Saturday, 24 October 2015

Why I'll Never Make it as a Romance Writer

My name is Kathryn White, I am a writer and quite frankly, I am shithouse at writing romance. My qualifications are sketchy at best--I'm working class, unmarried, have an honours degree in English Literature, prefer cats over dogs and--the big one--I don't like wine. (What is it about romance writers and wine? I've never understood this.) All of which are hardly the qualifications of one who is predisposed to writing romantic fiction. (You'll notice that romance authors are nearly always married too.) And also, my characters, especially the female ones like to swear. A lot. And sometimes unnecessarily. Which makes for exceedingly bad copy for romantic fiction.

Most of the time I am cool with that. My writing is what it is--something that a librarian could possibly sort as contemporary fiction and nearly all of it independently published. And, naturally, my least commercial project is the one that consistently sells the most books. I no more feel the need to write romance than what I do to write westerns. But sometimes, it's hard not to envy romance writers, with their pages and pages of lovely, four and five star reviews on goodreads and for at least some of them, instant success at a relatively young age or through the most unlikely set of circumstances. Some books and authors are better than others, but that is true of any genre. Like speculative fiction, and anything else that has a strong following and sells a lot of books, romance can be dismissed or overlooked by readers for reasons that are very unfair and often untrue. Romance is not lesser fiction. It is just different. Different goals, different writing styles. The romance authors who get published and sell the most books are usually the ones who are genuinely passionate about their work and have both the ability and drive to create sizzling tension set against a romantic backdrop. But, for all of the romance that I have read over the years, I just cannot write it. I suck at creating likeable heroines and developing sexual tension. Comedy always slips in there somewhere, even when I don't mean it to. And the optimistic ending? Well, if I tried to write a romance it would probably end up something like this:

Angela surveyed her surroundings carefully. As usual the newsroom was a hub of activity with phones ringing and reporters hurriedly typing up the kind of stories that only a newspaper like The Oracle would print. And, of course, Ivan, the newspaper's sleazy editor had just found a reason to walk past her desk, brushing up close to her as he walked. Four years at university studying journalism and for what? So that she could end up at some gutter press, writing utter crap and nonsense about the latest celebrities, and being treated like a sex object every day by the newspaper's sleazy editor. Angela looked toward Kami, her best friend and trusted confident who was sitting at the next desk. Kami looked back at her and rolled her eyes. "I see Ivan is at it again."
"Tell me about it." Angela snorted. "What a complete fucking sleaze. I'm totally going to the union and complaining about sexual harassment. Anyway, coffee?"
Kami nodded. As journalists, both woman lived on coffee, often skipping solids in favour of a high-in-caffeine lunch. This was becoming something of a problem, as Angela had developed permanent insomnia and her hands often shook when she tried to hold a pen. She was also horribly malnourished and her doctor was concerned that he was going to develop an array of medical problems that stemmed from a lack of food and the over-stimulation of her nerves. "Fabulous." Angela climbed up from her desk. "I'll get us ..." Angela's voice trailed away as she found herself face to face with a very tall, very broad shouldered and very, very bared chested individual of the male variety. Angela felt her pulse quicken. 
"Why don't you watch where you're going?" 
A snarl came from a mouth that was just a few inches above the bare chest. 
"Why don't you watch where you're going?"
Angela felt her attraction to this individual fade away in an instant. She listened as he gave a hollow, caveman like snort and retreated to where he had come from, the next room, where a fashion shoot was taking place. "What a wanker," Angela muttered, before never speaking of, or thinking about, the individual ever again.  
 The problems with this piece are so obvious that I am not going to bother pointing them out. But it also proves that romance is not something that anyone can just churn out for the sake of making a quick back. For it to work, the author has to be passionate about their subject and dedicated enough to do it well. And that's just not me. I have other stories to tell, things that I am passionate about. And while I might read and review romance, I'm unlikely to take up writing it any time soon.