Sunday, August 27, 2006

Up On My Soapbox (Again)


The moral of this story - before I even start and just to save you some time if you're in a hurry - is this - When taking a break from your current WIP - DO NOT Google your own name for fun...

Now those of you that know me and have been visiting the blog for a while will know that way back at the start of the year I had a bit of a soapbox week about people who criticize Category Romance without really knowing what they're criticizing... Hence The Pink Heart Society was born... (launching THIS FRIDAY FOLKS!!!)

W-e-l-l-l... Whilst Googling myself as a reward for upping my word-count, I found a, let's for the sake of argument call it, a 'review', (though I apologize to all Professional reviewers for that) of one of my books... Now anyone who writes anything will tell you that reviews are par for the course... they come with the territory when you put yourself 'out there' -they are subjective... they are one persons opinion - to get a great one is the most fabulous thing in the world - but any writer knows that you can't please all of the people all of the time so therefore we shouldn't take it thick when we get a bad one... And I'm not. Everyone is entitled to an opinion.

BUT - And this is where I drag out the soapbox - (wait a minute til I step up so you can all see me - there - better? Can you hear me at the back???) - I will smile graciously and take criticism with grace when it comes from someone who has any clear idea of what category romance is about these days... Which this person- Clearly doesn't - and, unfortunately 'cos I happened to find this example it's them I'm publicly answering, even though they said very little in the great scheme of things! But it's a good example of the everyday kinds of people that we would hope to educate with The Pink Heart Society - People who think they know what a Harlequin Mills And Boon or a category romance is, when really they don't..

SO - To all people who make generalizations:

If you don't like a particular book then fine, that's entirely your choice, and mine, and the rest of the planets - but don't knock an entire genre because of one book and the pre-conceptions you already have in order to make you feel like a more 'educated' reader. If you're an educated reader then you do your research, read across the lines and discover what the best-sellers are - allow that others may like something that you do not - and you do not feel you need to put them down because of it. Tolerance people, tolerance. There's nowhere like enough of it in the world - so start small and aim big I say...

It may seem petty to get on my soapbox and moan on about it - and the truth is I might not have got started if I hadn't been vain enough, and seeking distraction enough to go Google my own name - But if you know me then you'll know it could have been ANY book they'd said this about and I'd have still got the box out - Thats just me...

And I quote:

"A romance novel! I was curious to know what they're like these days, so I picked up a random recent volume at the library.

A Wedding Surprise is certainly recent (it's about two people who agree to participate in a reality show) but it's probably not typical. It's a Mills & Boone book, and set in Ireland. It took me a little while to get my head around that, but I got over it.

Not a bad idea, but not very believable either - truly fell apart at 'the big reveal'."

First off, I have to say well done for picking one up in the first place - this person was obviously feeling brave to go outside what they considered an acceptable form of reading. Which shows a glimpse of an open mind. Which is great.

Now let's look at the words 'but it's probably not typical' - Well actually, I'd love to say I was the first category author to come up with Reality TV as a back drop but I don't actually believe I am - Gang, you're more educated and well read than I am - so If you have a list feel free to let me and this person, know what they are by adding them to the comments below - Cos I'm certain I'm not alone... AND the lines also cover Internet Dating, Speed Dating, Issues of career v's parenthood, single parent families, characters with disabilities and a wide and varying cornucopia of relevant issues that todays women looking for romance face. Are we offering solutions to those issues? Handing out some kind of Grail like set of instructions for love? No - we are not - But we are writing stories that millions of women enjoy, that they can escape in for a few hours, and still know they are guaranteed a happily ever after - which lets face it - they really can't rely on in everyday life can they??? So, on this attitude of 'probably not typical' - NOT SO!!! The thing about the kind of people that run down the genre without knowing better is that they are comfortable believing the out-dated rumours and too lazy to do enough research to find out for themselves because let's face it - it would take them away from the more educated reading they do, wouldn't it??? And that's their choice, but really, don't let yourself down by not knowing the facts, word your criticism a little better....

Then we have 'It's a Mills and Boone book, and set in Ireland. It took me a while to get my head around that, but I got over it.' - Mills and Boon may be a London based publisher - but this person obviously thinks that means all their books are set in where - England? NOT SO!!! Harlequin Mills and Boon is owned by a CANADIAN based company with offices around the globe - so the books are set ANYWHERE from Australia to Hong Kong, to Italy to Canada to the US and yes, to little old Ireland... They have a diversity of settings, of plots, of characters and of authors voices that mean to lump them all under the one heading for criticism is a tad naive, don't you think? It's like saying all Irish people wear green and drink Guinness while River-Dancing their way through life... Which, as a resident of Ireland, I can tell you they don't - which is maybe just as well considering my Irish Dancing talents...

'Not a bad idea, but not very believable either - truly fell apart at 'the big reveal'. - I have to say THANK YOU that you thought it wasn't a bad idea - and I am glad that this reader even picked up a category romance book. Because if someone who has never read one before picked one up and gave it a go that is GREAT. It shows open mindedness and a willingness to see what's outside of their normal 'box' reading wise. And if this reader had enjoyed the book then they might have picked up another and maybe another, until they realized that not all category romances are the same, that there is a wealth of writing talent out there, writers who have strived for years to break into what is a very competitive market and some who have chosen to use it as a stepping stone to larger 'more socially acceptable' books. But to choose one, as it happened mine (which is why I found it) to use as a way of running down an entire publishing house... well... Do I really need to spell it out?

As to the 'not very believeable either' - I could choose to write 'real-life' romance from the experience of my friends and myself as modern day women in our thirties - but I'm writing books that are meant for 'escapism' - for guaranteed Happily Ever Afters for the reader - because that is what they want, it's why the romance industry exists - and really, isn't life depressing enough??? Everyone is so keen to critique things these days - and not just books - it's become a way of life. And freedom of speech is great - but does that mean that everyone who wants to escape into a place where happily ever after still exists, even for an hour or two, should be criticized for doing it? I don't think so, and that's why I write *(category)* romance...

So to this 'review' - (*Link Removed out of respect for my usual Blog visitors, family and friends - who have no need to read such an abusive answer imo*) - And to the people who have Googled their way to this Blog looking for funny Mills And Boon quotes (*of which I get LOADS - including ones with search words like bodice ripper, loveshaft ?! and my personal favourite of mansword*) that they can no doubt use to write another 'well informed' article about the romance genre - I say this - Remember you are only one person, and your criticism, if being placed into the public domain, should be subjective and well educated - Read across the genre, speak to authors and readers - know your facts - Because at the end of the day, as someone who is supposedly a well educated, well read and 'thinking' reader, your mind should be open before you begin... Shouldn't it?

If you have any experience of similar narrow minded articles or reports or interviews you have done with journalists then come let me know about them in the comments so I don't feel so much like a lone crusader... But then again, as I step down off my soapbox, I remember that I already know I'm not alone... Not judging by the numbers of you joining us at The Pink Heart Society... I'm just doing what the Society does - I'm Saying it Loud, Saying it Proud...


(*portions of this post have been highlighted to demonstrate that this post refers to Category Romance and the generalizations and pre-conceptions attached to it and a link has been removed out of respect to my Blog visitors, friends and family - particularly my young neices and nephews all under the age of sixteen who visit regularly*)


Kate Walker said...

It would help if they'd even read the book closely enough to see that on the cover it's Mills & Boon without an E!

And reality/TV shows, well I know for a fact that Emma Darcy did Blind Date way back in 1986.

Natasha said...

LOL - don't 'Google' your name any more!

My blood boils when 'Mills & Boon' is used as an expression of everything that is bad romance wise. I've lost count of the number of 'articles' I've read now where that happens!

And it's an odd thing for them to do - considering Harlequin Mills & Boon sells thousands and thousands of books each month. You'd think a reporter would be more careful before they criticise their readerships choice of literature, wouldn't you??

Trish said...

Thanks Kate! I knew there had been quite a few done - to know it was as early as that is fantastic! And makes even more of a mockery of that point in the *review* - and I was wondering if I was the only one would catch the spelling error...

Natasha - ME TOO! - As you may have noticed... To me, it's a sign of *lazy* reporting - someone looking to make a funny quote or criticize something else finds it easy to throw in Mills And Boon as a reference point as all other *serious* readers will immediately get it. It's easier to perpetuate the fallacy than it is to do any actual *research*...

allyblake said...

Trish, you crack me up! I adored your break-down of the review in question.

But I actually think the reader enjoyed your book despite themself!!! I reckon they'll be back for more!!!


Nicola Marsh said...

I'm with Ally, Trish.
I reckon they'll be picking up your next books too!!

Michelle Styles said...

It is understandable to rant. And it was a splendid rant at that.

But you should take the *not typical* as a compliment. Obviously the reviewer had a certain image in their head and you exploded it.

HM&B is of course published in 109 countries, and 26 different languages. Long term, it is the most successful publishing house in the world and the undisputed leader in women's fiction.

We have plenty to shout about.

annabanana said...

Dear Trish,

You should do some research before you start attacking avid readers of all genres – even romances. Just by typing in “romance” into the search-this-blob function of Book of the Day, I found the following books which mapletree7 has also reviewed:

Shadow Lover, by Anne Stuart

Crazy Hot by Tara Janzen

Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier

Lord Perfect, by Loretta Chase

Instead of the Thorn, by Georgette Heyer

Mr. Impossible, by Loretta Chase

The Dark Queen, by Susan Carroll

Miss Wonderful by Loretta Chase

The English Witch, by Loretta Chase

The Last Hellion, by Loretta Chase

I myself am not a romance reader. I read many other genres –- mystery, non-fiction, horror/thrillers, and other recent books that don’t so easily fall into any specific category (such as “The Dogs of Babel”). I say this not to knock romances, but to explain that I am a reader, just not one that has taken up category romances yet.

Mapletree7, on the other hand, seems, from a cursory glance of her blog and the books reviewed, seems to cover almost every genre – romance, mystery, non-fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, teen lit, historical, and classical. Even diet books!

Get off your soap box and do some research before you slam someone who wrote a few words about a book that she did not particularly like. She did in no way slam the genre, nor equate your book with the category romance genre as a whole.

Lis said...

I know Jennifer LeBrecque (I'm so butchering her name) did one for either the blaze or temptation line within the last year and in single title land, JANE MILLIONARE by Janice Lynn was all about reality tv as well. And so was American Idle I believe. Have to check my bookshelf

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