Wednesday, June 5, 2013

And the answers are...

If you haven't seen it yet, the wonderful Zan Marie Steadham interviewed me on her blog In the Shade of the Cherry Tree...Here's her last question and my response:
ZM—Finally, what question do you wish interviewers would ask, but they never do?

Amara—Ooh, what a great question. Keep in mind that I’m very new to this and haven’t had many interviews! Plus, I’m virtually incapable of providing quick and easy responses. So here are a few interview questions I’d enjoy responding to: How would you respond to people who categorize romance as “mommy porn”? What’s been most surprising to you in the publishing process? What tips would you have for other aspiring writers?
Astute visitors noticed that I didn't actually answer those questions. Oops!

One mutual Forumite took the initiative to ask what my replies would be. Knowing myself, the answers would take some time and space. I didn't have the time until now, and, rather than bury the responses in a week-old comment stream at Zan Marie's, I've decided to answer them here (with a thankful curtsy to Zan Marie for prompting them to begin with!).

How would you respond to people who categorize romance as "mommy porn"?

Here's what I posted on the Forum when aforementioned Forumite asked what my response would be...It's followed by a bit more on the topic...

I've heard romance referred to as "mommy porn" and "housewife porn," and my primary reaction these days is amusement. I've only ever heard the terms used by people who don't read romances and who have a general set of (usually unflattering) assumptions about the entire genre.

More than one close friend of mine was floored when I revealed I'm writing historical romance, and their common admission has been that they thought romances were just sex scenes with minimal plot linking them together. But they've been pleasantly surprised that NTL isn't like that (or at least that's what they've said <g>). And really there's a wide continuum of "heat" in romance...from inspirational and "clean" romances to erotic romance (I think 50 Shades is on the erotic end of the continuum). I haven't seen the "grey babies" news yer (just saw a quick mention on Twitter), but I guess enjoyment of a book can take many forms.

I suppose one serious note I would have about the "porn" terms is that the intention of porn seems to be titillation and sexual pleasure, but I don't think romance writers are generall aiming for that. Their intent is to write a good love story with a happy ending ( and it frequently but not always includes some sexy scenes).
Overall, though...amusement. <bg>

I kind of, sort of hope that people who make such assumptions about romance but try my book anyway will find that romance isn't what they thought it was. I'd also want to point them to historical romance authors like Joanna Bourne and Meredith Duran, both of whom do really wonderful things with history and language and structure. {Edited to include--after Zan Marie's reminder in the comments--the wonderful Kristen Callihan, whose interlacing of historical and paranormal knocks my socks off!} Yes, romance is about relationships and feelings and frequently (but not always) sex...but that's not all it's about...and it's not "all the same."

And as yet another note specifically on the "porn" element, the whole sub-genre of Inspirational Romance shows that romance exists without sex on the page. Even outside of that sub-genre, there are plenty of romance writers who "close the bedroom door" when things get hot and heavy.

Because romance isn't all about sex. Honest.

What's been most surprising to you in the publishing process?

Three things:
  1. My experience with querying and getting a book deal was, based on what I'd researched prior to doing so, rather atypical. In other words, it went so much faster than I'd ever expected that my head is STILL spinning. 
  2. Writing can be such a lonely experience, but the romance writing community is so astoundingly supportive! It's a massively interconnected community, and everyone I've met has been tremendously encouraging and friendly. It really touches my heart!
  3. The demands of self-promotion (whether self-imposed or external) are really, really time-consuming. :)
What tips would you have for other aspiring writers?
  • Learn the craft of writing. If you already "know" me through the Forum or AW or other online writing communities, you can probably skip this already know it. You already do it. But sometimes people think writers are naturally born writing well.  Okay, maybe some are. But for most of us, writing is as much a matter of work and growth and improvement as it is a matter of talent. Just like athletes need to train in order to effectively harness and grow their natural talents, so do writers need to learn, to study what they see as excellent writing, in order to strengthen their own skills. And there are plenty of ways a fledgling writer can do so...books about writing, local classes, online classes, blogs, online communities like the Forum (which has an excellent Writer's Exercises section that includes feedback from lots of great writers). 
  • Make friends ...but not in a self-serving "make contacts" kind of way. While some writers may work better on their own, many writers benefit from being part of a community, sharing their experiences and insights (and, if they feel comfortable, their writing). Again, the Internet is brilliant for this kind of thing, but you can also seek out local writers' groups. I wouldn't get in the face of a bestselling author (physically or virtually), but fellow writers and aspiring writers are valuable...and NOT just for what they can do for you but for who they are and what they're going through. Furthermore, people can generally tell when they're being used and generally don't appreciate it--so really don't approach people with a focus on how they can help *your* writing and *your* career. Make friends.
  • Learn the publishing industry. This includes learning how to query, learning the common anatomy of a query letter; researching what agents do, which agents represent what, and what each agent you're interested in wants in a query submission; researching how publishing works (including its frequently glacial pace) and what the different roles and stages are in the publishing process (hence the glacial pace).
  • Do what you love. I know how romance is commonly viewed (i.e., "mommy porn"). I don't care--or rather I do care but that doesn't direct my actions. I'll admit it took me a while detach myself from my literary fiction aspirations, which sometimes sent me into a depression spiral, and to acknowledge and embrace the fact that I enjoy writing romance (because of all the baggage attached to it by others). But I really, really, really do. I get to combine the historical research I love with happy endings...I love it. (Incidentally, I think self-publishing phenomenon turned multi-billion dollar author Amanda Hocking once said she started writing with similar literary aspirations but then realized that she was happier writing the kind of books that have now made her famous.)   
Thanks for reading! If you have any additional questions for me, post them in the comments!


  1. Wonderful answers, Amara! I'm glad I could spark such thoughtful comments on writing and the whole publishing industry. You are one of the authors who entice me to dip my toes into romance reads from time to time. Much of the genre leave me cold--the direct opposite of the author's intent. But good, well-researched historical romance is as good a anything out there in other genres. I'm glad you mentioned Jo Bourne. I'd add Kristen Callihan, too. More power to you for writing what you like. ; )

    1. Zan Marie:

      Thanks!! (I wasn't kidding when I said I can't do short fact, I probably could have gone on and on.)

      Romance is such a vast field really...and, like any other, different books appeal to different people, even within a given genre. :)

      Oh, and how could I forget to mention Kristen!!! I'm going to edit right now...absolutely, the way she combines historical and paranormal is utterly fantastic!

      Thanks so much!!

  2. Great answers! I really enjoy your take on the whole 'mommy porn' thing. And I'll second your advice about making friends with other authors--having a support network is so helpful, and keeps you from feeling isolated.

    1. Thanks!!

      Frankly, if you catch me at the wrong moment, my response to the "mommy porn" term is not so sunny. ;) But *most of the time* it's what I said above. Hee hee!

      And I think what you've done with your blog (among other things) to help develop a support network is really wonderful!


  3. Thanks for coming back with your answers, Amara!
    I love having the Forum and the writerly blogosphere - it's nice to talk about writing and the publishing world with others who are in the same waters!

    1. Deniz:


      Yes, the Forum is so valuable! And there really are so many resources available to writers online. It's a wonderful time to be a writer!


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