Way back in 2002, I went on my first-ever writers’ retreat. It was a posh thing on Bald Head Island, women only, thirty or older. Private chef. Full body massage. Golf carts! The experience changed my life, and brought me lifelong friends I cherish beyond words. I was the “star” of the week, bolstered and praised and made to feel like my day in the literary sun was right around the corner! It also happened to be the worst thing that happened to me as a fantasy writer.
Fantasy is a much-maligned genre. It rarely gets the respect it deserves. I cannot tell you how many people have said to me, “I just don’t get fantasy.” Truly, you can insert just about any genre fiction (especially those majorly populated by female writers) in there and the same could be said. I’m not going to go into that rant. For the purposes of this post, let’s just leave it at that.
After my Bald Head trip, I thought I was supposed to be writing women’s fiction. I struggled to accomodate, but my heart just wasn’t in it back then. Two more retreats on Bald Head turned into my yearly-week-of-writerly-bliss in Virginia Beach, with women met through that earlier experience. While down there, years later, one of the women said to me, “Why do you keep trying to write women’s fiction when it’s not in your heart. Give yourself permission to write fantasy.”
Wow, so simple! I did, and the next thing I knew, I was applying to a weeklong scifi/fan writers’s workshop. I got in. Again, my life was changed. Not only writers, but writers in MY genre! I’d found a tribe. And I’ve kept that tribe. Through the people I met there, I ended up with Hadley Rille Books.
Three novels with Hadley Rille Books later, I found myself in need of a change. There was a story itching under my skin, and my brain needed a step out of the world I was in. I remembered about giving myself permission, and I did. I gave myself permission to write romance.
Yes, romance. I used to cringe away from the moniker, but you know what? I’m not going to. As maligned as fantasy is, so too is romance. There is good romance, and there is bad romance. There is good and bad mystery/scifi/mainstream/anything! When my darling-man of an endocrinologist expressed an interest in my writing, I proudly told him I write both fantasy and romance. His wife is a romance-novel fiend.
“You know what she calls romance novels?” he asked. I waited. “Cliterature.”
Personally, I found that hilarious. I’ve heard from others that it’s a slur they do not appreciate, another way to marginalize a female-centric genre. You know what I say? Own it.
Eleanor Roosevelt, that paragon of amazing womanhood, once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Brilliant woman. Spot-freaking-on, then and now and forever more. Maybe cliterature was coined to marginalize. Maybe it was a clever rif. I’m not just owning it, I’m embracing it. I write romance, just like I write fantasy. No cringing. And if I can have a little fun with it, thumb my nose at those who look down on romance as the lowest rung on the literary ladder, even better. That’s why I had these buttons made…
I will be handing these out at the RWA convention in NYC next summer, to those brave and cheeky enough to wear them.