Friday, September 28, 2007

Why I Write Romance--By Pepper

This semester, I'm taking a fiction workshop class. The way the English department works at the University is that all the classes are open to MA, MFA, and PhD students. Also, MFA students are required to take literature courses, and literature students are more than welcome to take workshops as their one or both of their 2 electives. So that is how I find myself in a fiction workshop class with 5 MFA students, and another MA student (like myself).

Now, everybody in this workshop is really talented. Everybody has really good suggestions. Everybody is really supportive and it's clear they all love what they do. But I have a massive inferiority complex because, before being accepted into the MA program, I was rejected by the MFA program. And I know how grad school works. I know how the committee works. I know people on the committee. The English department is very small. I know a lot of stuff feeds the decision, and it's not all about my talent (or lack thereof) as a writer. But this is a rejection that I have internalized. It honestly has affected me more than any other rejection ever. Vivien gets to hear my angst about it all the time (and she just thinks I'm crazy, but she's patient with me).

Tuesday we'll be discussing my fiction in the class. I brought in the first two chapters of Engaging Carol. It was one of the 5 finalists in Harlequin's Epic (now Everlasting) line contest, but the sort of changes the editor requested before it could be published left me stymied. For example, it is absolutely crucial that Carol be arrested in San Francisco in the mid-fifties for possible Communist ties---but she wanted the book to end in 2007, instead of 1988. I had no idea how to switch the time frame by 20 years. I still think about it, and I still haven't worked out the riddle. But now I do have a complete novel sitting on my HD that I would sure like to do something with--including the possibility of making it a mainstream novel instead of a romance. Of course, as soon as I passed it out, I was struck with the complete, utter, unwavering certainty that their reaction will be "This story is bad and you should feel bad!"

My point is that I often feel self-conscious when offering my work in the workshop because I write genre. I am the only person who writes genre (I'm also the only person with some 40 publishing credits to my name. Make of that what you will). And worse still, the genre I write is romance. Horror might have been forgivable. But paranormal romance? Urban fantasy romance? Erotic romance?! So as I was grappling with my sometimes crippling insecurity, I had epiphany, so to speak.

I'm always going to write romance because the subject is the one thing I'm most interested in. How two (or maybe more) people meet and decide, "Yeah, I absolutely want to improve my life by merging it with yours." The courtship, the seduction, the wooing, the initial meeting, all of it. I love everything about it. I want to hear every person's story, and I'm endlessly fascinated by the possibilities. It is the most interesting thing to me in all my books. Because of Vivien's influence, I'm happy to write another plot alongside the romance plot, but honestly? All I really care about is how the characters get from point A (being alone) to point B (being together). And I'm not sure there's really anything more important than that.

--Pepper

6 comments:

Emily Veinglory said...

The relationship between genres and acadmic literary training is a fascinating one. But I look at it this way, one reason most literary writers work for universities is because their genre holds less than 5% of the market ;)

In terms of classes it is also a matter of what is good for the lit writer is not good for the genre writer. It has to be a matter fo picking and choosing advice and sources of esteem :)

Pepper said...

what is good for the lit writer is not good for the genre writer.

That is so true! Last semester, I brought in the first few chapters of Trinity Broken (available from Samhain on Christmas day!) and the second chapter had some smut. My prof had great suggestions for making the erotica less explicit (note: This was not a particularly explicit scene. Maybe an R for language like "cock" but still...) ...of course, I couldn't tell her if I made things less explicit, my general audience would be very disappointed.

Emily Veinglory said...

LOL. In lit I find sex is either 'refined' i.e. brief and metaphorical or almost grotesque. Genuinely hot litsex is very rare and generally lit by virtue of age not content (e.g. Lady Chatterly etc)

Pepper said...

"Grotesque" is exactly how I would describe the examples she brought in for me. I could appreciate it as fine writing, but I wouldn't dream of writing that myself. I was left wondering why sex has to be something ugly to be "worthwhile." I suspect I'll never know the answer to that.

lapa said...

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Emily Veinglory said...

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