Mea Culpa, confessional thoughts on romance

I haven’t talked a whole lot about Nationals and I don’t intend to now, having had a radically different experience from nearly everyone else who’s discussed it online.

But one thing that became very clear to me was that I needed to reevaluate what I was doing and why I was doing it, and that’s what I’ll talk about today. At Orlando I found my head was entirely stuffed with … I don’t know what, but I could barely think or write. Maybe it was the a/c, maybe it was something the hotel piped in to make us spend spend spend, maybe it was the swamp trying to reclaim its own and revert us all to far off primitive sluglike ancestors.

And it got me thinking about why I write romance. Why?

Because it changes people’s lives. Nope. Abolutely not. I have never had a letter from someone telling me that I burst upon them in their darkest hour and saved them from the great black hole (and please don’t tell me if, in fact, one of my books did. I don’t want to know). What a terrible burden to have to carry in all subsequent writing. What if you don’t make the grade the next time?

Because it’s all about hot men. No way. Really. You all know what I think of most cover art (although I’m impressed that Harlequin M&B shows males that look fairly human on their historicals). I alarmed a tableful of women in the bar at the last NJ Romance Writers Conference when I told them I was really more interested in writing about women, which I was–I’d just finished Improper Relations, which is primarily about the relationship between friends. But I am not averse to the male form. Check out this site (NSFW).

Because love conquers all. I think this one is really interesting because generally in my books love gets people into trouble. It’s the catalyst for change, not the answer.

And here’s the why:

Because … what I write fits in, in a strange niche of the genre, and since I starting write to sell, that makes me very happy and I’m happy that people enjoy my books.

And because it entertains me first. And that’s what came as the big realization at Orlando, that I need to think in terms of my pleasure to be able to produce. Who else but writers get to make stuff up for a living!

Why do YOU write? As a reader, can you tell if a writer is having fun?

And in the red print, CONTESTS! Enter to win a copy of JANE AND THE DAMNED at Goodreads (and thanks to HarperCollins for giving away the books!)
The contest on my website runs until the end of the month, as does this contest at Supernatural Underground where I ask for your help in writing the next book.
Go check it out!

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Kim in Hawaii
12 years ago

Aloha, Janet! I enjoyed seeing you at Nationals, especially in your Regency gown at the Beau Monde Soiree. I enjoy reading romacne for the reasons you stated you do not write romance:

– the overall story is an escape from stress
– the hot men are also an escape
– love plays a central part in everyone’s life. Love may not conquer all, but its fun to read another perspective on love …

… which is why I enjoy reading your books. They are fun and clearly you have fun writing them!

12 years ago

Now I’m dying to hear about your conference experience.

Maggie Robinson/Margaret Rowe

I write now because if I don’t, I get twitchy (and I’ve been VERY twitchy since Orlando). I found the whole experience at RWA entirely overwhelming (it was my first) and I’m sure I babbled idiotically throughout, but I literally have only the barest recollection of anything. Except that I was unbearably hot and my feet hurt. I did enjoy your workshop though!

Victoria Janssen
12 years ago

And because it entertains me first.

That’s the best reason, I think. If it isn’t fun for me, I don’t do it.

Diane Gaston
12 years ago

Janet, I love your witty, intelligent, different take on romance. I love your perspective that Love makes everything worse and is the catalyst for change. Brilliant perspective. Your books never bore me!

But…I write romance because I love a love story. I love writing about characters who fall in love, endure seemingly insurmountable conflicts, and find happiness together anyway.

At the end of the book, I want to feel good, to feel happy. I don’t want everyone to die! I must say, your books make me smile right up to the end!

Amanda McCabe/Laurel McKee

“Now I’m dying to hear about your conference experience”

Me too! Tell us!!

Unlike most romance readers, I usually find myself just as interested in the heroine (or more so) than the hero–she can never be just a “place holder” to me or I won’t like the book at all. Maybe that’s why I’ve been reading so much historical fiction lately. (I usually don’t read historical romance while I’m on a WIP of my own, but I did just read one I am absolutely raving about to everyone who will listen–Judith James’s “Libertine’s Kiss,” dark and rich and just wonderful, with complex hero and heroine)

Maggie, I also always feel “twitchy” after RWA! It’s always hard to settle down, and only writing can make me still still (and not always). I guess I write because–well, I just have to. I’d go bonkers if I didn’t

12 years ago

I write because I must. Scenes and dialogues keep popping in my head, and the only way to rid myself of them is to write them down. Why romance? It’s an escape. I want the HEA because I know life frequently does not end HEA. I embrace the hope.

Bunnie's Mom
12 years ago

As *just* a reader (I’m artistically constipated, and isn’t that lady-like?!) I honestly don’t know if I can tell if an author is having fun, so much as I can that the author has a passion for what she does – she really means it, if you know what I mean? Your books are chock full of people who are funny, and yet life-like (I want to be friends with Lady Caroline, srsly) which to me means the auth has not only talent but a connection to – and passion for- their craft.
And I gotta squee because I finally, finally found Dedication! As soon as I stopped looking for it, there it was. Now I’ve got to try your Jane and the Damned (if anyone can make me enjoy vampires and classics, it’s you) and Reader, I Married Him…

Janet Mullany
12 years ago

Hi everyone, lurking in a Borders to use their wifi–my conference experience was really sorta blah. I met some people I love, but I missed a lot more. And the stuffed head thing was so weird and disorienting. I thought I was sick.

I left early and met a friend I hadn’t seen for 15 years. My head cleared as soon as I was back into the real world. That was great. And she made me buy a very stylish new hat because she hated my old hat so much!

Miranda Neville
12 years ago

I’m jealous of writers who have this irresistible urge to write. There’s nothing I absolutely positively must do except eat fattening food. Anything else I can happily abandon in favor of doing nothing.

I’m with Janet. I write because it amuses me and I hope it will amuse others. There are times when writing does not amuse me in the least and I have to remind myself that I have signed a contract and been paid an advance. Could someone please ship me some of that “I must write or I will die” powder?

RWA is completely exhausting and this year I found it particularly so: too hot to leave the hotel and nowhere to go if one did. Loved having it in DC with restaurants and the Metro so handy, and I’m looking forward to NY. But it’s always fun to see people, especially you, Janet. (And Maggie – it was great to meet you for the first time)

12 years ago

Could someone please ship me some of that “I must write or I will die” powder?

LOL!! I immediately asked, “Are you sure you want that?” Because the next thought in my head was Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Red Shoes.” Grizzly.

Louisa Cornell
12 years ago

I can definitely say that your writing shows how much fun you are having, Janet. And that really is a vital component of the reader’s experience as well.

I write because I love to tell stories. I enjoy it. These stories show up in my head and I want to share them. I want to share the characters, the stories, the laughter and all of the components of the romances I love.

Sometimes it IS hard. If it was easy everyone would do it. But, a bad day writing beats a great day at my day job any day! And as long as that is true, I’ll keep writing.

12 years ago

Apart from the obvious one of needing to eat, I write because I really do believe love is life-changing. I totally agree with Janet, love can make things a whole lot worse, and it can be painful and inconvenient and it can definitely get in the way, but it’s also the most amazing thing that will ever happen.

Marguerite Kaye
What I love about writing romances is that you get to ignore all the boring stuff that makes ‘real’ life difficult and just concentrate on the fabulousness of falling in love, of meeting the one person you’ve been waiting all your life for, of having to work a bit to earn them, and then living happily ever after.

And what’s weird about writing, and what makes it frustrating but also really rewarding, is that while you might sit down with that whole story cleary mapped out in your mind, and your pesky hero or heroine have quite other ideas about how it goes!

Marguerite Kaye
12 years ago

Oops, sorry, forgot my email account and stuck my name in the middle of my comment!

12 years ago

I think I can tell if an author is enjoying the story they are writing. If they aren’t, the story feels forced and doesn’t flow well. The endings usually fall flat.
If the author is enjoying what she is writing, the wit and humor are fresh, the characters memorable and the plot shines. The reader is sorry to see the story end

Please post a warning for those of us who are faint of heart the next time you post a link like NSFW. I sometimes have my grandchildren here when I am online. Not to mention I sometimes check your blog when I am at the library. I was expecting bare chests, not what I got. Won’t go there again.

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