Now I have to admit I wasn't overly impressed by the reading because it occurs to me that this is yet another salvo on the art of Romance writing and yes, it did make me see red. Instead of just getting angry though, I thought I would write a small piece on the realities of why Romance Writing has earned it's place of equality and why the Literati need to stop poking holes and learn some lessons from a genre that more than holds it's own.
Romance writing is a multi-million dollar industry that is beloved of millions of voracious readers because it's about feeling hopeful there is a happy ending for all of us out there.
But don't just take my word for it, take a look at these statistics:
- Estimated annual total sales value of romance in 2013: $1.08 billion (source: BookStats)
- Romance novel share of the U. S. fiction market: 34% (source: Nielsen BookScan/PubTrack Digital 2015)
Thanks to Romance Writers of America for this info
These staggering figures are merely an indication of why romance features so highly, yet let's for just one moment take a look at literature fiction:
The Guardian (yes I know, bastion of all great truths) ran a story in December 2017 with some seriously sobering figures:
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However, while these figures are certainly concerning, they do not show or account for the continuing growth in Non-Literature Fiction sales.
In fact, you have to look at the diagram from Statistica to gain a real insight into the actual position that Literature/Classics plays in the overall marketplace - well below that of the Romance Genre.
It paints a grim picture that is a continuing downslide of sales. In fact, Classics/Literature fills place number 8 in the 2015 statistics for sales.
So what does all this have to do with seeing red with a literature festival in Cheltenham?
You see, over the years Romance as a genre fiction has been the whipping boy of literature commentary. This is yet another way of "dissing" what the people want to read.
In a time when modern literature is in serious difficulties, it is an acceptable strategy to lambast another in the hopes that you won't notice that literature and literary fiction is in no position to take aim.
But let's back this up with hard data shall we?
Back in July of 2017 Kathryn Halliday released her own commentary on Literature Fiction. Entitled, Modern Literature is nothing more than an Anti-Intellectual Word Salad it took aim a genre groaning under it's own self importance.
Now I also have to explain, literature fiction as I'm describing it in the post-modernistic titles, not the classics such as Jane Eyre or Pride & Prejudice or even Oliver Twist, because at the very heart, there is hope for a brighter future in these stories. For reconciliation, for growth of the characters...
When we consider Jane & Bingley or even Lizzie and Darcy we accept that the story is not, "he's a nice man and falls in love with a nice woman and they live happily ever after." The stories were never about that. Was Darcy an arsehole as posited at Cheltenham? Maybe, but it is also necessary to take into account something that the nouveau literati seem unable to grasp. It is "Of It's Time" a story of both romanticism and social commentary that uses her wit to show the growth of the character through the story. The improvement that brings about the hinted relationship. It was also avant guarde in a time. That is why the story continues to stand the test of time and lure new readers to the story lines.
Something I doubt many of the books released in 2018 as literacy fiction will fail to do.
However, this is only part of the argument as to why this particular session stunk like a day old prawn lying in the sun. You see, as Joanne Harris (author of Chocolat) was quoted in Are Most Romance Novels Badly Written says, “Notice how writers who opine most on the subject of genre writing tend to be the ones who take pride in never reading any.” And she's right! Instead of getting to know the genre and understanding why it's a growing industry, they're too busy telling you why it's bad!
In fact, Maya Rodale wrote an exposition titled Dangerous Books for Girls and at the heart, she claims the reason for the constant derision is: Long before clinch covers and bodice rippers, romance novels had a bad reputation as the lowbrow lit of desperate housewives and hopeless spinsters.
Now, I'm not going to re-invent the wheel, except I will say, some judicious reading of Why Smart Women Read Romance Novels, I'm A Feminist But.., 5 Reasons You Shouldn't Write Off Romance Novels, Men Stop Lecturing Women About Reading Romance Novels because they will say, far more effectively than I could, that Romance has a place in genre and simply dicking about throwing rocks won't increase the value of your genre.
As posited by the Washington Post story by Alyssa Rosenberg, The answer, Giraldi seems to think, is that we are dumb and sex-obsessed, the kind of unintelligent people who “would participate in the abnegating of their minds and the debauching of English just to feel some twitching in their trousers.”
And just in case you need one more reason, try out 4 Reasons Romance Novels are an Important & Valid Type of Literature:
Yes, modern romance novels still get a bad rap. They’re often classified as inferior to other genres. Even among writers, there’s an assumption that writing romances is easy, that anyone can do it, that if all else fails, write a romance—then you’re sure to get published.
And don't get me wrong, I appreciate the writing of a literary fiction is an immense piece of work. It's hours and years slaving away. It has it's place in the genre tree right along with romantic fiction, but the reality is, it's languishing in a dangerous place right now. But the words of Damien Walter sum it up nicely.
Claiming anyone who reads books you don’t like is a fake reader who buys books out of bad faith is about as snobbish as you can get.
Can I get an Amen right about here?
To leave you with some final statistics, in 2016 the following study by Rachel Dalke showed us exactly what readers look to gain from romanctic fiction and why it is growing. For those of us writing romance and revelling in it, this is our shield against those who seek to make us less. Romance writers of the world, unite!