Monday 9 August 2021

A few things not to say when meeting a romance author!

By Alyssa J. Montgomery

I’m sure many if not most romance authors have experienced this conversation. It could be at a black-tie cocktail party or a backyard BBQ. Someone mentions there’s a romance author present and the reactions vary from, “Really? I love romance novels” to the words, “You write romance?” (the latter accompanied by a snicker of disbelief, a discreet cough and a little titter from someone else). The conversation switches swiftly to romance novels and the same timeless myths are trotted out by males and females alike. 

Anne Gracie wrote an article for the Victorian Writers’ Centre magazine WriteOn about some “Myths of Romance”. The ones she mentioned – “formulaic writing”, “they’re all the same”; “soft porn for women” “cardboard characters, clich├ęs and bad writing” as well as having “absolutely no value to the world”, are still being bandied about by ignorant, and (I think) arrogant individuals. 

Back to the conversation...Barbara Cartland is mentioned and I immediately point out that Dame Barbara sold over a billion books worldwide in at least 36 languages. Then, having written an article on this Breathless in the Bush blog about how romance novels empower women, I launch into my defence of romance novels, all the while wondering how my wonderful hosts can be entertaining people who are so downright rude! 
The conversation takes a personal turn when an acquaintance expresses surprise that I write “those books” because “you’re an educated woman”. I barely contain my eye-roll back at the man. When I ask what sort of person he thinks writes a romance novel, he has the grace to look slightly embarrassed, but then volunteers: “Someone who’s desperately unhappy and can’t find their own romance”. The floodgates open. One negative comment flows after another from ‘sex-obsessed’ (with a wink and a nudge to my husband) to “a middle-aged, unemployed cat lady”. 

Well, thank you very much!

Of course, these people are simply displaying their ignorance and appalling manners. None of their comments are original, but for the record, here are some things NOT to say if you ever meet a romance author.

“How long does it take to write one of those books? A couple of days or a week or so?”

“Are your books like 50 Shades of Grey?”

“Did your publisher give you a formula?”

“Did you have a crush on Fabio when you were growing up?”

“I downloaded your book from a free site, then I shared it to another free site because I enjoyed it so much!”

“Do you have to write a certain number of pages of sex scenes in each book?”

“Do you research the sex scenes with your husband?”

 “Where can I get a free copy?”

Please don’t use the words smut, porn/mummy porn, trash, or bodice ripper and please don’t do what ‘fans’ of Julia Quinn did to her and launch into a long-winded review of why you didn’t like the book and what the author should’ve done differently!

Thankfully the ill-mannered individuals are far outnumbered by respectful people.

Love to love awesome, empowering romance novels.
Love to laugh at the stereotypical images of the romance writer!
Love to learn what experiences others have had in regard to ridiculous comments people have made about romance writers/the romance genre, so please leave a comment below.


  1. Oh my goodness, yes, I've heard that all too. Ridiculous, really, and the most appalling inverted snobbery and sheer ignorance. Those shallow comments really make me angry. I don't hear authors of crime novels being asked if they've ever killed people like their villains do, so why ask silly nonsense about 'research' and the like. There is a book for everyone, and romance is so lovely! At least we romance readers/writers have the empowerment of our genre, our tribe, and a lovely common bond with our HEAs. I don't expect everyone to read romance, but I also don't tolerate people denigrating choices of others in their reading, no matter what they choose. Be kind, people, and enjoy life. Everyone has a path to tread, and a reading/writing choice.

    1. Thanks for your comment Malvina. Sadly, I don't think the attitude is likely to change in my lifetime but then romance doesn't usually attract people who are rude, ignorant and literary snobs. It's lovely to be surrounded by the beautiful people our genre does attract!

  2. Well said Alyssa. It's like they heard it once so it must be true that romance novels are all the same and all trashy, porn filled fluff. Read one and make your own opinion. I always have a few recommendations on hand if they would like to try one and see for themselves.

    1. People who don't read romance aren't even aware of all the different sub-genres in our genre. Aren't there so many great books. My TBR pile is forever growing. Hope your writing is going well!

  3. A great post, Alyssa (as always). The first time this happened to me, I was on a group tour (back in the time when you could actually travel). Someone asked about my writing so I brought out my promo postcards. Another woman, who'd joined us late, took one look and asked why I was handing out promos for a "trashy romance". When I said I wrote it, she at least had the grace to be embarrassed. I still cringe when I think about it. Wish I'd had a good comeback!

  4. Oh Marilyn! What a story! Thanks for sharing.
    I generally think of a good comeback hours later.
    I hope those who took your promo postcards loved your stories and spread the word to others.

  5. Hi Alyssa, it’s such a pity that this level of ignorance still exists. I heard an author talk by Penelope Janu a few months ago. She shared a story from the days when she was studying for a master’s degree in writing. One of her fellow students was quick to disparage romance when he found out the genre in which she was writing. The lecturer was quick to shut him down saying that romance writers were worthy of respect and had one another’s backs. Penelope went on to say that this man became quite interested in her novel as they read excerpts of their writing at tutorials. There’s nothing like education.


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