I’ve always been the odd man out. The girl who, at the age of ten (1997), sang on the shoulders of her daddy in the MECC in Maastricht with The Kelly Family. In her band shirt of them went gym and on Friday at the end of the week with 2 friends Fell In Love With An Alien playbacked. The girl with the big overbite (1 cm not mm), but barely her braces indeed. The girl who was never fooled. That’s me.
I am the eternal reader
I am that girl who has been reading since primary school, quickly passed the AVI levels (reading tests for kids) and was used as an excuse in secondary education (VMBO) for not having to read a mandatory book in Dutch class. The said excuse: “Madam, even Mariel thinks it sucks and she reads books voluntarily.”
There was never any inferiority about it. They thought it was strange, yes, but if I liked it and wanted to spend my time on it, it was fine. I never hid it but said openly, ‘Pijnstillers (dutch novel)? I already read it in freshman year. ‘
From children’s books to YA to writing
I also started writing. Discovered NaNoWriMo and got to know other people. I got in touch with a reading club and joined. At that point I had just discovered YA. Twilight, The Hunger Games, those books. I loved it, but …
I was someone who liked the romance storyline. Edward & Bella, Peeta & Katniss and so on.
And then I discovered the romance genre and thought YA all started to look too similar. After The Hunger Games it felt to me that a lot of YA’s revolved around the unseen girl who suddenly became “The Chosen One” and I lost interest. I liked love stories. Wonderful stories about real people who went through problems, who had to overcome their emotions and found a partner in the process.
A woman who found a man and vice versa, but also men who found each other. All during the build-up of their career, or after bad relationships from which they had suffered deep trauma and had to overcome it. People with a child from a previous relationship, people who had to learn how to deal with the loss of a loved one. I couldn’t get enough of it. Even Dark Romance.
The Prejudice about Romance
After I received cringe-worthy responses to what I write and read a number of times (under water and more), I saw this article from the NOS (It’s a Dutch newssite in Dutch). And honestly … This is really a great article.
Journalist Franka Hummels, who interviewed author Riley, emphasizes that The Seven Sisters may not be a high point in literary history, but it really rises above the level of the average doctor’s novel.
The average doctor’s novel … Because yes, that is of course not a decent book, a doctor’s novel. It’s even in the title of the article.
Although in the beginning it was sometimes difficult to get the books on the shelves of bookstores. “Well Mr. Knol, those seven Sisters of yours, we’ll see, they said. But those are the same booksellers who called up to three or four times this week to increase their order.”
This is in the same article and this is a serious problem. I often speak with Dutch publishers in the New Adult, Romance, Sports Romance, Dark Romance genre. After all, I am an author in this genre myself. Often I hear: ‘We get our sales from Kobo. Bookstores don’t put us in the store. It is not literary enough and does not sell. Meanwhile, Romance is the most selling genre in the world, but that aside.
This is not a Dutch problem. This is a global problem. I make no bones about the fact that I actually mainly read English. Every now and then I read a Dutch novel, but there are simply not many authors in the Netherlands who write in this genre. Fortunately, there is a higher turnout and more and more to come. (This is speculation, but I think for the reason already mentioned by the NOS for Lucinda Riley: big publishers are not interested. It is the smaller publishers who dare). But … you see the same in America. Most of the romance there comes from indie authors.
I can hear you think: Indie Authors?
These are authors who publish themselves. So like me. There are a lot less authors who publish traditionally, but luckily they are there. In America too, there is a stigma surrounding Romance.
In my article tomorrow, I will elaborate on this stigma and what you as a reader or author sometimes (or often) hear. Plus some examples of romance books that contradict this stigma