(Friend) Love in the Romance Industry

I am working on the coolest project right now. I get to profile the culture of romance writing in the 21st-century in a long-form magazine piece on a platform I don’t single-handedly curate. As someone who has read, written and advocated for romance for years, this piece is true to my heart and a hell of a lot of fun.

And part of that is because the romance industry is the best.

Yes. The romance genre is the best. I’ve ranted about this in the past and I will undoubtedly continue to rant about it in the future, but I’m not talking about the genre right now, I’m talking about the industry, the professionals, the people in positions of power. They’re the best.

I’ve been a journalist for over six years and I’ve reported on some not-best industries. I’ve been yelled at by mayors, hung up on by school administrators and belittled by business owners. It’s part and parcel of the job and something I’ve come to expect.

Romance has seriously disappointed me.

I jest. What I mean to say is that, throughout the course of writing this piece, I’ve contacted people at some pretty high levels. Last week alone, I spoke with New York Times best-selling authors, RITA-award winners, and chapter presidents. The President of the Romance Writers of America organization herself emailed me back within ten minutes and responded to questions in less than a day. Tomorrow, I have a phone interview scheduled with one of my all-time favorite authors, and Tuesday with one of the founders of the Ripped Bodice in California, America’s only romance-exclusive bookstore.

And all because I asked.

children-1149671_960_720Yes, people love to talk about romance and yes, this article is largely cultural. That being said, I am emphasizing issues of inclusive writing, representation, and bigotry within the industry and I have no intention of letting anyone off the hook. It hasn’t stopped anyone.

In fact, I have too many incredible sources, too many great responses, too many awesome quotes. I actually have plans to create more than one piece from this source-gathering because I don’t want any of it to go to waste.

This is the only industry where those who don’t have to be nice, are.

And I’m not just talking about the article. Sure, you could paint that in the brush of exposure or advocacy on the part of those I’m interviewing. But it goes well beyond that. Many of these relationships with powerful, successful authors and industry professionals are ones I’ve been lucky enough to forge for months simply because they wanted to help, wanted to offer advice to a new writer, wanted to chat about writing, industry news or unfolding trends. I am Facebook friends with New York Times and USA Today best-selling authors. And it’s not out of the ordinary.

people-1230872_960_720I’ve been involved in a lot of writing worlds. I’ve written poetry, literature, non-fiction, journalism, and they’ve all had their ups and downs. Romance is certainly facing some challenging truths of its own, but you would be hard-pressed to find another genre where you can slide into your favorite author’s DMs or accidentally go out to dinner with them.

I’m not saying romance is perfect, far from. But I am saying that it’s open and that it wants new authors to succeed. Those who came before us understand that their success is not negated by ours and that rising tides lift all ships.

And, naturally, it should be that way. After all, romance is about forging female friendships, boosting others and creating long-lasting relationships. The industry may have some obstacles to overcome to embrace that fully, but it’s well on its way. After all, nobody has hung up on me yet. ♥

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