By guest blogger, Gloria Herrmann
When I was teenager and had been handed my very first Harlequin novel, I didn’t know that someday I would be writing romance. I knew I would a writer, but I figured I would be chasing the literary American dream, I’d be the next Hemingway for sure. I loved that Harlequin paperback, so much that it had created an addiction, one so deep and thirsty, one that I continue to be joyfully afflicted by. Even though I devoured many romance novels over the years, savoring all the heartwarming, gooey emotions that these books are well known for, I didn’t truly see myself becoming an author of this genre. So what happened?
I started writing when I was a kid, then I got a little more serious once I was a teenager, becoming a writer for a newspaper. I continued my short stint in journalism in college, and though I enjoyed the thrill of that form of media, I found myself not truly in love with writing “facts”. I loved writing features, little columns filled with the sarcastic humor that only a poor college kid could translate. I had landed my first paid gig as said poor college kid, for one of the very first newspapers in southern California that broke into the digital age. I was given an opportunity of a lifetime, but sadly, I didn’t feel fulfilled. Sure, I could write bits about eating ramen noodle and the ridiculously high costs of textbooks, but for how long? When did it just not sound funny anymore? Well, apparently it gets old a lot quicker than you’d think.
Fast forward a couple years, I was now no longer that poor college kid, now I was just a poor, married twenty-something. I was also now a mother and the passion for writing laid quietly dormant. I stuck to my one passion, reading. Then suddenly, without any kind of siren or warning, it erupted, all those creative juices I had buried had now surfaced, flooding me with notions of writing the next great American novel. Remember when I mentioned being the next Hemingway? Granted, I was wiser, jaded, and a little more bruised from the cruelty of adulthood, so I could relate a bit more to Ernest. But could I really? Nope. My heart was too tender, filled with too much love and compassion, besides, I didn’t drink nearly enough.
As much as I loved romance novels, I knew there was this stigma associated with writing them. These authors weren’t considered nearly as talented, nor were they respected literary figures. Nope, these books that were placed in supermarket checkouts for lonely housewives were anything but. Or were they? I mean, I enjoyed these books. I found myself loving these stories, and ultimately, found myself wanting to write one. I thought, I might not be Hemingway, but what if I could be a Nora Roberts or a Debbie Macomber? These women, but most importantly “romance authors”, with their incredible storytelling ability, were changing this misunderstood genre. So it would be that I would try my hand at writing romance. I came up with a simple concept, writing about a family, who lived in a fictional, rural northeast Washington town. A group of siblings that were experiencing love in different ways, through a season of a year. I wanted to showcase the value of unconditional love, family, community, and the sweetness of simplicity. It came to be from a mixture of my personal life, influences from a genre I had come to adore, and pure imagination, when combined, The Cloverleaf Series was born.
I had entered the world of manuscript submissions, holding my breath as I waited to hear back from publishers. I really had no clue as to what I was doing or getting myself into; a synopsis, a query letter, all instruments of the Devil as far as I was concerned. As I waited, eventually the right offer came. I was officially a signed, and soon to be published author, I was now the real deal. Then I got to experience the inner workings of the publishing biz, it’s a far different animal than you’d imagine. I have now been through editing, formatting, cover design, blurb writing, deadlines…the whole nine yards, with three books under my belt, and a fourth underway. But as with anything, as time passes, things become somewhat easier, more familiar, there’s a lot less anxiety and fear. Keep in mind this was just for the creating the book part, I haven’t touched on the marketing or dealing with the other sub-genres of romance.
Let it be said that the online community and various social media platforms can be some of the best tools, especially when seeking support. But, with anything there is always a flip-side. So if it wasn’t bad enough that authors of romance are barely being given any kind of credit or respect, you then get to see the virtual evil eye coming at you from different genres of romance. I went the contemporary, sweet romance route, it’s what I loved reading, and I’m a firm believer in, write what you know. However, a great deal of my author buddies write “Erotica”. Ooh, just saying the word sounds so naughty. I think erotica has its place, and it’s quite marketable, now. It wasn’t viewed as acceptable until recently, as many talented authors emerged, it became more than just mommy porn. But there is a divide in our community, there are times when the sweet stuff is looked at in disgust by these lusty authors, who think that the authors of contemporary are just too vanilla. Then you’ve got the good girls out there, who think the bedroom needs to stay in the bedroom on not on pages. I personally think there is room for everyone. However, when authors compete in author ranking on good ol’ Amazon, the claws can come out. Should I mention the self-pubbed versus the traditionally published authors? This can lead into many lively, uh…debates. Otherwise, we’re a cheery, mixed up group of writers, who simply love romance.
So are you thinking about joining our lil’ gang? Ready to be initiated as a “romance writer”? Think that just because it’s long been dubbed as easy writing that it is? Well, as the title of this article suggests, it’s not for the faint of heart. But is anything worth doing ever easy?
Becoming a romance writer has its hurdles, challenges that I never saw coming when I took the plunge. The complexity of romance writing has mutated over the years, especially with digital books and social media. Readers are now going through books at an alarming rate, no longer are they having to wait a year or longer for another release from their favorite author. Their demands have been heard and are now being met. So for us writers, yikes!
Shall I begin on the pressures of maintaining a strong online presence? Because now these readers not only want your books released quicker, but they want to know you, all of you. Like, what did you have for breakfast? What does your cat look like when you’re writing? They want teasers and coffee pics, they want more of you. All for a good reason, they love you, and the books you write.
For the most part I love social media. To now be able to connect with readers on such a personal level, is truly incredible. In the past, authors weren’t able to get to know their readers on such a personal level. Social media has many benefits in the book world. However, balancing writing that new novel they are desperately craving, and keeping them entertained with random silly memes…it can be exhausting at times. But would I give it up? Nah. These readers have put a smile on my face more times than I can count. I have also made a difference in their lives, from the messages and comments I have received, I know that writing romance was by far the best decision I could have made. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.
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