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But would I respect me in the morning? - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
But would I respect me in the morning?
Just for a lark, I went over to the Harlequin website. And I'm thinking... low hanging fruit. They want a couple of characters falling in love. In one line (Silhouette Romance), I could even stick with my predilection of waiting for marriage before consummation (one of the other lines, I don't remember which, specified at least two "fully consummated love scenes"). In the Intrigue line, I could even have a suspenseful plot, as long as the characters plan to bang each other at some point.

I really couldn't write something that I wouldn't respect myself for. But could I treat a genre I've always despised respectfully enough to write something worth reading? It would certainly be a total break from everything I've been writing, and I was saying I needed to make such a break.



Could I really write for a company that's synonymous with "mass-produced drivel"?

I guess the answer's no. If for no other reason that I wouldn't disrespect potential readers by saying, "Well, at least it would be money."

I feel a bit...: dirty vaguely unclean
Soundtrack: Grease soundtrack

20 comments or Leave a comment
fiatincantatum From: fiatincantatum Date: March 21st, 2005 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)
are you thinking fantasy/sci-fi sort of romances? if so, check out www.luna-books.com. That's Harlequin's fantasy/scifi arm. The one I've read that's on that site was an interesting enough story that I didn't mind having to page past the naughty bits.
rabidsamfan From: rabidsamfan Date: March 21st, 2005 03:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, that's what nom de plumes are for, isn't it?
kelleypen From: kelleypen Date: March 21st, 2005 03:19 am (UTC) (Link)
You said, word for word, what I was going to say! Great minds . . .
ivylore From: ivylore Date: March 21st, 2005 12:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

idleleaves From: idleleaves Date: March 21st, 2005 03:08 am (UTC) (Link)
They actually have a formula that has to be followed for the writing of those things. Or used to, anyhow, because one of my professors in university wrote to them for information on publishing, as a giant in-joke with four of her friends.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 21st, 2005 03:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I got those guidelines in the early '90s. On each of the twenty-odd pages of the formula, it was insisted that "This is not a formula!!!"

But in a way, that's the thing that makes it sort of fun-sounding, like a game with a maze of odd rules.
idleleaves From: idleleaves Date: March 21st, 2005 03:11 am (UTC) (Link)
*dies* This is not a formula.

Suuuuure it isn't.

... And I guess, that could be construed as a challenge, if you wanted to write something interesting and still conform.
From: magnolia_mama Date: March 21st, 2005 03:27 am (UTC) (Link)
That's exactly what Florence King, one of my writing idols, did in the 70s (The Barbarian Princess, under the nom de plume of Laura Buchanan). She explained the process very humorously in The Florence King Reader, including the debate over a title and how to meet the rape requirement while still keeping the heroine a virgin for her twu wuv. The book itself (which, yes, I do have) is totally believable as a Harlequin-type romance when read superficially, but if you know the backstory it's giggle-rific.

One subgenre that has grown in popularity in recent years is paranormal romance (Tor has a whole line dedicated to it), so that's a possible angle to consider.
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: March 21st, 2005 05:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hope you don't mind me forcing my friendship on you. I had a (old) professor who told me about the Harlequin formula. She said that Harlequin specifically was very firm about the "no touching below the waist" rule. I guess that's changed since her day? I used to love the things as a girl. I still would consider reading the occasional Regency Romance as most of them involve a bit of accurate historical research and the sex is almost exclusively post marraige (if pre-admission of love).
imadra_blue From: imadra_blue Date: March 21st, 2005 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)
You could also try to prove that romance need not be trashy and disprove a sterotype.

However, I'm in the same boat with you, and I've been considering it, too. I probably won't either, but it's tempting. And easy.

And dammit, brings in money.
katinka31 From: katinka31 Date: March 21st, 2005 02:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
You could also try to prove that romance need not be trashy and disprove a sterotype.

Harlequin has been reprinting several of Georgette Heyer's romances, which are witty, clever, and have (gasp!) only one or two kisses a piece. :)
miss_daizy From: miss_daizy Date: March 21st, 2005 03:41 am (UTC) (Link)
You know, there's drek in every genre. You write (wonderful) fan fiction, but there's tons of crap out there. View it as a challenge, to create characters that matter, a plot that inrigues, and dialouge that engages. Then buy that house while prices are low :)

Sure, many people think romance is kinda silly, but for others, it's the little daily escape from routine that keeps them going...to provide them with a quality escape is a gift.

daisan From: daisan Date: March 21st, 2005 03:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, you can so do worthwhile romance! Diana Gabaldon's series is housed in every romance section of every bookstore in the world, yet her books (if you haven't read them I highly recommend the series) are really much more historical fiction/sci-fi.

Isn't it also important to have a couple of publishing credits to your name before you start shipping out a novel to publishers? One of those great catch-22's in which you have to be published to get published. If you have an idea and can write a romance novel, I say go for it. The worst that will happen is that you'll brighten someone's day through your art.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: March 21st, 2005 04:31 am (UTC) (Link)
I've been playing with the idea of this for years - even have a rudimentary ridiculous plot sketched out (I don't remember what series I picked it for, but since it involved the court of Henry VIII - of course! - some historical one which may not be current anymore). It'll probably never happen. But I don't see any problem with trying - just think of it as a ten-finger exercise which somebody just happened to pay you for :). I wonder if you get to pick your own pen-name or if they pick one for you?
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: March 21st, 2005 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)
Does it have to be Harlequin?

Fern, you are a great writer! If you write a book, I don't doubt it would be accepted somewhere.
marionravenwood From: marionravenwood Date: March 21st, 2005 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Why don't you read a couple of Harlequins and see what you think? (I'm guessing if you have read Harlequins, it has been a few years.) They're fast: you could probably read one in an evening. That would at least give you an idea if it's something you think you can, um, live with.

I read some romance, but I don't read Harlequins all that often. A lot of romance authors seem to get into it for the historical aspect, which would be right up your alley, even if nothing else was.
anna_fredricka From: anna_fredricka Date: March 21st, 2005 02:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
(giggles softly)
I think it's really fun that this is niggling at you. The great thing about writing, as you well know, is that it isn't brain surgery. (However much it may feel self inflicted some days.) Write - if you don't like it, add it to your "circular file." Have fun! -Tante
angua9 From: angua9 Date: March 21st, 2005 10:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that if you want to write for money (of which Samuel Johnson said only a fool would do otherwise), series romances are probably not your best bet. I don't think they pay all that well. Yes, they are easy to get published, because of the insatiable demand, but I think there are other types of books that would offer you a better work/enjoyment/reward ratio to write and get published.

It is an interesting question whether you could or should write romance novels when you don't read or enjoy them yourself. I think you could, as a competent craftsman, just as a competent writer who doesn't enjoy Star Wars (or even sci-fi) could write a Star Wars Young Jedi novel. Would you write a better or worse one than someone of your same writing skills who feels the "romance bug" and enjoys the genre? -- I'm not sure.

In general, the romance field is a huge and lucrative one, but the series romance part of it is rather a ghetto -- I think it would be much better to be Nora Roberts than "Harlequin #10876."
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 22nd, 2005 12:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Fernwithy, I've been a fan of yours for some time now, having discovered your stories at SQ. Not being an LJ user, I just discovered this thread (I'll have to explore some of your stories here!). I'll be ladeling heaps of gushing on you in the appropriate threads, but I had to respond to this first, especially following up angua9's excellent points.

As a romance reader of over 25 years, I can definitely state that series romance writers (Harlequins, etc.) do NOT become rich off of their earnings by any means. Series books are usually seen as a way to develop your writing, since the strict page and story guidelines established by the publishers encourage very tightly written stories that pack a punch in less than 225 pages. (Drabbles are a good example of doing the same in the fanfic arena--you have to do a lot in 100 words or less!) Many big name writers started out with series romances (Nora Roberts, Elizabeth Lowell, Sandra Brown, Eileen Dreyer, Janet Evanovitch, Linda Howard), and all of them accredit those starter novels with honing their skills.

Also, "a Harlequin" does not necessarily equal "badly written piece of trash." Yes, back in the 1960s and early 1970s, they were notorious for the same storyline of nurse/secretary falls in love with doctor/boss, fights off his advances until he finally proposes, happy ending. But starting in the early 1980s, there was a real Romance Renaissance, when many of those authors I mentioned above were starting out in the field, and the competition was so fierce--many publishers that are now defunct were competing for good stories--that the standards went up 100-fold. Even though Harlequin is the only survivor of that publishing boom, the standards are still vastly improved over what they were 30 years ago.

I'll get off of my soapbox now (it's a well-worn one for me!), and explore the rest of your LJ for ficcy goodness from Fernwithy. Thanks for listening!

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 22nd, 2005 02:06 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, trust me. I know how not-rich paperback series make people. Probably a low flat fee with no royalties. I'm thinking in terms of paying my light bills, not buying a house.

I got out a handful of the Intrigue books this afternoon. Shrug. Not impressed, but I do feel like I could turn out the prose reasonably quickly, and I have a twinge of an idea.
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