Just a few weekends ago, I traveled to attend a staged play reading written by my father in law. He lives in a small community about two and a half hours north of Los Angeles. Nico and I travel up there on a semi-regular basis to visit his dad, and also to see some of the plays he’s been writing. In the nearby town, there is an awesome independent bookstore that stocks my romances, and, a few years ago, graciously hosted me for a signing and reading of my non-romance literary fiction novel.
Thanks to the efforts of my FIL asking his friends to attend, the reading I’d held was extremely successful. I met a lot of great people that day. Recently, Amazon Encore picked up my novel as one of their October Kindle selections, so it’s only $2.99 for the month. Again, my FIL was very kind and let all his local friends know that the book was available for a discounted price.
So, flash forward a little bit, and here I am, walking into the auditorium where the staged reading is going to be held. An older lady and her friend approach me to congratulate me about the novel being available on Amazon. Then she confides, “All the friends I have who make money through digital books publish trash. You know, like chick lit.”
Or romance, I mentally filled in.
My smile was strained as I replied that writing genre fiction is a very viable way to make a living, and, in fact, I write it, myself. Romance, specifically. She mumbled something, backpeddling, and then hastily retreated with her friend in tow.
These comments are so ubiquitous, it’s almost impossible to be angry whenever they pop up. But it always shocks me when women are so quick to denigrate or dismiss fiction written by and for other women. And I have to wonder if the people who are so judgmental about romance have ever actually read any, or do they base their assumptions on out-of-date cliches or what the dominant paradigm tells them is valuable.
How can anyone judge another on the basis of what they write, or what they read? Unless what is being written or read is actively harmful, why would you consign someone’s work or pleasure to the “trash” bin? Is it better to write fiction with unhappy endings? Should we prefer tales of stolid morality to genres that provide escapism and happiness? That argument played out in the 18th and 19th century.
This is the 21st century. It’s time to move on.