Friday, October 30, 2009

November Column

From the November issue of the San Francisco Romance Writers of America chapter newsletter, Heart of the Bay.
From The President

Last month I attended Bouchercon, the largest convention for writers and readers of mystery. At 1,700 attendees, it’s not as large as RWA national, but those are still some pretty impressive numbers.

As always in these situations I found myself thinking that there is far more that unites genre fiction writers than divides us. I talk about this all the time, so I won’t take up column space here on the subject, but it’s a good segue into having a dialog about romance when in the public eye.

Three times since my last column I have had the opportunity to defend and champion the romance genre in a public forum.

The first was in a panel at the West Hollywood Book Fair titled “Strong Women in Fiction,” hosted by a councilwoman who is also the president of NOW. My fellow panelists were all wonderful and engaging, and when I politely disagreed with an audience member who suggested that readers of chick lit would not read feminist fiction, they listened with interest and respect.

The second was when my local paper printed an unflattering article about romance. I had to dash off my response quickly (it’s been a crazy busy month) but I pointed out that their depiction of the genre was outdated and inaccurate.

And the third time was on my Bouchercon panel about strong woman mystery protagonists. I shared my opinion that there’s room on the explicitness continuum for all kinds of readers, whether the subject is sex or violence, and that consciously cultivating tolerance creates a better fiction environment for everyone. Several audience members told me later that they appreciated that point of view. (There was also a definite grandmothers-who-kick-ass vibe…told them about our chapter and might have picked us up a few readers there!)

What strikes me about all of these dialogs is how much easier they get over time. At first, when I found myself talking to someone who put down romance, I felt defensive, angry, and combative. Now I feel far more comfortable in the role of educator.

In large part I think that is because I have come to believe that relationship stories are at the heart of nearly every worthy example of genre fiction – and a majority of them contain at least one romantic relationship. So now when I talk to people about writing romance, I try to make the point that nearly all of us do it, whether we realize it or not.

I’ll wrap up with an observation that may or may not be relevant. Who, of all the subgenres of folks at Bouchercon were most likely to talk about their spouses back home, to cite the support they receive, to show off wallet photos and in a couple cases regale the group with fond memories of how they met? That would be the hardboiled and noir guys. Yup, the ones who write about mayhem and the darkest corners of the human heart – they’re all romantics.

thanks to iamhomosquirrel, bitzi, and haribo for the Flickr photos

1 comment:

Ali Karim said...

Hey Sophie, while opening my weekly mail, I was pleasantly surprised to find the lovely card and copy of A BAD DAY FOR SORRY - many thanks - I am very interested.

I really enjoyed meeting you at B'con, and will be in touch as I love surprises! and I love discovering new writers! Will be in touch - very pleased you hunted me down

Ali