Thursday, April 4, 2013

Umm... I write historical romance?

So I got my taxes done yesterday. Yes, yes, I know: I'm the queen of procrastination. Since I'm abysmal with numbers, my awesome mom usually does my taxes for me (let's all take a moment and ignore the fact that I am twenty six). This year, however, I went to H&R Block -- mostly because for the first time ever I had book royalties to report and a little bit because, well, I am twenty six. 

The guy who helped me was very nice and very knowledgeable. I don't own a house, I didn't win the lottery, and I don't have a bank account in the Cayman Islands, so the first part of my taxes was pretty cut and dry. Then I pulled out my tax return forms from Amazon (MY TAX RETURN FORMS FROM AMAZON!) and he contemplated them a little bit before getting up and excusing himself to talk to a colleague. 

I don't know if you've ever been in an H&R Block, but the partitions are pretty thin, and I could hear his conversation quite clearly. Yes, I eavesdrop. No, I don't feel bad about it. 

Tax Guy: I have a client here who has royalties from Amazon. 
Colleague Lady: For what?
Tax Guy: She's an author. She publishes books. 
Colleague Lady: That's cool. What kind?
Tax Guy: Romance. 
Colleague Lady: Oh. What's the problem?
Tax Guy: Well, should I try to squeeze them onto the short form or file a section c?
Colleague Lady: Since they're royalties, a section c. 
Tax Guy: Got it. 

I tried not to smile too brightly when Tax Guy returned, but I totally failed at containing my gasp of delight when he filled out the section c and typed in "author" under the occupation headline. I know. I'm a dork. Fast forward an hour, and everything was wrapped up and tied off with a bow. I'm still a little miffed that H&R Block charged me $300 for doing my taxes when all my mom charged was a big hug, but since I still don't really know what a section c is let alone how to file it, I figure it's money well spent. There are a few people you just don't screw around with in this world, and the tax guys are one of them. 

Anyways, I told you all that to tell you this: 

Just as I was getting ready to get up from the cubicle, stretch my legs, and give away the rest of the money in my checking account, Colleague Lady poked her head in. She handed Tax Guy a form, smiled at me, and went to leave. Then this happened:

Tax Guy: Hold on Suzanne, this is the client I was telling you about. The author. 
Colleague Lady: Oh really? That's fascinating! What was your latest release?

[*Let it be known here & now that I hate, hate, hate talking about my books with random strangers. I know, it's weird, but I don't consider myself a real author and I always feel super pretentious if I try to talk about my writing and, well, I just flat out don't like it. Since I plan on doing this for a while, I should probably work on that.]

Me: Oh, um, well, it's, uh, called, uh, A Gentle Grace. 
Colleague Lady: What is it about?
Me: It's, uh, historical romance. 
Colleague Lady: Is that what you write? Historical romance?
Me: Uh, yep. Yes. 
Colleague Lady: There's no shame in writing romance. 
Me: [blink blink]
Colleague Lady: Well, I have to go. Nice to meet you! 

I thought a lot about what Colleague Lady said on my drive home. There's no shame in writing romance. Did she think because of my stammering and blushing that I was embarrassed by what genre I wrote? Did I unconsciously portray that I was ashamed of writing romance? Did she think less of me because I didn't write contemporary or young adult or whatever genre she thought had less shame? Or did I over analyze the whole thing and she was just trying to make polite conversation?

I don't know what the right answer is. I don't even know if one exists. I do know that it really got me thinking. And I think that both authors and readers tend to think of romance, especially historical romance, as "fluff" writing (and reading). 

Just the other day I was talking to a guy (okay, we weren't talking talking but chatting on the internet totally counts as almost talking -- go me!) and he asked what book I was currently reading. I said The Prince Kidnaps a Bride by Christina Dodd. He asked if that was one of those romance books. I said it was, and then I went on to hastily add that I had just finished a Stephen King novel (lies) and I was starting a John Green book next week (double lies). It was almost as if I felt the need to excuse the fact that I thoroughly enjoy historical romance. As if when I read historical romance I'm not really reading. Except I am, and from this point forward when someone asks what I'm reading I'm going to proudly chat up whatever HR novel I'm in the middle of devouring. If he/she thinks less of me because of it I'm going to say that they're huge snobs who wouldn't know good writing if it smacked them in the face that I will agree to disagree on what qualifies as "great writing" and merrily go on my way. 

Because there is no shame in historical romance, whether you're writing it or reading it. Am I penning the next great American novel? No. But I'm making happily-ever-afters, and those are almost just as good. 

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