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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Seductive Musings

Saturday, January 30, 2010

'If you write romance, you won't contribute to the world'



I got a very touching letter recently from a young woman who was inspired in part by reading Hard Evidence to take on the issue of human trafficking through her college chapter of Amnesty International. It’s a huge issue, a terrible problem, and, for those tragically caught up in it, a nightmare. It means so much to me that reading one of my novels helped to inspire this.

I’ve tried hard to include real issues and real topics in my novels. Yes, I know that many women turn to romance novels to escape, but I’ve always felt that there’s room for substance in romantic fiction. I don’t read fluff, and I try not to write fluff. Readers who want lighter stories probably don’t read my books, and that’s okay. To each her own, I say.

How fun it would be to share this letter with the people here in Colorado who know me only as a journalist. Repeatedly I am asked, “Why do you want to leave journalism to write romance novels?” The tone of their voices makes it clear that they find my choice unbelievable and strange, as if I were tossing aside the Holy Grail to drink from a paper cup.

One of them summed it up this way: “But if you write romance novels, you’ll no longer be contributing anything to the world.”

Oh, really?

At the time, I laughed. I told this person of the letters and e-mails I had received from people who’d gotten hours of enjoyment from my books. I told her of the recent e-mail from a woman who’d read through my historicals while caring for her dying mother and how my books had offered this woman a reprieve from grief and worry.

But, hey, I’m contributing nothing, right?

I’ve always believed that each of us has a role to play. I think of human history as a tapestry with each person being a thread in the overall picture. Each of us is called to do something, and if we follow that calling, the big picture is much richer for it. Whether you’re a nurse, a receptionist, a flight attendant, a stay-at-home mom, a lawyer, a journalist or an author, you have the chance, as each of us does, to make the world a better place.

I’ve been in journalism for... 17 years? I’ve tried to make those years count for something by taking on issues that other journalists ignore. But I have always wanted to write romantic fiction, that’s what I'm going to do. I firmly believe that a person can make as much of a difference writing fiction as she can reporting the news. I try to make each book about something, but I don’t try to ram my views down anyone’s throat. It’s enough to explore the problem in the story. Readers reach their own conclusions.

So to that college chapter of Amnesty International in Louisiana, I say thanks and hats off to you! And to those who say romantic fiction doesn’t contribute in a meaningful way to our world, I say only this: Obviously, you’ve never read a romance novel.

12 comments:

Linda A. said...

Pamela, I feel exactly the same way. As a very new published author, I've already had that experience. A friend of mine read Mcshannon's Chance while she was recovering from a miscarriage, and she said it helped distract her from her grief and disappointment. To me, that's worth more than all the stellar reviews in the world would be.

zinreads said...

Well if it helps, Shakespeare wrote romantic fiction, so you're in good company.

By giving me a book, you provide me (and other readers) with a source of hope, inspiration (to improve ourselves, to improve the world around us), entertainment,stress relief from our daily lives, and in many cases you provide some additional education that we may have missed in school (your McKinnon series, information on human trafficking).

And what did this rude, completely manner-less person offer up as *their* contribution to the world? Vaccines? Peace? Cure Cancer? Feed all the homeless?

The more I think about it, that comment was BEYOND rude and I am quite offended on your behalf.

Ann

Mary G said...

There are no words or maybe too many words for me to write.
I read a lot. I only read romance (suspense, contemp, erotica). The things you learn from ANY books are immense. First time I ever heard of a Ming vase was in an Archie comic. I tell my son who is not a reader that knowledge is power. Doesn't matter where you read it. Maybe I know what a word means from a romance novel or maybe a crossword puzzle. The point is I read it somewhere. Does this person read any fiction? Does some fiction have more value than another? Author Shiloh Walker did a great post on this subject. If you ever need ammo go to:
http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/12/27/819640/-Romance-Reader,-Unashamed

& I dare you to beat me at Trivial Pursuit because I read. Sorry about the rant but we should be sick of defending writing & reading romance.

ronna15 said...

Well said Pamela!

I only have one word for you; "AMEN!!"

-ronna ;D

Linda A. said...

I agree completely with Mary. I've learned more history from novels, romance and other genres, than from any "history book", though I love history books too. I'm tired of people dumping on the romance genre when there are as many bad books in other genres as there are in romance.

Pamela, I feel completely the way you do. I'm called to write romance, and romance is about something, just the way every other novel contributes to the richness of experience. People who don't understand that will never understand it, and I can't change their minds. All I can do is keep on keepin' on, enjoying what I was called to do. By the way, you do an awesome job!

Denise A. Agnew

Hi, Linda — How wonderful that your story was able to help this person make it through this difficult part of her life. I can't wait to read it myself. And I agree — knowing that your story touched someone and eased their day is the best reward for writing that there is.

Hi, Ann — Your comments both here and on FB made me crack up. And I SO agree! Thanks so much for your support!!!! You pegged this person completely -- her contribution is tireless political protesting in favor of world peace. I'm not knocking that. I just wish she would respect that I have things I want to do with my life, and that doesn't necessarily include covering her protests for the rest of my life, you know? You're right — it was rude.

Hi, Mary — I so agree with you! Readers learn so many things through fiction. And it's FUN! All that history that bored us to tears in school (it didn't bore me, but I'm weird) is FUN when it's in fiction. And you're right -- defending romance is getting dull... LOL!

Hi, Ronna — And thanks, dear. :-)

Hi, Denise — I think you've got a great point, Denise. There are people who will never get it. Ever. Talking to them is a waste of breath. I'm glad I laughed at this person rather than getting truly upset, because that would have been a waste of time.

Those who understand the value of romantic fiction know in their hearts the value of these stories. The fact that some people don't get it is their loss and their problem, not our problem.

Romance rocks!

Debbie H said...

Pamela, I love your books. I like that you put real life into them. As you said, you don't write fluff and I don't like to read fluff.
I love delving into people's lives through reading about and watching them.
As the others have said, it gets a person interested in knowing more about history, geography,etc.
Sorry, I just woke up and haven't had that first big glass of ice water. (it's my coffee)

Barbara said...

Great post Pamela! I feel the same way and believe that everyone has their role to play. I hope all is well with you!

((hugs))

"If you write romance, you won't contribute to the world."

What an ignorant comment that person made.

Pamela, you're absolutely correct in your views. Romance offers so much to readers.

Two weeks ago I went to Haiti and I brought, as always, a bunch of romance novels for my friend there who can't sleep b/c of trauma she suffered after being kidnapped. She calls the romance novels I bring her "therapy."

I brought a whole bunch of new books because now she has the added trauma of living through an earthquake that killed thousands, left thousands homeless and losing loved ones. Most people I know are still afraid to sleep inside due to aftershocks. Hell, I was even a bit scared to sleep inside and I hadn't even been there during the quake.

You should have seen her face when I gave her the books. It was like a little light went off inside her. She was so happy.

Romance novels are helping her get through the night after a catastrophe that wrecked her country. They're providing her with a much needed escape from a horrible reality of death, destruction and despair.

I'd say romance authors contribute a GREAT DEAL to the world.

Here's to romance novels!

Mary G said...

Saw this post at Smart Bitches. Some of the comments were sao poignant.
It's a bit longer than a comment. Hope it's okay. I loved it.

Why Romance Novels are Smarter Than You Think:

Romance novels can teach you that romance itself is not merely a single gift or a gesture, and it sure isn’t just knockin’ boots. Romance doesn’t even guarantee a happy ending—anyone who has been through a bad breakup can tell you that, myself included. It’s not chocolate or hearts, diamonds or roses, yachts or airplanes. It’s not the gesture itself that creates the romance. It’s the motivation behind the gift or action, no matter what time of year it arrives.

Romance can include sex but it is not just sex. So that itchy uncomfortable g-string you think would be the hottest thing since hot was invented? Maybe not. Romance is when it’s Not All About You. It’s valuing someone else’s happiness as much as, if not above, your own, and doing something merely to make that person happy. It’s not getting some; it’s giving some.

Reading romance helps me, for example, recognize truly elegant and heartfelt moments when I find them in the real world, outside the pages of fiction. Romance is neither the Fabio hair nor a grand, sweeping moment with a crescendo of music and flowers raining from the sky. Romance is a lifelong habit present in the way we treat those we love and choose to be with. Most importantly, romance is found in how we treat ourselves.

enjoy

Hi, Debbie — Ice water for coffee? If I splashed it on my face maybe. LOL! But then you're a morning person, aren't you? And thanks for your sweet words.

Hi, Bonnie! I've always been so amazed at the work you do in Haiti and other places. It's truly heroic. I get a lump in my throat thinking of your friend getting so excited to read some books. Given the photos I've seen of Haiti and the stories you've shared on your blog, those novels might be the only bright spot in her day.

I SO agree with you! I think people who discount the value of romance and of fiction in general are thinking with closed minds and don't see the bigger human picture.

I'm glad you're back and safe!!!!

Hi, Mary G — Thanks for sharing that. It's so true! Romance is not what people think it is. Those of us who read romance understand what that means. Those who don't never will.

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