Tuesday, July 10, 2012

With a Splash of Romance

My mom has always called romance novels trash. She loves to read, but doesn't enjoy stories with much romance at all. She loves mysteries - she introduced me to Agatha Christie in grade 6 or 7. She just doesn't understand why anyone would want to read about private lives in books.

Needless to say, I haven't told her I'm writing trash yet! :)

One of these days I'll have to ask her what it is that bothers her about the romance aspect. Her feelings aren't uncommon.

From the responses to my question the other day, most of you don't want the romance to be the central plot to the book, but you enjoy watching relationships develop as a side aspect to the story. A big shout out to the guys btw - not only did you NOT run from the post, but your responses were awesome. Not that I'd expect anything less!

I think most romance books are like that - at least the ones I read. Obviously I don't read them all. For my part, I like a mystery or a suspenseful plot to be added into the mix.

Some people who do this really well in my opinion are Terry O'Dell, Nora Roberts/JD Robb, Julie Garwood, Suzanne Brockmann, Carla Neggers... There are a lot out there. Some of their books sell as romance, others as romantic suspense. Terry's catch phrase on her blog is Romance with a Twist of Mystery. I love that!

The reason I'm thinking about this lately is I'm trying to decide how to classify my ms in a query. It's definitely got a romance & a HEA. There's one sex scene. There's a mystery. There's some violence. There's suspense in the last third. It's set on a ranch.

My options. Romance. Romantic Suspense. Romantic Mystery. Mystery with romantic elements. Western Romance. Contemporary Romance...

But, trash?  I think not! :)

So sorry, mom, but I'm not writing trash. I'm writing about two people who have some tough stuff going on in their lives and who find they are stronger and better together.

Do you have any troubles classifying your genres?

81 comments:

Julie said...

Easy answer: yes. I think it is always hard when your books have several different elements. In many ways, I wish we didn't have to classify so strictly anyway and one day we might not, since part of that is how books are classified/marketed in bookstores (I love bookstores and hope they are always around, FYI). But the power of classification is waning with the prominence of online book sellers. What I have done is figure out what the comparable books are listed under and go with that. Really would love to read anything you write and my feeling is that no honest human story is ever "trash". :)

Kyra Lennon said...

I guess I missed your other post while I was on my hiatus last week, but I think that many books with romance as a central theme can be trashy - but they aren't all that way. One of my favourite examples is Mr Commitment by Mike Gayle. Written by a man with a love story at the centre, and just absolutely brilliantly done. :D

I think Romantic Mystery sounds like a good fit for your book! :D

Stephen Tremp said...

Just about everyone today is blending genres. I admit I do. I think self publishing has helped break the shackles of staying within the confines of one particular genre.

Old Kitty said...

Lovely Jemi!! I love the term Romance with twist of mystery!! I think I class my current wip as contemporary fiction with supernatural elements! LOL! Take care
x

Jemi Fraser said...

Julie - so true. I've figured out where my book would sit in the bookstore (romance section) so I'll probably just go with that. I agree - stories are stories :)

Kyra - thanks! I think it would too - but there's no shelf in the bookstore called that :) I haven't read Mr. Commitment yet - I'll have to check that out!

Stephen - I think you're right. As Julie says, there can be a wide variety of shelves in the ebook store!

Old Kitty - I like that! I love the genre blending books these days - they're really stretching our traditional genre categories!

storyqueen said...

You know, I absolutely LOVE a good love story, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that.

Write ON, Jemi!! (Can't wait to read your book!)

Shelley

Terra said...

Your book might best be classed as mystery, though of course I haven't read it :) Janet Evanovich, for example, is in the mystery section with plenty of love interest going on for Stephanie Plum.

Jemi Fraser said...

Shelley - thanks! I don't think there is either! I just prefer a little action in there as well :)

Terra - Hmmm, I hadn't realized that's where Evanovich got shelved. I'd definitely classify those books in the romance section - they're so much fun! :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Well, that narrows it down!
I know several authors who write mysteries with romances - maybe they could help classify your writing?
And Ninjas don't run.

Teresa Coltrin@Journaling Woman said...

Whatever you write will be worth reading!!!

I'm not big on romance novels but like when there is an element of romance in a story. But that's just me. Romance is BIG, girl. Everybody loves romance.

When I look at your choices, Romance is in each one. So if the romance is the focus, I'd choose Romance as the genre. If the mystery is the biggest focus then I'd call it mystery and let everyone be delighted at the woven in romance.

My genre? Weirdoness. Is that a genre.

T

Mary said...

Hehe--I've always called romance "trashy novels" and used to devour them whole (high school/college--I was obsessed. Now, they're lovely snacks). The "trashy" part was more tongue-in-cheek though because there's great writing and great stories in most romance novels. Love and loss and more love with a dash of sex and passion to add spice--what more could you ask for?

Go you and your romance! (Funnily enough, my WIP turned more romcom than I'd expected--yay for "trashy" novels!!)

Jemi Fraser said...

Alex - you're right! Unless the ninjas are running TO the fight of course! I think I'll probably go with Romance with an element of mystery or something like that - seems to be most accurate

Teresa - thank you so much - you're a sweetie! And yes! I'm sure that's a genre... :)

Mary - yay for trashy novels indeed! I love the Smart Bitches, Trashy Books blog - they are SO much fun!! It's funny how those novels go their own way and become just what they want to be! :)

Margo Berendsen said...

Definitely Romantic Suspense or Romantic Mystery appeals more than romance alone (to me!) While I don't like straight romance, I struggle to understand who don't like a touch of romance AT ALL!!

Jemi Fraser said...

Margo - I know! So much of life is about relationships I like to see it in fiction too. I do love the fact that we're all so different though - makes life MUCH more interesting! :)

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I despise genre labels. And as for trash...who cares? It's making gazillions of dollars. Laugh at the naysayers as you pick up your brand new Bentley and drive to your million dollar home.

Americans love trash.

Jemi Fraser said...

Michael - now there's an image! :) I think the genres are stretching and expanding - and as ebook 'stores' become more prominent, those shelves become limitless! :)

Stephanie said...

I have to be honest and say I was very hesitant to slap a "romance" label on my work when I was first writing dn figuring out what to classify it as. It was romantic, and there was a struggle for the characters to get together, but there was more going on. There was drama and comedy, all of it. I didn;t want the romance label though...becuase of what so many people think about it.

But then I read it is a multi-BILLION dollar industry and decided I didn't care what some people said.

I write what i like to write and what i like to also read. I do not like a book that is solely about man and woman falling in love and I honestly believe romance books like that no longer exist. Maybe 20 years ago thats what the industry was saturated with, but not anymore. The characters in modern romance novels have much more to deal with that making their significant other weak in the knees.

Jemi Fraser said...

Stephanie - totally agree! I haven't read a 'romance and romance only' book ... ever??? Maybe it's because of where I look and what I like, but the characaters in the books I read each have their own story arcs, their own personalities, issues... They're interesting people and that's what pulls me in! (And now I know my rant for another post - thanks!!) :)

E.B. Black said...

Your Mom sounds like mine. She calls romance novels and movies boring, but I love them.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

The important thing for us all to remember is to write with passion no matter what genre. As for describing it, I think you need to make a list in order of which elements have the most play. That may make it easier.

Jemi Fraser said...

EB - I'm not out of the writing closet yet, but it'll be interesting to see what my mom's reaction will be when I am! :)

Tricia - I'm having a hard time with that. If I take out the romance element, there's no story. If I take out the mystery/suspense element, there's no story. *sigh* But I still think it would fit on the romance shelves so I'll go in that direction ... probably :)

Julie Dao said...

There is nothing wrong with a romance-centric story! I love a good love story :)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I write in two distinct genres. Epic fantasy and fantasy romance.
I enjoy romance in a book though I like the other part of the story, the mystery, the fantasy or the suspense to be a good, interesting plot not just background to the relationship.

A said...

Romantic mystery/suspense sounds great.

Jemi Fraser said...

Julie - me too! It's just hard to match mine to a label - but I'm getting there :)

Susan - me too. Having that background of something enhances the story and gives the characters something else to hand on to!

Agnes - thanks!! I'm hoping it will be :)

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Jemi, you should tailor the classification of your ms for each and every agent, depending on what you think she/he is looking for.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Romance is not trash! I guess I can understand why it's gotten the reputation, a mix of societal prudishness and the sheer volume of poorly written romance out there (every genre has this problem, but for some reason it seems more talked about in romance and fantasy). That said, some of the best stuff I've read features romance or is in the romance genre. Definitely not trash! Love stories resonate deeply with people, trash doesn't. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Dianne - really good idea!! I think I'll do just that :)

Bethany - yeah - I think there must have been a surge of really bad books for a while there for so many people to think so poorly of it. I love your last line - that's absolutely perfect!! I hope my stuff will have a chance to resonate with people once it's out there! :)

welcome to my world of poetry said...

A most interesting post Jemi. will take heed to what you have written.

Yvonne.

DL Hammons said...

I struggle with that somewhat myself as my books contains elements of mystery/suspense/thriller (and yes...there's a tiny bit of romance as well). I usually end up going with mystery because that's where I see it sitting on the book shelf at Barnes & Noble! Where is yours going to sit?

Jemi Fraser said...

Yvonne - thanks! It's an interesting topic :)

DL - I think that's the single most important question, isn't it? My answer would be on the Romance shelf, so I guess, there I have it :)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

You've got to come up with a phrase like Terry's. It's awesome and a great way to intrigue the agent/editor/reader right away.

I have trouble classifying or determining where I should send my stuff. I have several pieces written with lesson plans that go with them. I just don't know how to classify them...UGH!

Jemi Fraser said...

Sharon - that's a good idea! Classifying is a pain! But a necessary evil if we want to get noticed. And that would be nice :)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

Well, just as long as you don't label it trash, you should be good. Seriously, though, it is hard to label our work, isn't it?

Jemi Fraser said...

Cynthia - labelling our stuff is hard! And, no, it won't be trash :)

Stacy McKitrick said...

Has your mother read any RECENT romance novels? Because if not, then I kind of understand why she calls them trash. There was a time I called them that, too. And the covers did have a lot to do with it, too.

Romance novels are so much more now. You connect with the characters better. More emotion. I love 'em. Oh yeah, I write 'em, too. I love my HEAs!

Jemi Fraser said...

Stacy - I don't think my mom has read ANY romance novels! :P I do think the covers scared her off at one time. I think she'd be surprised at how much there is to a romance novel these days! I'm going to look for that conversation opener one day! :)

DeniseCovey _L_Aussie said...

There is a difference between romance and romantic. Romance is all about the couple and the HEA. Romantic means there's a romantic element, but lots of other stuff happening.There may not be a HEA. That's my kind of story. (One man's trash is another man's treasure, eh?)

Denise

JeffO said...

I don't know how I missed your post last week. I wasn't running or hiding. I'll blame blogger, maybe it didn't feed me your post, yeah, that's it.

In terms of spinning your query, I think the advice I've seen is what element dominates your story? If the romance is the central part of the story (and I guess if it follows the conventions of the genre) then it's a romance. If the main point is the mystery, it's a mystery, etc.

As to last week's question, I like romance in a lot of the things I read, though I don't know if I like Romance. I suppose I should go and check out a few pure Romance books from my library to find out for sure.

Good luck with your queries!

Talli Roland said...

I did in the beginning, because I wasn't sure what I was writing. But now I'm firmly in the chick lit camp, except that term is now persona non grata! Ah, well.

Jemi Fraser said...

Denise - that's so true. I do love a good HEA - so I tend to write them too. You've got me thinking!

Jeff - I know you wouldn't run or hide! :) That's my problem - I can't decide which element is most prominent ... although now I'm pretty sure it's the romance - but the other stuff is important too... *sigh* :)

Talli - your books are doing extremely well for a category that's non gratta! :) Maybe you're bringing it back!

Jean Oram said...

You don't write trash. There is so much more to your stories than the gushy stuff. Fear not!

And yes, I have had troubles classifying some of my stories. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Jean - thanks! I'm hoping!! :)

LD Masterson said...

I'm getting here late and don't have time to read all the other comment (wow! you got a bunch) but as for how to label your book, I read this once and thought it was helpful. If the story exists to drive the romance then you list Romance first (i.e. Romantic Suspense). If the romance exists to drive the story then it's the other way around. Another way to judge is simply - could the story stand on its own without the romantic element? If not, you've got a Romance.

You'll notice, none of the options is "trash", which can be found in pretty much any genre.

Jemi Fraser said...

Linda - love it! Yes, sadly, trash can be found in a fair amount of places! :) I think the romance is probably the driving force behind the story, although it wouldn't progress the way it does without the other elements. Hmmm. But I still think it'll be romance first. Thanks! :)

Kela McClelland said...

I write Paranormal Romance. It was so hard for me to classify it at first because I wasn't really sure. But once I got down to the bones of it all, I knew it was that. Of course, when it comes to writing about vampires/shape-shifters/fairies/etc it's a little easier to label what kind of romance it is.

I think Romance w/ a bit of mystery sounds like a good fit. Of course, that's just my two cents.

I love a good HEA though. Hell, I love a good triangle too. So, ah well. I will say that when my mom used to think of romance, she thought trash and once she read my MS, she decided maybe she was wrong. :)

Medeia Sharif said...

I usually tell people I write contemporary YA and then I can get more specific with that.

Romance is not trash. I usually read romances that have another major element attached, but books with a strong romantic angle are great to read too.

Jemi Fraser said...

Kela - you're brave! I'm not sure I'll ever tell my mom my pen name if it ever gets published! And there's no way I'm letting her read a draft! :) I think you're right on the category too :)

Medeia - I agree. I hope one day I'll be brave enough to broach it with my mom - see if I can change her mind!

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

Well, in that case, I love me some trash. Lol. I really love romance, not necessarily category romance (although there's a special place in my heart for that too as I read so many of them over the years), but every story I write, every story I usually prefer to read has a romance as the central focus. Not always, but often.

Jemi Fraser said...

Carol - me too. There are very few of my favourite books that don't have a romantic element to them. The Hobbit might be the only one I can think of off hand :)

Sharon Hamilton said...

I'm probably on the trash side of the pile too. But it has been a recent conversion. And I see a lot of mystery in romance. That's also what I love to read, as well as write.

Great post. Sorry I'm late.

Lydia Kang said...

More importantly, you're not writing for her, you're writing for you. Write on!

Jemi Fraser said...

Sharon - no worries! At all - ever! :) I do like the mystery/romance combination. It's a lot of fun to read :)

Lydia - so true! It's all about telling our stories - those ones no one else can tell. :)

nutschell said...

I'm sure your mom will love whatever you're writing. Maybe your book will convince her that romance novels are actually pretty fun to read :)
Nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Jemi Fraser said...

Nutschell - thanks - not sure that's going to work out, but we'll see! You never know! :)

Arlee Bird said...

I don't know if I could stick to one genre. I lean toward what might be called science fiction, but I don't know that science fiction fans would necessarily classify it as such. Like my Tossing It Out I tend to be eclectic. I hate being confined in a box.


Lee
A Faraway View

Jemi Fraser said...

Lee - me too. I read widely and I tend to write widely as well. Maybe that's why the genre blending happens so naturally. :)

Tara Tyler said...

i thought mine was sci fi since it was about teleportation, but a wise editor told me to just call it a thriller. ok.
but i know romance has that connotation...

ps, i have something for you tomorrow =)

Shannon Lawrence said...

I do have some trouble classifying some of it, because most of my stuff is some sort of mix. When I tried submitting some things almost a decade ago I kept getting back that it didn't fit horror, then it didn't fit sci-fi, etc. It was a mix, and they didn't like that. I think the writing world is much more open to that mix now, though. I am definitely in the romance as a side note group. I do enjoy a good romance on the side, but I prefer that not be the main part of the story.

Lynda R Young said...

Glad to hear you aren't classifying it as trash ;)

I think people are more open to sub categories so Romantic 'Something' should be fine.

Jemi Fraser said...

Tara - thank you! You're a sweetie. I think there's a negative image associated with romance - and there really shouldn't be!

Shannon - the publishing industry has sure changed over the last few years. Not only through the technology, but I agree with you. Genre blenders are much more common these days!

Lynda - I hope so! I enjoy books that blend genres - hope others do too :)

Kelly Polark said...

I think any book that allows people to love a story or reading isn't trash! :) Seriously! Heck, I'm reading the Fifty Shades series right now. I was curious. Not the best written, but the relationship and background of the characters is interesting.

Jemi Fraser said...

Kelly - that's so true! I haven't picked up 50 Shades yet, but I know a lot of people are enjoying it! And that's the point :)

Lola Sharp said...

Even with literary fiction or genre fiction, like mystery or fantasy (and their subgenres) or military thrillers, I still want some element of a love story in there. Because, to me, LOVE IS THE MEANING OF LIFE. It's the answer to everything. It's the baser need we ALL have. We ALL want to love and be loved.

The love story portion of any book I read could be platonic (parent/child or sibling love or the love of country/city or comrade), but there MUST be some love story in any book I read. Even still, I prefer there to be some romantic love in there somewhere.

I am a romantic, I guess.

Jemi Fraser said...

Lola - I'm completely with you Lola! I think learning about the characters is learning about the connections they have with the other characters. I'm definitely a romantic as well - and I do love a good love story :)

Leslie S. Rose said...

I remember reading somewhere - about the A story and the B story. It said to name your genre based on the A story and the B story was usually the romance part. Wish I could remember the source. In SAVE THE CAT he does say that blending genres is de rigueur. BTW - if there isn't at least the inkling of a love story I'm disappointed.

Jemi Fraser said...

Leslie - me too. My favourite part of reading is the characrers. And I love seeing those characters find the person they can really connect with. :) Sounds like good advice - thanks!

DEZMOND said...

LOL. momzie will be surprised :) Do you think she will renown you from the family :P
I do love romance, especially on film. There's nothing better to inspire and give energy than a nice romcom!

Jemi Fraser said...

Dezzy - she most definitely will be! :) I agree. There are certain romcoms I can't NOT watch when they come on - Miss Congeniality comes to mind - so much fun! :)

Beth said...

Genres are such a mixed bag these days!

Although I don't read a lot of romance, I have no problem with it, as long as it's well-written. To me, it's not the genre that matters, it's the quality of the writing.

Jemi Fraser said...

Beth - exactly! Although I still can't read horror - WAY too many nightmares after reading a couple of Stepehen King's :)

Deniz Bevan said...

You know what's odd... I love writing romance (especially historicals) because I love exploring that moment when two characters connect. That first instant when they maybe brush hands or lean in for a kiss...
But I don't like reading romance very often. I think it's because... partly because there are only so many couple's whose falling-in-love I can root for. And partly because, well... it's not always written on the level of Joanna Bourne. And when it's not awesome like that, I find it hard to care for the characters.
I only hope my own stories can be awesome...

Jemi Fraser said...

Deniz - I'm sure they will be! That's my hope too. I think a lot of people like there to be something else in the plot aside from the romantic connection plot. There are so many great stories that blend genres and have multiple plot lines out there it doesn't surprise me!

Stephsco said...

I think romance as a genre has come a long way. I was biased toward it until recently, after joining RWA (which really threw me for a loop - joining a romance writer's group?!) But like you said,I enjoy books with a romantic thread, and have read them for years: romantic suspense, paranormal romance; even women's fiction (such a generic term) has romantic elements, but the difference is whether it has a Happily Ever After.

I really like Susan Elizabeth Phillips for character driven romance. Her books surprised me at the depth a paperback romance could go.

Jemi Fraser said...

Steph - RWA is a great organization! I always prefer the HEA - although some of my favourite books in other genres don't have that HEA. From what people tell me romance used to be quite superficial (and maybe some still is) but the books I've read all have great depth to them! :)

Carolyn Y said...

I agree, it's hard to classify genres sometimes. And I enjoy romance on the side, not as the central plot.

Jemi Fraser said...

Carolyn - It is! You seem to be in the vast majority with that!! :)

Susan Bodendo - Super Earthling said...

As I was reading this, Jemi, I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps...just perhaps, you might not want to ask your mom any questions relating to her personal views on sex or romance, because she might tell you the truth--and her answer could possibly traumatize you for the rest of your life. LOL So maybe you should just let her snuggle up with her mysteries while you write your romances that you’ll have to one day defend to your mom because they most certainly are not trash. :)

I’ve often had trouble classifying my novels because I tend to mix in a lot of different elements and there’s a great deal of crossover—it’s just the way I prefer to write and tell a story. In the past, editors usually weren’t too keen on this. The good news is that things are definitely changing and the publishers are aware of it and increasingly more open to genre blending.

Jemi Fraser said...

Susan - so very, very true!!! I maybe just have to avoid that altogether! :)

I agree - I think so many more books blend genres these days. Like everything else, tastes change and develop. Hopefully genre blending is here to stay - because I love that!

DMS said...

I am sure your mom will be proud when you do decide to tell her. Maybe you should ask her to read it before you tell her it has romance in it. ;)

My MG ms is a mix of genres too- mystery, with some fantasy. It can get tricky to classify- but I like books that crossover into different areas.
~Jess

Jemi Fraser said...

Jess - we'll see! That's actually a pretty good idea - just give her the book and see how she reacts! :)

I always enjoy crossover books - probably because I enjoy reading so many genres!