Tag Archives: genre

A New Kind of Romance: Changing the soul of romance literature

I just read a wonderful article in The New York Times by Alexandra Alter called “The Changing Face of Romance Novels”. The article addressed how romance novels are slowly changing to more accurately reflect the growing diversity in our world. However, Alter points out that many of the more diverse authors who write diverse romance must turn to alternative publishing outlets to get their books to readers as traditional publishing does not embrace change—at least not right away.

The article got me thinking. More diversity is a wonderful thing. More accurately reflecting the world we live in is invaluable. And yet, that doesn’t address what I see as the core problem in my genre the way my new kind of romance will. You see, though the face of literature definitely needs to change with changing times and audiences, the soul of romance must be addressed as well.

Gustave Flaubert said, “The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.” If the romance genre continues to explore the darker desires and pitfalls of humanity, is that what we romance authors believe love is all about? Is that what the publishing industry believes?

Isn’t it our duty as artists to illuminate the brighter side of love?

Yes, sex sells. It always has and always will. It sells books and clothes and cars. It sells candy and music. The publishing industry needs to take note, however, that you can’t just give the romance genre a facelift (even if it does need one). In today’s world, however, it is more important than ever to show through the romance genre that sexy does not need to include what women don’t want in their lives—whether that is controlling heroes, discrimination, assault or harassment of any sort.

 

 

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Five Days to Becoming Magic: What is “a new kind of romance”?

Another romance writer might well ask me what I mean by “a new kind of romance”?

It’s not a new old idea. I’m not saying we need to go back to the days when women were women and men treated them like delicate flowers. I’m not saying you shouldn’t write about sex in your romances. Sex is an integral part of character development in romance. I’m not even saying tying people up isn’t sexy. If you read Escape Magic (which I call my anti-50-shades bondage romance), for instance, you’ll see there are ways for that to be worked in that are definitely okay.

A new kind of romance is not about going backward. It’s about moving forward. It’s about recognizing that the problems women face today are very much rooted in attitudes we’ve faced all along that are perpetuated by the submissive heroines and macho man heroes from the romances of yesteryear. If we don’t want to be dominated, our reading material should reflect that. Here’s my best definition of what a new kind of romance is, followed by the print cover of my new book with the blurb:

Five days to the release of Becoming Magic! If you want to know why I call it “a new kind of romance”, check out my blog at http://michellegflye.com or read this:
 
What is a new kind of romance?
 
A romance where women are in charge of their own fate and aren’t considered property. A romance where rape is rape, not fantasy. A romance about what real women really want—real men secure enough in their own masculinity to be able to both protect a woman who wants it and back off when she doesn’t.
 
That’s real romance. It’s sexy and fun and no holds barred. It’s loving and tender and passionate. And for me it starts with Becoming Magic.
Becoming Magic Print

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Nine days to Becoming Magic: What do I know about #metoo?

It’s a fair question. I’m happily married to a wonderful man. I’ve never been sexually assaulted. Not by a significant other, a trusted family member, a stranger, a friend. I know people who have, though. Several.

Think about that for a minute. I know several people (I could name about six) who have been a victim of a violent crime. If I know 600 people (and that’s generous because I’m practically a hermit) and I could name six who have told me what happened to them (and it varies all along the spectrum of sexual assault from date rape to outright attack), then one out of a hundred people I know have suffered from this crime. If you count the number of women who have been sexually harassed or touched inappropriately against their will, that number skyrockets. It’s probably more like one in five.

That’s where #metoo gets its power. The sheer number of women who have suffered from this crime is overwhelming. And the rest of us? We live in fear of it. That’s me. When my mother sent me off to college it was after a strict talking to about what could happen. I already knew of course. Even in my small town, bad things happened. A teenage girl my older brother knew was raped and killed when I was a child. During my sophomore year in college, a woman was raped and killed about a block away from my apartment.

Now I’m a middle age woman and I’m still aware of how men look at me. Over the years I’ve read more and more about sexual assaults and I know better than ever what men can do to a woman. I have had moments when I’ve been certain I was in danger, when I would reach for my keys and line them up between my knuckles like claws (a move I was taught in a self-defense course), when I would go into the nearest lighted building because I thought maybe someone was following me.

And now I have a daughter.

#Metoo isn’t just about having survived an attack. It’s about women banding together to prevent those attacks from happening. It’s about creating a world where our daughters don’t have to live in fear and wear their keys like weapons. It’s about taking charge of our lives and our happiness. And that’s what Becoming Magic is about. As a romance writer, I can’t do much to change the world, but I can refuse to put the dangerous fantasies in my books. I’m changing. I hope my genre will change, too.

She looked around, spotting Connor almost immediately. She took a half step toward him and froze, stumbling a little, her eyes on the dark-haired man at the next table. He was the large, powerful type you got used to seeing in Hollywood. The kind who worked out at a gym first thing in the morning and then again at night. He was good-looking in a slick, well-kept way. Nothing about this man was an accident.

And nothing about his appearance should make her want to find the nearest potted plant and puke in it, but that was exactly how she felt, nonetheless. She felt hot and cold in quick fluctuations. She swallowed hard against the bile that rose in her throat and wheeled around, knocking into a waiter with a tray full of glasses as she did, sending them flying with a crystalline clatter.

The icy water erased the need to throw up, but not the need to flee. She wanted to look over her shoulder, to see if Connor had seen, but nothing mattered except getting away now. The world whirled and refocused on a narrow aisle leading her away and she followed.

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Literary fiction authors are boring intellectuals with no imagination.

Ha! That got your attention, didn’t it?

Before I get slammed by literary fiction authors, please understand that I don’t actually mean that. I have read literary fiction I LOVE. I’ve also read some that I  hate. It happens, just like it does with genre—even (and possibly especially) romance, my own preferred genre.

The difference between literary authors and genre authors is that too often genre authors will just sit back and take abuse about our chosen style of writing. “It’s simple and easy,” says the literary author. A horror author replies **crickets** and gruesomely kills the literary author off in his next book. “It’s all about sex, sex, sex,” says the literary author. The romance author replies, “What? You don’t like sex? Of course it’s about sex.” But it’s not. “I can’t imagine reading anything genre,” says the literary author. “What the hell’s the matter with you, then?” says Me.

Seriously, I’m sick of it. As a librarian, I encourage reading. Period. Read what you want to read, but JUST READ. Our society as a whole is becoming less informed, less literate—and less tolerant of those with other viewpoints. A really great way to expose yourself to other viewpoints is reading. Here’s a beginner’s list of ten novels from various genres you should read now. Like, go to Amazon and download them to your Kindle because if you haven’t read them, you’re missing out.

  1. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  2. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
  3. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
  4. Nightbird by Alice Hoffman
  5. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
  6. The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey
  7. The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop
  8. Swan Song by Robert McCammon
  9. Dune by Frank Herbert
  10. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

You’ll notice there are all different reading levels, genre and literary fiction included. My point with this post is that if you’re reading, you’re doing a great thing for yourself and for the world. And if you’re a writer, read what you want to read, write what you want to write and stop giving other writers a hard time. And if you’re a genre writer, STOP turning the other cheek. What you write is not less because of the genre. Only the quality of the writing can make it that.

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What’s next?

Ever get to that point in your life where you can’t help but wonder: what’s next? It happened to me this summer, and something changed.

I had four works-in-progress and none of them were panning out. I’ve got one complete manuscript in my Sleight of Hand series that needs editing before it can go anywhere else. But I had lost all my inspiration. I was plagued by the normal questions. What’s next? Do I want to be a writer? Do I want to continue to pursue the “traditional route” of publishing or plough on through the rocky road of the independent?

And then it happened. My work-in-progress, tentatively titled “Out of Time” smacked me in the face and told me to get to work. If the title doesn’t sound particularly romantic, well, that’s because it isn’t, totally, a romance. And I’ve held off talking about it this long because it was something so new to me, I didn’t want to jinx how well it was going.

Turns out what I really wanted to write was a romantic fantasy. I’ve always loved fantasy and science fiction (give me a good Anne McCaffrey novel any day!), but the amount of world building required scared me. I mean, how do authors do it? Coming up with everything from political systems to the amount of gravity on a planet…that’s mind-boggling. Better to stick on good ol’ planet earth.

Well, I managed and the results have become something I’m very pleased with. I can’t say they’ve answered all my questions about what’s next, but I will say I’ve already got a rough outline for a second novel in the series and an idea for a third.

So maybe what’s next is something a little different. A road I haven’t yet taken.

Speaking of roads not yet taken, please note that this weekend, September 17-19, I will be at the Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference. I’m presenting five workshops (!!!) on everything from marketing to writing a series, and while I’m really looking forward to it, it’s with trepidation since I’ve never done anything like this before. You can find more information about the conference here: Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference 2015.

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