How the Deuce did I get to be a Romance Writer?

9 02 2014


This coming Wednesday I will be at the Public Library in Portsmouth, NH doing a program with four other Broad Universe authors. The theme of our presentation is “An evening with the authors: Valentine’s Day edition.” It’s one of a series of appearances being organized by the New England Chapter of Broad Universe.

I joined Broad Universe back in the days when I was virtually unpublished. My website was a lonely little corner of the Internet, rarely visited. My novels and most of my short stories occupied disk space, little more. I hadn’t started my gig with the Concord Monitor, and the idea of attending a big city convention terrified me. I had no idea how to go about breaking into one of the most competitive and crowded industries there is, the Writing Biz.

Broad Universe is an international organization of women writers of speculative fiction, which runs the gamut of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and all the shades of color in between. Members include big names and small, seasoned professionals and emerging unknowns. They organize parties, readings, and dealer’s tables at conventions, and events such as the one I’m appearing at on Wednesday. I must say, they made the difference in my career. Now my website is a busy place, I’ve had a whole host of short stories published and anthologized, I’m producing a monthly podcast, and hallelujah, my first published novel is loose upon the world.

When I joined BU I thought of myself as primarily a Science Fiction writer. Most of my work is based on real world science. Elder Light has the feel of epic fantasy, but there is nary a magic sword, crystal, wizard or elf in it. (Neither is it space opera, no rocket ships or aliens, but that’s another rant.) The manuscripts I currently have in the cue to be scowled at critically by potential publishers are both SF. My four most recently published short stories are SF. Yet here I am at a Valentine’s Day event, flogging a book which is classed as romantic fantasy. (I’m actually in good company — Phoebe Wray, who writes hard SF, will be sharing the stage with me.)

I realized that not only is Archimedes Nesselrode a romantic novel, but “Unbranded”, the short story I have coming out in NH Pulp’s Love Free or Die anthology (due for release in the merry month of May) is romance. I am in danger of becoming known for writing love stories.

Well, perhaps it’s a fair cop. The vast majority of my fiction does involve love stories, or at least relationship issues of some kind. All of them are quirky; some of them downright strange. A few of my love interests aren’t even human. There are speculative fiction elements in most of them. But not all of them. They aren’t quite literary, but don’t follow formulae. Damn it, trying to characterize my work is like trying to nail down Jello.

I guess I don’t really care how my work gets labeled as long as it gets read. I do worry though about disappointing all those folks who loved Archimedes Nesselrode and now are clamoring “for the next one.” Except for Elder Light, I don’t write series. Most of my books stand alone. And each is not quite like the others. Except for the romance angle. Alien world romance. Time travel SF romance. Real world quirky romance. Creepy Lovecraftian romance. Even in Elder Light, there’s that love angle, many of them in fact, among different characters over time.

I suppose it all boils down to my writing style: Un-dark and anti-dystopian, with touches of humor and a good deal of warmth. Technology is never more than a supporting character, so even my SF isn’t particularly hard. I want to stir folks up a bit and make them think, but not by skewering them viciously in the tender parts. I like gentle, I like thoughtful, I like fun, and my characters drive the story. I guess perhaps all that makes me a Romantic in the classic sense, but with a little more Science and a little less Drama.

Heck, I just write stories.  Call them whatever you like. As long as they get published, read, and appreciated, the labels don’t mean a thing.




One response

15 02 2014
Mary Jolles

Your blog gave me an opportunity to reflect on how skillfully some writers blend different genres, e.g. using both historical fiction and science fiction/fantasy, or a narrative that sounds almost autobiographical from the point of view of an alien! There is plenty of room for experimentation in writing. We’ve come a long way from the days of the saga or epic, as told by Homer or an Icelandic author of the eighth century. You’re right– labels don’t really apply to these hybrid stories. They should just be considered…stories.

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