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Romance (and Sexy Giveaway!)November 14, 2012

You know I love romance. I'm proud of writing it. No more does romance bear its stigma of ripped bodices and rape. Romance is GOOD. Romance today is written and read by smart women who like being in charge of their own lives. 

But I'm tired of men (and some women) giving me that look when they ask me what I write and I say romance. Strike one: Romance. Strike two: Knitting. I can see them actually deflate when I say it, and while I know men are not my target audience*, I hate the combined emotion I feel of defensiveness and embarrassment. I shouldn't feel that. Obviously, it's MY own hangup. But I want a better answer.


I'm looking for a great, one line response to memorize that says: I write romance. Before you get that look, you smug bastard, tell me what's wrong with fiction that celebrates a woman's autonomy and her right to make her own career, sexual, and relationship choices. 

Except without that defensive second sentence. I try to simply say, proudly, "I write romance and memoir," but as soon as they get that look, I trail off into something like, "You know, popular fiction...like regular fiction, but more for women, oh, look at the bartender's hat!" 

Lyssa won the Vickie Howell book, and she's been notified, but I LOVE giving things away, so:

I'm giving away three romance books I've recently enjoyed to three readers who give me the best answers to above dilemma in comments. These are finely written books/novellas that I know you'll enjoy and that I'm happy to recommend. 

(Bonus: they're available inexpensively in e-format.)

(Double bonus, and I just realized this: they're all very spicy! If you don't like reading explicit sex, you might not be into these, but hey, if you enjoy reading me, you're already there. The last two are erotic novellas (with PLOT, people!), and the first is a romance novel heavy on the sex.) 

About Last Night, Ruthie Knox. This was lovely and very fun, and I had a hard time putting it down. It's set in England! And it's about a textile curator at the V&A! She works with knitting!  

Cass: Taken in the Stacks, Jami Malroux. This is HOT. If you didn't think you could marry hot-tamale plot with lyrical prose, this is where you find you're happily wrong, my friend. (Set in a bookstore. Really. Meow.) 

Bound by Desire: The Acadian Curse, Rebecca Lyndon Paranormal erotica (which is not normally my thing since I tend to naturally hear bumps in the night), this is such a super fun, delicious ride, and only induces dreams of the sexy kind, not nightmares. The characters are real, and the stakes are high. 

Advice on my dilemma gratefully accepted! 

* Generally speaking. Hi, Jeremy! Hi, Mel! Hi, Garret!

** PS - I'm going offline for five days. A little digital sabbatical, so I'll draw the winner when I get back.


Affirmative women's fiction?

Contemporary, funny, sexy fiction for smart women. Also with knitting.

"I write contemporary women's literature and memoir. It's not for the faint of heart!"

"I write the romance fiction that people will admit to reading!"

I write contemporary women's fiction for readers who enjoy a good plot and developed characters.

I write contemporary knit lit. It's one of the biggest trends you know.

I write books for today's women. Books that make a woman say, I'm going to be a little late to work, because I was up all night reading this amazing novel. I write books that make your heart flip over in your chest and your panties fly off your body. You interested in my latest bestseller?

I write "global romance"! Yes my books are sold internationally!!!!

I won't say that I mind a good romance. My mom had millions of harlequin romances laying around the house and I was an avid reader grabbing everything I could devour at the time. After awhile I just couldn't stand the weak weepy women so I quit reading romance.

I would love to try something like these books. Sounds much better that the fainting wallflowers I used to read about.

You know how some books are all about violence and death? Mine are all about romance and sex. I like sex a lot better. Don't you?

Variation on the theme: "I write women's fiction and romance. Like, you know, there are courtroom dramas, and there are bedroom dramas. Mostly I think people would rather be in a bedroom. Don't you?"

I am a big fan of 'F off' in the face of smugness but I am sensing that this is not the type of response you are looking for ;-)

Oh I love craft, romance and giveaways. I think you could say:

- I write on the subject of what's most important in everyones life and in human history: relationships and love. Without that we would be extinct, and guys could learn a few more things about this too.

If they/the guy don't understand that these are important, enjoyable and awesome subjects, you might not want to keep talking to them/him anyway... ;-)

Good luck!

I am on the women's fiction band wagon but not as clever as they above commenters! You should check out Shannon Hale's blog squeetus as she's been discussing why people think it is ok to vilify the Twilight author (name escaping me at the moment). Lots of conversation about how women as readers are disrespected. I imagine you would have something to add to that discussion. :)

First I don't actully read romance, but my mother always has. Second I don't disrecpect a person who does, I just don't ask to borrow the book. I'm telling you that because you do not need to enter me in the giveaway part.

I like Mary B's suggestions on what to say.

I am suprised that people get turned off at all when you say that! Romance novels are like a billion dollar industry! How could you choose to disrespect someone who cashes in on that? I think maybe they had hopes of more than just conversation with you and realized either you expierence or imagination is better than they would be, so they're intimidated.

You write fiction "about multidimensional women thriving in today's multidimensional world."

Oh h-e-double hockey sticks. There are some amazing quips up above.

Rachael, there is no need to be ashamed or even embarrassed. You're reading population is the largest out there of all the genres. Just say you write women's fiction with a romantic twist.

If they give you snark, continue by saying you are a best selling author WORLDWIDE. Make sure you do it with eye contact and politely so they know you are giving them the metaphorical middle finger in a nice and classy way. :)

I write contemporary fiction about today's woman!

What does that mean, you ask? It means I make my living writing books that people like to read.
How do you make your living?

I have actually never read one of your books. I am a nonfiction reader. I made my living selling books at a bookstore, and then loaning them at the county library.

I reckon you write character-driven women's fiction. Just like that most famous of chick lit authors, Jane Austen.

"Once upon a time a genre was born that told the most important stories, stories about Life and Truth and Love and often Sex and that embraced women's voices and experience. That's my genre."

I write books that are popular and sell

I write about being female. (That should brighten the eyes of those doubting men.)

I write fiction that can help guide people to better relationships.

I believe this is called an elevator pitch and it's tough to change misconceptions in such a short time frame.

"I write romance novels that explore issues women face in modern relationships."

I don't have an answer to your question, but I have to tell you something else. I clicked on your Amazon link to the Jami Malroux book. I read one of the reviews and enjoyed the review so much I looked to see who wrote it so I could read more of her reviews. Turns out it was you!

Focus on what men do love. Hmmmmmm. "I write romance novels AND MAKE GOOD MONEY AT IT!"

I'm not entering the contest. I was just taken aback that the first book on your giveaway list was one that I read recently. That makes me want to look for the other two books. It also helps me solve the problem of what to recommend next for my friend who just got an e-reader. She is not the type to do her own research but she devours any book I dump in her lap. Since I enjoy doing research, it makes for a great relationship! We both enjoyed "About Last Night", though, so we may enjoy the others.

I was trying to come up with something clever until I read MaryB's. There's no way I can top that. I'm off to check out the e-book links above.

"I write sex-positive women's literature"


"I write Hot Word-on-Word Action!"

Either way, you are an amazing author and I live your books!

"Romance. Characters and plots people can relate to but still provides a much needed break from reality.". If they still get that look tell them even if they don't appreciate what you do your readers enjoy the chance to escape, sometimes reading (and writing for that matter) is just for fun.

How smart are you for taking a digital sabbatical? I'm planning one as soon as this semester's finished, about the 2nd week in December. Maybe motivation to do my online Christmas shopping earlyish?

I simply tell people who find all this knitting, spinning, sewing, baking and suchlike to be odd, that I'm "well-versed in all the womanly arts." Let them decide what that entails.

I love a good "trashy" romance. So nice to see some that are well written!

No need to enter me into the drawing, since romance isn't really my thing. But I had to say, I get that same reaction from people when I follow up "I write for a living" with "online content" or "professional blogger" or any other dumb thing that has come out of my mouth.

I'm pretty sure that people deflate no matter what you say. Unless you are literally JK Rowling, it's not "real" writing to a lot of people. (And I bet even JK Rowling still gets that deflated "Oh, you write CHILDREN'S books" reaction from time to time.)

All of which is leading up to what I personally tell people, when I know the conversation is meaningless. If it's just a barista I'll never see again, or someone in line at the grocery store, or whatever, I tell them "I'm a project manager."

It shuts them down immediately. I have never once been asked a follow-up question. It's become my standard go-to answer. I try not to laugh as I watch them scramble to change the subject, because no one ever wants to talk about project management.

(And it's not untrue... I do manage a lot of projects. It's just that they are all MY projects. But the motions are the same.)

I loved Nestra's comment about maybe not even wanting to talk to the guy who doesn't get it! haha

I might say: I'm a writer of whatever comes into my heart and my head. The options are limitless.

Love these answers!

My two cents:

This is quick-witted knit-lit with a (sexy) twist.


The thinking and tinkering woman's erotica.

Last fall I was paddling the kayak leg of a triathlon with a friend. We were happy to chat and paddle, not "in-it-to-win-it". An older gentleman pulls up beside us and scolds us "Ladies more paddling, less chatting." Without missing a beat, I said to my friend "so my favorite sex toy turned out to be the hand-blown glass on." The old man drove his paddle into the water to put the brakes on his kayak, coming to a complete stop. "Go on ..." he said, all excited. We all laughed and started paddling again, my friend and I kept chatting and he knew in the future not to scold women who were quite happy moving at a slower pace. So, my elevator pitch to you would be "I write about sex toys." Now, your toys just happen to involve wool, but there are some long sticks in there that could scratch an itch or two.

"I write intrigues of the heart, and reflections on the role of craft in our lives -- both popular fiction and non-fiction!" Because you do :)

"I'm the successful author of books that celebrate women. My latest book is ________." Emphasize successful. You can be witty and snide later, if necessary.

I'm reading your biographical essays (don't have the book/title with me) and love it. I've reread several chapters more than twice. Thanks for the tip about the Kindle sale. My highest recommendation is "I woulda paid full price for it." And I would have paid full price for it!

I thought and thought, but really - can't top these two:

I write books for today's women. Books that make a woman say, I'm going to be a little late to work, because I was up all night reading this amazing novel. I write books that make your heart flip over in your chest and your panties fly off your body. You interested in my latest bestseller?

Posted by: Rachel Dill | Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 06:34


You know how some books are all about violence and death? Mine are all about romance and sex. I like sex a lot better. Don't you?

Posted by: MaryB in Richmond | Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 06:43

I also love your original "smug bastard" theme, but can see where that wouldn't be appropriate in some situations.

Just tell them "I write hot, sexy novels. Can you top that?" Well, maybe just the first line.

I don't know how it can be put into a short sentence but so-called "men's" books are...don't tell...romance books. Whether they are action/adventure, mystery, or westerns the guy always gets the girl in the end. No, not that end. Get your mind out of the gutter. And yes, I'm a guy that reads romance novels along with "men" books.

Sizzling Knit-lit, that's what I write.
So many great suggestions here.
I really enjoyed your books and will look into the three you suggested too.

Oh there are several ways you can spell it out for them. Let's see, there's the "I write contemporary women's fiction" but I prefer something a bit edgier for you... perhaps "I am a god. I create worlds and the people in them - dictating their every thought, move and emotion... oh yeah, and I knit too." Yeah, that response won't give you a deflated look at all!

*side note - not into erotica novels so if you like this, pass the book on to a runner up please*

I'm afraid I'd be snarky and ask them when's the last time they wrote something other than a Facebook update. Or read something other than a Facebook update, for that matter...

i write fiction and memoirs. google me.

"Erotica. With a side of knitting."

"Stimulating literature - best not to read while commuting". (Trust me, I learned that while on the train).

"Scintillating and fantastical tales that women can relate to"

RH: I write romance.

Stranger: *makes face*

RH: Oh, you don't like reading romance?

Stranger: I don't read romance.

RH: Too bad. Romance books make up more than 55% of all mass market paperbacks sold. I'm sure with those kind of numbers there's something you would like.

I don't have a good response but this is my favorite from the ones above.

"You know how some books are all about violence and death? Mine are all about romance and sex. I like sex a lot better. Don't you?"

Plus your books ROCK. I have read all of them multiple times. Thank goodness for writers like you bringing romance back.

Maybe Sallys think a like, but I like the one from above:

"I write hot, sexy novels. Can you top that?"

I was also thinking along the line of Tara:

Them: What do you write?
You: Novels and memoir.
Them: What kinds of novels?
You: Women's fiction.
Them: Oh, like chick lit?
You: Yes, but with more sex.

"I write red-hot raunchy reads. For knitters." Most blokes wouldn't even hear the part about the knitting...

I write novels about strong women and relationships

"I write women's erotic fiction."
But I really love MaryB's comment! And the one about panties flying off... suppose that wouldn't be appropriate for all audiences. I did get your memoir for my kindle the other day, dang! Good stuff!
I have to be in a certain mood these days for reading romance, but then again, the last time I read much of it I was in high school (early 90's), so I suppose I should re-visit the genre. Back then, I just read the cast-offs of a friend of mine who literally read one romance novel each school day. And she was still a great student! :)
All those titles you mentioned sounded very intriguing! Thanks!
(just re-read what I typed... maybe if I want to be in a "certain mood" more often I should read more romance novels! hee hee!)

I write romance novels- I make up those things you enjoy when your girlfriend/boyfriend does them to you......she said with a knowing wink

I write best selling novels pertaining to contemporary women's issues.
Enough said! :-) Because you do!

I am an international author of romance & memoir books, that are not for the faint hearted
Have you written anything recently

How about: "I write books that people read"?

Or "I write the books that I'd want to read."

I love some of these responses. You could say "I give women hours of guilt free pleasure, bet you wish you could."
I love your books! I've recommended you to loads of my friends and they get a real kick out of your knit lit.
Jude (I sent you my little Knitter's Legacy story - I'm THAT fan!)

Remember to add a saucy wink as you say it too!

When you get the snarky look from the guy, say "Yes, I know, that's why the genre is so popular with women."

Otherwise, what MaryB said.

I write modern women's fiction with a twist. I'm not sure you're man enough to handle the twist.... ;)

Ha! I don't really have a good comeback for you, but I always tell my friends that I like to read these books because they tell stories that resemble what we all go through. They're not really about sex - they're about relationships, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO sexual relationships. I mean, every single woman I am friends with watches and loves Grey's Anatomy. They talk about/have sex more often on that show than they do in the books I read.

So I would just say that I write books about people and their relationships, from a woman's point of view. That is all.

(Also, I just went and bought your book suggestions on Amazon. I just couldn't resist...a whole evening ahead of me and no new books to read...hmmm...that just didn't seem right. Also, for that price? Yes, please.)

Romance is the number one selling category of fiction.

My favorite:

... I personally tell people, when I know the conversation is meaningless. If it's just a barista I'll never see again, or someone in line at the grocery store, or whatever, I tell them "I'm a project manager."

It shuts them down immediately. I have never once been asked a follow-up question. It's become my standard go-to answer. I try not to laugh as I watch them scramble to change the subject, because no one ever wants to talk about project management.

(And it's not untrue... I do manage a lot of projects. It's just that they are all MY projects. But the motions are the same.)

Posted by: Erika | Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 10:10

I can't come up with anything better. That one is my favorite!

That's ME!! HI!

I generally would say the line above, with the defenseive second sentence. But you are a professional writer and don't want to offend people like that.

I think it's really impossible to mention the knitting without that old lady stigma, add romance, ow.

Try saying, "You know E.L. James, the woman who wrote 50 Shades of Grey. She's really me." And then smile with a gleam in your eye, hinting at something.

But then again, I'm just like that.

Be blunt and wildly unapologetic. Channel your inner Auntie Mame and say "I'm published, it sells, and I like it."
After all, don't we all want to grow up to do something we love? ;-)

I write character driven romance. You know, like 50 Shades of Gray, only with realistic characters who have genuine motivations and who, when they have sex, don't give you the willies with their terrible daddy issues. I also write about knitting.

I'm lucky to write what I know.

I love your way with words ....

Most of my recreational reading is historical fiction but I'm going to try your romance to see if it beats the simpering nitwits I met in Victoria Holt and her genre 40+ years ago. Your dilemma reminds me of one I face often as well. I'm a university professor and when people ask me what I teach (NOT what I study or write about, it's always just teaching to them) and I say "art history", all my credibility goes out the window. You know how Car Talk made it the joke college major? Well, most people believe it. So sometimes I say "cultural history" or just "history". I mean, the layers of interdisciplinary historical analysis we do in our field are beyond most people anyway, right?
As for you, what about a response along the lines of "I write gripping fiction, which mostly only women understand." Smack.
I just read your auto-bio stories. It was a gift from a knitting friend. I'm a terrible knitter, but when the cats allow, I relax over the reassuring needle clicks. I loved your style, your voice, and am totally jealous of your knitting skills. I've just joined your blog and now you probably are hoping I'll never leave this long a comment again.

I'd tell them I write novels people want to read and make a great living in the process.

I'd tell them that you write books intended to both entertain and empower your readers.

You write realistic fiction that modern women can find themselves in.
That being said, please keeping writing your knitting romances, I LOVE them! And let me know when you might be in the Chicago area, because i would love to meet you.

Well, my first reaction is just own the romance title and let them go with their misconceptions. We get that with the knitting too. BUT I also understand some of the old thinking about romance.

I didn't think I liked romance until I started reading with the Vaginal Fantasy book club. Then I realized that romance is a HUGE genre that encapsulates too many kinds of books without sub-genres (hence the supernatural romance and urban romance etc.).

Now I prefer to explain it to people with, "Modern fiction with some good smut in it." That even attracts the men.

I would just say "My books get more women hot in a chapter than you could ever hope to in a lifetime-"

I write erotic romances that a lot of people like to read and make a damn good living at it! (The money part always gets them). You'd be amazed how hot I can make 2 sticks and a ball of yarn seem! (That part peaks their curiousity).

I write about humans: what they do, what they mean to do, what they learn, how they love. And also about our human need to make stuff. (pause) Out of yarn.

"I write the books your girlfriend leaves laying around hoping you'll pick them up and find out what's turning her on NOW
"You've heard of 50 Shades of Grey?...I started that trend with A Million Shades of Wool..the possibilities are end..less.(said with a breathy sigh)

Oh, Hi! Yes, I analyze and write about the complexity of human nature and I am a fiber design artist.

I think you should say "I write porn." and look them dead in the eye. I'm not saying that is what you actually write, but if you start there and stare them down, then following up with any of the above more clever explanations will level them and establish that you are not concerned with their judgement. :) (and it will be fun wo watch them process that)

I've given this a lot of thought -- truly I have -- and if someone said to me (and I were you) what do you do for a living? This is what I would say...Them: So, what do you do for a living? Me/You: I get to live my dream and follow my passion. Them: Really? What is that? Me/You: I get to be creative and write for a living. I've always wanted to, you know. Them: Reeeeallly? How interesting! What do you write? Me/You: (Blushing, scuffing foot) Oh, I write a blog that's pretty popular. It took off past my wildest dreams -- and then a publisher contacted me and asked me if I wanted to write a book. Well, of course I did. So I've written 3 books [it is three, right?] and they've all sold remarkably well. It's a dream come true, really. (swigs drink) Them: What is it you write about? Me/You: I'm fascinated by human nature, how people think, act, dream, love, what their passions are, stuff like that. I observe human nature (arching eyebrow and implying you are making mental notes about them) and then write about it. What do you do for a living?

And if they aren't blown out of the water after that they never will be so Plan B is to tell them to jam it sideways.

If the word "romance" is something you'd care to avoid for "those looks" (which frankly you should stand proud and strong and not be bothered but we all have our tiny little issues) then simply don't use the word romance. Easy peasy!

'I write about love and sex. Especially sex. And pointy sticks. Love, sex, pointy sticks. So - what do YOU do?'


I write modern women's novel which deal with issues that women can relate to and knitting. Oh, you don't get it, that's fine, my readers do and they can't get enough.

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


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