Congratulations on winning the 2009-2010 Romance Writers of America Academic Research Grant. Can we expect to see you work on "Book Lovers: Love, Desire, and Fantasy in Popular Culture Romance Narratives" in a published form? I would be very interested in reading it :)
Unfortunately, academics write a lot slower than romance novelists. I am working on this book project using the title you quote, but it will be several years before it's done. I am hoping to publish preliminary results from my research in journal article form first, hopefully within the next year.
In my experience there are a lot of academicians and armchair intellectuals who write or read romance. Which begs the question of why the romance genre is perceived as reflecting low brow interests. What do you see as underlying the "bodice ripper stigma".
To the extent that this stigma exists (and I'm not always sure that it really does, to any great degree), I think it reflects the fact that romance is a publishing genre dominated almost entirely by women authors and readers. It's hard for female realms of any sort to earn top respect in a culture that, to my mind, is still shaped by patriarchy. Female endeavors and professionals and interests of all sorts have a hard time shedding a stigma and breaking various glass ceilings (e.g., maternity leave or women presidents).
Do you see erotic romance, ebooks, gay and menage romance and other modern developments in romance fiction as substantially change how romance functions in our culture and the kinds of tales being told--or is this just a new twist on and old theme?
I do see a substantial change in our culture: I (and other scholars) call it sex-positive culture or sex-positive feminism or (in the context of my last book) striptease culture. The popular media depicts more and different types of sexual lifestyles, more sexual options are open to people with less social censure than before, and some of the double standard that has penalized women for straying outside monogamous married norms is lessening. I think both feminism and the LGTBQ movement are responsible here for helping bring about these changes, as well as romance novelists and publishers willing to experiment with such plot lines.
How do you think the RWA fits in to the changing demographics of romance writing and reading?
If your question is in relation to the growth of erotica, I do see the tensions this raises for some members who fear it will discredit the genre (further raise concerns about stigma) and/or that it is simply "unladylike." These very tensions become fascinating study material to me.
If you were to write a romance novel, what type would it be and why?
I am trying to write a romance novel, actually! It's a historical novel, set in 1847 London. Writing these two book projects together is fascinating for me, and a lot of fun!