“Happily ever after doesn’t exist,” Oprah Winfrey said during one of her book club suggestion television shows years ago, when asked why she never suggests romance.
Oprah prefers dark novels reflecting social issues, angst, trauma and redemption. Having a positive focus and a happy ending, apparently, isn’t realistic enough for her. I don’t know about Oprah, but I read to escape reality. The news is filled with torture, hate, abuse and negativity. Why must my entertainment reflect the same?
Romance novels and women’s fiction are the biggest selling novels, and most profit generating of any fiction genre. Apparently, people do seek positive affirmation and escape through reading. Yet, for all of their popularity, celebrity book clubs, book critics, bestseller lists and Hollywood brush them off as fluff. As authors in this genre, we are not taken seriously.
Nicholas Sparks has become wealthy writing romance novels. Yes, he essentially writes romance. Oh, but because he is a male author and his stories end in the death of a main character he is considered literary. Just as Eric Segal, author of “Love Story” was lauded. If a woman wrote these novels and the main character lived at the end, these novels would have never been best sellers.
When I inquired of a local newspaper book editor, as to why she never reviews romance or women’s fiction, she essentially told me that they are inferior books. The authors lack talent, the novels are formula and unrealistic, and don’t benefit society as a whole. Talk about being gut punched!
Our local literary society purports to be an organization welcoming of all writers. Right, unless you write romance and women’s fiction. Those who write in these genres are not taken seriously and are not readily accepted. I have discovered this with other literary groups as well. We are treated like ugly stepchildren. It doesn’t matter how many novels you have published, how many sales you made or how much money you have generated, you are just inferior. These groups tend to hold unpublished poets in higher esteem.
Friends and relatives will read “Fifty Shades of Gray,” yet will pooh-pooh my work as sex books. That book became a best seller, even though it is a sorry example of romance erotica. Readers, after all, are so often like lemmings that read what everyone else is reading, just to be considered with the times.
What is a romance and women’s fiction author to do?
Write. Ignore the critics and keep writing. As long as we have a strong market, dedicated fans and make money, why should we care?
I also teach writing classes in my genre to educate the public that romance and women’s fiction novels are novels. They are as well-researched, written and plotted as well (and oftentimes even better) than popular literature. I’ve given talks, handed out novels and write articles promoting my genre.
Yes, happily ever does exist … You just have to look for it …