I happen to be a fan of Tess Gerritsen. Not only do I enjoy her books – Gravity being my favorite for its cleverness though I know it’s not a fan favorite – but I also enjoy her blog. She’s straightforward, gets pissed and talks about it and generally manages to be both entertaining and informative.
In a recent post called No Romance, Please, We’re Mystery Readers, she talked about the transition from romance to mystery author. She also talked about how people who have never read romance or haven’t read one in 20 years just love to make proclamations about romance novels and the romance genre today. This is a pet peeve of mine. Clearly, Gerritsen is not a fan of this line of thinking either. She comapres the intelligence of theory to this sort of idea: “I read a Hardy Boys mystery when I was twelve, and it was awful. So I’ll never read another mystery because I know what they’re like.” Now, we can all agree anyone saying the Hardy Boys comment and believing the Hardy Boys mysteries of old speak for an entire genre today is an uninformed loser. But, for some reason, we can’t also say the person who has never read a romance or who read one a decade ago is also an uninformed loser. Actually, I can say it and I do – losers! – but others don’t. Again, it’s okay, even expected, to bash romance without reading the genre.
Since Gerritsen says it much better than I could ever say it, I defer to her here:
So no, I do not think that romance authors have an unfair advantage. I think we have a disadvantage, because certain jerks think that once you’ve written a romance novel, you are somehow tainted for the rest of your life and no one should ever take you seriously.
Lawrence Block, an award-winning crime novelist and one of the most gifted writing instructors around, has never been shy about his past as a writer of paperback porn. Why should he be ashamed of it? It was a writing gig, it paid the bills, and he used it as a vehicle to hone his craft as a storyteller. No one ever puts down Larry Block as “just an ex-porn writer.” Dammit, he’s a crime writer.
But those of us who once wrote romance will, it seems, never be accepted as crime writers. We’ll always find our names popping up in “they’re just stupid romance authors” discussions. And the comments are always along the lines of “and because of romance writers horning into the genre, serious mystery writers don’t stand a chance.” Because of course, mystery authors are the real artists here, the ones who never write a bad book, the ones who never write by formula.
Her point, at the end of the blog where she gets really riled up, is that folks who haven’t published or aren’t selling need someone to blame – enter the romance authors. Gotta say, I think she has a point. If it’s so damn easy and any monkey can do it, go right ahead and try. As I once said to one of my fellow partners when he jokingly (I think) called my books “trash” – you write one, get it published by an established NYC publishing house, get paid for it and let us all see it on the shelves, then you can come back and talk to me about what my book is or isn’t. Until then, shut up.