The Heartbeat of Literature

Booklandia has been a bit perturbed in the last couple of days, but instead of talking about that, I thought I’d talk about my release on January 1st instead.

The Virgin Manny IS out in the next couple days, and it’s one of the Dreamspun Desires line.

Now, I love this idea–I’ve talked about how excited I was that Dreamspinner Press was doing a Harlequin Presents-style imprint before. I’ve talked about how I used to get a box of these books (well, Harlequin Temptations) every month when Mate and I could afford very little in the way of entertainment, and one Christmas, when we didn’t have enough money left to buy presents for each other, I wrapped up a bag of socks for him, and my box of Harlequin Temptations for myself, so the kids would know Santa got mommies and daddies too.

Now writing a category romance isn’t as easy as it sounds.  The restrictions put on authors are actually sort of stringent–after all of the freedom gay romance authors have experienced to date, why would we limit ourselves?

Suddenly our sex scenes–in which the sky was the limit–have to be more steam than sex. The language–and we all know I love to swear–needs to be toned down. The length–and I’m the queen of the long book here–can be no longer than 65K. And the subject matter–and remember, I can get pretty dark–must be tropey and happy and a guaranteed, undeniable happy ever after.

So, you’re probably asking, why? Why would we want to try to write something that is obviously not a genre requirement?

The answer is, “We loved the way these books made us feel.”  Those four category romances I wrapped up for myself that Christmas–that was the only reading I was going to get. I didn’t have time for the library and that was 21 years ago–e-books weren’t around.

Why would I spend my entertainment budget on $12 (at the time) of pulp fiction books when I had a degree in English Literature that actually transcended a BA and was almost a standalone MA?

Because I needed the goddamned happy.

These books are guaranteed goddamned happy.

The tropes are familiar–just like our favorite movies–and the highs aren’t frightening and the lows can be overcome. I knew when I unwrapped that Christmas present that I would love exactly what I found inside, whether it was the virgin heroine, the boy next door, or the powerful businessman seduced by his feisty secretary. I knew that the sex wouldn’t squick me out, that I wouldn’t have to confront moral ambiguities, and that when the last page turned, I would be left sliding down the lovely high that the book had given me, ready to hope for a better world–and a more secure life–once more.

When I taught students the “heartbeat of literature”– Frei’s pyramid, exposition, conflict, rising action, crisis, climax, denouement– I wasn’t thinking about To Kill a Mockingbird when I told them how a good book functioned.  I was thinking about the category romance I’d just read. These books follow every rule–and following the rules gives the reader a guaranteed experience, every time.

Now, I know I’ve given my readers a lot of surprises in the past. For the record, I don’t plan to stop doing that. Bonfires is coming after this–it ends on a continuing story note. People will hate it–I’m breaking a rule. Quickening Part 1 & 2 are coming out–I’ve got a pregnant heroine making tough decisions about what to do with her body and her pregnancy. She is not going to behave as expected, and it’s going to piss people off. I’m breaking rules. Red Fish, Dead Fish is coming out this year–I pissed people off with the first one. This one’s no different. All the Rules of Heaven, the next Johnnies–I’ve got a big list of stuff coming out in which I broke any damned narrative rule of romance that I pleased.

But not with my Dreamspun Desires.

Because breaking those rules is not what these books are for. These books are to comfort us with their adherence to narrative. They’re to give us an expected high and a beautiful endorphin rush.

They’re supposed to make us crave the next one, because we know what we’re going to get with that one too.

Now, that doesn’t mean there’s not a wee bit of controversy going on here–although there shouldn’t be, and I do plan to rant about misogyny in gay romance-landia sometime soon.

But not now.

Now I’m going to get excited that my first book in my Mannies series is coming out, and I’m going to tell you that the second in the series is out in early July. And I’m going to invite you into the happy, warm, beautiful world of category romance, where we bottle hope and sell it at 40-60K words per small pulp-papered novel.

Bring your lazy afternoon and your suspension of disbelief, and prepare for that endorphin rush that will leave you satisfied and yet still wanting more.

There are more–definitely more–to follow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *