My Big Fat Category Bias and Romance Shame

I read a category romance–once. I don’t remember the name, but it was about a martial arts student and her instructor (it was pretty awful). A friend thought I’d like it because I used to do martial arts.

When I recently went for a nuclear cardio stress test, I was undoubtedly the youngest person in the waiting room. Of about six women there, two were reading HQNs, one was reading an old Nora, and one was reading John Grisham.

One of the women reading the HQNs noticed my t-shirt that said “Careful or you’ll end up in my novel,” given to me by a smartass friend. She asked what kind of novels I wrote. I tried to explain what I’ve written, and she held up her Nocturne and said “oh, like this.” I started to protest, and then realized that I was suffering from romance writer’s identity crisis–again. Again again. Every time I think I’ll scream if I hear one more defensive apologia for romance in blogland, I realize that it’s a valid topic. FOR the WRITERS. Not for the readers.

This woman had made it to eighty and was about to get a one-year post-bypass checkup. She’d earned the right to read any damned thing she liked, and hold it up for all the world to see. I still don’t understand the psychology of romance shame amongst writers. (And I include myself.) The readers simply do not share it. I’m going to consult my brother the shrink on this one, but I have a theory. Romance writers who are defensive about writing romance are that way because THEY have a problem with what they write. THEY want to write something…else? More? More literary? The people who don’t apologize about it seem happiest and most successful. Does anyone else notice this?

Honestly, would you go out of your way to hide the fact that you’re reading a romance?


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