No one could possibly be as surprised as I was the first time I wrote a romance novel. Given my track record as a reader, I’m probably the most unlikely romance novelist that you’re ever going to meet. While I believe in true love, I don’t believe in being stupid and the problem with most romance novels is stupidity. Stupid people in stupid situations making stupid decisions with stupid dialogue. Now, I know some writer folk are going to get all up in arms about that statement thinking that I’m insulting their work. Look, if you’re that insulted that means you got some stupid goin’ on in your book. If you’re a reader, then use this little vignette as a primer on how to choose a good romance novel.
Don’t think that I don’t believe in the genre. I do. I think writing good romance is damn hard work and is an art form in and of itself. The problem is, it has a shit reputation because there are so many people out there who think it’s a quick path to fame and fortune. Therefore, the market is flooded and it has gotten nigh on to impossible for good writers to get their work in front of readers. In a sea of $0.99 dinosaur porn and incest fantasies, good books are drowning. So as a reader, you have to consider what you’re looking for: a satisfying story with believable characters and interesting plot OR shower nozzle masturbation material. Don’t get me wrong, both are worthy endeavors. But if you’re going to spend the money, you may as well get the good stuff.
I offer, for your convenience and pleasure, the biggest mistakes going on in the romance industry:
1. Underestimating the intelligence of the reader. There seems to be this idea in publishing that every romance reader is a mouth-breathing, undersexed soccer mom who can’t understand big words or shifts in POV. I like to think that the folks reading my books are smart people who are looking for a good story and perhaps a little erotic inspiration. I refuse to dumb down my plots or use smaller words to “make the story accessible.” I also refuse to believe that my readers are incapable of following a third person omniscient point of view. To me, limited POV is well… limiting. I want to see the whole picture. “Head-hopping” is a fan fiction term that has no place in the literary world. Word choice is part of what makes erotica so appealing and so sexy. And in my opinion there is nothing sexy about crude language and degradation.
2. Sacrificing story for more sex. I admit it– sex sells. But I hate reading books where interesting plot points are ignored in favor of having another poorly executed sex scene. For real people, how many different ways can you say “insert tab A into slot B. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.”. I’d rather have a good story with lots of action that shows our hero and heroine working together as equals and in turn growing their relationship instead of a sex scene every few pages.
3. Same shit, different day. Think back to when Fifty Shades of Gray became such a hit. Remember how for the next year, every romance novel had the same cover? They were all BDSM romances and they all had young nitwits falling in love with billionaires? Yeah, we have this problem in romance where if one dwarf with a foot fetish fairy tale romance is good, then a million is better! We jump on bandwagons and flood the market with a billion copycat stories. I even watched my friends, desperate for sales, jump on the Pervy Billionaire Romance train. Of course it didn’t work because there were a million other people with the same idea.
So what’s the answer? Where is a smart, sassy gal (or guy) to find a great romance novel? Well, the folks over at Seventh Star Press have decided to help us all out. On Friday, they announced the launch of a brand new imprint, Seventh Starlight, that will showcase unique speculative fiction with a romance twist. Seventh Starlight will literally be romance novels for folks who don’t like romance novels. The imprint embraces cross-genre adventures with a strong romantic element. It looks to be extremely promising. Already they have publishing vet Jessica Glanville as the managing editor of the imprint and three incredibly talented authors ready to launch: Siobhan Kinkade, Crymsyn Hart and YOURS TRULY– Alexandra Christian. In keeping with the Seventh Star brand, each book will also have hand painted cover art done by Anne Rosario. If history is any clue, then Seventh Starlight will be romance of the finest quality. Watch this space for more details on release dates and launch parties.
So take heart, kittens. It’s an exciting time to be a romance reader, writer and lover!