Who are these Romance Writers you speak of?
I think that there is a cultural stereotype of romance writers. I am going to take a politically incorrect stab at it, and say it goes something like this:
The average romance writer is a lonely woman, probably not terribly young or attractive or even particularly intelligent (if you were to dig a little deeper into the underlying assumptions) who basically doesn’t have a life, or has such an unhappy life, that she is reduced to living her fantasies vicariously by writing them instead. Kathleen Turner’s character, Joan Wilder, in Romancing the Stone fulfilled all of these stereotypes except the “not particularly attractive” part. It was a movie, and fiction, after all.
I hate to disappoint you- well no, that’s not true. I am HAPPY to disappoint you, and relieve you, of that hopelessly inaccurate stereotype that you may have so comfortably written us all off with.
Because here is what I have seen in the years that I have been a member of the national non-profit writer’s association, Romance Writers of America, which started in 1980 with a group of 37 writers and now boasts over 10,000 members: romance writers come from every stripe and walk of life.
We romance writers are (to name a few stripes) police detectives, newspaper journalists, research scientists (author Stephanie Laurens headed up her own cancer research lab in Australia), school teachers, college professors, college students (thanks Julia Quinn- who penned her first two romance novels while an undergrad student at Harvard, and was admitted to Yale medical school), military officers (Merline Lovelace retired as an Air Force Colonel and took up romance writing), lawyers, real estate agents, marketing professionals, and yes some housewives (tell them they don’t have a full-time job!) Oh, and some of us are men. A lot of us are happily married. We are 18 to 80. We are a pretty average cross section when it comes to appearances and interests. Some of us are conservative. Some of us have tattoos. In other words, there are a lot of things we don’t have in common.
But there are some important characteristics we share.
We all have a passion to tell a story, and the drive, determination and persistence that it takes to pursue the solitary activity of putting butt-in-chair and fingers-to-keyboard to bring those stories to life for readers. We care about being the best writer we can be. We study our craft. We network and form communities. We help each other. Most of us do this in addition to very full lives. Few of us quit our day jobs. All of us do it because we can’t not do it.
I’m an average person you would pass on the street every day and never guess is a romance writer. I work full time in an engineering field, having a decidedly logical, analytical sort of mind. I have a degree in psychology. I’ve been married and had a couple of kids. I like hiking, traveling, dogs, people, reading, stupid funny movies and action movies that you MUST see on the big screen. I love, love, love science fiction, epic fantasy and great love stories.
And I write. Romance.
I started writing once I finally believed in myself enough to stop just dreaming about it and start doing it. It took a little courage and a lot of work. I found it to be not only freeing to do this; it became empowering to embrace and feed that creative part of myself that has always been there.
Hooking in with a great writer’s organization helped a LOT. I not only found great learning opportunities, but I also learned one last thing Romance Writers have in common; we are all a little crazy. We not only hear voices in our heads, we take them seriously. If we don’t, these imaginary people will just keep us up all night until we agree to write down their stories. It is a wonderful shared insanity, and I’m lucky I’ve found a support group for my affliction.
You can lump me in with them anytime.