Let me tell you all about my grand adventure on Wednesday…
Heh, well, leaving my house on my own is a grand adventure for me, but this time it involved putting on a posh frock and getting on a train to London. I set off at 4pm, caught a train from my nearest town at 4.30, got into London Kings Cross at about 6pm and then a taxi to the Institute of Royal Engineers, which was the improbably location for the annual Christmas ‘do’ of the Romantic Novelists Association.
I’d only been to my first meeting of the RNA about a month previously, so I knew on an ‘oh, I think I do remember you’ basis, about four of the people in a seething mass of romance novelists, all dolled up to the nines and clutching wine and canapes.
I’d gone with a variety of prejudices. Firstly, I’m British, and in Britain the romance novel is regarded as something anyone can write, but only sad people do. It’s not ‘real’ writing – it’s written by frustrated housewives and spinsters with minimal linguistic skill and cliched pink imaginations.
To that I have to say that I’ve never felt myself to be in the presence of such a lot of intelligent, interesting, articulate, and yet unpretentious people in my life. (I almost said ‘women’ but there were romance writing men there too, like Jill 😉 ) We wore name badges with both real and pseudonyms on them, so nobody had to ask ‘who are you then?’
It was really wonderful to be in a room of people whose opening sentence was ‘so what do you write?’ and who were willing to have, for example, a conversation about when ‘Mrs’ replaced ‘Mistress’ as the standard address for women, and to immediately be able to back it up with quotes from Follett and Johnson and Fanny Burney.
I’m extremely proud to be in such company.
My second prejudice was sadly due to the behaviour of the Romance Writers of America, and Romantic Times. I went to the RNA gathering prepared to have to defend the legitimacy of ebooks as a medium, and to argue passionately that gay romance was real romance and deserved to be allowed in. To have to struggle with defensive bastions of the old morality, constantly redefining the rules to keep me outside.
The RNA’s opinion though, expressed by the head of the Cambridgeshire group, Jan Jones, is apparently ‘if you think you’ve written a romance, then you’ve written a romance and you’re welcome to join.’
I met Kat from the Britwriters there, who concentrates on ebook erotica. Every time I told anyone I wrote gay romance, I got genuine interest and questions about the markets in the USA, the differences and similarities between m/m and m/f, and just a feeling that basically I was being accepted as a fellow romance writer with a new and interesting speciality.
I also… and this made my night totally… got *recognized* by my pen name 😀 Hee! I met Imogen from Samhain there, who intimidated me with her height, beauty and general state of well-dressed-ness, right up until the point where she said ‘Alex Beecroft? I read your book. I really liked it!’
LOL! At which point I must have bored her to tears by talking about myself for the rest of the evening, until I had to be dragged away to catch my train.
So here I am with my prejudices thoroughly dispelled, extolling the RNA. If you’re a Brit, I would encourage you to join. Their avowed aim is to increase the respect the romance genre is given in the country, which is something I can get behind. What’s more, they do appear to want all the small press and ebook people who meet such a frosty reception on the other side of the pond.