Yesterday, I bought a romance ebook from one of my favorite writers. It was on sale for $1.99, and years ago I read and loved her other books. I started reading it last night, and bam! The hero raped the heroine on their wedding night. Foolishly, I kept reading. And bam! He accused her of being a whore and assaulted her. I made it to maybe 15% of the book, and I was done. I couldn’t finish it. This morning I asked Amazon to return my money. I’m tempted to write to the author and ask, “What were you thinking?”
So, as a writer, this makes me question my own boundaries. Do I write rape scenes? Am I willing to have one of my characters physically or emotionally abuse another? I mean, those books sell, right? Didn’t E.L. James make more than $90 million on Fifty Shades of Grey? Give the reader what they want, right?
Nope. Not for me. I will never write a book where the hero rapes, assaults or verbally abuses the heroine. Never. I will not write scenes like the ones that tortured my eyes last night. As for Fifty Shades of Grey, I do not write erotica. I never shall. I don’t write scenes where men bully women or if I do, it’s because he is the villain. I think many women, myself included, make enough bad decisions on our own. We don’t need an “alpha male” to create obstacles for us. We can do that just fine on our own, thank you.
I’m going to come clean with you: after studying the genre as I write my Celebration House trilogy, it’s time to confess: I don’t write romance. I don’t. Because the definition of romance – “the core story is the developing relationship between a man and a woman*” – isn’t really what my books are about. My books are about, well, a lot of things, but my heroines’ happiness doesn’t hinge on a successful romance. It’s more of the frosting on the cake, rather than the whole dessert. It’s time to be honest: I write women’s fiction.
And there’s one more thing I’ve recently come to realize: I really enjoy writing for children. Earlier this month I attended a Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference. It was held at a hotel where I attended a children’s writing conference in 2010 and 2013. I sat in that classroom, desperately fighting to stay awake, and I remembered past conferences where I felt alive with the idea of writing books for children. This gave rise to the idea of Louisa, a little witch who is allergic to cats and afraid of flying (we share this attribute). It’s a series of chapter books meant for first and second-grade readers. Louisa feels like she’s a misfit. I get that.
Hands and arms inside the cart. Next: Sharing an “aha” moment.
*Quote from Leigh Michaels’ book On Writing Romance: How to Craft a Novel That Sells