It took me a few years of writing before I started introducing myself as a writer. It took a couple more years to add that I write romance. At first it was because I didn’t realize what was driving the story was the kissing parts. I knew I couldn’t wait to get to them, but I just didn’t really think about it. Then there was the other thing… Since I’m pretty immersed in the author world now, and most people I’m around on a regular basis already know that about me, it’s been a while since I’ve heard the type of questions that follow the statement “I write romance.” But this past week, I got the reminder. It went a little something like this:
“You write novels? What kind of novels?”
Me: I write romance!
Them: Oh, so trashy books?
Me, my smile turning a bit plastic: Well, I wouldn’t call them trashy.
Them: So, bodice-rippers, then?
This is a good indicator that the person hasn’t read a romance novel in the past decade or two–if ever. Which honestly, I’m a little sad for them, because romance novels are AMAZING! But if they’re not your cup of tea, that’s okay. I won’t shame you for it.
See, I used to write with people over my shoulder. Metaphorically, mostly, like my parents and the people from my hometown and from church, etc. Literally, too, because my kids were often crawling all over me as I worked on my novels, dreaming that someday I might publish them. Although my kiddos couldn’t read at the time, and I digress… The point is, it made me a crappy writer. It blocked me from pushing the characters where they needed to go. Kept them from being who they needed to be to really learn and grow and change and have a satisfying journey. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first time I was able to finally let go of that—the book I wrote just for me, no thought to what everyone I knew would think of it, because it was just a fun project I was sorta obsessed with writing—I got my first full manuscript request from an agent. That book was Cinderella Screwed Me Over, in case you’re curious. The next book I decided to write just for me before deciding what to do with it was Getting Lucky Number Seven. It was my first book with full sex scenes, ones that were really important to the character arc, not to mention super fun to write. It was so dang freeing to write, too. It made me happy, just like my sweeter romances and my YA romances make me happy. I write all the ranges, because why choose when you can have it all?
*side note: My publisher and I also brand the covers and blurbs so readers can choose which heat level they’re comfortable with. I want my readers to get what they’re looking for. What THEY like to read.
Recently I was at a signing where two guys stood back a few feet, pointing and whispering about the covers to my sports romances.
(Here’s a picture of them. You’re welcome.)
I finally asked, “Oh, are these the books you guys like to read? You seem super interested in them.” Cue the scattering, which admittedly, was pretty amusing to watch. What I find interesting is that if I wrote murder scenes with psychotic serial killers, that wouldn’t have the same stigma. In other words, brutal violent scenes are totes fine, but a scene where my characters emotionally connect and take that next step in their relationship is really crossing the line. Well, to each their own. Admittedly, I love a good thriller. Murder mystery? Bring it on. YA Urban Fantasy and paranormal? YES, PLEASE! (Especially if there’s kissing!) And of course, I love me some contemporary romance, especially if it’ll make me laugh and swoon. I love that I don’t only have to choose one genre, whether it’s what I’m reading or what I’m writing.
So I realize that my books might not be for everyone, and I’m sure that what I experienced this past week is far from the last time people will stare and whisper and ask if I write trashy books/smut/bodice-rippers. But I won’t go back. Won’t leave it off when I tell people that I’m an author. I’m proud of what I do, proud to be part of the super supportive romance author community where I’ve met some of my very best friends. Which leaves me with one final thing to say…
Hi, my name’s Cindi Madsen. And I write romance!