One of my favorite and least favorite conversations is when I introduce myself to a new person. I wait for the inevitable question, “What do you do for a living?” My heart quickens, because I love my job. I love writing. I love creating. I love imagining the impossible.
“I’m a romance author.” I smile proudly.
Then from their reaction I know who the person is: the non-romance reader cringes, the romance reader smiles excitedly and spills over with questions (I love these meetings—can you say ‘instant friendship?’), literary writers smirk and genre writers smile proudly and exclaim ‘Me too!’.
It is truly amazing what you can learn from a person in the five seconds following my simple statement.
Next I’m often asked, by the non-romance readers, “Why would you do that?” It’s almost as if, by writing romance, in their mind, I’m instantly delegated to the social rank of a stripper or porn star. Little do they know I’m far different than a porn star…I’m a professional writer—I know no pole dancing moves (not that I wouldn’t give it a shot), I don’t know camera angles, or movie making lingo, and I’ve never (intentionally) shown my ‘girls’ in public.
What I most dislike about this assumption is the fact that they believe I’m writing smut. My internal dialogue goes crazy. Don’t they realize the amount of work that goes into writing a novel? Story structure? Pacing? Dialogue? Plot? Acts? Critiquing? Editing? Going to conferences? Teaching classes? Writing blogs? Pitching the novel? Writing the queries and the dreaded Synopsis? I’m sure they don’t mean to offend me, but the ‘smut’ that they are judging me for, is about 5 pages out of my 300 page novels. It’s less than 1% of my work. Yet, it comprises 100% of their opinion. I don’t walk into their job and point at their coffee cup and say, “Why do you do that?” (Though now, I think I just may.)
During these lapses in conversational etiquette I always bite my tongue and give them the well-worn answer. “I love it. It’s a lot of fun.” And I leave it at that. If the person eventually becomes my friend, they begin to learn all that goes into writing, all the victories and the defeats, and soon they come to realize that most writing (even some literary) is, at their core, romance. And over a glass of wine, they come to learn that most writers are not porn stars or stippers, instead only humorists in disguise.