Hi! I'm Rachel Smith, and I want to thank the folks at LASR for having me as a guest blogger. As a writer and avid romance reader, I love romance review sites like this one, but they sometimes spark questions in my mind. I often find myself playing with the “rules” when it comes to writing romance, testing the genre boundaries for flexibility.
I mean, really, what elements define a story as romance? Is it the primary plot focus on falling in love, making a relationship work? Is a happy for now ending--if not happy ever after--absolutely required? Are only two lovers allowed, of whatever gender pairing? Are sub-plots unnecessary clutter on the romantic landscape?
Of course, we have subcategories in romantic fiction: romantic suspense, paranormal romance, western romance, etc. My question goes beyond geographical setting and supernatural abilities. Like many authors, characters appear in my head, demanding to have their stories told. Mine sometimes stand just over the line of accepted romance standards. At the very least, they often straddle it.
For instance, some of them live in a culture in which polyamory--committed multiple life partners--is the accepted norm. In that situation, if a story chronicles the adventures of four people falling in love, instead of two--with a non-erotica heat level, mind--is that story a romance? What about a series in which the overarching story, told through multiple volumes, is one of social and political revolution, yet every volume also addresses the establishment and/or resolution of a romantic relationship among major players in the upheaval? Are those stories romances?
What if a characters' history won't let him or her learn to love and trust freely in 85,000 words or less? Gone With the Wind has been called the quintessential romance novel, but not only was the ending highly ambiguous, Rhett and Scarlett needed a lot more than 85,000 words to reach it. Granted, I'm not Margaret Mitchell, and I wouldn't dare claim GWTW's lasting appeal for my books (although I can certainly hope), but still…what if one love story demands multiple volumes? Each volume might recount the developing relationship between consistent partners, but only the last leaves them solidly together. Will the current market and readership consider the preceding volumes romances?
These aren't idle questions for me. I've written all of the above, and now must sell and promote them, much less enter them in contests with very definite genre requirements. I stubbornly consider them all romances, though some might push the romance envelope. My most recent release, This Train, is billed as a mainstream novel but the developing relationship between a man and woman drives the plot. Sam Carnehan is a Depression Era backroom prizefighter, blacklisted from his sport and rapidly aging beyond prime competitive condition. “Georgia” is much younger, a multi-talented musician and vocalist. Reticent and on the run, she needs Sam's protection but isn't saying why. For Sam, Georgia could be the golden egg he's searched for all his life. She won't confess her real name, but her voice could provide liberally for them both, if managed properly. Her secrets--and his--lead the two on a hobo journey through the American South, culminating in New Orleans. In a city known for music and magic, Georgia confronts her history and her fears, and Sam enters the fight of his life for her sake. As for the romantic resolution--well, no spoilers here. Read the book and decide for yourself: romance or mainstream novel?
What about you? What essential ingredients define romance for you?
BIO: Rachel Smith can remember telling herself stories in bed at night to keep the boogieman at bay in early childhood. She's never stopped telling stories, and has recently had some published through Whisky Creek Press (This Train) and Awe-Struck Publishing (Bittersweet Victories, Lonely Hearts Mountain, Texas Hearts, and coming in October, Hidden Hearts). A little success breeds hunger, though...Rachel's got a paranormal romance series in search of a home. Read more about Rachel and her work at her website, romancebyrachelsmith.com, and follow her on Facebook (Rachel Smith) and Twitter (daemonscribe).