Why Aren't Romance Writers Taken Seriously?

I’m baaaaccckk.

Remember that creepy girl in Poltergeist? That’s me. I’m back. And, yes, I know I was really only absent for a week, but still. A week is a long time if you’re an ant. If you’re a mayfly, well, that’s an eternity. They only live one day.

Now I’ve totally forgotten the purpose of this blog. Oh, yes. It’s a venting blog, people. A venting blog, but not like the vent Marilyn Monroe stood over.

Nope. This one is about writing, and The Industry. (insert dramatic music here.)

This has been building up in me and now it’s time to give it a voice. So, yes, I have a mild chip on my shoulder about not feeling important. It’s something left over from childhood and previous relationships, and maybe, maybe a little bit of it is also in society. Like, you know, women come second in a lot of ways. But this one is about writing.

I self-published “Easy Does It” a couple of years ago because I couldn’t get an agent to touch it. They liked it. Several agents loved it, but the publishing industry doesn’t like Romantic Comedies. Chick lit has been dead for a while. Now, if I had written a young adult novel with vampires making out, I might’ve had something. But a story about two geeks falling in love? No. So I self-published.

Thankfully, I found a publisher (Champagne Books) willing to take on “Blunder Woman” and “Pepper Wellington and the Case of the Missing Sausage” so my stuff is finally out there. Legitimately. Now I’d like The Industry to take me seriously.

Unfortunately, of all the genres you can write in, if you choose to write a romance novel and one that’s a comedy, chances are you’re not going to be taken seriously. No. Not by serious literary types. Why do I care? I mean, it is comedy, right? Sort of. But comedy is serious business, and I work hard and I’m proud of my stuff. So when my alma mater said I couldn’t give a reading there because my work isn’t serious enough or helpful to their students, I took that personally. I have two books published and a third on the way. I have two-dozen audiobooks out there that I’ve narrated. I have plays and radio plays that have been produced. I’ve dedicated my life to writing, but my work isn’t serious enough? Really?

And then I had some disappointments with the local press. Granted, I somehow convinced them to interview me, but both publications bumped me to cover other more ‘serious’ writers, and one that is a comedy writer but is already famous. So much for supporting local writers (something I also have a chip on my shoulder about).

I announce firmly that I now have a chip on my shoulder that’s more of a dent.

What other genre of writing would a college not take seriously? Sci-fi? No. They take that seriously. Mysteries? No. That’s serious stuff. So what does The Industry have against romance writers? Why are romance writers treated like the scoliosis girl in Sixteen Candles? Why doesn't anyone look at a romance writer?

I’m not the only one griping. There was a recent debate with a group of NY Times bestselling romance writers who can’t get their books reviewed in the NY Times because ‘they’re not serious’ enough. Romantic novels are consistently in the top tier of sellers in all formats from paperback to eBook.

So if million of people read these types of books, why aren’t they serious? Yes. I think part of the problem is historical. This genre is popular among women, and I’m sorry, but in literature there are a handful of women taken seriously. Especially if you’re funny.

I do grant that it’s changing. Tina Fey is getting lots of credit for being funny. I think we have further to go, and it starts with local media and colleges. Yes. My work is light-hearted…but I strive to create accessible, real characters with heart. And I try to make people laugh. A little confession: being funny is hard. Being dramatic is easy. It’s an easier choice to give a character cancer than it is to make them fall believably in love. Don’t believe me? Try writing both of those scenes and see which one is easier.

Tell me your thoughts. Do you read romantic novels? Why? How do they affect you? Are they serious literature? I’m trying not to think that this genre isn’t supported simply because it’s mostly written by and for women, but at this point, I am starting to wonder.

Again, I say, my words are important. And I don’t just mean me. Romantic writers write some of the most emotionally moving stories and if that’s not serious, really, I don’t know what is. Our relationships, loving and not, are some of the most complex feelings out there. Why can’t these stories be taken seriously, even if they make you laugh?