Being a romance author can be hard. You all know this, it’s not a secret. Some of us are lucky, and we get a lot of support from friends and extended family. Others of us…not so much. I’ve had a great deal of support in the form of “way to go” “follow your dreams” kind of stuff, but not much in the way of “oh, I love romance novels” or “I want to read your next book!” And in all fairness, I’ve sort of assumed that most of my friends don’t understand romance and wouldn’t want to read my stuff. For me, the idea of thousands of strangers reading my work is much less intimidating than one close friend reading it. But one thing I think a lot of my real life friends don’t know and that I’d like them to, is what romance can mean to those who do read and write it. Readers’ love of romance is complicated and individual, but those of us who write it learn pretty quickly that it’s deeply important to a lot of readers.
One of the most amazing things that I’ve come to understand as a romance writer is how reading romance and being part of the romance community can be a life changing experience for many readers. If that sounds overblown or arrogant, just hear me out. My readers range from stay-at-home moms to retired empty nesters. Most of my readers have boyfriends or husbands, but some are widows and divorcees too. Within that wide range, however, I hear common experiences. Readers use my books to escape the drudgery and oftentimes loneliness of their daily lives. They use my books to distract them in hard times, and to give them a touchstone for difficult life experiences. And for some, being a part of the romance community gives them a network of like-minded women who support and understand them, they find friends, allies, and mentors. All of that simply because they love to read about love.
But beyond that there are readers who live lives that most of you don’t hear about, but writers often do. Ask any writer and she can probably tell you a story about the reader who emailed to say, “thank you for giving me books to read while I was undergoing chemotherapy,” “thank you for telling me a story about a woman who survived abuse, because I did too,” “thank you for writing a character with mental illness, my father had it, and it meant so much to me that you understood that experience.” These are the stories that make romance writers realize that no matter what the world might think of our genre, what we do and what we write, matters. And ultimately, for me, those stories are the single best part of being a romance writer, and something that I’m privileged to be a part of.