Thursday, February 12, 2009

What's in Your Bookstore? And Where is it?

Saw this in the paper the other day. Couldn't help but think about one of the first 'romance' books I read. My mother had been visiting, and she went on and on about this great book she'd finished, and then was even more excited when she found out she'd read the second in the series (which was only two books long at that time) and could go back and read more. Diana Gabaldon said her books present booksellers with the 'where do I shelve this?' dilemma. Is it a romance? Is it historical fiction? Faye Kellerman claimed all she thought she was writing was a nice little romance when she wrote her first Peter Decker/Rita Lazarus novel. Now, they're definitely in the mystery section.

I'd never read a traditional romance when I started writing Finding Sarah, and I thought it was a mystery. Who knew there were rules? At the time, I didn't think I could ever write a romance.
Because I, like so many others, was clueless about what a romance really was.

Keep Reading...

If I say I write "romance", more often than not, I get the eyeball roll, and the "I don't read that stuff," response. I was chatting with someone last night, and the topic arose. Back in the day, when romances were 'bodice rippers'. She said she and her mother used to love to toss out the vocabulary of the books of that time, words like portmanteau and reticule.

The genre has expanded. Tremendously. My books, marketed as romance, have little resemblance to the short category romances that still bedeck the bookstores. I know. I just finished reading nine of them for the Romance Writer's of America's RITA contest. Some were good, some I finished more out of obligation to the contest than because I cared about the characters (which is, to me, the whole point of reading a book).

But just looking at the categories in any romance contest proves this is not a one-size-fits-all genre. The RITAs mentioned above have the following categories:

Contemporary Series Romance
Contemporary Series Romance: Suspense:/Adventure
Contemporary Single Title Romance
Inspirational Romance
Historical Romance
Regency Historical Romance
Romance Novella
Paranormal Romance
Romantic Suspense
Young Adult Romance
Novel With Strong Romantic Elements

And, I'm not touching the controversy about whether there should be categories for erotic romance, and if so, where they would belong.

Do people avoid the romance section entirely because they think all they'll find are the stereotypical stories?
So, should bookstores organize their shelves within the romance section? If I like to read romantic suspense (which has it's own myriad sub-genres), how hard should I have to look? Harlequin makes it easy to find the various subsets of it's traditional lines with distinctive color coded covers. Kind of Garanimals for books. But out in the world of single title, one has to know the author to look for.

Tomorrow, it's once again time to turn over this blog to the next installment of "Homicide - Hussey." For latecomers to the series, be aware, I didn't write these. They're posted here due to the kindness and generosity of a local homicide detective. Please come back.


Catherine Bybee said...

Hi Terry,

I have to tell you, just tonight while at a home owners meeting, I heard the term 'Bodice Rippers'. This is the second time I heard this in a week and I busted out laughing. I guess my female werewolf romance could be catagorized as a 'BR' because when she shifts her shirt can tear off. But thats about it. And if anyone says "I don't read that stuff" I usually say something like... 'It's the number one selling genre out there, millions of readers can't be all wrong.'

Great Post!

Christie Craig said...

Great post, Terry.

Good question, too. I don't know the answer, either. I can see the benifits of having "like" books together. However, I think there are so many mixed genres that it would be hard.


Christie Craig said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Terry Odell said...

The aforementioned administrator simply removed a duplicate post. Nothing sneaky going on. Honest.

Viola Estrella said...

Hi Terry,
Great post! I think there's romance in everything. TV shows, movies, even fiction that isn't deemed "romance." And, honestly, if it doesn't have at least some romance in it, I'm not interested. What's the point? :-)

Terry Odell said...

Agreed, Viola -- I found I was reading series mystery as much for the character relationships as for figuring out whodunit.

Ray said...

As far as bookstores are concerned I don't see them making it any easier for readers to find what they are looking for in specific genre shelving. Linnea Sinclair is usually shelved in Science Fiction. One of her books ended up in Romance. All her books fit in both genres. The result of moving one novel to a different set of shelves resulted in new readers who wouldn't think of perusing the Science Fiction shelves.Some of her regular readers had to ask, but they found it.

I don't worry about what the bookstores do. I rarely enter one to browse like I did before I got involved with the Internet.

As to Terri's last comment about character relationships, I can't find another reason for reading or watching series TV. If not romance then at least the development of the POV character. Two of my favorite TV shows are NCIS and Burn Notice because as the series progresses so do the relationships.

I love Burn Notice's ex girlfriend/slash sniper/slash explosives expert/con artist. The way I figure it she won't be the ex anymore when the series concludes.


Terry Odell said...

You're so right, Ray. Although I tend to 'allow' less relationship stuff in shows that include a mystery--too often, they stray too far afield from solving the week (or season's) puzzle, and then if I miss a few episodes, I feel lost, and often quit watching altogether.

Ron Southern said...

Came here from Blogge Help Group to see about your expandable post summaries. Don't get excited, I don't have an instant solution.

I've installed the Hackosphere hack for this 2 or 3 times, though not recently. Recently I began having trouble with a single post that would NOT show the short version and I thought I'd done everything possible to change the code, but it wouldn't work. Finally, I copied the code into a new post and reworked some code until it finally worked there, though it persistently would not work in the original post (as if THAT POST was corrupted in some way that I couldn't see! The one fix I did have to make to code, though, was that I'd placed the open span tag in the middle of some Italic font. The span didn't like being in the middle, though it began to work when I closed the italic font before the span tag and made separate tags for the italic text that followed the span tag. That seemed really stupid, except that's what made it work!!! I'm sure this is different from your problem, but wanted to warn you that evidently some things that aren't so evident can ruin the expandable posts! Good luck.

Terry Odell said...

Thanks -- and in case you check back, were you able to see the "Christmas" post above this one in your browser, because that's the one I had the trouble (or the most trouble) with.

Ron Southern said...

Yes, I see the Xmas post. Clicking it's "read more" works in IE6, but doesn't reveal the sidebar, though the next post's "read more" seems to have the magic effect. In Firefox, all is well and as it should be. I HATE having to remember to compare more than one browser; I'd like to kill Bill Gates, or at least torture him endlessly. Maybe make him eat tapioca pudding for all eternity.

Terry Odell said...

Gee, Roy -
I'm one of those who happens to like tapioca pudding, so you'll have to come up with a better punishment. I'd make him eat borscht.

Terry Odell said...

Sorry, Ron -- my typo

Ron Southern said...

Tapioca was my deranged literary reference to an old Dan O'Neill "Odd Bodkins" cartoon strip in which that was the punishment for one of the characters who had apparently died and gone to hell--it was very funny at the time!

Ron Southern said...

Is that the best typo you can come up wich?

Terry Odell said...

After doing copy edits all week, that's it, Ron. Sorry. I've corrected all the good ones.

Ron Southern said...

It'll do.

Where are we now?

Kim Smith said...

Hey Terry, just popping in to thank you for following my blog tour. I loved this post. It brought back memories for me. I used to be a judge for the river city romance writers contest they had every year. it was realllllly hard to read some of those entries. and then there were some that were so good you couldnt wait to put your comments on them.

anyway. thanks again! have a great weekend! kim

Terry Odell said...

And thank you for coming over here, Kim. I love discovering new cyberhaunts and new people. Hope you'll be back.