A few days ago, I met a friend I had not seen for several years. Of course, during the conversation, I mentioned I’d signed with a major US publisher and my first book would to be released in November. And then the dreaded question popped up. “What’s the book about? What kind of story is it?” Deliberately, I told him that he’d have to wait until November to find out, since it would be in the local bookstores.
A few minutes later as I drove away from the mall, I realized the significance of my response. After thirty years of reading romance novels, I still felt ashamed about what I read and write.
I think Wayne's being awfully hard on himself. There's a difference between being ashamed of what we write and indulging a very natural impulse to avoid ridicule. When Wayne opted not to tell his friend he had written a romance novel, it was because he had a pretty good idea his friend would hoot at the announcement. Did Wayne disgrace himself by not speaking up? Did he let the genre down by not seizing that opportunity to defend its honor? I don't think so.
It's up to each of us to decide whether and when and how to stand up for romance. Romance readers and writers who insist that all of us should pledge our bodies and our swords to the defense of the genre are every bit as oppressive as the outsiders who jeer at our books. I'm not comfortable with the current trend to get in people's faces and say, "I write romance. Wanna make something of it?" Other professionals don't behave that way. They just get on with their work.
Why do so many in the romance community appear to believe that if we are proud, we must be loud? I always consider the individual and the situation and my own mood before confronting someone about her prejudice against romance novels. Sometimes a polite but firm response is called for. Sometimes a quip. Sometimes a friendly argument. But often I'm just not sufficiently interested in the romance-basher's good opinion to bother making any answer at all.
And whose business is that but mine?
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