Monday, September 27, 2010

If It Walks Like a Duck

My laptop overheated Friday morning. I took it into the shop and learned it needs a new fan. So my posting is likely to be a bit sketchy until the part comes in and is installed.

Here's Friday's post that I am belatedly posting today:

Yesterday's Galleycat had a post here about an interview author Danielle Steel did on CBS News. Steel was emphatic that she is not a "romance writer," saying:
[My books] are not really about romance; it's an element in life, but I think of romance novels as more of a category, and I write about the situations we all deal with: loss and war and illness and jobs and careers. Good things, bad things. I really write more about the human condition.
When the interviewer responded, "Love gets us through," Steel corrected her: "Hope even more than love helps us to get through."

Although I'm certain there are a lot of people who will scoff at Steel's description of her books, she's actually right. The clue is when she says "I think of romance novels as more of a category."

Steel is writing what the trade calls single title women's fiction.

Back in 2007 here, I quoted agent Jonathan Lyon's definition for women's fiction:
My own opinion is that [women's fiction] can be written by either a man or a woman. It needs to have a female protagonist. A relationship has to be one of the central themes (this could be a romance, mother-daughter, friends, sisters, etc.).
I still agree with Jonathan. A category romance is all about the protagonist's relationship with a man (or in a gay romance, with a member of the same sex). All other relationships are secondary to the romance between the H/h. And romance MUST have a HEA or happily ever after ending.

Women's fiction paints on a broader canvas. It places a woman at the center of a network of relationships and explores each with the same care that a romance gives to the hero and heroine's relationship.

Women's fiction explores the wider world around the protagonist. In many cases, the environment is almost a character. A romance novel meanwhile treats the world only as a backdrop to the all-important love story.

Having said all that, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Steel has sold 590 million copies of her 113 books.

So ... romance or women's fiction ... there's a market out there for her books.

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