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The Diversity of Romance – What is Romance Fiction, Really?

Here’s a question for you: Which of the following is a romance novel?

Answer: all of them. And each is a bestselling and/or award-winning book. Did you already know these are examples of the wide variety of romance fiction available, or is your perception of romance books limited to those with covers showing Fabio-esque men embracing buxom women?

I was inspired to write this post about the diversity of romance after reading Kat Mayo’s article on ABC’s The Drum in response to another article about romance feminism. Many of the comments on the articles showed just how many misconceptions there are about romance fiction. Some people look down on romance fiction as being ‘rubbish’, but many do so without having actually read books within the genre, or having read widely enough.

The view that romance novels give women unrealistic expectations about love and relationships and portray women that are disempowered beings desperate for a hero to rescue them is outdated. The majority of contemporary romance novels have empowered, strong, relatable women as characters, and often represent issues and challenges present in real life. And what’s so unrealistic about finding happiness with someone in a romantic relationship? It happens to many. Yes, there is divorce and broken families in society, but there is also love, commitment, respect, and satisfaction.

These books do not give women unrealistic expectations, they provide entertainment, relaxation, inspiration, and an example of what is possible. And they are FICTION. They are not a How-To guide on finding love. Just as crime and thrillers take readers on an intriguing, suspenseful journey with a satisfying conclusion, romance novels take readers on an enjoyable, emotional journey with a happy ending. There is nothing wrong with that.

Everyone is entitled to their own reading preferences of course, and not liking romance (or sci-fi, or fantasy, for that matter) is perfectly okay, but labelling all books in a genre as ‘rubbish’ is an opinion often given without adequate and fair appraisal of a variety of recent books in the genre. In many cases it is based on assumptions and stereotypical perceptions influenced by what people have seen in movies or in the media.

…So what makes each of the above mentioned books a romance? Regardless of the sub-genre or plot, they each have a romantic relationship as a crucial part of the story and a happy ending where the couple ends up together. It is about the journey, not the destination. Without the romance element the story wouldn’t quite be complete. The romance element may be the main component and driver of the story, or it may be a lesser though still significant part of the story.

Let’s look at each example…

 

Fast Forward is a time travel romantic comedy, with the main plot centring around a 25-year-old model stuck in the body of her 50-year-old self in the future.  At first impressions, there doesn’t seem to be anything romantic about that, but crucial to the plot and her growth as a character is the development of her relationship with her future husband. Because the story wouldn’t be the same without the romantic element, it is not only a comedy and a paranormal/time travel story, but a romance. Some may also classify it as women’s fiction or chick lit, because of the story’s focus on the woman’s journey (however, there are male fans of the book too!) 😉

Reader feedback:

“A wonderful story that delivers a very powerful message underneath the humor and love – it’s not often that a romance novel makes me stop and think of my own life and choices, but Fast Forward does just that, which just adds to its appeal!”

 

Holiday Affair is a category romance (from Entangled Publishing’s ‘Indulgence’ imprint) in which the hero discovers his new neighbour and co-worker is the woman he had a one-night-stand with on a tropical holiday. A *category romance is a shorter novel (usually around 50,000 words) that adheres to certain guidelines and themes of a particular line or imprint, so readers know what to expect in terms of character types, settings, and/or heat level. In category romance, the romance is the main plot. There may be a small number of secondary characters and possibly a minor subplot, but not at the expense of the main romance storyline. *Note: Many people have the misconception that all romance is category romance – ie, the Mills & Boon type of book. Mills & Boon books are category romance, but not all category romance is published by Mills & Boon.

Reader feedback:

“A delightful tale of two people who have more in common than they think, but are scared to believe it. Neither one of them trusts that love-at-first-sight really could happen on vacation, even though it’s obvious that they are made for each other. Wonderful descriptions of the vacation scenery and a neat inside look at the academic world. I look forward to more from this author!”

 

Outback Dreams is a single title Australian rural romance about two best friends with dreams they’re each working towards, whose relationship becomes romantic and changes everything. In comparison to a category romance, a single title romance is a full length novel and contains secondary characters and sub-plots as well as the main romance. Rural romance is a popular genre about the lives and loves of people living and working on farms and in rural communities.

Reader feedback:

“OUTBACK DREAMS gently highlights the issue of having a family member with Autism and how it can affect the whole family … a perfect blend of romance, believable conflict, perfect miscommunication and a happy ever after”

 

Half Moon Bay is a romantic suspense novel written by airline pilot, Helene Young, about a woman running from her past who returns home to help her community, and an ex-soldier with secrets and trauma connecting him to her. Just like other thrillers, crime, and suspense novels, romantic suspense has all the plot twists and turns that keeps the reader turning the pages, but also focuses on the developing romance between the main characters as they deal with challenging circumstances that could either tear them apart or bring them closer together.

Reader feedback:

“I, too, have shied away from the “romance” genre, thinking Mills & Boon. However, I am now a convert to the romance / suspense genre, especially Helene Young’s books. Handsome men, whose characters develop into more than just a pretty face, alongside strong independent intelligent women are characters you will connect with.”

 

The Rosie Project is a hugely successful romantic comedy about a genetics professor with social difficulties who creates a questionnaire to see if he can find a wife, and one who is perfect for him. His perceptions about life and mishaps along the way create the comedic element, and with the plot revolving around finding a wife, romance and finding out if he’s capable of true love is a big part of the story.

Reader feedback:

“It is not the typical boy meets girl love story formula, and that is what makes it so good. What a refreshing take on the autism spectrum: it is varied, complex, but real and workable for many individuals. Lastly, what hope this book delivers: there is someone out there for everyone.”

 

…As you can see, there is much diversity in the romance fiction market, and these examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Romance spans many other subgenres including historical, steampunk, paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi, erotic, contemporary and more. It is written mostly by women, but also by men, and read by both men and women. It can be about the variety and complexity of life, career, family, war, illness, history, time travel, mystery, or sexuality, with the uniting factor of how love impacts on the challenges and choices people make in life. Romance is diverse, and so are its writers and readers.

I’d like to propose a challenge for anyone that perceives romance books as ‘rubbish’: Read several current books in the genre before making that claim. Try the ones mentioned in this article, or read the winning books from the Australian Romance Readers Association Awards, and if you still think they’re rubbish, fair enough, at least you’ve read enough of a variety to make that personal judgement. But maybe these stories will entertain you and enlighten you as to the variety and depth of talent and storytelling ability in the romance fiction industry, which, by the way, keeps the book industry alive.

 

Happy reading! 🙂

At Home With… Annie Seaton [Plus Giveaway!]

To celebrate the January 1st release of THE JANUARY WISH, the first book in my small coastal town series set in Tarrin’s Bay; The Town of New Beginnings, I’ve started a new interview segment called ‘At Home With…’

Today, we’re paying a visit to bestselling author from Entangled Publishing, Annie Seaton!

Annie_Seaton (2)1. Hi Annie where are you from and how long have you lived there?

I live in a small town on the mid north coast of New South Wales and have lived here for over twenty years.

 

2. What do you love about the place you call home?

Family around me makes it home. As well as that, the proximity to the ocean is very special to me. The water inspires my writing.

 

3. Do you have a favourite local cafe, restaurant, bar, club, business, or store? Give them a plug here!

LOL… the coffee machine in my kitchen.  I have been so busy with deadlines, I lead a fairly cloistered life….I even grocery shop online!

 

bob4. Do you have any pets? If so, what are their names? (Feel free to share a photo)

I think most readers are familiar with Bob Dog and Boy Cat and Girl Cat… but here is a photo too!

 

chair5. What is your favourite room in the house and why?

The living room where my writing chair overlooks the ocean and my garden

 

6. If you had to evacuate your house, what three items (apart from people and pets!) would you take?

Laptop, iPad and my gold jewellery (All my important documents and photos are stored electronically!)

 

7. If you had a magic wand, what’s one thing you would change about your home or your town?

I would beautify the public areas that the local council cannot afford to look after.

 

8. It’s movie night at your place, the popcorn’s out, and everyone’s nabbed their favourite couch corner or armchair… what movie/s will we watch?

Love Actually or Billy Elliott.

 

9. Imagine you have the luxury of a chef for a night and you’ve invited people over for a dinner party, what would you have the chef cook?

Creme Brulee! Forget the main course.. . straight to the dessert for me.

[Juliet ~ why not? ;)]

garden10. Name three books on your To Be Read bookshelf or e-reader:

~ Books 3-10 in the Sullivans series by Bella Andre (Can we count that as one?)

~ Jackie Underdown-Beautiful Illusion

~ M J Stedman –Light Between Oceans

[Juliet ~ I have a couple of those on my list too]

 

11. Name something unique or uncommon that you have in your pantry or fridge:

Home made pickles… I think that is a rarity these days!

 

12. If you could live anywhere for one year, where would you go?

New Zealand… I love it and would love to spend a year exploring the country.

 

13. You’ve just received a phone call from a friend or relative, and they’ll be arriving in five minutes for a visit. What do you do?

a) Relax on the couch until they arrive.

b) Put the kettle on; place some (probably homemade) snacks onto a tray; set the table; put flowers into a vase; and light a candle (and maybe even make some place cards with your super calligraphy skills).

c) Put the kettle on; tip out a few cookies onto a plate; check your reflection in the mirror, and wait.

d) Freak out; shove excess household clutter under beds, in cupboards, drawers, and the garage; trip over something in the process; hold an ice pack to your bruised forehead while swearing profusely; check the mirror to see if you’re still in pyjamas; frantically change into suitable clothing whilst simultaneously holding ice pack to your head; fall over again; alternate ice pack between head and location of new injury; then shove ice pack under bed and greet visitors with the fakest smile of pure calm you can muster.

None of the above. Chill the wine!

[Juliet ~ it’s all about priorities, right? ;)]

 

Thanks Annie!

Even though Annie would probably love you to pay a visit, why not visit her online right now?

Website: http://annieseatonromance.com

Blog: http://annieseaton.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnieSeatonAuthor

Twitter: @annieseaton26

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5779458.Annie_Seaton

 

And help her pay for that in-house chef by buying a copy of her book, Outback Affair, here:

Amazon / B&N / iTunes

OutbackAffairSeatonOUTBACK AFFAIR:

Jessica Trent wants to be a full-time writer for Cuisine magazine, but in order to land the gig she has to snare a one-on-one with the reclusive Alessandro Ricardo, a man hell-bent on staying out of the limelight. The last thing she expects as she heads to Crocodile Springs resort in northern Australia is to end up traveling across the Outback with a rugged and far too sexy barramundi fisherman.

Ex-lawyer Alex Richards protects his privacy and his heart in equal measure. So when a Yankee bombshell in need of a ride turns up and threatens both, he decides to teach her a lesson. As they make their way through the wild country together, the attraction between them ignites. Alex must choose between his heart or letting go of his past … and will Jessica understand why he lied once she finds out who he really is?

HA-500>>WIN! Annie’s giving away a copy of the first book in her affair series, Holiday Affair. Comment below to enter (bonus entry if you tell us where you would like to go for your ideal holiday!).  Open worldwide and winner will be drawn on 15th Nov and notified by email.

Good luck!

Annie Seaton’s Promotional Tips For Authors [Marketing Mondays]

Welcome to the first of my Marketing Mondays posts, where I’ll be sharing marketing tips, interviews, and guest posts on the occasional Monday. My first post is a guest interview with romance author Annie Seaton, who has just released a helpful book for authors: Promotional Tips & Tricks for Aspiring Writers in a Digital Landscape.

 

Annie_Seaton (2)Welcome, Annie!

1. Did you read any books or do any research or courses to help you learn about marketing, or did you learn things as you went along?

The same as I write, I am a seat of the pants marketer. Everything I have implemented, I learned as I went along. Self research and self taught.

2. Do you think it’s possible for time-poor authors to still market their books effectively? What would you consider they focus on most to make the best use of their time?

You’ve hit the nail on the head there, Juliet. Finding a balance between promotion and writing is hard enough, without the complication of career or other commitments. That being said, I think a structured schedule that allocates even a small portion of promo time…regularly or daily will allow time-poor authors to market effectively.

3. How can authors strike a balance between promoting their books and writing their books?

That’s the $64 dollar question. No matter how much time we allocate to promotion, we must always keep in mind, the very best advertising strategy is always your next book. Therefore it is essential that the balance leans in favour of writing.

4. Do you think it’s important for authors to be on twitter and/or Facebook every day?

I am an avid FB user, and I am yet to be convinced that twitter has the exposure of Facebook. But yes, whichever one you commit to as part of your promo strategy, you must be on there every day.

5. In your experience, what do you think has had the greatest impact on your book sales?

Establishing my brand in the lead up to publication. I blogged and Facebooked and saturated the market with Holiday Affair in the three months led in before publication.

6. Knowing what you know now, if you could go back and do anything differently when you first started writing seriously, what would it be?

No, I am happy with the way my promotional activities have succeeded. I wouldn’t change anything. If there was anything, perhaps I would have started an author page on Facebook a little earlier.

7. Is it normal for most book sales to die down after a few months, or do you think with consistent and effective marketing strategies authors can keep their sales at successful levels?

Holiday Affair stayed on the best seller Amazon lists for one year and I believe it was the constant promotion and saturation that allowed it to stay there.

promo28. Can you tell us about your new marketing book, and how writers can benefit from it?

As I experienced success with sales over the past year, many friends and colleagues asked me for the secret of my success. A couple told me I should write a book…and finally convinced me to write it down. It was intended for aspiring authors to show them my simple journey on a budget which still resulted in spectacular sales (I have sold over 25,000 copies of Holiday Affair in less than one year.) I have had many emails and reviews from established authors who have said they, too, got ideas from my outline.

 

Thanks for sharing your tips with us today, Annie.

>>To check out Annie’s book, Promotional Tips & Tricks for Aspiring Writers in a Digital Landscape, visit the Amazon book page.

You can also visit Annie online at her website, twitter, and facebook.

…Stay tuned for more ‘Marketing Monday’ posts coming soon. To be notified of new posts, remember to subscribe to the blog via email in the top right corner. 🙂