Saturday, October 22, 2011

Unwrapping: My Not So Little Rant

     Originally, I had planned to continue our tribute to all things Paranormal Romance as we barrel towards Halloween but I hope you'll forgive a brief detour.  I will post the next adventure into Paranormal Romance featuring Vampires on Monday, October 24 just in time for the release the next day of THE BITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS,  an anthology by Lynsay Sands and Jeaniene Frost (looking forward to an early Christmas treat).

              Now, For My Not So Little Rant:
         While reading a posting on featuring a
Q & A with Paranormal Romance writer, Pamela Palmer - author of the Feral Warriors Series (her newest, ECSTASY UNTAMED, to be released October 25 as well) and the Esri Series and soon-to-come Vamp City Series - I was disturbed by something one of the posters wrote. It bothered me all day yesterday until I could no longer let it pass and so is the reason I am addressing it instead of going forth with a delightful trip into the Vampire world of Paranormal Romance.

     This poster named Helen wrote: 
     "When I started reading this genre of paranormal romance I loved it, because not only was the character development there but the plots were interesting. Of course the romance and the sexually scene were also something I like. I liked more because it was two people who loved each other... However when I tell people about my favorite genre they are really close minded."

     She asked Ms. Palmer:  "... when you started writing your genre did you have problems with people around you who were negative such as friends or critiques?"

      I was perplexed by Ms. Palmer's answer to this question, not because of how she answered it for I totally agree but because I cannot believe that in this day and age that intelligent readers might perhaps still think this way - here is what Ms. Palmer so diplomatically answered: 

     "Not everyone approves of the explicit sex in romances, but I think most naysayers simply have no idea what a romance really is. I've had readers (non-romance readers) tell me that I don't write romance. That there's STORY in my books. Well, duh. : ) They'd thought romances were just one sex scene after another. No clue."

    Is this seriously how non-Romance readers see Romance Novels of any genre??
    Does the old idea of Romance Novels being mere 'bodice rippers' still prevail in the 21st Century or are we just being overly sensitive to non-Romance Novel readers' criticisms??

    When Helen, the poster, remarked that her friends were close-minded, it made me think about all the readers - intelligent readers - out there walking this planet, missing out on real talents, enjoyable stories that carry the imagination far away from the every day mishaps of the world that surrounds us in reality.  Thinking that reminded me of the reason that most of us read in the first place - to escape the every day and allow ourselves to relax and enjoy a trip to where ever, with whomever, at no more cost than a book; or even for nothing if you're borrowing from a library - and don't kid yourself non-Romance Novel readers, they are in libraries - so you could even read one without worrying that someone might see you buying one in a bookstore.

     Ms. Palmer is one of my favorite Romance authors and I personally adore her books, especially the Feral Warriors and I am looking forward to her Vamp City Series coming in 2012. She like many other Romance authors is an intelligent, highly educated woman who chose to follow her heart and write instead of working for corporate America. She isn't alone in her highly educated background. I was surprised and impressed when I started researching the backgrounds of Romance authors - Ms. Palmer holds a degree in Industrial Engineering, Stephanie Laurens holds a Ph.D in Biochemistry, Sarah MacLean holds a Masters Degree in Education from Harvard, and Maya Rodale who inspired this blog from the beginning by admitting she was asked if she actually read Romance Novels holds a Masters Degree in English Literature from New York University and runs a business. They all make me pale in comparison for I only hold a Bachelor's Degree in English from Mary Washington College - now the University of Mary Washington.
     It saddens me to think that anyone would denegrate any of their work or the work of all of the other talented writers who spend hours, days, weeks and even months tending to their craft so as to produce the stories that allow us to temporarily escape the mundane, economically depressed and violent world in which we live in on a day-to-day basis. 

    To all those who have never read a Romance Novel, who refuse to even give one a try because you believe them to be sex-filled 'bodice rippers' for less than intelligent women who lead boring mundane lives - try one, you might just discover you like them and then tell your stuffy, prejudice, not- as - smart - as - they - think - they - are - friends and maybe, just maybe, the Romance Novel audience will double by Halloween next year.

     I just wonder how many of those non-Romance Novel readers are actually closet Romance Novel readers who are too embarrassed to admit they read them.  I just wonder how many more men read Romance Novels but refuse to acknowledge they read them for fear their macho buddies might think them less than macho for it.  I wonder just how many men sneak their wives' or girlfriends' Romance Novels from the night table and read it in the 'library' (you know to where I am referring) and slip it back before she notices. Perhaps, if they knew that they could learn alot about how women think about romance and sex from these books written primarily by women, men would make a run on the Romance section of their bookstore!

     The very first Romance Novel I ever read was THE FLAME AND THE FLOWER by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss and it was handed to me with a suggestion to read it by my own brother, a college graduate with a Master's Degree. I don't know if he still reads them but if he does, I'm sure he doesn't think them 'drivel' or 'bodice rippers' for less than educated boring housewives.
     My mother is a fan of Romance Novels and always has one around that she is currently reading. She now uses an e-reader. It's usually left on the living room coffee table until her next opportunity to lay back, put her feet up and read for a while. But before the e-reader, her latest reading adventure was usually located next to the bed or in the 'library'.  I remember one day many years ago, my father asking her if she had bought anything new because he had finished the book that was in the 'library' and was looking for something else to read. He would read her Romance Novels after she was finished and sometimes even while she was still reading them occasionally losing her place.  Btw, if you read my post on Oct 12, 2011, you would know that my father is a man's man who parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, fought at the Battle of the Bulge, served in Korea and retired after a long career in the Army as a LtColonel.  Can anyone spell macho?
     Ms. Palmer once admitted that even her 'book club buds' don't read Romance Novels and it made me wonder why they don't. Do they read the works of Jane Austen? Guess what folks, she was a Romance writer.  Is it about image or worry as to what others will think of your intelligence? Scholars study Austen's works, the comedies of Shakespeare, and the poetry of the Renaissance Poets yet feel the need to shun and denegrate the works of intelligent, talented Romance writers. I suspect that anyone who looks down their nose at those of us that read and write Romance are the ones whose intelligence is, in fact, lacking.

     Ms. Palmer added her own take on Helen's negative feedback about how her friends reacted when she told them what she reads: 
     "I know a lot of people who've dealt with negativity like that, but so far I've been incredibly lucky. My parents, husband, brother, and sisters-in-law all read my books, as do many of my non-writing friends. My father-in-law no longer has the eyesight to read, but I got an email from a lady a year or so ago who said she'd sat beside him on the airplane and when he saw she was reading a romance, told her all about me and how proud he was of me. She went out and bought one of my books and was a new fan. "

    Ms. Palmer is so very lucky to have the support of her friends and family.  I'm sure they began reading her books because if was important to her but continued to read them because they enjoy them.  Again, it's a try it, you might like it, kind of thing.

     I am curious - why would Harper-Collins Publisher devote an entire division to a genre that wasn't real literature?  Answer anyone?!

     Everyone can't and shouldn't like the same things in life. If we all liked the same things, it would quickly become a very dull world. But it's like anything in life - if you've never tasted something new, how can you say you don't like it?

     If a friend told me they liked science fiction and I'd never read science fiction (I love scifi, btw), would it be fair of me to just dismiss that friend as ridiculous because he/she reads science fiction? No, it wouldn't.  The same applies to Romance Novels - how can you criticize something you've never experienced?

     As a girl growing up in the sixties and seventies, I listened to criticism in regards to television's Soap Operas. I was very pleased and surprised when Universities throughout our good country broadened their horizons and added courses in Soap Opera Studies to their curriculums.  At one time, Soaps were considered fluff on the same level as Romance Novels because they were directed toward 'less educated women and bored housewives' in order to sell more laundry soap. Excuse me! Since those days, Soaps have become a genre of television that has gained respect and have produced talented writers, actors and many other support crew who go on to have successful careers and most attribute their start on the Soaps as giving them the edge to succeed.

     So why not give the same kind of chance to the talents creating Romance Novels. The writers are not 'less educated women or bored housewives' but intelligent, talented, highly skilled writers who write for women, and men, with education, intelligence and a taste for something with imagination. Some Romance authors spend as much time researching their material as writing and to denegrate that time and effort is unfair, prejudicial and without a doubt, un-American.

     I think if everyone who reads this blog today were to send the link to five people that they know turn their noses up at Romance Novels and then those five people were to read this NOT SO LITTLE RANT and some of my archives, then those five people send the link to five people they know and so on ... who knows, we might start a revolution where the Romance Novel finally gets the recognition and respect deserving of the genre and its talented authors. 

     [EXHALE] Well, just a thought anyway. If I could get every man and every woman who in their lifetime has never read a Romance Novel to read through this blog, I believe that I could convert them all; or nearly all because I'm realistic in knowing that even though I read authors of all types of literature, I will openly admit there are some that I do not like. Having studied literature by acclaimed authors from Asimov to William Shakespeare, I can honestly say that I don't like them all ... Asimov and Shakespeare - I like them! Beckett and Hemingway, not so much. But, how else would I know if I like them or not, if I didn't read them? There are a lot of avid readers in this world who if they would just take a taste of Romance by reading this blog, read an excerpt,  or borrow a Romance Novel from a friend, I believe they would find something in the world of Romance Writing that interests them and then they, too, would proudly proclaim themselves readers of Romance!

      [SIGH] I guess that would be asking too much of the world then - wouldn't it?
      I hope my Not So Little Rant has started you thinking and perhaps talking to friends and family. I hope it makes you put the question to them as to why they've never tried Romance Novels.  There is a whole world of imaginative, exciting, riveting, and yes, in some cases, sexy novels to be read.  When I say, in some cases, I mean that not all Romance Novels have sex in the story - some merely end with a romantic kiss akin to the camera panning toward the sky leaving what happens next to the reader's imagination. After all, it's all about the Happily Ever After - right? I would think everyone would like to read a Happily Ever After book -men as well as women. But then that's another blog topic yet to come.

      Happy Reading Everyone and join me Monday for Unwrapping: Paranormal Romance featuring VAMPIRES!! 



Shannon said...

Hey Amy, I notice you @ a few of Palmers events. I wanted to say the I agree with everything you said. You would think in 2011 that ppl would be more open minded about things. HA...I got into to Romance/Paranormal Romance a while back and have been hooked. In my last relationship I would tell my bf about the stories I was reading, how there was love and action. He got interested and wanted to read and when he did he was hooked also. But ofcourse no one knows. He would sneak the books, for fear of ridicule. Its a shame, men have to be manly men all day with no emotions. Mind you woman want the kind of man in these Romance novels SENSITIVE and ROMANTIC...Its crazy really

But I dont want to go on a rant :-)
I appreciate this blog and Im going to put you in my favorites...

A funny quote from one of my fav authors

“Aingeal, there is only one thing on my body that's ten inches long, and if you'll recall, the scar is no' it.”
― Kresley Cole, If You Deceive

Amy Valentini said...

Hi Shannon, I love your quote!! LOL!
Thank you so much for reading my rant ... I just go nuts when I hear or read someone's so closed-minded about Romance Novels. I've been reading them since the 1970's alongside 'mainstream' literature and believe they warrant the same respect. It's what this blog is about - helping those less fortunate to realize what they are missing by not reading such an imaginative genre of literature. Please spread the word about UNWRAPPING ROMANCE and maybe we can change such antiquated thinking. <3

Anonymous said...

I think that was the most inspiring "rant" ever! I plan on sharing for sure, I think I owe my love for Romance to you and Mom, and yes I read other genres, but more so Romance and believe me I am proud. Keep it going Amy...this I definitely plan to share! XXOO Maureen

Amy Valentini said...

Hey Maureen, Glad you enjoyed my 'rant'! Please do share and don't worry there's much more to come. : )