If you followed Jodi Picoult or Jennifer Wenier on Twitter this week you probably saw Jeffrey Eugenides name mentioned a lot. Mr. Eugenides is a Professor of creative writing at Princeton and the author of the Virgin Suicides and the The Marriage Plot.(Which I’m pretty sure is the name of a historical romance novel too.) He’s also the man who inadvertently started a lot of debates between writers by saying, “I didn’t really know why Jodi Picoult is complaining. She’s a huge best-seller and everyone reads her books, and she doesn’t seem starved for attention, in my mind — so I was surprised that she would be the one belly-aching.”
What’s he talking about? Literary vs. Commercial fiction. One is praised by critics the other is adored by fans. Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult are both NYT best-selling authors who have sold millions of books. That’s an achievement many writers would sell their mothers for a chance to receive but these two authors aren’t entirely happy. Their complaint is that they don’t get reviewed in the New York Times or the same amount of serious coverage as some of their male counter parts.
Do they have a point? I’m sure they do. They may not get the serious street cred they deserve but what about us romance writers? We’re even lower on the literary totem pole. Snobby types would say we aren’t real writers at all because we write about love and happily ever afters. That we aren’t artists. But we spend just as long agonizing over our books. We put just as much love and blood and sweat and tears into them as literary writers. Our writing is our life. And yet so many dismiss us because… Why? I haven’t figured out the reason yet.
I’ve read literary books. I read classics and all the great works people say you must read before you die and the best book I’ve ever read was still a romance novel. I’m probably not the only one who has had that experience. According to the 2011 ROMStat Report romance sales increased to $1.368 billion last year. And that’s with a struggling economy. In fact it remains the largest share of the consumer market at 14.3 percent.
I never expect to be reviewed by the Times. I don’t expect to be any one’s next book club selection but I refused to feel slighted or be embarassed because I write books that make people happy.
Romance novels sell. It’s a simple as that. And to all the haters who rather be caught dead than to be seen with one of our books in your hands… We’ll see you on the best- seller list.