Sunday, September 2, 2012

Isn't it romantic?

Instead of starting an original discussion here, I'd like to continue one that's already begun over at the All About Romance blog, which asks the question "How Do We Define Romance?"

The AAR blog post was inspired by the Romance Writers of America's recent decision to eliminate the "Novel with Strong Romantic Elements" category from its RITA and Golden Heart Awards, and to ask writers of those novels to "re-examine" whether we really qualify to be full members of their organization.

You can read the details in the post I've linked to, above, and learn even more by following the links they've provided, as well, but for the sake of brevity I'll just re-post what my own answer to that question was:

“Do I think I write romance? Yes. But for me, a romance novel, besides having an HEA or HFN, only has one other key requirement: that the love story be essential to the plot. In other words, if you pull the love story out of the book, the story falls apart, because everything—every other element—has been stitched to that one central seam. That’s my own, admittedly personal, definition of a romance. And that’s what I write.”

(HEA and HFN, for those unfamiliar with the terms, are romance-writer-speak for "Happily Ever After" and "Happy For Now").

As a Canadian, I am used to walking on that border between the American and British ways of viewing something, but I have to say this whole thing's made me very grateful I'm a member of the RNA as well, where I have never once been made to feel my writing doesn't fit the definition of "romance", or felt that I might not belong.

But I confess to being curious: What is romance, to you? Or, if that's too hard to define, what is the most romantic book you've ever read?

(And come back Thursday, to read Julie's post)


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  2. Some of us shouldn't use predictive text on our phones....

    Some of my most favorite romance novels aren't the ones with the anatomy lessons. I love romance novels where boy meets girl and their love grows but it isn't the focus of the story. Where, like you said, the love is a thread that binds the story together. It's not the HEAs I need, but the belief that this love will continue to grow long after the last page has been read.

  3. I've always had a broader definition of romance; I started reading romantic novels before the genre exploded, so I was used to finding books that might or might not have romance, and might not meet the (eventual) definition of the genre. I once read a novel in which the heroine died at the end; a friend read it later, after the genre was more defined, and she read it as a romance novel. So where I felt sad, she felt betrayed. But I did not mind the fact that the ending wasn't certain. (I wasn't expecting the book to be part of a clearly defined HEA genre at the time I read it.)

    I like the occasional uncertainty, because it makes the ending (when the hero & heroine do get together) more powerful. That doesn't mean I think that genre novels don't need the HEA/HFN. It does mean that I'll look outside the genre for a bit of magic.

    So, needless to say, to me, books that fell into the SRE category are most definitely romantic, and probably satisfy my definition of romance. I'm not sure if I'm typical. I joined with a group of friends to read and recommend romantic F&SF novels to each other, because those publishers didn't seem aware of the market. (Some of the books we recommended were out of print at the time, but some of those authors are now back with a vengeance.) And I read Mariana, and loved it, then had to order some of the other books from Canada, because they weren't released in the US.

    However, I'm also not sure if it matters so much to readers. I don't think readers are always aware of the RITA awards, or even of RWA.


  4. Great post, Susanna, I have left a comment on AAR but just wanted to say here too that your novel 'The Winter Sea' is definitely romantic! The love story stayed with me long after I put the book down, so how can that not be romance?

  5. I'm with you, Susanna: I believe that novels where the love story is central to the plot, are romantic novels. But they don't always fit the US market's definition of "romance novels". My last three novels have had strong love stories, which are integral to the plot, but the focus is more on the heroine or heroines' emotional development in all areas of her life.

    According to the RWA, I shouldn't be a member any more, or should consider seriously before I renew, and I'm more than inclined to let my membership drop. It's too bad, because I like the organisation and have been a member for ten years; I've given service to RWA and have promoted it, and romance, strongly throughout my career.

    I also prefer the broader approach of the RNA, who promote romantic fiction in all its guises, rather than sticking to genre and market lines.