in this genre. I will never back down from telling the stories I love, even if some don't want to take them seriously. I will never stop defending the genre for its literary value, it's revelation of deep human truths, and its beauty at highlighting one of the most misunderstood yet valued concepts of the human journey: Love.
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