So, it's fairly well known that I'm an editor as well as a writer. Naturally, that also means I'm a reader. When I was younger, I reviled romance. Then I discovered Jane Austen and the Brontes, and without realising it, started to fall headlong in love with falling in love. Tess of the D'Urbervilles, The Hunchback of Notre Dame--classics of the 19th century, with their seductively rich prose and antiquarian settings, became my go-to for tales of loss and love.
I read Stranger Music by Leonard Cohen and Visiting Hours by Shane Koyczan over and over, my heart thrilling to the caress of sensual, playful poetry and the love stories coded in the verses. But it wasn't romance, of course. And the tragedy of Anna Karenina, of Crime and Punishment, and the near-misses and playfulness of Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing--those didn't count as romances.
But not modern romances, I told myself, chucking Harlequins at the wall and rolling my eyes at the worst excesses of bodice-rippers. Modern romance, outside of literary novels, was bollocks. A Farewell to Arms and 1984 had delightful love stories, but anything written after 1950, or anything written below a certain reading level, was clearly worthless pulp at best.
Shown: a huge, disappointing bore.
Why hate romance?
Obviously, I was dead wrong. Bigoted, even. As I slowly gained respect for romance in the context of sci fi--my heart wobbling over Farscape's Chriton and Aeryn Sun, or Doctor Who's Rose and Nine, or Mass Effect's Liara and Shepard--I kept thinking that it was "better" than most romance. That it fell into a special category of some sort. Surely it wasn't 'real' romance, because it was in the context of sci fi.
I had reasons. Honestly, a lot of them were pretty sexist, and related to not wanting to be "one of those girls". But I also just hadn't found anything I liked enough yet. And that kept me in my little box.
It's amazing what you can talk yourself into. "This is better, because ___, and it's not like the other ___s!". But eventually, if you're smart enough or patient enough or just have enough friends smarter than you are, the truth breaks in. And the truth was, my inept fan fiction-writing friends in high school didn't represent everything romance could be any more than they represented what fan fiction itself could do.
Shown: definitely not worthless pulp in any way.
Eventually, I had to face up to it--it still wasn't my genre most of the time, but I *liked* romance. Editing it, reluctantly at first, only made for a slippery slope. You *have* to respect something that a lot of your colleagues and clients write. And then, lo and behold, I slowly found myself enjoying some of the stories. I discovered the feminist side of romance, the stories of people of colour, the contemporary tales about Californian teenagers written with aching honesty and truth. And I discovered that yes, there were stories about gay people, and even--gasp!--stories about women falling in love with other women. And I realised that I liked writing and creating them as well as reading them.
The turning point
Then I got blindsided by The Fault in Our Stars, the kind of book that--before--I would have eschewed on principle. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami and other books had softened me up, but it took John Green for me to sit in my shower, ugly-crying and turning pages compulsively. That broke me. Every time I'd growled at something like Moulin Rouge didn't matter anymore. Since then, it's been a slow and gradual slide--I've found myself occasionally seeking out romance. This weekend, I ended up watching Chico and Rita, which was an unusual and heartbreaking movie. And it was the love story that made me break down in embarassing, goofy, cathartic, pleasant tears.
The whole thing has been a real learning experience. I'm never totally averse to eating humble pie--I mean, come on, pie is delicious--so as much as it was embarassing to be so wrong, I'm glad that I've changed my mind about it.
What have you changed your mind about? What would you like to change your mind about?
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