Defining Romance

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion in the romance writing community about the definition of romance. What exactly is a romance? The most common definition would be a story in which the hero and heroine fall in love and live ‘happily ever after’, or at least have the potential to do so.

The romance industry is always evolving and changing. Sub-genres today include stories set on other worlds and in fantasy, paranormal and futuristic settings. Heroes might be shape shifters, vampires or aliens. Heroines can be assassins or androids from the future. Does this mean these books don’t fit the definition of romance?

I think they do. Readers seem to enjoy these new sub-genres. Heroes and heroines don’t have to be human to be in love. Two opposite ends of the market which seem to be growing are inspirational romances and erotic romances. I’ve read a few inspirationals. I admire any writer who can plot a story with the no sex in it. I can learn a lot about developing sexual tension when I read these books.

The opposite end of the spectrum, erotic romance, seems to evoke a far different response from many romance writers. They don’t think ‘those type of books’ should be included in the romance section. They don’t think it qualifies for the golden rule of ‘happy ever after’.


If my own writing community don’t understand what I write, how am I ever going to sell a book to a reader? (Although, to be fair, the huge increase in sales of erotic romance seems to indicate there is a definite need out there) I don’t write porn. I don’t write erotica. I write erotic romance. I shall quote from award-winning author ANGELA KNIGHT who sums up the difference between these three things perfectly:

“There’s porn-tab A in slot B. Emotions are irrelevant. People moan, but that’s it. In erotica, the focus is on emotions and sensation, and there’s characterization, but the relationships usually don’t last. But in erotic romance, the focus is on the romance more than the sex. The sex is an expression of the romance.”

‘The sex is an expression of the romance.’ Thank you, Angela. That’s what I write. Very sexy love stories about people who intend to live happily ever after.

check out Angela’s website at

The rocky road to publication

I’ve heard many a famous writer laugh when they are described as being an overnight success. Of course, it does happen, but most writers I know have played the ‘publication dance’ for many years before they actually achieve that exclusive label.
The publishing world is relatively small. People change jobs, leaving authors not knowing if the new editor will like their style or even want to keep publishing their type of book. Agents leave agencies. Writers change publishing houses.
And for a new author, add the pressure of getting someone to even look at your stuff. Agents have become the gatekeepers to publishers. Finding a good agent who is prepared to take a newbie author on is increasingly difficult. I’m not complaining about this. It’s all part of the process. If you want to be a writer you have to learn to deal with the constant rejections, maneuvering and politicking.
I’ve learned one thing over the past five years. Keep writing the good book. Keep learning your craft and exploring new territory. Keep taking risks with your writing. Ultimately, that’s what agents and editors are looking for: that unique voice, that fantastic story. That’s the piece of the picture you can control. The rest is in the lap of the gods.

Reno RWA Conference

I had a great time at the RWA conference in Reno. I belong to a cyber chapter so it was an opportunity to see my fellow members face to face for the first time. It’s weird when you meet people you talk to almost everyday-you feel like you already know them really well.
So what did I learn?
First off-that writing is a business. I already know this but usually try and pretend that I don’t as writers tend not to be the most practical of people. Seeing a bunch of editors and agents on the panels continually reinforcing the point made it sink home again. Like most writers I don’t want to know that all my book amounts to is a number in a sales column. I write to inspire and I write because I have to. it’s hard to remember that there is a commercial implication to everything. On the other hand, it was also great to see the enthusiasm editors had for their authors.
I treat my writing like a business in some ways. I have clear goals, I remain focused and I try and act like a professional. But I also struggle with the desire to hand over the manuscript and hide under the bed.
You can’t do that now-you have to promote, have a high concept pitch for your book and sell yourself. As I mentioned before, I’m still working on that!
Other conference highs? Walking around the literacy signing and gawping at all the big name authors like a twelve year old at a rock contest. Getting inspired by some of my favorite authors and the wonderful keynote speakers.
One last thing-don’t gossip or complain about anybody-especially agents, editors and big name authors until you can do it in the privacy of your hotel room. I saw a little gaggle of attendee’s bad mouthing someone in the elevator, not realizing that the author’s editor was in the same elevator. I watched her write down their names. I wonder whether they’ll ever get to pitch to that particular editor again?