Well, I’m back from Florida, where I served on three erotica panels at the Romantic Times Book Lovers National Convention. I was very humbled to share the dais with the likes of Jade Lee, Angela Knight, Emma Holly and Cheyenne McCray, all big names in the industry. RT BookClub invited me to appear on their panels and to this day I’m really not sure why they invited such a novice! I’ve only been writing in this field for two years and am still at the stage where I can’t believe anyone has heard of me. It was a great honor.
Let me start by saying that from the two conventions at which I have appeared in this time, I’ve found romance fans to be the nicest, most enthusiastic and cheerful bunch you would ever want to meet. But at the same time, it’s always a challenge for me to be with this crowd. With my background and life’s history, I’m a much better fit with the Star Wars and D&D bunch that attend GenCon in my hometown of Milwaukee every summer. I can talk Star Trek or X Files with the best of ‘em, but I know nothing about Harlequin or Nora Roberts or any other subject that romance readers eat, sleep and breathe.
Worse even than that, I’ve tried reading a couple of the free books that I’ve received at conventions and I can’t really get past the fourth page of them. But before you conclude that I just don’t like romance, I must interject that my top ten favorite books include Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Gone with the Wind. Likewise, I grew up immersed in the great Broadway shows of Rodgers & Hammerstein, Lerner & Loewe, which are pretty dang romantic. I’m also a big believer in happily-ever-after (or HEA as it is termed in the romance biz). So it’s not like I don’t like the whole boy-meets-girl thing.
Nevertheless, there’s no denying I am a square peg in a round hole. Or maybe an oval peg would be more accurate. I’m a similar shape but I really don’t fit.
I lamented about this once to my publisher and editor, and they assured me there is no “classic romance fan” and that readers of my books were all kinds of people and that was just fine with them. But whenever you write genre fiction, you can’t help but feel the pressure to be like the others who write in that genre. Most of your readers have expectations, including that you have read plenty of other books in the field, that you keep up on the various imprints and series, that you find cover models (like Fabio) attractive and exciting, etc.
I’m afraid I don’t have it in me to be like that. But at the same time, I take solace in the fact that a lot of people, both self-avowed romance fans and readers outside that fold, like what I write. I guess that’s the important thing. And “writing what I write” is me. I write stories about love and sex, about men and women and their most intimate, passionate interactions, and it’s something I love to do.
So I probably won’t be spending a lot of time doing the convention scene, but happily, that will just give this oval peg more time to write.