What first drew you to romance writing?
I tried it initially because I’d heard you could make a living by “knocking off a few romances” to support me while I started on my literary career. I thought it would be easy — I had all the usual negative preconceptions and misinformation about what writing romance involved — all of which were wrong, by the way. But the more I read and the more widely I read in the genre the more I fell in love with it.
Romance novels are sometimes written off as ‘all the same’. Why?
That’s part of the ill-informed misinformation I mentioned above. Every one of us has fallen in love at some stage in our lives — are all our stories the same? Romance accounts for a huge percentage of popular fiction — close to 50% in the USA — and why would people keep buying and reading them if they were all the same?
Romance fiction is a broad church and within it, you’ll find a huge variety — contemporary romance, romantic comedy, romantic adventure, historical romance, paranormal romance, sweet romance, erotic romance, medical romances, and more. And then there are the books that contain a thread of romance, whether the romance is concluded within a book, or played out over a series of books.
They also come from a range of publishers. A lot of Australians assume that Harlequin Mills and Boon are the only romance publishers, but in fact each of the ‘big five’ international publishers have large and flourishing romance sections, especially in the USA. For instance, I’m published by Berkley, which is part of Penguin Random House New York. Avon is the romance specialist that’s part of Harper Collins USA. Australian publishing has much less specialised genre romance, but it’s growing.
What do you say to such critics?
Try reading a range of romances, from different writers and different publishers. Most people who dismiss romance haven’t read many — if any. But those dreary old myths and assumptions cling on.
Just as crime novels usually end with the murderer identified, a romance invariably ends happily, but every journey is different, and it’s the skill and voice of the writer that really counts. Love makes the world go around, and it’s the same for fiction.
Is representation of different types of relationships, for example same-sex or teenage relationships, important in romantic fiction?
Yes, of course, because we’re writing to a very wide range of readership, and being inclusive is a vital part of convincing worldbuilding. Most romances focus on one couple, but romance is such a large genre that there are subgenres to fit all interests and all tastes.
There is a wide and flourishing young adult and new adult romance subgenre, for instance — try reading Australian Kylie Scott’s Trust — and also a growing subgenre of same sex romances. There are also romances about people of different cultures, about older people, about people with disabilities — about anyone you can think of, really.
Romance is a universal genre and appeals to people all over the world. That’s why romances written by Australians have been translated into 30 different languages and published in 126 countries.
Romancing the Page will take place at Writing NSW on Saturday 18 May, 10am-4pm.