For most of my life, I underestimated the power of romance novels. I certainly never saw myself writing one. I went to graduate school in English about twenty years ago, and during that time, we made fun of the kind of novelist I’ve become. So when I did get an idea to write a romance—patterned after Jane Austen’s Persuasion—I resisted the urge to write. I didn’t want to be a “romance writer.” But the idea for this novel wouldn’t leave my head, so I wrote it just for fun.
As I wrote, I began to see how important clean romance is. In a world where Shades of Gray has become a bestseller, we need authors who portray something different. I believe that women don’t need to be easy or submissive to gain a man’s respect. In fact, I believe the opposite is true.
When I began writing years ago, I experienced the difficulty of finding clean romance writers for my role models. There aren’t all that many of us, and before the e-book revolution, it was difficult to sort through all the options. Since then, I’ve learned that the kind of romance I write is called “Sweet Romance” and is characterized by no on-page sex, very little violence, and minimal mild language. Basically, it’s the kind of romance I’d give to my pre-teen daughter or my mother. Many of the Austen Authors write this kind of romance. Others of us write books that are a little sexier but that still reinforce a woman’s worth as an individual.
While I was writing my first novel, I started to notice what people around me were reading. I saw many teenage girls devouring chick lit. Some of them read more than a book a day. I also saw adult women carrying stacks of romance novels out of the library. Whether or not I liked it, romance was influencing the world around me. That’s when I decided that if I have anything to do with it, romance will be a voice for self-respect and commitment. Think about it: if done the right way, romance can teach women to see themselves as more than objects.
Now I’ve written and published four books,all Sweet Romances, and occasionally people ask me if I plan to write in another genre, as if I’m wasting my talent writing Romance. The answer is that I might, but I’m happy where I am.
This week, for Valentine’s Day, the e-book of my latest Romance, Chemistry Lessons, is on sale for 99 cents. You can find it here.