Friday, August 18, 2006

Elizabeth Lowell GuestBlog: Love's Philosophy

TGIF, and welcome to the fifth installment of " Week (and two days)" of GuestBlogs with this group of girlfriends, who also happen to be a collective of six of the most successful chicks in the Romance Biz!

With yet another erudite dish on a fave Bella topic, I am honored to give you, Miss Elizabeth...

If the people around you love to hate romance…

Ask why they’re cracking nasties about a book that involves a man, a woman, and love. Would they rather read about murder, mayhem, and revenge? Disappointment, dismay, and depression?

If so, hey, go for it! Every shade of gray awaits them. But their choice of reading material isn't somehow superior to yours. It’s just different.When the word "formula" comes up, as in “Romances are all written to the same formula.”

Do point out that mysteries/thrillers are formulas—the mystery is always solved and the good guys win. Same for science fiction. Almost all popular fiction is descended from the heroic tradition of good vs. evil, of larger than life actions. In heroic fiction, people rise above their limitations and win against the odds.

Then there is literary fiction. By definition (formula?), literary fiction can’t have heroic characters or a tidy, upbeat resolution. The characters pretty much are required sink beneath their own limitations. Does that make literary fiction more “realistic” and therefore better than romance?


It just makes literary fiction part of modernism rather than the older heroic tradition. Since modernist philosophy has only been around for a century or so, and the heroic tradition has been around for thousands of years...well, you do the math on which one is a flash in the cultural pan.

What are some of your favorite comebacks for people who sneer at your taste in reading?

Visit Elizabeth at!
*Elizabeth was called away today on urgent business, but will be happy to answer any and all queries Sunday, Aug 20. When I say any, Bellas, I think we know our limits. Unless she wants to offer TMI, in which case...
Encore! Thank you, Jayne Ann Krentz, for honoring us with your presence yesterday! Please come back again so we might slaver some more...
Encore due! Lori Foster joins us Monday, Aug 21!


Julie in Ohio said...

"I'm sorry, I didn't remember asking for you opinion. Please repeat it so I can take notes."

Julie in Ohio said...

Welcome, Elizabeth! I'm sorry you got called away. I hope all is well and can't wait to blog with you on Sunday. :o)

Rach said...

Hi Elizabeth, I'm so sorry business has called. I hope everything is okay!

I can't say that I have run into anyone of my acquaitance who would have the temerity to critcize what I read. I would probably let them have it with both barrels if they did!

amy kennedy said...

Hello Elizabeth--hope all is well.

It is amazing to me, that people who would'nt think twice about seeing a romance movie will look down their nose at a romance book.

Pah-lease, as if all the best books don't have romances at their core.

No one has actually denegrated my reading choice and I do read everything from teen fiction to aserial murderer as the protagonist, but when asked about romance, I simply say, 'I'd rather have a happy ending--and have fun getting there'

PS--I need an IV STAT--I was without internet since wed. a.m.--I think trying to get to the snaxy men photos broke my computer. Just Kidding. But not about the no internet part. So I'm back.

Rach said...

I was wondering what had happened to you, Amy! I'm SO sorry. There is nothing worse than being disconnected--literally and figuratively!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

JulieO. Isn;t it true? People will just see one reading a romance and feel free to plod on over and denigrate it.

I met a couple in Jamaica. The wife was reading her "vacation=only" romance, so we started a convo. When she intro'd me to her husband and told him what I do, he said, "so, do you ever just write, 'this book sucks?'"

Then there are times people ask me what I do. When I tell them, they simply change the subject abruptly, as if it doesn't deserve their notice.

And then, there are the awesome folks who jump right on board and want to talk romance. And, even better, sex!

Then, and I'm really not at liberty to repeat the whole thing, I recently had an experience with a colleague -- who's pretty much supposed to me my champion -- in which it was implied my work wasn't as valuable as what hard-news journalists write because 'they have to do actual research.'

Ooops. Telling tales out of school. My bad.

All That Said: I pretty much consider my job defining romance for folks, so I fight back with facts, usually about the quality of writing, authors, and readers.

Then, there's always this story Christina Dodd tells. A fellow author was at a signing in which a guy walked by and said, "I don't read that crap." The author replied,"Really? What kind of crap do you read?"

amy kennedy said...

"Really? What kind of crap do you read?"


What is it about romance?
Science fiction: oh, it's too technical.
Fantasy: I just can't suspend my disbelief.
Mystery: too bloody/too convoluted
Romance: Crap.

I'd rather be happy than knowledgable any day.

Rach, thanks for noticing--I did get to spend Wednesday with my daughter and grandbaby. I go through withdrawels from that as well.

Kati said...

I always first counter with, "Have you read one? And if so, can you please tell me what specifically didn't work for you?" I always try to counter arguements intelligently and really try not to get too fired up over it. I'm in the "Don't Yuck My Yum" school. I don't love true crime books or non fiction for that matter, but I don't deingrate the genres!

I'm traveling on Sunday (to Indy for work) so I'm really sorry not to get a chance to gush to Elizabeth. Will someone ask her if she's going to be writing any more historicals? The "Only" series is one of my all time favorites, and I loved her medievils too!

Julie in Ohio said...

I really am taken aback by the nerve some people have to just walk up and give their opinion on something that doesn't have anything to do with them.
I would rather die than walk up to someone and tell them what they are reading or wearing is wrong.

For the most part, I ignore people, anti-confrontational that I am, but there are some that just *won't* be ignored. So a witty comeback is your best response.

I like that author's response, Michelle. That is the kind of response that puts the idiot on the defensive which then may bring forth a discussion that may lead to the idiot becoming enlightened.
Don't you just love a chain of events? :o)

and apparently run on sentences. My apologies to the academics who are shuddering with disgust at my poor grammar...

Rach said...

I've been thinking, I sometimes feel the need to justify my reading choices to my spouse--not that he minds, he really doesn't and in fact he reaps major rewards, as we've discussed. But, sometimes I still feel a "need" to defend. I point out all the former lawyers, Ivy League grads, etc. See, these women are smart and funny and write REALLY well. Or, I'll point out the advanced vocabulary I've learned from romances. I don't know why I feel compelled to do this, I just do. Guilt? Why??

Playground Monitor said...

There was a rant over on Plotmonkeys a few days ago about people who denigrate romance. And this was at a booksigning and to an author's face.

I haven't had anyone say anything to me, but I did overhear someone at the pool talking about reading "trashy romance novels" and I very nicely pointed out to her in a joking voice (but not joking attitude) that they're only trashy if you have a trashy mind and that many of those authors are friends of mine and I know for a fact they don't write trash.


Rach said...

Oh, what about when people refer to them as "Smut novels"??

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

But may I just remark -- and I think you know this about me, Marylin -- that some of us do, indeeed, enjoy it a bit trashy?

OK. I do, is all's I'm sayin.

Sometimes, the more condescending people are about what I read, the more outlandish and "Sex in the City-like" I like to come across as I flay them with intelligent remarks about our writers, readers, etc. They never know what hit em.

Just depends on the day and how good I'm feeling about my hair and clothes. :)

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

OH, Rach, I LOVE your pix. :)

Rach said...

Thanks, Michelle! I feel a little guilty because it's just Little Bit and not Monkey too, but well, it was SO fabulous I had to go with it. =)

Sorry, OT...

Playground Monitor said...

There's trashy and there's TRASHY. Miss Fat-A$$ at the pool was using it in a derogatory manner. This broad (and yes, my a$$ is moving in that direction) enjoys steamy sex scenes too, but I don't refer to it as trash. But I know what you mean. We all love a little vicarious thrill. *wink, wink*

It's all in the tone of their voice and that little sneer they give -- sorta the Elvis lip thing.

I wish I could do that "Sex in the City" thing. Or actually I'd love to be Julia Sugarbaker from "Designing Women" when I grow up. Boy could she do a great put-down!


Rach said...

Yes, Marilyn! Julia Sugarbaker could certainly give a set-down! Maybe we should all hone our inner Julias and we could put people in their proper places with class and dignity, leaving them with heads spinning wondering what had happened. =) *grin*

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Yes she could, bless her heart. :)

I think the prob with some women like the Bathing Beauty, is that they're not able to support other women. I was talking about this with my friend yesterday, how we think we've come so far, but then we get outside the home and realize that it's still a white guy's world, and that some women are happy as clams to step on other women to get a piece of the pie.

I think it takes a great deal of confidence to support other women, to not knock people down in general, especially cause it can make us feel good about ourselves when we do.

I even see it in romance, the urge to marginalize authors who write for smaller houses, who e-publish, who write hot. Sometimes simply to smack down others who are being successful.

I gotta tell you, there are times I wanna kvetch and moan because I helped someone move forward and they never thought to return the favor. But that just wastes energy. I get angry, then get over it and move on.

Monica Burns said...

I've not really had anyone comment about romance novels to me, although most of my friends/family get glassy-eyed when I talk writing. LOL

I've had all these great lines that I've tried to remember over time, but I imagine I'd say something to the effect of...

Well, not everyone can have great taste like me, after all I'm an original. *smile*

Oh, I don't write smut, I write about relationships. Of course being an urbane-challenged biped, I would imagine that particular concept is a difficult one. *smile*

Now granted, I'm betting I won't remember these when someone actually has the ill manners to say something like this too me.

Julie in Ohio said...

There is nothing that bothers me more than a hypocrite.
IMO, anyone who voices their negativity of romances are either hypocrites or illiterate because I bet they enjoy HEA just the same as we do or they are related to Ebeneezer (but even Ebeneezer came to his senses). I just don't understand why they need to waste my air space.

Michelle, that is one advantage to living in a small town, we don't have that women stepping on women to get ahead. Everyone just remains in the same position...forever.

LOL - Mon, I like your comebacks. I have the same problem of remembering mine at the time they are needed. I tend to think of them after the fact or come up with something lame. That is so nerve wrecking... :P

BTW, I taking notes of all of yours so I have an arsenal available when needed. My in-laws are notorious... grrrr

Vivi Anna said...

Oh, I've had a few comments tossed at me here and there...but they usually get one sentence out before I completely and utterly embarass them and they walk away red raced and I'm still laughing...

"Oh my god,", holding my book Hell Kat up, "What kind of smut is this?"

Me *grinning* "The good kind, with lots and lots of great sex."

"I don't read those type of books?"

me *grinning* "Oh, I'm sorry, you don't like sex?"

You know I even had a similiar reaction from another writer, one of those literary types...

I was talking to him about his book, and how exciting it was for him, then I say 'hey, I just sold a few books.' 'really? that's great. to whom?' 'Harlequin.' he gets all stony faced and gives me the 'oh.' turns away and starts talking to someone else....

Amazing. I don't let it bother me though....because that guy still sits in our local bookstore once a month signing his books after his long boring day job...and me, well I get to stay home with my daughter and write all day, because I don't have a 'job'!

Rach said...

Julie, aren't your in-laws the ones who burned (I still gasp at the horror of it, who in their right mind BURNS books????) all those novels?

You definitely need to perfect your comebacks for them!

Julie in Ohio said...

Yup, that's them in all their glory...grrrrr

They really aren't *all* that bad. They just need a little guidance...and their lighters taken away. :P

LMAO - Vivi, that is perfect!! I will have to remember that one. That should shut them up for a while. :o)

Julie in Ohio said...

Rach, I meant to tell you, that pic of Little Bit is adorable.

Monica Burns said...

You know, it's not just the comeback but how you deliver it. I'm convinced the most humiliating comeback is delivered in a totally pleasant, manner that is so sweet the other person just doesn't know what to say.

I'd say it's very difficult for most people to say something insulting back to someone who's smiling at you with genuine warmth and a pleasant manner. THAT more than anything else totally throws them. LOL

As for forgetting comebacks, I just remembered my MIL's famous words when she saw one of my covers (as you can tell she's completely unimportant to me cuz I forgot this! LOL).

THe MIL looks at the cover, which was modeled after the Venus of Urbino painting. She said, "My God, do you write porn."

That's one of the times when I forgot what to say, because what I really wanted to say would have started WWIII and I really didn't want the stress of dealing with the witch.

I just replied "No, I write romance. You used to read HQ romances, mine aren't all that different."

Naturally I didn't emphasize the part about sex because I think the woman's only experienced it one time, and that was to create the DH. LOL

But I also view her comment as pure jealousy. She's never been happy for either me or the DH when we've been successful at anything, so she's just a mean petty person. Her problem, not mine. She could have had the world's greatest DIL, instead her actions have cultivated my apathy where she's concerned.

Vivi Anna said...

Yup, I agree Mon, there's nothing you can say to someone that is jealous as hell because of your success...

Sometimes you just have to walk away...of course, you can do it with a piece of mistletoe tacked above your ass...

Playground Monitor said...

I gotta tell you, there are times I wanna kvetch and moan because I helped someone move forward and they never thought to return the favor.

Karma, darlin'. Karma. It'll bite them in the butt one day and they'll think "Ya know, I shoulda helped that sweet, adorable Michelle."

Marilyn -- who loves how you're gettin' the hang of that phrase "bless her heart" :grin:

Rach said...

Nice comeback, Vivi! That guy was an idiot. How lucky for you to do something from home that you love. Too bad for him!

Mon, sorry the MIL is a, well, a um, not nice lady. Yeah, that's it. I happen to enjoy all you have written that I have read. Jealousy is such an ugly thing.

Vivi, I'm waiting for HELL KAT to come in from Amazon. =)

Monica Burns said...

Vivi -- Sometimes you just have to walk away...of course, you can do it with a piece of mistletoe tacked above your ass...

ROFLMAO!! Oh that would a priceless comeback, the silent comeback!!

Rach -- I'm past caring anymore. I just work to rise about it. As Marilyn says, Karma is everything!

Rach said...

Oh man, I *completely* missed Vivi's post! ROTFLMAO! That is fabulous!

Mon, you are a much better lady than I, I would have to work VERY hard to rise above it.

Vivi Anna said...

Cool Rach! I hope you love it!

INFERNO is in December. I'm extremely nervous if readers will like it as much as Hell Kat.

Julie in Ohio said...

Vivi, as long as Kat and Hades are in it, you can't go wrong... :o)

Julie in Ohio said...

Vivi, do you have a book that you are getting those great comebacks from? If not, you should write that self help book... :P

I'm thinking of checking with Amazon for WISE CRACKS FOR DUMMIES or something to that effect... :P

Monice is right, it's all in the delivery. It's like trying to tell a joke and stuttering through it, it doesn't work. If you give a good comeback with a smile, they won't know what hit them. :o)

Monica Burns said...

Rach - I'm sure you're not giving yourself enough credit. Just because I don't put myself out emotionally about the woman, doesn't mean that my Italian side doesn't periodically think up mean and nasty things about her.

BTW, ever kneaded raw dough for bread. Great way to get rid of your agression, especially if you visualize someone's stomach as you punch the dough. ROFL See, I don't always rise above it, but then I'd rise above a deliciously hot hero body.

ROFL Sorry Michelle, I'm trying to be good!

People who put down romance generally don't have a clue as to the reality behind the works. They're not about sexual titillation, but about relationships.

I'm not sure why that is.

It could be a lack of real knowledge about what goes into the writing of a romance.

It could be from seeing a cover that makes the book look like it's nothing but sex. Although hot bodies do tend to drive sales, so it would be nuts to not use them.

It could be simple envy or jealousy (two different things in my mind, although a fine line)

It could be a total lack of understanding when it comes to what's literary.

It could be a bad book they bought and just judge all the rest based on that experience.

It could be they have zero taste at all.

Who know what meanders through the minds of the uninformed. I know I've made judgements (I'm human okay! LOL) that were incorrect, so the best way to handle the uninformed is to encourage them, in a pleasant way, to read a romance book.

Make a suggestion by asking what type of book they like to read. THAT I think is key. If they say, well, I like sci-fi. Then you have to recommend a sci-fi/futuristic romance, if they say they like history, then you need to give them the name of a historical author that matches the period they like to read. People are more apt to like something that's more in line with their overall tastes. One of my bosses enjoyes suspense, and I've recommended Lisa Jackson to him. I haven't heard if he's read her yet. I'll be interested to hear his reaction, because I didn't tell him it was a romance. LOL I know I'm devious!

Julie in Ohio said...

LOL - Monica, I have used bread dough therapy before. I found very stress relieving. :o)

Rach said...

Mon, you're not the first person to suggest bread dough therapy to me. I definitely need to look into that! =)

Julie in Ohio said...

It's a tasty way to let out steam... :o)

amy kennedy said...

You guys are killin' me--great comebacks.

And Vivi, Mon, and Michelle, success is the best revenge--but you already knew that.

elizabeth said...

Hi everyone!

I'm baaaack...

Loved reading about the fun you guys have with each other and your (sometimes thick-headed) associates.

I'll be in and out all day, so if you have any questions, bring 'em on.

elizabeth said...

Oh, forgot to tell you my daughter's fave comeback. Heather has published two romance novels (as Heather Lowell), and has worked in offices, etc., where people /interviewers leer over her choice in reading. Her response to an interviewer:

"My book is 450 pages long, less than two percent is sex, and that's what you're asking me about. I guess you're not getting any, hmmmm?"

Vivi Anna said...

LOL, Elizabeth...ain't that the truth!

That's a good one!!

elizabeth said...

The following actually happened:

Years ago I was at a signing when a woman stormed up, began to rant about backlist, and then finished up with "If they weren't publishing your crap they'd have room for mine!"

elizabeth said...

Then another woman came up at a different signing and said: "You write pornography." I said, "As I've never ready any, I'll have to defer to your judgment."

nellsquirrel said...

Hi Ms. Ann

Just wanted to say hello and send greetings from "the boys".

We loved your last book though I sat by Mikey's bed watching him breath afterwards. :-)

Love - Nell

elizabeth said...

Mikey's daddy would never get in that kind of trouble!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Welcome nellsquirrel, glad you stopped by.

And thanks, Elizabeth, for taking time to drop by on a weekend day! Above and Beyond, Bella!

We've been so glad to have you!

Rach said...

Oh, man, I missed Elizabeth--again! I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your historicals, the UNTAMED trilogy in particular. Thank you for coming to visit with us! =)

Julie in Ohio said...

I missed Elizabeth.... :(

Thank you for coming. I enjoyed reading everybody's creative comebacks. :o)

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I've never had any good comebacks and now those people don't ask me anymore.

I've come up with a good one though. I keep thinking of the "great" French novel and classic by Gustave Flaubert called "Madame Bovary". It's about a married woman who has an affair and well...I don't really remember how it ends but it doesn't end happily ever after for anybody--if my recollections aren't totally wrong. So why is it great literature? Well, don't look at me. I dunno. I found the book boring and besides I had to read it in French, which took me a little bit longer and prolonged the agony. By the end, I was ready to throw it in the fire. (I didn't.)

I guess that would be my comeback but not as or more long-winded than this--depending on how long I had to argue. After all, are affairs better than romances? Not in my book(s). Besides, I want validation not depression.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Validation,not depression. I love it. Good to read ya again, Rangurgis. Long time no see.

I know M. Bovary. Too much of a morality tale, though. Again, why does lit have to be maudlin to be legit?

Is it the strong emotions depicted in capital L lit, i.e., betrayal, fear, depression (or malaise, as Walker Percy so aptly described it in "The Moviegoer)? Why are those more valid than the fierce emotions of love, lust, desire, attachment?

I'll tell you why: most ordinary people fear those latter emotions in life and in literature, which necessarily digs into the reader's psyche.

There you have it.

I am available for university lecture tours.

Anonymous said...

Of course, I can't understand why someone would love "The Sopranos". I've just seen bits of it, I must admit. But why would anyone be interested in the cruelty, killings and other antics by a Mafia-like family. Are we really that desperate for "entertainment"? I certainly wouldn't want anyone to emulate that and I'm sorry, but I do think some loony will get ideas from it. After all, we get ideas from romances and anyone who reads only crime books whether actual crimes or just novels is bound to wonder what actually doing something you read about constantly would be like. Fortunately, the huge majority of crime readers just let any idea roll off their backs but I sometimes do wonder if there are people twisted enough to get actual ideas for crimes from seeing and reading that type of story.