The Power of Romantic Fiction by Kate Christie (plus a FREE ebook!)

Congratulations to Belinda! She won an ebook copy of A Theory of Love!


Check it out! Author Kate Christie joined us today to talk about the awesome goodness of romance and she’s giving away an ebook because she’s cool like that. Drop a comment below to enter the drawing for A Theory of Love. We’ll draw the winner on Friday, 1/11/2019. 

Good Luck!


theory-kindle-coverA few years ago, I read an interview with a lesbian author who explained that “good writers” can be filed under general fiction while “other” writers fall under genre fiction like romance. At the time, I assumed my initial annoyance at reading these words would diminish. But even now, when I recall the interview text, I bristle at the assumptions underlying the author’s casual dismissal of genre fiction and her suggestion that lesbian love stories might not be radical or authentic enough.

Part of my irritation comes from the voice at the back of my head—and sometimes at the front—that echoes this writer’s pronouncements about the differences between good fiction and genre fiction. In my graduate writing program, I was the only student who would admit to an interest in popular fiction, and I actually had to argue with my thesis committee about the value of plot and character over “literary” writing. A decade later, I’m a novelist with a dozen titles under my belt, but I still pause whenever someone I’ve just met asks me what I do. To explain that I am a lesbian romance writer is to come out twofold.

As Professor Eva DeMarco, one of the protagonists in my recent romance novel, A Theory of Love, reflects, romance is “the genre most derided by critics and other readers, the lone genre whose audience’s intelligence and ability to separate fantasy from reality [are] regularly maligned. Eva was a trained sociologist and a long-time feminist, and even she had fallen prey to those cultural assumptions.”

Shortly after accepting a position at a university near Seattle, Eva found her Serious Research Interest derailed when her therapist suggested she take up romance reading to distract herself from a series of personal losses. Forced to confront her previously unquestioned bias toward the genre, Eva stumbled on an intriguing new academic topic: societal attitudes toward readers and writers of romantic fiction. The research I describe in the novel is based on real-life surveys of members of Romance Writers of America (RWA). When these primarily straight, mainstream authors tell people they write romance novels, the most common response they receive is open derision and/or some form of the question, “I bet you have to do a lot of research for those sex scenes, am I right?” Reactions like this, the authors report, make them reluctant to confess their chosen genre—no matter how beloved by readers their books might be.

Writing A Theory of Love allowed me to explore one of the issues I face as a novelist: the fact that romance novels are so often dismissed or trivialized while other genres are afforded considerably more respect. Eva and Alexis, my fictional researchers, point out that mystery, science fiction, and fantasy also have specific conventions and restrictions that their authors are expected to adhere to. The main difference? Romantic fiction is generally written by women, published by women, and read by women. Despite the widespread condemnation of romance as “trash,” these novels gross more annually than mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined. In other words, women writers and readers pay the bills for the entire publishing industry.

In interviews and at readings, I’ve said that I view writing lesbian romance novels as a consciously political act because the love that dare not speak its name takes center stage. Queer love stories explore the part of LGBTQ life that is most denigrated by the dominant culture: same-sex love and relationships. Romance novels do make up a specific genre with all of the attendant writerly conventions and readerly expectations, the same way a romantic comedy on the big screen follows a particular set of plot points to reach a predictable happily ever after. But predictability and happy endings do not necessarily rule out authenticity. In fact, writing about happy lesbian and bisexual women riding off into the sunset together feels not only authentic to me but also subversive and, yes, radical—especially in our current cultural climate.

Risking the scorn of critics, other writers, family members, and random strangers may not be for the faint of heart. But writing stories that allow queer people to see ourselves positively reflected in the broader culture? Totally worth it.


katejchristie

Kate Christie is the bestselling author of Leaving LA, the Girls of Summer series, and Goldie-award winner In the Company of Women. She is lucky enough to have found her own happily ever after with her wife and their three daughters in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Sign up for Kate’s mailing list (http://eepurl.com/cbTpxz) to receive email notifications of her latest publications, or check out her blog Homodramatica (https://katechristie.wordpress.com/), where she writes about lesbian life, motherhood, and, yes, romantic fiction.

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34 comments

  1. Way to go on your new book! I don’t know why people have to generalize something that lots of people like-romance. I wonder of that person likes happy ending too. Well add my name to the list of readers who love romances with happy endings.

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  2. Thank you so much for happy endings that give us stories that let us dream. I am 57 and have only recently found this genre. I live in an area where if I meet another woman like me she is already lucky enough to have found her match. They usually come here together. I am disabled and do not drive so I don’t get very far from home. So you wonderful authors have given some beautiful things to dream about. You give me many happy hours. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree, but I think everything that’s not deemed literary is denigrated.

    Leaving LA is still one of my favorite books. I’m looking forward to reading the next one.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I appreciated your column very much. I enjoy reading lesbian romances frequently, for entertainment and to distract me from stressful situations.

    Keep going! It’s important to us lesbians to read books in which we are well represented.

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  5. I switched from thrillers to women-loving-women romance and I haven’t looked back.

    I get much nicer feels and I sleep better for sure ! It seems to satisfy my craving for drama and suspense, and I can pick the amount of angst I want to go through. Plus the variety of settings, themes, genres is quite enjoyable. And there is no shortage of craft, some books absolutely blow me away. There is no shortage of gifted authors in this genre !

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m so grateful for all those ‘other’ genres of fiction and the authors that write them. A blanket statement that puts general fiction above all the ‘others’ holds as much water in my mind as the assumption that a movie is ‘successful’ (or good) if it makes alot of money the first day it’s shown.

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  7. I’m just happy that there our authors out there that our taking the time to write great lesbian Romance books that have Woman loving Woman. That alone is a gift to many… keep up the good work! 👍

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  8. I was one who believed that romantic fiction was second-rate writing. I mean, how hard can it be to write fluff?!! I used to think that romance writers only had to take their personal experiences and put them on paper and voila!! Easy, right?! But, being older and wiser now, well okay just older. . .and having read a fair bit of romantic fiction. . .I can honestly say that I had absolutely no frickin’ clue about anything!!!!

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  9. I rarely read anything other than romance. It makes me happy, engages my mind and heart and introduces me to all kinds of characters! I still get annoyed that it is looked down upon but I am grateful that I have found so many authors who love it like I do and write great books!

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  10. People usually tend to label romance novels as their guilty pleasure. I simply label it as a pleasure. I read them because I want to feel good and I enjoy them. That’s the entire point, right?

    Why try and shame the authors and their readers? It doesn’t make it any less difficult to write novel than any other genre. The author still needs a good storyline, strong and intriguing characters, be able to draw the reader in and build some suspense.

    Really well written romance novels have the ability to the reader feel with the characters. Lord knows, I’ve balled my eyes out whilst reading a few, because I was able to associate so closely to what a character was feeling or what they were going through. Why try to diminish that kind of power?

    I love romance novels and I don’t care who knows it. It’s my go-to form of stress relief and I love it!

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  11. “the lone genre whose audience’s intelligence and ability to separate fantasy from reality [are] regularly maligned”

    It’s true! And it’s frustrating!

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  12. This sounds like a really good read! Great interview! I absolutely love romance novels, they fall under so many different categories too not just romance. That’s the beauty of them! Thanks for the opportunity to read this book. I’ll take any giveaway book I can get right now until I start getting my paychecks again! Not to get too personal on here. Thank you also to all the authors who have offered up free ebooks.

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  13. Congrats on the new release – it sounds interesting! (As a guy who likes lesbian romances as well as m/m, I’m probably a sub-sub-subset of fandom all my own… :D)

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  14. Congrats on the new book! 🙂 I find that it is difficult for people to take romance writers and readers seriously; even the local CBC radio books columnist made a snide comment about romance, and when I asked her about it on Twitter, she demurred and said she hadn’t meant to be mean about it and how live radio is hard. The disdain runs deep. Your book sounds great, and it’ll be on my TBR 🙂

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  15. Congrats on the new book! As a big fan of fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, and mystery/crime books, I find my favorite ones have great romances in them. I enjoy romance in all my books:)

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  16. Kate, thank you for bringing this topic up and I can’t wait to read A Theory of Love. I’ve felt the same thing as some of the other readers indicated where there is almost an embarrassment to admit to reading romance. Over the years I’ve started to care less and if individuals want to be narrow minded about it then that is their problem not mine. The stats you mentioned make me think it might even go further than that- is the genre being shunned because it is written mostly by women and read mostly by women and therefor isn’t worthy similar to our place in society? Take Nicolas Sparks- is his work that much better than other outstanding romance writers or is it because it is so unusual for a man to write a romance story that made it more recognizable? I honestly haven’t read it but it was something I wondered about after seeing the movie. Overall I love that there is a genre that focuses on characters that I enjoy reading about but who still manage to challenge me with their development and the stories they appear in- very much like the one’s you have written for us to enjoy. Thank you for doing that!!

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