Since my teenage years, I’ve mostly been a science fiction and fantasy reader. I’ve made several strafing runs through the romance genre through the years. However, like mystery, I’d historically found that it wasn’t a genre I could write.
There are reasons for my issues with romance in particular, many of them having to do with where romance was as a genre at the time. See: The TL;DR Erotic Romance Edition post from Love in the Margins.
After I’d written the first draft of my first (fantasy) novel, though, a project landed on my lap. Would I write porn (meaning the kinds of novels you buy in adult bookstores along with your sex toys) for money?
I’d left Scientology, I was no longer putting up with their puritanical bullshit, and I needed the income. So I pulled out my handy typewriter—yes, you heard me correctly—and wanked out a 35k book every six weeks for eighteen months straight. Well, not entirely straight. 😉
It was good money. I wasn’t overly proud of my work, but it was functional. If I ever read those fuckers again, I’d probably take to drinking. Let’s put it this way: I’ve learned a ton about writing in the interim.
I’d tried to read romance before, during, and after this period, but I just couldn’t handle the coy sex scenes with “his throbbing member” and that the sex scene had to be all metaphorical and at the end. Plus the endless “cut to black,” and the emphasis on pregnancy. Look, pregnancy and I don’t get along. Never did.
I discovered that I could enjoy writing sex scenes about bedroom scenes that weren’t my thing. And thanks to writers like Mercedes Lackey, I discovered that I could enjoy reading m/m sex scenes though obviously I wasn’t going to be having any of that.
In short, I’m more diverse as a reader and writer than I am in personal experience, and that’s okay.
So in 2009, I was having a bad time at life. It’s not my story to tell, but I wound up seeing the Twilight movie almost every day for a couple of months as a way to decompress from all the awful. I wrote this post about the book vs. the movie because I was interested in the differences as a writer.
Also in that time, I managed to write a vampire comedy erotic novel that I figured had no market anywhere.
I know, right?
Because, you see, I really had no idea what the market for romance was like. I’d never read erotic romance, didn’t know it was a thing, didn’t know it was my thing, and just had no clue that there was an active and thriving market. Throbbing, even.
Never heard of Ellora’s Cave.
To me, it sounded like my book had “too many adjectives” and was in too obscure a subgenre.
I wrote the book longhand in fountain pen, using a different color of ink every day I wrote. I had a lot of fun with it, but I was writing for fun. I wrote it out of order (and I’m a pantser), so it’s a hot mess. I have all but one 5k excerpt in Scrivener now, though. That other 5k is in a notebook. Somewhere.
Skip forward a year-ish, I search on “vampire” in Fictionwise (remember Fictionwise?) and found Mary Hughes’s book, Biting Me Softly. Which is, I note, vampire erotic comedy.
All the dots lined up in my brain, but other shit was kicking me in life, so I didn’t have the mental space to cope. I read the other books in the Biting series, but didn’t really venture forth into reading or writing romance.
And then Nanowrimo Came
Fast forward to Nanowrimo 2012. I started a different novel, but then got an idea for a romance fanfic. So I started writing it and posting my first drafts. Which are first drafty, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I’d post a chapter at night before going to bed and I’d have fan mail in the morning. It’s completely awesomesauce.
The other thing: as a new writer, I’d accepted all this bullshit about what writers should and shouldn’t do, but a lot of that was science fiction specific. So writing a different genre was like finally getting out of the straightjacket I hadn’t realized I was wearing. If you feel stuck, maybe trying a different genre or length will help.
Four months later, I was still having a good time.
So I thought, maybe I should see what the market was like.
Since I’d bought Samhain books before, I stuck with them. I searched through their site a few ways and read some samples. I read a few other authors. (I remember tripping and falling while out on a walk one day because I was reading Maya Banks. I became terrified I’d break my Steve Jobs autographed iPad.)
For those of you who’ve read her books, I bet you’re completely unsurprised to find that Vivi Andrews is one of my favorite writers. Humorous paranormal is one of my sweet spots.
Soon I found I was hunting the forthcoming books from Samhain. Every. Week.
I started keeping track of authors I liked (and didn’t like), tropes I did and didn’t like (not big on the secret baby trope).
I branched out to other publishers, too. From Samhain’s Lauren Gallagher titles, I followed her across to her L. A. Witt titles, discovering Riptide. I started perusing bestseller lists, and found Jay Crownover. A literary agent I like recommended Tiffany Reisz. A fan of my fanfic recommended Jenny Trout.
Still hadn’t heard of Ellora’s Cave.
It was my branching out, reading further markets, where I first found them, then bought some backlist titles from my favorite authors. In all but the case of a several-book series, I preferred their non-EC titles.
For about the last year, I’d been following Dear Author on Twitter, occasionally reading posts linked from tweets. When Jane Litte posted a review in August for Sarina Bowen’s The Year We Fell Down, I immediately went and read the book based on her review.
It’s funny how someone recommending a favorite book to you can shift how you feel about them. Right now, that title (or perhaps a later book in the series, The Understatement of the Year) is my favorite book so far this year. Which, Understatement has just been released and it’s worth reading. ::plug::
I went to grad school with a lot of romance writers, but I’ve never felt truly a part of the romance community until now. So, thank you all.
I still read and write science fiction and fantasy, and still feel it’s my primary genre.
In other news
I still fucking hate the verb “lave.” Just thought you should know.