I’ve been having a hard time with this post, so I hope you’ll all forgive me for its tardiness.
I’m struggling with a book I’m working on, so in general, I’ve been a little pissy. But last week, I was out running errands with Offspring 2 (O2) and in a pretty good mood, when I ran into someone I know through work. I don’t know this person well, just in passing, but we exchanged pleasantries and she asked how my summer was going.
I told her about my trip to Maine, about a conference I attended for the day job and then I mentioned my wonderful trip to the RWA conference in NYC. First, she grinned, then she rolled her eyes and then she spoke, and stepped on a landmine. A big one.
Her words, you ask?
“Oh, right, you write that stuff. When are you going to write a real book?”
For a second, I wasn’t sure I’d heard her correctly. I mean, lets put everyone’s opinion of romance aside and talk about good manners. She doesn’t know me that well. We’re professional acquaintances, that’s all. Yet, without thought, this woman openly insulted me.
On one hand, she insulted thousands of women, thousands of accomplished writers and thought it was okay. It was lit snobbery at its best…or depending on your take, its worst. On the other hand, she’s the worst kind of person–someone who has no concern for another’s feelings. Someone who has no respect for something she doesn’t understand.
I probably should have turned around and walked away. Just left her standing there, but I couldn’t do it. I had to say something and I started with a simple question.
“Why would you say that?” (Unfortunately, I didn’t add the name I wanted to call her to the end of that sentence. #%&$!!! But I thought it, I did.)
The Harpy (as she will now be known) laughed and patted my arm in condescension, and that’s when I couldn’t take it anymore. I’m sure my eyes must have turned red, maybe they spun around in my head. I know I felt the growl in my throat, too. Harpy had no intention of answering my question; she figured she’d taken her shot, wrapped herself in her literary superiority and would move on from our conversation, leaving me to my bodice ripping heroes.
Yeah, no. This wasn’t over. Not by a long shot.
O2 must have sensed it because she was urging me to leave, tempting me with frozen yogurt. But I was single minded as I set out to bury Harpy with the facts. Facts about romance’s incredible reach, profitability and the most basic of all: that if the genre were to become extinct, 1.3 billion dollars in book sales would be lost. It would decimate publishing and all those “real books” wouldn’t have anyplace to go. I talked about academic work being done at major universities studying the genre as literature and I talked about how it made people happy. And in the end, that’s all that mattered.
Which is something Harpy would know nothing about because like so many people, she’s never read a romance, but has chosen to criticize the genre. Dumb.
And she decided to criticize the genre to me. Even dumber.
So, with each word I uttered, Harpy’s chin dropped a little closer to the pavement. I don’t know if she was stunned by the facts or that I was insulted by her comments, but neither bodes well. As I finished
ripping out her heart to feed to my cat, making my point, I enjoyed watching her squirm. It was fun and I can tell you honestly, while the encounter was aggravating, it improved my overall mood.
Facts are facts. Romance novels are profitable and a mainstay of publishing, but that’s not why I write. I write because I know my books will make people happy. Someday, when I finally get that call, my greatest joy will be in the knowledge that people will be reading what I’ve written. They may laugh, they may cry, but in the end I will have the satisfaction of knowing that, for a little while, I helped someone escape from real life.
When I got home, I went to my office and looked at the manuscript that’s been giving me trouble. Suddenly, trying to work out the plot holes didn’t seem so bad. I have the harpy to thank for that. She helped me focus on the good in what I was doing, not the bad.
It’s unfortunate there’s no hope for her.
To celebrate romances and the happily ever after, (because I’m feeling like a warrior woman right now) I have a copies of Jill Shalvis’ Simply Irresistible, JoAnn Ross’s One Summer, and Kristan Higgins’ Catch of the Day that I’ll give away as a bundle to a person randomly chosen from the comments.
***JoAnn Ross has graciously offered to send the winner of the drawing an autographed copy of her NYT bestseller, One Summer along with some other goodies. (See comment 20 for details and a great story.) Thanks, JoAnn!
So, I’ll be sending out Kristan’s and Jill’s books to the winner…JoAnn will send hers from her home base in the PNW.
(Contest is limited to people in the U.S. and Canada–sorry–and will close on Thursday, August 18th, 2011 at 6 pm EDT.)