Andrea G Stewart

Art and Writing

Can We Stop Devaluing the Romance Genre?

Happy International Women's Day! I happened to read a romance scene in an epic fantasy novel today that was terrible. Terrible as in--roll my eyes when the characters confessed their feelings and the sex scene was about as titillating as watching two people trying to figure out the rules to a board game.

Can we stop devaluing the romance genre?

Is it because shit rolls downhill? The literary folks look down on the genre folks and the genre folks say, "Well, I know romance is considered genre, but at least we're not them." I've heard, multiple times from multiple people, "Maybe I should crank out a bunch of romance novels. That's where the money is." I've heard how romance is formulaic and thus, it must be easy to write.

Is it? Is it really, actually easy to write?

There are a lot of terrible romance books out there. But then, there are a lot of terrible thriller books out there. There are a lot of terrible books of any genre (yes, fantasy and sci-fi too, let's not pretend).

I used to make fun of the romance genre. I read a few romance novels and couldn't stand them. But it's a little like trying tofu once and then proclaiming that you don't like tofu. It comes in so many different forms and textures--how can you know you hate it, just like that?

I tried to write romantic scenes into my novels and my stories and wow, they were terrible. Insert Tab A into Slot B--is that good for you? No?

Do you know what romance writers do well? Romance. I got recommendations from Tina Gower (who writes romance and is brilliant), and I read some really, really good romance novels. The authors built a spark between the characters, the banter was biting and witty, the books were funny, they were sad, they grew a relationship between two people that was maybe a little larger than life, but they made me feel something--and isn't that what good writing is supposed to do? I tried to analyze how it was done and I think it made my writing better. A good deal of fantasy and sci-fi novels have a romantic subplot. And many times the author pays much less attention to this aspect than to the rest of the story, to the whole book's detriment. Who wants to read a romantic subplot where the characters have zero chemistry?

Writers of romance are primarily women. Readers of romance are primarily women.

Let's take another genre, geared towards men: the military thriller. If a woman was reading a military thriller on a train, and a man was reading a romance...what kind of reaction do you think each would receive?

Read widely and read often: it's advice I've heard given to writers many times. What part of "read widely" says "except romance, that genre is lame"?

So please, at least stop and think twice the next time you want to disparage romance, or place yourself somehow above it, or feel like you already have all the answers on how to write one.

After all, for you writers who speak of bringing something new and exciting to your chosen genre--how much easier is it to build something different when you're unpacking more than one set of Legos?

So Bad, Even Introverts Are Here, AKA Activism and Introversion

I know: politics.

I grew up with a phone phobia. Anytime I had to make a phone call, my heartbeat would speed up, I'd start sweating, I'd procrastinate like my life depended on it. Sometimes, there were tears. If I could, I'd write a letter instead, or find someone else willing to make that call. I still write down brief outlines of what I want to say when trying to save a voicemail message. Even now, outside the context of work, you have to be a wonderful combination of someone I like very much and whom I feel extremely comfortable around in order for me to call you. It's nothing against the people I don't call, and for some people, it just takes me longer to get to that point.

I like people a lot in general. There are very few people I meet that don't inspire an immediate fondness in me. That said--I don't like crowds. They're noisy, unpredictable, and while I love hugs, I don't like being shoulder-to-shoulder with people I don't know.

Yet, here I am: marching in the Women's March and calling my senators. I ducked out of the Women's March at lunch, and yes, my palms still get sweaty and my neck burns when I make that phone call (What do I say? What do I SAY?).

I understand that it's even harder for some people than it is for me. I just want you fellow introverts to know that you're not alone. If you want to call, if you want to march, if you want to write letters but you're having trouble--you can talk to me (or drop me a line) and I will listen.

This is all overwhelming, I know. There's so much going on and it's difficult to know what to do and when. I just can't bear the thought that I will one day look back and wish I'd done more.

Things that helped (or are helping) me:

March with friends
Being with friends can help insulate you from the crowd, so at least the people who are shoulder-to-shoulder with you are people you know.

Write down what you want to say
Write down what you want to say before you make the phone call. It helps you to not clam up unintentionally or to stumble over your words.

Trello
This can help anyone who wants to do more. I've found it a fantastic organizational tool for projects. Keep your tasks organized on a virtual corkboard with a calendar, notes, and due dates. Checking things off as "done" is immensely satisfying and it helps me to know what I want to accomplish day-by-day.

Templates
Don't know what to write or what to say? Google some templates. If you want to personalize, you can do so from the template.

Good luck out there.

Upheaval

It's been a while, I know! Things have changed quite a bit for me since the last time I posted--I moved, I got a new job, I went to MidAmeriCon in Kansas City and appeared on some panels. I should have updated here, but I didn't. I'm not planning on attending WorldCon in Helsinki, but I will be at DragonCon in 2017 (hope to see some people there!). I'm feeling really good about the manuscripts I'm working on, and have made a couple (relatively) recent sales of stories I feel strongly about.

Just as I've reached a good place in my personal life, the world seems poised on the precipice of uncertainty.

I'm not quite sure what to say, and even less sure how to feel.

The only thing I'm sure of right now is this: for my friends who feel vulnerable, I have your backs. Always.