Continuing on with the topic of tolerance this week, I have to say I’m lucky. For the most part, I haven’t been faced with rude people making snarky remarks to me for writing romance. I’m sure it will happen some day, but so far I’ve remained relatively unscathed. Part of that could be due to the fact that I kept my writing a secret for years from family and friends. Not because I was embarrassed to admit I was writing romance, but because I wanted to avoid the inevitable questions of “Have you finished your book yet?” (No -- see my Deadlinitis blog post) or “When’s it going to be published?” (As if I have much power over the ‘when’ and ‘if’ in the mercurial publishing world). But one evening, I got outted by my beloved husband at a cocktail party. Since then, my friends and family have been very supportive. Or if they aren’t, they’ve kept their opinions to themselves very well. Some have even pulled me aside and confessed to a deep, secret desire to try their hand at writing themselves someday and are envious of me for going for it. And, because I don’t get out that much, I’ve managed to avoid too many of those annoying “Have you finished the book yet?” questions.
But I have experienced intolerance within the family. No, not my flesh and blood family. I’m talking about the writing family we’re all members of. Even within our own ranks, we have intolerance and prejudice brewing among us. On Saturday, Francesca talked about prejudice against erotic romance and those who would brand such authors with a scarlet letter XXX. And we’ve all heard the snobbish remarks from authors who debase e-published authors as the less-than-successful red-headed stepchild. While I don’t write erotica and I’m not e-published, I have faced prejudice in another form from a fellow author and the incident has stuck with me to this day.
Here’s what happened. One day, I was in a bookstore chatting casually with several other writers, one of whom is a NYT best-selling author I’ve known for years. This woman has a very commanding, opinionated personality--she's inspiring to be around and people tend to hang on her every word. She asked me what I was working on and I told her it was a historical paranormal. She frowned, her brow creased, then she looked down her nose at me (which was quite a feat since she was sitting and I was standing) and said,
“Now why do you want to do that?”
“Do what?” I asked.
“Ruin a perfectly good historical by making it a paranormal.”
“Well, because that’s the way this story needs to be written,” I replied.
“But why can’t you just write a straight historical? Why put anything paranormal in it?” asked the author who writes nothing but historicals.
“Because that’s what I write.” Duh.
She glanced around at her ‘audience’, snickered to the published author at her side (also a non-paranormal writer) and said in a voice that has a way of booming across a crowded room like a fog horn,
“I don’t get it. Everyone is trying to write paranormals these days. It’s all vampires and werewolves. I just don’t understand the appeal of characters like that. Your historical story should be strong enough to stand on its own without throwing a paranormal element into it.”
Then she laughed and went off on another tangent, as if the topic was too insignificant to waste her time on any longer. I stood there gaping like a beached fish, unable to think of a snappy comeback in the face of this public paranormal-bashing.
Keep in mind, I know this author, have for years. While she can be a force to be reckoned with, I didn’t take it personally because she knew nothing about my story or my skill as a writer (she’s never read my work). After I recovered, I realized she wasn’t putting down my story in particular--she was trashing the entire paranormal genre as a whole. I’m not sure if she even realized what she was doing with her historical-than-thou comments.
Like everyone else, she’s entitled to her opinion. That’s fine. If she doesn’t like paranormal romance, that’s all right with me. But by her words and actions that day, she demeaned my chosen genre in a very public forum. This type of behavior, especially from well-known and respected authors, undermines us all. We shouldn’t do that to each other. We get enough flack from everyone else, we don’t need to be stabbing our sisters in the back. If you want to know the truth, I don’t normally read erotica, category, or romantic suspense. But I don’t degrade the authors who write it (publicly or privately). I support the authors who brave those territories because writing those kinds of stories take a skill set I don’t have. It’s the variety of subgenres that makes romance the bestselling genre in the industry. If you ask me, it would be a sad, boring world if we’re all limited to writing one type of book, and we should all be open-minded enough to acknowledge and accept it.