Sunday, April 15, 2007

This is why SHE's Jenny Crusie and the rest of us...aren't.

I am sadly susceptible to hero-worship. I admit it. I have personal heroes and heroines for every aspect of my life. In the specific instance of Romance (note capital 'R'), I have several. Three of them happen to be mega-selling authors, but that's not why I idolize them.

Lynn Viehl, otherwise known as She Who Takes Crap From No One and Refuses To Play the Game.

Nora Roberts, known to everyone as The Queen.
Jenny Crusie, aka She Who Sees Through the Bullshit and Tells It Like It Is.

The above trio have one thing in common aside from their bestseller status: the courage of their convictions. I don't love everything they've ever written, and I don't necessarily agree with everything they say, but I BELIEVE them when they say it. I know they have no ulterior motives in stating their opinions. And even when I don't agree, I see the sense in their arguments.

Jenny Crusie has something to say about rape in romance in the wake of the CLAIMING THE COURTESAN (Anna Campbell) debate. You can read it here. In this particular instance I agree with every syllable, and hope some day to be half as articulate in stating my views. Jenny's post is somewhat lengthy, but in a nutshell, this is what she has to say about rape in romance:

"I don’t like that stuff, but that doesn’t mean that my personal squick meter gets to define romance."

Wow. Concept.

She goes on to make points about the condescending stance that rape doesn't belong in romance because it could influence readers into believing that rape is romantic, and how this attitude assumes readers are stupid, can't make choices for themselves, and don't know the difference between what they read in a book and what happens in their own lives.

"How dumb do these people think romance readers are? This is a cousin to that old paternalistic argument that romances are bad for women because they can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality. What disturbs me is that so many romance writers are making it in the name of feminism. It’s not; it’s anti-feminist in that it assumes a childlike reader who absorbs whatever we put in front of her."

She then goes on to point out the "rape" and "attempted rape" romances that have sold and sold WELL throughout the years, including...hold onto your hat, Aunt Hilda...Georgette Heyer's THE DEVIL'S CUB. (Who knew? I didn't, but you can bet I'll be swinging by Amazon to order a copy. While I'm there, I do believe I'll pick up CLAIMING THE COURTESAN and see how they compare.)

Jenny closes by saying the market always wins. If you write it well enough, if you sell it to the reader with excellent prose, amazing characterization and a fascinating plot, your book will sell. Which...hello? Free enterprise. The cornerstone of the American economy.

Almost every reviewer -- even those who hate the premise -- say CTC is very well written. Which would be at least part of why Avon bought it, and part of why people are talking about it. If it was dreck, it would've died a quick death and be already gone from our blogs, boards and minds.

To sum up Jenny's point, writers should write what they want. Publishers should buy and sell what they think will make them money. And the readers get to decide. Not the "rules" crowd. Not the "but that's just doesn't seem romantic to me" crowd. But ALL the readers.

In a previous discussion, someone asked me if I didn't think the reason the genre is shrinking is because too many authors are breaking the "rules" and disappointing readers. No, I don't believe that. I've heard too many readers say "I'm bored with romance, it's all the same-old same-old, and if I have to read one more book with the uber-Alpha male and the Big Misunderstanding, I swear, I'll puke."

In my opinion, the genre is shrinking because we're not taking ENOUGH chances. Because no matter how unusual you make your alien hero, or how feisty and kick-ass you make your heroine, or how hot you write their sex scenes, if your story is stifled by someone telling you "you can't do that different/controversial/ old-fashioned/new-fashioned thing, it's not ROMANTIC," then it's going to end up pretty much within the same template as every other book out there. What a good way to kill the genre, folks. Let's bore the readership to death.

Said it before, have to say it again: the only rule of romance is a love story with a happy ending. Everything else is fashion and trend. It's all been done -- well and poorly -- and it's all sold -- well and poorly. The playing field is wide open. If you write it WELL, they will come.

As I understand Anna Campbell is discovering even as we speak. ;) - Romance of Dubious Virtue


Blogger Eva Gale said...

Ah, now the comments are here.

Read it.just finished. I WISH I could write that well. I'm in the fray at Divas. And I'm going to buy Heyer too. :)

4/15/2007 7:34 PM  
Blogger Selah March said...

Yeah, that was weird with the comments not working. Still not sure how they got turned off.

4/16/2007 12:47 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home