I started out this whole writing venture still denying the fact that I wrote romance. Oh, I'd admit it to a degree--if you caught me in a good mood. I'd say I wrote "romantic" stories, but primarily speculative fiction. It took me a good long while to fess up. Yes, they are romances. Yes, on purpose.
Yes, I like them that way.
About the time I got adjusted to the idea, the reviews started rolling in. Not bad reviews, but all pretty much in agreement on one thing. It's not romance, they said. Not really.
Well, I'll be damned.
We know that labels are important, right? Without genre labels, the bookstores would be in chaos. The readers would be lost. The shelving alone would give any average obsessive/compulsive librarian a case of the hives.
So this "romance or not" issue has to be decided. Doesn't it? I mean, if I continued on my merry way just writing almost romance speculative fiction willy nilly, whole cataloguing systems might crash. We could be looking at another Y2---mmm'kay.
Or maybe not.
Still, readers would be happier, I suspect, knowing what it was they were buying. Grudgingly, I must admit that the labels do have a purpose. . . . I suppose.
There are a few of my books that fall quite neatly into the romance category, and no review is going to convince me otherwise. But, there are those others too, those that just aren't..not quite, not really.
I could put them on the straight science fiction shelf, I imagine, but I suspect that would give a wrong impression as well. I suspect a great many readers will have the same reaction that my husband does, when reading my rough drafts.
You see, the same thing happens every time. I'm not sure why. You'd think he'd expect it by now, but still he reads them. He gets half way through, sets the manuscript in his lap and gives me "that look."
"What?" I ask. (also not sure why. I know what's coming.)
He sighs and shakes his head. "Is this," he says. "Is this a kissing book?"
"Why yes, honey. Yes it is."
But not quite a romance. Or is it? I'm still stumped. I know there are rules with romance, like any genre. They too, serve a purpose. But I like to break them. I like to break them a great deal. Not the Happily-ever-After, mind you. I keep that one. But pretty much the rest of it, for the most part, I tend to chuck out the window. If I looked at my work as science fiction, it would probably be a similar story.
"romantic science fiction."
"science fiction romance."
Does it make as much of a difference to the reader as it does to the shelving system? I wonder. I read everything from Herbert to Harlequin. Maybe I'm just not that discriminating. I mean, I have different moods, why not different tastes to suit them?
What about you? If you picked something up expecting one thing, and it turned out to be a little different, would it matter so much if the story really rocked?
Or if you wanted a harlequin and you got a hitchhikers guide, would you turn off and close the book? Even if it was good? Would it have to be extra good?
I know what the experts say, but I'm curious if readers are really that cut and dry... If they are, heaven help me. I never could pick a horse. Not one. Not when I could have two.