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  1. Melanie

    Episode 242 - The Boyfriend School

    Oh, that's fantastic! Along with your editor, your go-to cover designer is definitely your most important professional relationship as an author! I'm sure her clients freaking love her.
  2. Melanie

    Episode 242 - The Boyfriend School

    So, I’m slightly behind and just finished the mini-episode for Boyfriend School today, and...OMG, Cameron H, I had to come sign up for the forum specifically to tell you how much I appreciated your knowledge and comments about Romance novels! I’m a NYT and USA Today bestselling Romance author (my sister and I are writing partners, actually, we write under a shared pen name), and I have to say, it’s quite rare for someone outside the genre to take it so seriously and give it respect. Much appreciated! For anyone interested, I wanted to expand a bit on the concepts you introduced. ROMANCE AS A VEHICLE FOR WOMEN’S VOICES Romance is, by far, the single best-selling genre in publishing year after year, earning over 1.2 billion annually - and it’s almost entirely created by, consumed by, and about women. Pretty powerful! It is the only genre that consistently centers women’s perspectives and stories, and validates their desires. It tells women that if they want something, that’s great, and they should ask for it, unashamedly, and not accept less than they deserve...and not just around sex, but around career, family, interpersonal relationships, etc. But, like...also, yes, around sex. And that’s awesome. The incredible Leah Koch, co-owner (with her sister Bea) of North America’s first romance-only bookstore, The Ripped Bodice in Los Angeles, says something super powerful about Romance novels in this trailer for Naughty Books, a new documentary about the Romance world that’s doing the festival circuit. “They are written, produced, marketed, and sold by women, for women. So it’s very hard for me to understand the argument that they somehow are not feminist.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cejscmSZrsg Interesting side note - Bea and Leah have actually secured an overall deal with Sony to bring outstanding romance stories to film and tv https://deadline.com/2018/09/the-ripped-bodice-bookstore-overall-deal-sony-pictures-tv-lea-koch-bea-koch-1202463272/ Other interesting side note - if you blink, you’ll miss it, but my sister and I are actually in that doc trailer for a hot second because we were doing a signing at The Ripped Bodice on the day the documentarians came to film. SOCIAL ISSUES REPRESENTATION Because of the explosion of indie publishing since 2012, where people can publish what’s in their hearts and souls to write without being blocked by gatekeepers, Romance has been on the cutting edge of representation for all kinds of issues and people that simply never made it into stories before. Romance has been on the forefront of the Own Voices movement, being written by authors and featuring heroes and heroines on every point of the LGBTQIA+ rainbow, poly relationships, racial and cultural representation, non-neurotypical representation...the list goes on. Even my sister’s and my books, which are quite light in overall tone, have had heroes and heroines in situations like: a soldier who comes home with PTSD overcoming an abusive childhood dealing with an alcoholic parent homelessness, poverty, domestic violence recovering from drug addiction grief over a lost spouse being a single parent with a special needs child ROMANCE vs. EROTICA There are three main categories along the romance to erotica spectrum (although they can be broken down into further nuance), and they have more to do with what drives the story than the actual heat level. Here is a quick and dirty (pun intended) rundown: 1 - Romance: The development of the relationship is the central theme of the story, and any sexual interaction stems from and furthers the core relationship. This category spans all heat levels, from clean to blazing. 2 - Erotic Romance: The relationship is still the central driver of the story, but the relationship is fueled by sexual connection and feelings grow from there as opposed to the other way around. These are, without fail, blazing on the heat scale, and often include kink. 3 - Erotica: This is material specifically written for sexual titillation, and there is little or no requirement for a central love story or a happy ending. So, mainstream romance--the kind you see on the shelves in the grocery store and dominating Amazon’s Top 100--can be (and, in fact, most often is!) quite explicit, actually. The terminology for non-explicit Romance is constantly in flux. The most current phrase people are using is “clean” although that has opposition, because of the implication that the opposite is “dirty.” I’m certainly not a fan, but for now, it is what it is. “Sweet” at the moment is being used more to refer to the tone of a book - ie, light and low-angst. Often also clean, but not necessarily. For instance, my sister’s and my books are referred to as part of the sub-category, “Sweet with Heat” - meaning, low-angst in tone but still naughty as fuck. LOL. LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT While romance novels do sometimes feature a “love at first sight” scenario, that’s not always the case. In fact, we have a term for that convention: InstaLove. And, believe me, not all readers are fans of it! In fact, some hate it with a real passion. A real VOCAL passion. It’s actually also quite common for the story to feature a relationship that builds and deepens little by little, over the course of time, as the characters get to know each other better and develop love and trust. We have a term for that convention, as well - Slow Burn. (Side note - we have a term for almost everything.) Also, the novels often don’t even start with the hero and heroine (or hero and hero or heroine and heroine!) meeting for the first time. Many times, the characters will have a rich and complicated backstory that takes place prior to the first page. Some tropes that lend themselves to that kind of history between the characters would be: Second Chance Romance: They were a couple when they were young and broke up, now they’re back in each other’s lives. Friends to Lovers: Long-time friends, at least one has been carrying a torch for the other, but THERE. ARE. OBSTACLES. (Our debut novel was a friends-to-lovers). Enemies to lovers: Either real, true enemies, or they just get on each other’s nerves, but as the plot goes on (they’re usually forced together into some situation where they’re in proximity), they begin to see deeper into the other person and view them in a new light. (Our most recent release was an enemies-to-lovers). Forbidden Love...sub-tropes like Best friend’s Brother or Brother’s Best Friend, etc: They’ve known each other for a long time, but there’s something that would make it SHOCKING if they got together, or a reason that people in their lives wouldn’t be on board. THE FANTASY OF ROMANCE NOVELS There is a common misconception that women read romance because they are unsatisfied in their own relationships. Most often, that couldn’t be further from the truth! Romance readers just love LOVE. They love going on a journey with the characters as they fall, just like mystery readers love solving puzzles and sci-fi readers love envisioning alternate realities. Plus, in romance novels, the heroine is always supremely SPECIAL in the hero’s eyes. She’s the one who breaks down his walls, she’s the first woman to ever make him envision a future with anyone...she makes him want to be a better man, to bring it around to a movie quote. And he, in turn, is the first one to see how unique and valuable she is, and she begins to see herself through his eyes. He’ll do anything for her, make any sacrifice (Anne of Green Gables fans - think...when Gilbert gave up the Avonlea school for Anne and took Carmody instead), and then she starts to see that she’s worth that, that she deserves it. And, I’m sorry, that’s just a nice fantasy to lose yourself in when you’re reading! LOL. My good friend Erin (also a bestselling romance author) said to me once, "People think the fantasy women are picking up these books for is the sex. Nope. The fantasy we're indulging is that men actually think this way." And...yep. FINALLY, SOME OTHER FUN ROMANCE TERMS Thought this might be a fun thing to end on. HEA - Stands for Happily Ever After, but is used as a noun. Example - “It was so satisfying to see those characters finally get their HEA after all they’d gone through!” In fact, one of our pieces of swag has the phrase, “My husband is my HEA.” TBR - Stand for To Be Read, and it’s the never-ending, always-growing collection of books that we *REALLY* want to read...and are planning to...someday. (Another one of our pieces of swag is a mug that says, “This may look like coffee, but it’s actually fuel for getting through my TBR.”) Book Boyfriend - The one hero, out of all the novels you’ve read, who captured your heart more than any other. Romancelandia - The online (and offline, actually) community of readers and writers of Romance. Alpha - Heroes who are strong, in control but not controlling, protective but not creepy about it, and would do absolutely anything to keep the heroine safe and taken care of. Alphahole - A guy who takes the whole “in control” thing just a little too far. But he’ll get smacked down by a feisty heroine and see the error of his ways, don’t you worry! LOL. I do realize this was super long and the majority won’t be interested in this esoteric info, but I wanted to put it out there for anyone who might be. Also, again, I just wanted to reiterate to Cameron - thank you so much for speaking up, for knowing about our genre and taking it seriously! When people are generally pretty eye-rolly about your art and your livelihood, it can be wearing, and it’s so nice when an outsider treats your industry with respect.