For most of my life, I underestimated the power of romance novels. I certainly never saw myself writing one. I went to graduate school in English about twenty years ago, and during that time, we made fun of the kind of novelist I’ve become. So when I did get an idea to write a romance—patterned after Jane Austen’s Persuasion—I resisted the urge to write. I didn’t want to be a “romance writer.” But the idea for this novel wouldn’t leave my head, so I wrote it just for fun.
As I wrote, I began to see how important clean romance is. In a world where Shades of Gray has become a bestseller, we need authors who portray something different. I believe that women don’t need to be easy or submissive to gain a man’s respect. In fact, I believe the opposite is true.
When I began writing years ago, I experienced the difficulty of finding clean romance writers for my role models. There aren’t all that many of us, and before the e-book revolution, it was difficult to sort through all the options. Since then, I’ve learned that the kind of romance I write is called “Sweet Romance” and is characterized by no on-page sex, very little violence, and minimal mild language. Basically, it’s the kind of romance I’d give to my pre-teen daughter or my mother. Many of the Austen Authors write this kind of romance. Others of us write books that are a little sexier but that still reinforce a woman’s worth as an individual.
While I was writing my first novel, I started to notice what people around me were reading. I saw many teenage girls devouring chick lit. Some of them read more than a book a day. I also saw adult women carrying stacks of romance novels out of the library. Whether or not I liked it, romance was influencing the world around me. That’s when I decided that if I have anything to do with it, romance will be a voice for self-respect and commitment. Think about it: if done the right way, romance can teach women to see themselves as more than objects.
Now I’ve written and published four books, all Sweet Romances, and occasionally people ask me if I plan to write in another genre, as if I’m wasting my talent writing Romance. The answer is that I might, but I’m happy where I am.
This week, for Valentine’s Day, the e-book of my latest Romance, Chemistry Lessons, is on sale for 99 cents. You can find it here.