It's funny, isn't it? The title of this post makes you feel upset. Maybe you think it's something ridiculous to say, or you silently agree with it. Whatever way, it elicits some type of feeling from you.
First, let me say, romance authors SHOULD NOT be ashamed of themselves for writing romance.
They should be standing on top of a glorious mountain, waving a flag, and screaming to the world that they write romance and they love it. The problem is, anyone who does do the equivalent of that is shamed by the rest of the writing community. Why? We don't shame science fiction authors for being smart. We don't make fun of historical fiction authors for being stuck in the past. We don't tell military fiction writers that they need to stop perpetuating war and violence. So, why do so many people think it's okay to make a romance author feel like they're less than everyone else because of their chosen genre? Why is it an insult to some people to have their work described as romantic?
No, what romance authors SHOULD be ashamed of is letting people tell them that they aren't real authors. That their books aren't good enough to impact the lives of those who read it. That their chosen vein of entertainment is stupid. That they aren't good enough for "real" awards. I could literally go on and on with this list.
The ironic thing about myself having this opinion, is that I'm a romance author who has let this happen to herself. I've been embarrassed to tell people that I write romances, so much so that I've even put myself down to make the person who was putting me down in the first place think I wasn't so bad.
I went to a church that specifically taught their women members to not read romance novels. They were dirty and impure, causing sinful thoughts that we would have to repent for. Any time I even looked at a romance novel, I was conditioned to feel like I would be sinning if I picked it up.
When I was working as a performer, I knew a man who said--direct quote-- "horny women are my bread and butter." He went on to say that all he needed to do was be as filthy as possible without actually crossing any lines and he would rake in the dough. He then turned to me and stated that I would understand best--I'm a romance writer.
And I agreed with him, because I was so embarrassed. I didn't know what to say. It didn't feel like the time to get into a discussion about it, either, so I quietly let it go, even though I write mostly sweet romances, with little to no sex in them.
I left a book group I was part of because one of the administrators got on and said she wasn't going to allow any more romances to be shared in the group. The thread she created was immediately filled with people thanking her and bashing romances. Even though I'd been added by the other administrator after they read Swept Away and contacted me to say how much they loved it, I left the group without saying a word. I had never felt so slapped across the face in my entire writing career.
I felt like I was being personally singled out for not being "good enough" for the group. It didn't even have anything to do with my writing skill or style, either, just the fact that I wrote a specific genre.
I didn't say anything, because I didn't want to rock the boat. I didn't want to start an argument about how romance is a rather large part of most everyone's daily life and there's no shame in re-creating that in novel form. I didn't want to bring up the fact that the movie they saw last night at the cinema probably revolved around some type of romantic story line. I didn't want to mention that romance novels are some of the highest grossing novels of all time. It seemed like it would be too much to remind them all that the book they were just fawning over had also won an award in the romance category, a fact they were all conveniently ignoring.
Why are we, the romance community, putting ourselves in a closet? We are amazing! Our stories are fantastic! The authors I have come to know and love are among the most kind and thoughtful people on the planet. The readers are the same. We are continually building each other up, but when someone from the outside comes in and tells us to be ashamed, an astonishing number of us are.
People aren't going to like your work. They will be snotty about it and say it's because of the genre. That's fine--in fact, it's more than fine, because we were all created to be different in every way. But don't you dare back down when someone tries to make you feel bad about that romance you've been writing. You keep putting those words on paper and when the next person asks you what type of books you write, I want you to look them in the eye and proudly own Romance. You deserve it. Writing a romance isn't any easier than penning another type of novel. You did the work and no one can refute that.
As for me, I'm done with being embarrassed. I'm tired of blushing and quietly saying I write romances, all while silently hoping that I haven't just made myself look worse in the eyes of my questioner. I love romance. I love reading it and I love writing it, and I don't care if anyone else knows it.
I am ashamed that I let myself feel like nothing because of what another person said to me. Today, that all changes. I pledge to own what I write, completely, and not let anyone tell me I'm less than someone else. I hope you can make that pledge for yourself as well. If anyone has a problem with that, then they can just read their other books and deal with it. Romance writers are rock stars, no matter what the rest of the world thinks about it.