Read the chatscript from this February 10, 2014 #litchat here.
Romance novels are the bread and butter of the publishing industry, bringing in the dough that allows publishers to put out high-brow literary fiction. Last week Lauren Baratz-Logsted posted a hierarchy of literary respect in her The Whole Oyster blog here at LitChat. It’s no surprise that romance is at the bottom of the pyramid.
In the February issue of Harper’s Magazine, assistant editor Jesse Barron, shocked many hard-boiled readers when he opened and layered an essay about attending a romance writer’s convention in Las Vegas with a tasteless and inappropriate replay of last summer’s tragic double murder and kidnapping in California by James Lee DiMaggio. Entitled, Bad Romance: One Genre and a Billion Happy Endings, Barron spends several thousand words paralleling romance writing and happily ever after (HEA) with Hannah Anderson’s kidnapping by DiMaggio. For those who do not subscribe to Harper’s, he blogged, sans the DiMaggio connection, about his reaction to romance writing, HEA and the romance convention at this blog.
Intrigued with the Harper’s piece, NPR interviewed Barron, resulting in, Romance Novels Sweep Readers Off Their Feet With Predictability. The interview is archived all over the web, reflecting its broadcast in NPR markets across America.
An interview with Barron and author Angela Knight for NPR’s “The Take Away with John Hockenberry,” is introduced with this, “Jesse Barron, assistant editor at Harpers magazine, set out to better understand the romance industry by attending the first annual Romance Novel Convention in Las Vegas.” Reading between the lines of Barron’s Harper’s Magazine and blog pieces, an unbiased reader might suggest that he was not there to “better understand” the romance industry, but to mock it.
Ron Charles, deputy editor of The Washington Post book section, picks up on Barron’s condescension in his piece on the Post’s The Style Blog: The Romance Novel Convention in Harper’s. Charles concludes with, “That makes for an unsettling reflection on our attitudes about eroticism and danger.”
It’s no surprise the interwebs blew up with opinions, comments and rhetoric surrounding Barron’s piece. Romance is the genre every literate person loves to hate, right?
USA bestselling author of romance, and former New Yorker staffer, Megan Mulry began writing romance fiction only a few years ago. Since 2012 when her first novel, A Royal Pain, published, she has written to much acclaim, four more novels of historical and contemporary romance, and has two more novels releasing this spring. Back in 2011 Megan wrote an essay defending her choice to write fun and fabulous fiction in contrast to her educational and professional laurels.
Everyone has preferences. Mystery readers want their murders solved. Crime readers want the crooks caught. Suspense readers want to be titillated to a satisfying conclusion. Fantasy readers want the good to win over evil. Sci-fi readers want experiments to succeed. Why, then, is it such an offence for romance writers to want their happily ever after?