Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tuesday Talk Time -- The State of the Heart

For the Pink Heart Society's Tuesday's Talk-Time, Anne McAllister talks about the state of the heart vs. the state of the art.

According to the Mills & Boon blog, Tuesday Talk-Time is when we at the Pink Heart Society talk about "the state of the industry and how it effects readers, the relevance of romance to modern day women, diversity in category romance-this will be the day for exercising the little grey cells."

My immediate reaction to that was, "Oh, dear."

It's not that I don't care about the relevance of romance to modern day women or about diversity in category romance. It's not that I think the state of the industry and how it affects (which is the word I think they meant to use) readers is irrelevant, it's that I don't write romance novels for any of those reasons. Not really.

So, if you want to talk about any of those things, feel free. It's Tuesday (or it will be eventually). But you will have to talk among yourselves because, honestly, I can't. Not with any authority, anyway.

If you want statistics about how many books that are selling are marketed as romance, no doubt you can find that online. You can also track how epublishing has changed the market, and how characters from various cultures and backgrounds are finding their way into romance novels (and thank God for that, I say).

I have no doubt that there is a lot that can be said about the role the author might taken in marketing her (or his or their) books using blogs and Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and other means that actually make my little grey cells hurt just to think about them. I am going to have to find a very understanding mentor when I tackle them seriously. In the meantime I will leave it to our resident experts -- I am sure we have them -- to discuss those things on other Tuesdays.

Because for me none of those things is what got me to write in the first place when I was ten years old. And none of them was what made me put my fingers on the keyboard thirty-four years ago when I began my first romance novel. And none of them kept me writing when I hit brick walls or uncooperative characters or shallow motivations or plot mazes that I couldn't seem to find my way out of many times since.

What kept me writing was Story.

I always wanted to know what happened in the story. I wanted to know the people better. I cared about them -- about their lives, their families, the decisions they made. I so badly wanted them to make the right ones, the ones that would bring them happiness, bring them together at last with a person to share their life with, who would bring out the best in them, support them in trials and heart ache, and celebrate with them in joy.

That's what has kept me writing. That's what makes me turn up at the computer day after day. Not the industry, not the diversity, not social media or abstract or even concrete business considerations.

I believe that is what readers keep coming back for, too. The state of the industry doesn't matter to them. Story matters to them. Characters matter.

The Pink Heart Society's own reader columnist, Desere Steenberg, said it best when she wrote, "Many say romance books aren't like real life, but to me they truly do feel real. When I'm reading I climb inside the book and live every single emotion of each character."

While some (and I include myself) are heartened to see a greater variety of cultures and backgrounds among our heroes and heroines, what ultimately matters to all of us who come back to romance fiction book after book, I suspect, is something very basic. It is the experience of living that story, feeling those emotions -- which are universal underneath all colors, creeds and cultural trappings -- and of finding a soul mate and falling in love again. And again.

It's the heart of the book that draws me every time.

What keeps you reading? I'd love to hear about your first encounter with a romance novel -- and what brings you back again.
Two-time RITA winner (and eleven-time finalist) Anne McAllister finds relationships endlessly fascinating. She finds contracts and spreadsheets less so (though she does recognize a need for them). She just finished her last Savas-Antonides book, Lukas's story. The Return of Antonides, will be out in Harlequin Presents in October, 2015.

Her most recent book was Last Year's Bride, part of the Great Wedding Giveaway mini-series, which is also out now in trade paperback with the wonderful, witty, clever Sarah Mayberry's Make-Believe Wedding in a collection called Love Me Always.

1. Statistics photo credit: spierzchala / Foter / CC BY

2. Girl Writing photo credit: pedrosimoes7 / Foter / CC BY

3. Sunset photo credit: mrhayata / Foter / CC BY-SA

4 comments:

  1. I really love this post.

    Don't get me wrong, I love talking about diversity in romance, and nattering away about "issues", but sometimes I think it's important to stop and look at why we love them.

    "What ultimately matters to all of us who come back to romance fiction book after book, I suspect, is something very basic. It is the experience of living that story, feeling those emotions -- which are universal underneath all colors, creeds and cultural trappings -- and of finding a soul mate and falling in love again."

    Thanks for reminding us of this.

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    1. Thank you, Alicia. I am always delighted to talk about the industry, too. But I do think that sometimes in the business of writing and the demands of society for things to be "relevant" we do forget what brings us to the books we love. I'm happy the post struck a chord.

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  2. "what ultimately matters to all of us who come back to romance fiction book after book, I suspect, is something very basic. It is the experience of living that story, feeling those emotions -- which are universal underneath all colors, creeds and cultural trappings -- and of finding a soul mate and falling in love again. And again."

    Absolutely - standing and cheering here, Anne! Sometimes in the discussions of alpha/beta/gamma heroes, diverse (or not) heroines the relevance of romance - the real point of writing romance gets lost. And that is,as you say - story - the story of two people meeting and making a love story all of their own - one that we can fall in love with as we read and get lost in it. Because - well, what could possibly be more relevant in all times/periods/countries/cultures than love? Great post Anne - one that needs reading.

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    1. I replied to your comment, Kate, but somehow it seems to have vanished. Just wanted to say thank you for the mention on your blog, and for all the hours of discussion we've had about story and characters (and the minutes we've spared for the state of the industry).

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