Okay– so today, Dreamspinner Press announced THIS. Do you see that?
A Little Book With a BIG History
I am SO EXCITED about this– you have no idea.
Yes, I’ve written one for the line–and I hope it’s accepted. It’s called Tamale Boy and the Spoiled Brat and I’m so amped– if they take it, it will come out in January 2017.
Now you may wonder what’s so exciting about this. “Oh, yes, look– Dreamspinner has books out, you know, like those grocery store books. Harlequin Presents or Silhouette Desires. Oh, isn’t that quaint. You know, the M/M people trying to be like the Het people. That’s funny!”
No. No no no no no…
You’re not seeing it.
See, the basic Harlequin Presents is what I tried to write when I first tried to write. In fact, on my website, if you look under my free work– much of it is REALLY OLD by the way–you will see a 60K book–horribly formatted–called Name. This is probably my third or fourth attempt at writing a Silhouette Desire or a Harlequin romance–because when I was growing up, man, those things meant everything to me. And even as a grownup, they brought me comfort like you cannot believe.
Here– I’ll offer you a short history of Amy and the Category Romance.
* Sixth Grade– Amy tries to check out Forever by Judy Blume and is reported to her father by the librarian because that book had sex in it. Amy is mortified.
* Seventh Grade– Amy discovers the Harlequin Romance rack at the library. Curiously enough, Amy is allowed to check out as many of these as she wants, because everybody knows that the sex in them isn’t that bad anyway.
* Eighth Grade– Amy is desperately convinced that she will fall in love and marry somebody who is much older than she is, someone who can educate her on life, because the boys she knows are hopelessly stupid and the mysterious men in the books are much more interesting. Eighth Grade is sort of a nightmare for Amy– those mysterious men in the books would definitely see those wonderful qualities that the stinky poo-heads in eighth grade were missing.
* Ninth Grade– Amy discovers that people have also slipped sex into the science fiction and fantasy books she adores. Much of her reading becomes the QUEST FOR SEX. Harlequins still help in this department. At this point, Amy is invisible and is still convinced that the men in the books know EVERYTHING.
* Tenth Grade– Amy’s family takes a summer trip before tenth grade in her grandparents’ RV. This is seven people in the RV, entertainment space is limited, and the PC, Kindle, iPad, iPod, Smartphone and any other device made to keep people from strangling each other when on a six-week trip across country in an RV has yet to be invented. We have the following: My stepbrother’s electronic football game–by the end of the trip, all seven of us are fucking ACES at this game. A walkman and six cassette tapes made by my parents–which is how I know all the words to an album put out by Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, and Crystal Gale. I’m looking’ for blue-eyes… has anyone seen him? Don’t you tell me… he gave up on me…. And four books per person.
You read that right– FOUR books… PER PERSON.
Yes– I thought I was being smart, because I chose sci-fi fantasy books, and I went for the wrist breakers too. But it was no good. I was done with them in the first week. So, by the end of the road trip, I had read my books, my stepmom’s book (The Thornbirds), my stepbrother’s book (which was also my dad’s– it was about time travel conspiracies in the military) and my grandmother’s Harlequin Romances. Did you know that secretaries who traveled to the far east could marry their handsome sheik employers? I was thrilled to find out!
* Eleventh and twelfth grade– Amy learns that she can claim she’s studying if she sits on the bed with her GIANT TOMES OF GOOD LITERATURE on her lap… and hides a tiny $.25 romance book behind it. Her stepmom accuses her of wasting her day when she does this, and frequently shoos her off to do chores or get beaten up by her stepbrother.
* College– Amy learns that Mate is susceptible to the same trick–but that Mate is much more amused than her stepmom was when she gets caught doing it. But, see, at this point there is a Mate– and I am Amy, and I am no longer living my life through my books. Here is when I realize that I am reading the books because I am going to school and working full time, and sometimes I need to read something NOT painful, informative, dry, educational, or SET ON A GRAND SCALE OF HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT. Or, you know, written by dead white men. I need to read something immediate, heart pumping, and real. I need to read something that appeals to my emotions and makes my day better. Which, I think, is why Mate lets me slip one in now and again. All puns intended.
* Post-college– I have been fired from my first district because they hired me when I was pregnant and this pissed them off. It doesn’t matter– my son can’t keep a babysitter because there is a mysterious problem that nobody can diagnose and everybody assumes is bad parenting, and so childcare is not going to happen anyway. We are living in a terrifyingly old and decrepit house in the middle of nowhere, and I have no car. Mate is working all week and going to school at night, and I am pregnant again and alone with my son who cannot communicate. And Harlequin Romances are $.25 a piece at The Almost Perfect Bookstore, and they are my friends. I make my first attempt at writing one at this time, and it’s molding away in the garage somewhere, but I still remember when my friend read it and told me it was a real book, just like the one she was reading. It was one of my best moments of that time, hands down.
* Post-first children– Mate is in school and I have a job teaching and we are trying so hard to dig ourselves out of the hole we were in when I wasn’t working. I have two very small children, one with a communication handicap, and leaving them behind as I go work full time is ripping my guts out. And my husband is working at night. Every month I get two deliveries– each one has a wine glass packaged with the box, it was part of the deal. One was Harlequin Historicals, and the other was Silhouette Desire. I teach English now– I have an idea of why these books comfort me, why I cry with relief every time the little box shows up at my door. The first Christmas we lived like this, Mate and I have no money for gifts for each other. I give Mate socks– which he needs–and some shirts–because his others have holes– so he can open a present in front of the kids. I wrap–and open–my four Silhouette Desire books, and some of the chocolate we put in the stocking for the kids. (P.S.– we still have the wine glasses to this day– they’re the nicest things in our cupboard.)
I write Name during this time, but I stop reading categorical when I go back to school–and start reading urban fantasy, which totally turns my key.
* Today– I have been writing professionally for over ten years. I have been writing for a publisher who wants my work for over six of them. I am no longer a teacher. And I look at these books–these 50-65K books– and I see why I loved them so very much.
They were comforting–they had a heartbeat and a rhythm. There was a rush to the first meeting, and the rush escalated to the first touch, and rose further to the first kiss. There was an explosion at the first sex and a gentle let down afterwards, and a sweetness at the end. This rush was addictive–and at the times in my life when I was most stressed, or sad, or confused, it was better than chocolate, that knowledge that, in between the pages of this book, I could find endorphins and happiness. There would be banter and characters and joy. There would be scenes that took my breath away, courtship scenes, scenes that led to happiness and happy ever after. There was this ability to, very quickly, take a peek into someone else’s life and experience the happiest moment, just like you were living in her skin.
It was marvelous.
It is still marvelous. It is still magical. It is still a peek into somebody else’s life and a chance to live the happiest moment in it.
Yes– I am known as the Queen of Angst. I am known for writing books that strive to be real, and are often gritty, and hopefully haunting. But I can do that because I have found my peace and my balance and I have lived through my turbulence (I hope) and that’s where I draw from. But I never forget that during those times when things were hard, when I didn’t know who I was, when I doubted myself, when I hated myself, it was the basic, happy, trope-filled categorical romance that gave me a window to a better life. Yeah, sure, I stopped looking through that window and started living my own life–but I had that window to paint a picture for my future. I had a window in which to see a working relationship, a happy ever after, two people in love.
There is no shame in reading those books– in needing those books during some times in our lives (or ALL THE TIMES in our lives!) I am so so so proud that my name is going to be added to this line. I am so excited to see my publisher doing this.
Oh guys– look. They’re calorie free chocolate. They’re fat-free prime-rib on the page. They’re a big hit of legal endorphins. They’re happiness by the word.
Enjoy–freely and without guilt or worrying that someone’s going to accuse you of reading “trashy romance”– they’re SPLENDIFEROUS romance–because they ARE romance, and they are meant to celebrate, in juicy Bacchanalian splendor, the joys of finding happiness and falling in love.