Wednesday, August 10, 2005

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. – Tell me what it means to me

(And I didn't loose it after all - thank you autosave!)

As I blog hop around, one of the current and consistent complaints on writer blogs and apparently on writers groups lists is that romance authors aren’t getting the respect they feel they deserve as writers. But since I am a reader, I’m more concerned with the lack of respect that readers of romance get. And writers think they have it bad? Well IMO readers have it just as bad. As readers, we are faced with potential scorn every time we purchase a romance book at a book tore. And it doesn’t even have to be a book with one of “those” covers. I don’t think there is one among us who hasn’t experienced some kind of nasty comment or raised eyebrow on our choice of reading material at one time or another. I’ve had them a few times. One time I was in the bookstore looking for a romance author who had recently moved to hardcover – can’t remember which author it was now, but the sales clerk who was helping me, almost gave me a disdainful sniff and said she didn’t think romance writers deserved to have their books in hardcover. Now whoever the author was, probably would have been very hurt with this attitude and angry by this comment – as well she should have – but the author will never know. But me, as a reader, was very angered by it. Of course when confronted by this kind of disdain, I can never think of a snappy comment or excellent zinger in return. I always think of great lines later but it wouldn’t be too effective if I pulled out a list on paper and read some of them off.
And how many romance readers are still “n the closet” because they’re not sure what the reaction of friends or co-workers might be? While not in the closet exactly, I don’t broadcast the type of book I read. I don’t promote romance except with fellow readers. When I’ve told people in the past, on occasion, I have gotten that look that somehow I lost a bit of intelligence in their eyes. Co-workers can be brutal to tell. At my previous place of employment, everyone pretty much knew, but it was a slow telling – and I never did find another romance reader there. I’ve come out and my circle of friends all now what I love to read. I recently had occasion to be driving with a co-worker at my new place of employment. We started talking books – she’s quite a reader too it turns out. I took a deep breath hesitated for a few seconds and said, “OK confession time here. I read romance books. I’m balmy about romance books. In fact I have over 2,000 romance books in my collection. I even read Harlequin books sometimes” I let out the deep breath and she looked at me a bit oddly waited a couple of minutes and said “I thought you were going to tell me you’re gay or something, which would have surprised me because I know you’re married and have kids”. We both got quite a chuckle out of it.
But why was it such a big deal for me to tell her? Well, part of it in the general sense is I’m totally a wimp; yeah, I know – but hey some of us have to carry that banner of whimphood. In fact it’s much easier to tell people I’m a wimp and damn proud of it than it is to tell them I love romance and I’m damn proud of it. My family of course know, and some are the most scornful. And it bothers me. A lot. I guess I don’t want the same kind of thing happening from people who don’t know me and love me so well. I don’t mean to sound whiny here – hey that’s just the way it is.
So to authors – I know it bothers them a lot of them when they don’t get no respect. But they ain’t the only ones in that boat. Readers, the ones who buy authors books can’t get no respect either.

12 comments:

Karen Scott said...

In the words of that inspirational beacon of light that is Samantha Jones from Sex and The City, I say f*ck 'em.

Tara Marie said...

I'm with Karen!!

The only person I know that gives me crap about what I read is my husband. I tell him to shut up and read one before starting--then he leaves me alone about it.

I can honestly say I haven't experienced the looks in bookstores and if I got one, I'd probably ignore it. They're showing their ignorance not mine.

Stand up and be counted and what Karen says...

Jay said...

I can't ever remember being embarrased to buy a romance. I figure as long as you're getting my money, why do you care what I'm buying.

Sometimes I do hesitate when an acquaintance asks me what I've been reading. When I was younger I used to keep a couple of non-romance titles in my head just in case a teacher asked or something, but now I generally shrug and say, "some romance." My general feeling is I read for pleasure, and reading Tolstoy or Baldwin is not my idea of pleasure. That's too much like work. I've never had someone malign my reading choices though.

ReneeW said...

I completely agree with you Kristie and I'm also a whimp. I was once browsing the Romance shelves at Borders when a sales clerk and customer approached near me. The customer was looking for Outlander that had been recommended by a friend. She was shocked.. shocked I tell you... to hear that this book was filed in Romance. She says "Well, I don't read trash". AND I WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE (pretending I wasn't listening. The clerk didn't say a thing!!! I was furious, but I slunk out of there without buying. And I was so mad at myself later. I have thought of a hundred things I could have said. I won't even go into the disdain I get from my book snob sister & her husband. But now I have to agree with Karen too and I don't give a damn what anyone says. If anyone gives me crap, I let them have it.

CindyS said...

Since I am pretty much *just* a romance reader I don't get too upset anymore. I tried the best-sellers and discovered that many of them were cliche ridden, horribly simple in character and boring. Bbbooorrriiiinnnggg!

Anyways, if someone asks, I will tell them a specific title and author. Like 'oh, I'm reading Loretta Chase's Mr. Impossible'. Usually the person doesn't have a clue what I am talking about and since they don't read can't make a judgement. I mean really, what are YOU reading? The latest Irving? Clancy? Bah, no thanks!

I do admit I get embarassed by covers and explicit language for a title. Like the Virgin's Deflower-er, uh, er? Yeah, not leaving the house with that one.

Although I did once leave the house with a book that had virgin in the title and my car broke down and I had to ride in the tow truck with this nice young man for an hour and I crammed the book under my leg so he wouldn't see the front. Phew. That was a long sentence!

However, every time I have to buy feminine products I grow an extra layer of thick skin. Soon, nothing will phase me!

CindyS

Kristie said...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not embarrased to buy romance books (I save that kind of thing for GU). With the amount of books I buy, if I got embarresed every time I guy a book, I would truly be a nut case, but I do get annoyed that readers of romance are looked down on by some readers of other genres.

Suisan said...

I'm not embarrassed to be discovered reading them. I'm not embarrassed to buy them--and I buy all my books from a small independent bookstore so the clerks certainly know what I'm reading. But I do sometimes stumble over the "Whatcha reading?" question.

Often I just don't want to get into the long conversation with the non-romance reader that the question leads to. Depends who's asking though.

Best answer to "Whatcha reading?" is: New York Times. Allows conversation to go to any of about forty topics.

Robin said...

Kristie, your post is just one more reason I think authors and readers should be natural allies in the Romance industry. BUT, for a bunch of reasons (some of which are clear to me; some of which aren't), we all seem to see publishers in charge. I don't care what anyone says about consumers driving the market, we're all the objects of marketing and other publisher-originating activity. We hear that authors don't have control over their covers; we hear that talented and unique authors are losing their contracts; we hear about how authors are discouraged from writing certain things that publishers fear won't sell. But I ask you -- who IS driving the market?

I know people keep saying that publishing is a BUSINESS first, and while that is true, I believe that there is a fundamental lack of respect in that business for Romance as a form of writing, and that this lack of respect trickles down, to use an economic term. I know a lot of people think we "lit types" are too enamored of books and somewhat delusional about the "art" of writing, but I think there's something wrong with viewing any form of cultural literacy, especially books about love and other human relationships and emotions as pure product.

BJ Deese said...

Totall off topic of your post, but have you read A FRAGILE TRUST yet? I saw in on your recent buys list. :)

I am nearly finished with it, and it is awesome. I'll blog about it soon.

Kristie (J) said...

BJ you know it's a scary thing - getting older. The brain starts losing cells at a rapidly increasing pace. So in the vein of dimished brain cells, um, who wrote that again?

Kristie (J) said...

See, it's the brain cells dying I tell you. I looked it up at Chapters, and saw it was one I just bought.
No, haven't gotten to that one yet. It's still in the bag (he he)

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