A writer I know, M.J Scott, had a wonderful rant yesterday about people who tell you what you should love and that what you do love is wrong – it was really quite special, you should check it out http://blog.mjscott.net/2013/08/01/on-liking-stuff
Anyway, the gist of this rant was that people should be allowed to love what they love and not be made to feel stupid about it. I have to say, I wholeheartedly agree. A great majority of people, when I tell them I am a writer, are amazed and impressed and enthusiastic when asking me about it, even if they don’t read in the genres I write in. They share in the love, and make me feel special. But there are people out there who, when I tell them I am a writer, and they ask me what I write, the look on their face when I say ‘romantic suspense, paranormal romance and fantasy’ says quite clearly to me that they think all of these things are stupid and it is a waste of their time to ask me anything further. Of course, what they say next (always along the lines of, ‘Oh, that’s good, I guess’ or ‘I don’t read that’ (which really means, ‘I don’t read that shit, so don’t expect me to be impressed))’ doesn’t really alleviate that impression at all. It’s like they think it being in those genres makes it less real than if it was say, a literary work of some kind.
It isn’t that they don’t like romance or fantasy or paranormal that upsets me – it’s the fact the general impression I’m left with is that they think I shouldn’t like those genres. And not only that, they’re often quite pushy and loud in the way they make it clear that it is a waste of my time because it is a waste of theirs.
I’m really quite okay with them thinking what I do is a waste of their time, but to try to push that onto me is what I object to. None of us are carbon copies of anyone else. Why should I like what other people like? I don’t expect them to like what I like – they are free to follow their own hearts and minds with no reference to me at all. I just wish these kinds of people would treat me and those like me with the same courtesy. But if wishes were fishes…
The thing is, while I have studied literary novels, (I did a BA majoring in literature) I don’t really enjoy them. I’m sure they’re wonderful and have great meaning and make people think deeply and all, but to me, I don’t want to read something that’s going to make me feel depressed at the end of it, or thoughtful, or like I’m a great big smarty pants because I managed to wade through it and mostly understand what the hell the author was on about, or even worse, not a big enough smarty pants because it completely escaped me what the whole novel was about. When I was studying, the books I would curl up with at the end of the day were always a romance of some kind, fantasy or sci-fi. There is nothing so wonderful to me as to be carried away into a world of unreality, to let my mind and imagination free range to conjure up whole worlds of people and scenarios that have come out of someone else’s imagination. It frees me. It picks me up out of my day. It makes me happy.
Don’t get me wrong, I admire literary writers, (I work with a few in one of the writing groups I am a member of and their work is wonderful). I think there there is great value in that kind of novel for many people, but I’m not one of them. And I don’t think I should be made to feel wrong or stupid or dirty about that.
Romance readers and writers suffer from this kind of prejudice all the time and have done so for years. Admitting to reading romance was always tantamount to admitting you read fantasy and sci fi, that you watched Star Trek and Dr Who and have watched Star Wars more times than you could count and liked (god forbid) to read as much or more than you liked sport or having a piss up with your friends. If you did all these things (or even only a couple of them), you were considered a nerd. And when I was growing up, the term nerd was permission for someone to treat you like you were some kind of weird bug they just needed to step on.
Well, the term nerd has changed. Shows like ‘The Big Bang Theory’ has been wonderful for making nerds claim their nerdism with pride. My son calls himself a nerd (and by any definition, he is), but he calls himself that with pride. And I’m proud of him too. He has inherited his nerdism from me and his father (my husband), and he wears it with aplomb. Nerds are no longer universally looked down upon as socially inept inferiors, but as people who can and are, ruling the world. Much of the social media and technology that are integral to so many people’s existences is created by ‘nerds’. They have a right to be proud of their accomplishments and their nerdism. They’ve got to where they are because they love something so hard and there is nothing wrong with that (and if you need proof of this, watch this video of Wil Wheaton from Star Trek, Eureka and The Big Bang Theory, talk about being a nerd. Check it out, it’s pretty special.) http://www.upworthy.com/this-is-what-it-looks-like-when-the-king-of-the-nerds-gives-your-infant-daughter-a-pep-talk-7
I think romance readers and writers can be just as proud of our love. We are romance nerds. We want love to be the answer. We want everyone to have a Happy Ever After. We want people to come to understand themselves, to learn to be better people, so that they are ready to love and be loved by others. We’re happy to talk with anybody about who has the same love, to share, to go to conferences, to book clubs, writing meetings, join associations like RWA (Romance Writers of Australia) and ARRA (Australian Romance Readers Association) and generally own our love of love. We don’t, and shouldnt need, anyone else’s approval of what we love and as long as we’re not shoving that love down unwilling throats, we should be allowed to stay happy loving love.
When I wrote Killing Me Softly, it wasn’t because I was trying to make some big statement or change someone’s life with my profound thoughts, I wrote it because I wanted to share a story about people overcoming adversity and growing stronger together, connecting, falling in love, and beating the odds to get their happy ever after. And quite frankly, I don’t think there is anything more profound than finding self fulfilment and love. If we could all do that, we’d all be a lot happier. The world would be a lot happier. That’s all I want for my children. Self-fulfillment, love, happiness. If that is my only gift to them, then that is enough for me. And if the way I choose to share this with the world is by reading and writing romances of all kinds, then what’s so wrong with that?
Nothing. And I’m here to say to those people who think it is wrong, perhaps the problem is not with me or those who love love like me, but with your feeling like you have the right to tell me what I should love; what is right to love. There is no right or wrong. There is just personal preferences, and a right to be happy having them.
Embrace what you love, no matter what that is (as long as it doesn’t hurt others is my one proviso). And if what you love is love, then I think you are pretty special and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.