Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Pride and Prejudice by Anna Campbell (hmm, I wish that book was by me but Jane A got there first!)

Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking…

Yes, the dreaded moment has arrived when I’m giving my first author talk. Eeek! It’s tonight at Guildford Library in western Sydney if any of you are passing. I’ve coached my friends to watch and see if I look like I’m drying up and if I am, to ask me a series of well orchestrated questions. Stalin’s political rallies are nothing on how staged this talk is going to be!

I’m hoping one of the saving graces of the talk (and of the talker who isn’t exactly used to gigs on a podium!) will be that I feel very strongly about the topic of my speech. It’s Pride and Prejudice. No, not the immortal JA novel. Not even the slightly less immortal but extremely decorative BBC series or the movie (yum, Mr. Darcy is like chocolate in whatever guise!). I’m talking about the fact that I’m proud of writing and reading romance and yet I strike such prejudice out in the general community about my choices.

Why is this so? I’m a reasonably smart woman and my romance writing and reading pals range from smart right up to the scarily brilliant. So it seems patently obvious to me that romance isn’t just read by desperate spinsters who are too silly to know any better. It also seems obvious that romance is a genre where you can really explore the development of a relationship and be brave enough to offer the punters a happy ending. That’s a long way from the soft porn for frustrated women tag that gets tossed around so often. Yeah, there are sex scenes but that’s part of exploring the relationship in all its facets, surely!

Does romance cop flak because it’s fiction mostly written by women for women? Is it like the old if it’s a man in a kitchen, he’s a chef, if it’s a woman, she’s a cook. Is it because in this cynical day and age, romance challenges the prevailing artistic ethos that all human effort comes to dust in the end? I mean, romance writers promote the value of love and hope and endurance through adversity leading to triumph. Not fashionable but definitely empowering.

What are your thoughts on the prejudice against romance? Have you ever struck a snarky comment because you read/write romance? Do you have a fail-safe response?

OH, AND PLEASE ENTER THE FIRST ROMANCE BANDITS CONTEST MENTIONED IN THE COLUMN JUST BELOW THIS ONE! I wish I could, I want the chocs!! I guess I’ll just have to go and drool over Mr. Darcy again instead.


Christine Wells said...

Great post, Anna! You know, I think garnering respect is usually about having respect for yourself, first. If we want to change people's perceptions about romance, we need to stand up and be counted as romance lovers. Great to hear you're waving the flag for us in Sydney, Foanna!
Best of luck with that talk. You'll be fahbulous, dahlink!

Kathryn S said...

Anna, dearest! How did you make out yakking in front of a group? As for people who talk trash about romance, I like to sit on them and give them hundreds of tiny paper cuts with my Seriously, my usual response is, "I get paid a lot of money to do what I love. How much do you like YOUR job?"

Anonymous said...

I've never understood why humor and joy are dismissed as non-art. It's not just romance novels--you always hear at Academy Award time how the comic actors never get nominated, and take a look at what's considered great literature--how many of those books have happy endings? Similarly, I have never understood why people go out of their way to glorify violence as artistic.

I do, on the other hand, have incredible respect for writers of serious literature and the way their works take people outside of themselves, give them a deeper understanding of their world, or help them to make meaning out of their lives. I've read a few YA books lately that have really caused me to stop and think deeply about life and society in a way I treasure, something I'm not usually looking for when I pick up a romance.

As Jenny Crusie would say, Many Roads to Oz. Art comes in many guises, you have to be prepared to recognize it when it comes.


Annie West said...

Interesting question, Anna. I do have a pet theory that the 'down'
on romance is traditionally at least partly to do with the fact that it's predominantly by women for women. Not that the men I know would sneer at that (they wouldn't dare), but some others do, and some women too - perhaps because they don't want to be seen reading anything so intrinsically female? But then people I've met who say they don't like romance will happily watch films that are predominantly just that - but they're not labelled as romances. Strange, isn't it?


Deb Marlowe said...

Thanks for taking on the naysayers, Anna. I'm sure you'll be a great advocate for romance!

Deb Marlowe

Kim Howe said...

we36Great post, Anna! Just like Annie, I believe that everyone loves romance and a happy ending, even if they won't admit it. At our very core, relationships are the most important things in our lives. We all want to be in love and be loved. Besides, all fictional genres benefit from a romantic subplot, so why not go all the way and make romance the main plot???

Congrats on your successful speaking engagement!!!

Caren Crane said...

Believe it or not, my best friend just isn't a romance reader. She prefers bleak endings. Myself, I like happy endings. I am an optimist and always expect things to turn out for the best - and they usually do!

I don't dismiss those writers who prefer darker stories, however. They simply have a different calling than mine. I've been fortunate not to run into too many who dismiss romance out of hand.

I think the key is, like Christine said, to respect your work, present your best face to the world, be charming and wonderful (as if any of us could help it!) and make people want to read your books. Happy people are hard to resist. Shouldn't their stories be, as well?

Joan said...

Like Caren, I've been fortunate enough to have few people who dismissed my romance fiction out of hand and those who have have now been properly educated. :-)

When I first decided to venture into this, I joined a local writer's group that was advertised at a local, independent bookstore. Now realize, I was brand spanking new...had not even found RWA yet and was scared spitless to say out loud "I write romance."

But the group was run by two a self pubbed children's book author the other a scriptwriter. I never will forget when we went around and introduced ourselves and I said "I write romance" they said "Wow! That's where the money is!"

I looked at them kind of stunned. But that tiny bit of validation (at least monetary validation) urged me on.

In fact, when my goddaughter gets married in a couple of weeks(beach sunset...with her hero..sigh) my toast to them will include a soul deep affirmation of what it means to find the one who completes you, the commitment and the happily ever after. cue Rascel Flatts "My Wish"....

Anna Campbell said...

Actually, the talk went pretty well after all my fear and trepidation. Kate, love your response. Will remember it and use it! Inara, I agree with you - there's good writing in every genre. Annie, my theory matches yours, actually, about the by women for women thing. Thanks, Deb. I used to be terrifically self-effacing when it came to defending romance but these days I generally just challenge people who make stupid remarks with whether they've read a romance in the last 20 years. Amazing how the 'experts' on the genre often haven't! Hey, Kim, I've faced my public speaking demons and conquered them - well, at least I didn't collapse in a gibbering heap! Thanks for the congrats. Hey, Caren, my best friend wasn't a romance reader either - the conventions of the genre annoyed her. I tend to like to see what someone skilled can do with the conventions. It's horses for courses, isn't it? Joan, how fantastic that you discovered such support! I love it when people surprise me like that. Thanks for all the comments, guys! I LURV the banditas and their buddies!!!

Anna Sugden said...

Glad the talk went well, Anna. Glad you were flying the flag for us Down Under!

I think most people knock romance because it's easy. It's popular, sells well, well-written and entertaining. Folks in SciFi and Crime come across many of the same prejudices. To the Literati, we are all pulp fiction.

I remember a tale about Elmore Leonard not being taken seriously because he wrote too quickly. LOL.

I find it funny though, that many stories, films, TV series contain elements of romance in them very successfully and yet people still sneer. You only have to think of The X-Files, Moonlighting, The ER wedding etc etc.

Pfft to the maysayers. If we stand proud and proclaim our pride, we shall overcome all but the idiot trolls!

Helen said...

I was there last night and what a truly fantastic evening it was Anna you answered all the questions wonderfully, and my answer to the knockers about reading romance is read them first you learn so much about other people and different stages in history and life and there is nothing better than learning new things. Thanks again Anna for a terrific evening. I am proud to say I am a romance reader.
Have Fun

Trish Milburn said...

I'm just going to say ditto to what the others have said. I figure it's not a prejudice we'll ever totally dispel, for whatever reason. But I firmly believe there's enough room in the world for all our stories, be they light romantic comedies or dark, gloomy, serious literature that takes all those coveted literary prizes. I believe it does no author any good to belittle a fellow author, even if what that person writes isn't the other's cup of tea.

Anna Campbell said...

Anna, Helen and Trish! You're right, why shouldn't we be proud to be romance readers? Helen, thanks for the lovely rap on last night's talk. And thanks again for coming!

Keira Soleore said...

AnnaC: Woo Hoo! Your brand-spanking debut into public speaking was a success. Much like the book, eh?

KathrynS: Great to "see" you here and read your paper cuts comment. :) I closely followed your workshop at Romantic Inks a few months ago.

Inara: So true. Comedy is incredibly difficult to do, and yet, it's rarely rewarded when it's done well.

V.Anna: From a comment you made on another post... I revisited your site (just love the intro). I also looked into more detail, followed more links on Wiki, about your name. I've read of "Samahita" in the context of Buddhism, but this is the first time I was introduced to "Anahita." I love history! :)

Suzanne Welsh said...

I was reading a book at work late one night, and a couple walked past me. The father-to-be said, "Oh, eye candy."

I plastered on a smile and said, "No, this book takes place during the first of two Napoleonic wars. So far four people have died and there is a spy loose who may or may not hold the fate of the world in his hands."

To which he replied, "Sounds good. Can I read it when you're done?"

LOL. The wife laughed and said she'd love for him to read a romance novel, so he'd understand how much she enjoyed them.

I've recently devoured the "Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women" book of essays. I was pumping my hand after each one like a rabid football fan.

Years ago I gave up defending derogatory comments with anything more than, "If you've never read one, then you're speaking out of ignorance."

Stops them every time.

Anna Campbell said...

Good for you, Suz. I read Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women in the last couple of months too. What an amazing collection of essays!

Thanks, Keira! Not sure I'd want to devote my life to public speaking but it's great to face our fears sometimes, isn't it?

Denise Rossetti said...

Anna, now you're really pushing my buttons! Try telling people you write erotic romance - aaargh! If one more person winks and asks if I do all my own research, I'm going to be gathering background for a non-fiction book about a murder by a small enraged woman who's inserted a mouse somewhere it wasn't meant to go!

I think romance gets trivialized for a whole swag of reasons -

1. It's for women by women, as you say Anna and therefore trivial, like raising children. (Hang on, must watch the blood pressure...)

2. It's unashamedly ENTERTAINMENT - not necessarily intended to *improve*, though of course, that can happen and does. But it's not a general perception and it doesn't fit with the 19th century work ethic that still underpins a lot of society.

3. Happiness is not "real", therefore HEA's are a fantasy. I've been married over 30 years. What's not to believe about HEA's?

One of my best friends doesn't care for romance at all because she feels she doesn't "learn" anything. Also, deep down, she believes she doesn't deserve true happiness. That it will ever happen.

4. It's so easy to write one, anyone could do it. When I told my mother I was writing, she said, "That's nice, dear. When will they publish it?"
A colleague said, "Oh, a Mills and Boon? I've got the perfect plot for that formula." Had she written it? No. Has she since written it? No. But it was only a question of finding the time.

5. Related is the perception that all romance is "Mills & Boon" and that it's all written to the mythical formula. Well, I know I'm not up to writing category. I tried and that one lives in the sock drawer...

However, I have to say that I work in a university and my colleagues have all been surprisingly supportive, whether or not they read romance. And some do. Just this year, we have a new Masters degree in romance writing (under the umbrella of creative writing).

OK, climbing off the soapbox before I get a nosebleed. But goddess, it was good to vent! Thanks Anna!


Kathryn S said...

*Waving to Keira*

My sister likes 'bleak' books, like Caren's friend. She'll tell me about these books that she's read -- and really enjoyed -- that scare me. lol. I have no problem with her choice of reading material, especially if she gets something emotionally satisfying out of it, but I want a happy ending -- or at least a satisfying one.

Authorness said...

Anna made a scintillating debut as a speaker at the Guildford Library last Thursday night. I know she inspired a lot of folks to defend the honour of the romance genre.

Good onya, Anna!

x Vanessa

Keira Soleore said...

KathrynS waved to me?! WOW! You know, I want to gush...

Denise: I loved your responses. I'm saving all these "thumbs in people's faces" so I can trot them out at will. :)

Anna Campbell said...

Denise, I'm ready to storm the barricades after reading your post! Whoo-hoo!

Vanessa, thanks for saying that. You made a great barrel girl!

Thanks to everyone who commented! I've picked up some great responses to silly people!