Next time you meet a romance novelist at a party, you can bet she’s heard pretty much everything that you’re going to say. She might even be a little defensive as a result. Maybe, like her own knight in shining armor, she even has a speech prepared in defense of her genre/taste/career choices.
I mean, I get it: “Romance novelist” is one of those jobs you never thought actually existed. And because I’ve got your back, I’ve prepared a little list of what not to say to a romance novelist.
I always thought I’d write a romance novel someday.
I have heard this from the most unlikely people and—how to put this delicately?—most of them don’t seem like the kind of people who even like romance novels. Some will even cheerfully admit that they don’t read them, but they seem to somehow think that there’s a “formula,” they can adopt that will make them rich. Think about it for a second, though: when you tell me you’re a surgeon, I don’t say, “Oh, I always thought I’d perform a quadruple bypass someday!”
I guess once you know the formula, you can just pump them out.
Yes. I dictate them while watching General Hospital. No, that’s the snarky answer I’ll think but won’t say. In all honesty, there is a formula of sorts in romance in the sense that you’re writing a love story about two people who are going to end up living happily ever after. But they’re going to have some baggage that’s going to prevent them from starting out that way—they have to learn to stop sabotaging themselves. You can’t just insert characters, add some smooching, and be good to go.
Where do you find the time to write?
During the commercials in General Hospital. If that’s not enough, I magically bend the space-time continuum so I can write novels, parent, and work a day job without having to sacrifice anything else I enjoy doing such as exercising, seeing my friends, or watching General Hospital. No, again, that’s just my snarky internal monologue. I admit that this question does irk me more than others, though, probably because I have given up a lot in order to write. I remember once when I was a kid I was reading an advice column that the great writer and radio man Garrison Keillor used to publish. He was answering a letter from a young person who desperately wanted to write but was having trouble making it happen. Keillor’s advice (and I’m paraphrasing here—I wish I had the original column still) was to stop watching TV. If you do that, he said, you’ll get twenty per cent of your life back. Now, I love TV. I’m not one of those writer-snobs who thinks she’s above TV. But I don’t watch it. And—viola!—there’s a bunch of time. I also have abysmally low housekeeping standards. My point is just that I don’t have a secret “time finding” method I can tell you about. I make time by stealing it from other worthy and enjoyable pastimes. It’s all about trade-offs.
That romance novel I’m planning to write—can you help me get it published?
The publishing industry is actually refreshingly unmoved by nepotism. A connection might get your book looked at by agents or editors, which can be nice, but a book that isn’t good enough to sell isn’t going to sell. And I truly believe that a book that is good enough to sell is going to snag the interest of an agent or an editor the old fashioned way. So what do you do if you want to get published? You join writers’ groups, you hone your draft. If you’re an aspiring romance novelist, you join Romance Writers of America. The good news is that when your book sells, it’s pretty exhilarating, because you know that you did it.
My mom reads romance novels.
Actually, I don’t mind this one at all. Now I want to talk all about your mom, because she has good taste and is probably extremely self-actualized. I will even mail your mom a copy of my book if you think she would like it.
You must be rich.
Ha ha ha. After I finishing wiping my eyes from the cry-laughing that this one induces, I will sigh and tell you that this is a job like any other. Some people do all right. A few people do extremely well. Most people—me included at the moment—still need day jobs.
Is your book like Fifty Shades of Grey?
No. No, it is not.
Romance novels are unrealistic.
A variation on this one is that romance novels promote unhealthy fantasies or somehow teach women to expect too much. Or they’re only good for “escapism.” Probably we could have an interesting conversation about this, but only if you don’t plan to do anything else for the next two hours! So my cocktail party shorthand for this one is to quote the great Tessa Dare, who is one of my favorite novelists: “Women are constantly told it’s fantasy to expect fidelity, respect, and orgasms in this life, and to seek the same in our reading. It’s not.” High five, Tessa!
I read your book, but now can’t look at you and your significant other the same way ever again.
I get this one from people who know me already. I have a standard answer for this too: I usually smile and say something like, “If I wrote true crime novels, would you think I was a serial killer?” Remember that romance novels write, well…novels. Fiction. And to be honest, this question always embarrasses me, so I’ll deflect it as quickly as I can.
I read the odd romance novel. They’re my guilty pleasure.
This is another one I’m actually happy to hear. But I’d be even happier if you dropped the guilt part! I think you might be, too! Remember how cool your mom is?
About Jenny Holiday:
Jenny Holiday started writing in fourth grade, when her awesome hippie teacher, between sessions of Pete Seeger singing and anti-nuclear power plant letter writing, gave the kids notebooks and told them to write stories. Most of Jenny’s featured poltergeist, alien invasions, or serial killers who managed to murder everyone except her and her mom. She showed early promise as a romance writer, though, because nearly every story had a happy ending: fictional Jenny woke up to find that the story had been a dream, and that her best friend, father, and sister had not, in fact, been axe-murdered. From then on, she was always writing, often in her diary, where she liked to decorate her declarations of existential angst with nail polish teardrops. Eventually she channeled her penchant for scribbling into a more useful format. After picking up a PhD in urban geography, she became a professional writer, and has spent many years promoting research at a major university, which allows her to become an armchair astronomer/historian/particle physicist, depending on the day. Eventually, she decided to try her hand again at happy endings–minus the bloodbaths.
Make sure you check out Jenny’s latest release, Sleeping with Her Enemy.
Purchase Sleeping with Her Enemy
About the book:
Amy Morrison is supposed to be at her wedding. But when her husband-to-be jilts her at the altar, a distraught Amy runs to the only place she feels safe—her office. Besides, everyone who works on her floor is at her wedding…except him. Dax Harris. Playboy, executive, and Amy’s official office enemy.
While he and Amy don’t see eye-to-eye on the best of days, Dax can’t help but feel badly when he sees Amy mid-meltdown. Next thing he knows, he’s gotten her good and drunk, and they’re making out like two teenagers. And since neither of them want anything serious, why shouldn’t they be frenemies-with-benefits? Because there is no possible way they could ever fall for each other…