Romancing the Reader…

romance

Over the past couple of days I’ve been contributing to two different threads about a familiar topic, lesbian fiction and the subtle or not so subtle pressure to make everything about romance or love. We hear it all the time from publishers, speakers, and the actual research data that Michelle Hagans so generously shared with us (thanks I grabbed the slide). Romance is Queen. The drumbeat is so repetitive; it feels like a tired politician’s slogan.

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Every time this thread rears its ugly head, readers come out of the woodwork insisting they want something other than the formula or they insist they prefer paranormal, mystery, fantasy, general fiction, or sci fi over traditional romance. I wonder why all these readers don’t tip the scales? It is easy to say, just go ahead and write what you want, but if the publishers won’t publish it and no-one will read it, what’s the point. Writers will say they don’t care, but I call bullshit and not for the reasons you think. I honestly don’t believe most writers care all that much about the money, but they do care about readership. They want to know that they’ve somehow made an impact and you can’t make an impact if no-one reads your work.

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In the threads we took a side trail regarding the fact that even when an author writes a sci fi, paranormal, crime, etc. novel there is the pressure to add a love story, even if it doesn’t fit. I had to think very hard to find any lesfic novel in any subgenre that didn’t have some love story or hint of a love story. Someone mentioned the great Katherine Forrest and her Kate Delafield detective novels and nope I distinctly remember a love story in those. Granted the person who caught Kate’s eye changed throughout the series, but in the end one character prevailed and made it into several of the latter books. I challenge you, the reader, to come up with ten lesbian fiction novels that had absolutely no love story at all. Here’s the rules:  if there is even a hint at love, attraction, or the two possibly coming together in a later novel, that one doesn’t count just because the couple did not consummate their love.  I can only think of two:  E  Runyun’s, A House of Light and Stone and AC Henley and Fran Heckrotte’s, Rapture: Sins of the Sinners.  Pathetic that out of all the lesfic books I’ve read I can’t come up with ten.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I love a good romance. I don’t even care if it’s formulaic. The book can even have all the cheesy lines like: she took my breath away, her touch was electric, I could see her pupils dilate in arousal, she licked or sucked, or brushed her fingers on my lips, or clit, or breasts, etc. etc. etc. Oh I feel like Yul Brynner in the King and I. 

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That was the third really fun thread I was involved in this past week – Overused phrases we hate to see in a lesfic romance. Let me just take a mini side trip and post my satirical view of this that I coincidentally wrote before the long thread on this topic: 

It had been three years since Lyric had made love with any woman and then it seemed almost mechanical to her. Part A, her middle finger, goes into part B, her partner’s vagina and move is around a bit while part C lubricates the clitoris. Lyric nearly burst out laughing as her mind took this mini journey, but whatever Sawyer was doing to her suddenly garnered all her attention and her arousal went into the stratosphere. She no longer had any coherent thoughts other than, oh God please don’t stop what you’re doing.

Let me be clear I want to continue to read bushels of lesbian romance, but it is not the only kind of books I desire reading and I don’t require that the writer ensure a romance is attached. Just saying. However, if the readers truly want those break the rules choices, you have to feed the beast. Feed the rule breakers by buying their books and recommending them to fellow readers. Who are your favorite rule breakers and out of the norm books?

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Speaking of rule breakers…can we also have some characters who aren’t the typical age range, handsome, gorgeous, with toned bodies. How about some 70-year-old women whose boobs hang down to their knees and stomachs protrude enough that they can see their weight gain over the years. After all, how are you going to watch your weight if you can’t see it?

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I’ve not nearly been enough of a rule breaker yet, but I have danced along the edges and if you want to see how I’ve done that in my books, well….you know the drill…click the links below!

Affinity Author Page         Amazon Author Page

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4 thoughts on “Romancing the Reader…

  1. I can’t take credit for the slide you pulled Annette. That comes courtesy of ‘Data Guy’ at AuthorEarnings.com from a presentation he did at the annual Romance Writers of America conference. A couple of things are worth noting:

    Romance is, yes, the biggest market but:

    1. He was presenting to romance writers so he didn’t, of necessity break his presentation down for other genres.
    2. He focused almost exclusively on Amazon and Amazon U.S. in particular.

    I write a lesfic themed mystery series. Yes, the series starts with my two main characters falling into a romantic relationship and that relationship develops over books 1-4 and a little in book 5 if we want to nit-pick. Books 6-8 have them focusing more on the mystery than on their, by then fully developed, relationship but yes, that undercurrent is still there. It has become less and less from book 5 on and will continue to do so.

    I haven’t lost readers who miss the whole full blown romance story parallel. Quite the contrary. I’ve gotten quite a few comments on how much people are enjoying a stabilizing, mature, ‘normal’ relationship complete with extended family life. And, in the interest of full disclosure, it doesn’t hurt that I gave a couple of secondary characters a full romance novel to pursue their interest in each other outside of a mystery theme.

    My stuff is working for many readers and while it’s true that I hooked them with a romance first, they’ve hung around and many are even following the spin off cozy mystery series that features the two moms of my leading ladies. They’re both old married women who have far more interest in the latest cupcake recipe or festival in my fictional village than in romance, or in sex with their husbands or in what anyone is doing in the bedroom with anyone else.

    We all might have to hook a lesfic reader with romance but, if we keep telling good stories with those characters they get wrapped up in, they’ll keep coming back.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I think there’s another issue here, too. Lesfic readers not only want romance, they want Happily Ever After romance stories. My Cantor Gold crime/mystery series has a romantic subplot which haunts the protagonist. And being a lively lesbian, she also has entaglements with various women during her crime adventures. But in her criminal underworld, Happily Ever After is not always within reach, and not even desired by some of the characters. Such stories, then, deal with an entirely different aspect of love. In terms of sales, I have to admit that without that HEA, it’s been an uphill climb. But in terms of literary acceptance, the books have been honored with a Lammy, a Goldie, and a Goldie finalist spot, and though this makes me joyful, indeed, it’s READERS who make a book’s purpose complete. So, those of us who write outside of the Romance genre and Happily Ever After plots, we keep on keeping on, and hope the richness of our stories are eventually heard.

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