Yes, I Write Romance.

One of the minor irritants of writing, editing or reading romance is that people who aren’t romance readers make jokes. Well, I say jokes. Usually jokes are defined as ‘things that are funny’, so we may need another word.

I can’t tell you the tedium of the unimaginative rote remark. I probably don’t have to. If you’re very tall, think of ‘How’s the weather up there?’ If you’re carrying a double bass on public transport, it’s doubtless ‘I bet you wish you played the flute!’ If you have a surname that lends itself to tiresome weak jokes and puns, you know the score all too well. (My real surname lends itself to puns and I write romance. This is why I need anger management classes.)

I edited for one of the most famous romance publishers in the world for five years. It got to the point where I refused to tell people my job at parties because the inevitable conversations were so deeply, profoundly, irritatingly, predictably dull.

Dull person: Romance novels?

Me: Yes, that’s right.

Dull person: Like Mills & Boon?

Me: Yes, that’s right.

Dull person: [bodice-ripper; ‘don’t they just give authors a plot and tell them to write it?’; all the same; ‘my granny reads them!’; Barbara Cartland; ‘don’t you want to write real books?’; 50 Shades of Grey; hahaha sex!]

I mean, I get it. Really. Romance is this totally silly genre which is about love and sex, something that no normal person is interested in at all. It’s completely trivial too – why would anyone take a genre seriously when it only makes up 17% of the entire US publishing market? Obviously any genre dominated by women as readers and writers is inherently laughable, because women. And I for one have never understood why you should be expected to look at good examples of something before dismissing it with contempt. I think it’s much better to look at something terrible published in 1974 and base all your theories on that.

Me: You make films?

Film person: Yes…

Me: I saw The Swarm! It was awful! Hahaha, you make films! It’s all hallucinatory giant bee sequences, dreadful dialogue, and random jump-cut nuclear explosions caused by bees, right?!*

* If you haven’t seen The Swarm, take a long weekend and stockpile beer.

I’ve had a lot of these conversations and have every expectation of more, so let’s just get some of it out of the way, shall we?

— Yes, I write romance. In which genres are your books published?

— Yes, I write romance. Yes, it has sex. I’m sorry you find sex so painful and unpleasant to think about. I understand there are some very good creams these days.

— Yes, I write romance. Yes, many romance books are crap. Sturgeon’s Law states that 90% of everything is crap. I think Sturgeon was an optimist.

— Yes, I write romance. Yes, they’re real books. You know what else is real? My royalty cheques.

— Yes, I write romance. Yes, I think I can do something creative that I love and am really pretty good at, and make a living from it. I’m sorry, were you expecting a punchline?

— Yes, I write romance. No, you don’t have to respect that or be courteous about it. Then again, I don’t have to be courteous to you either. Your call.

And no, you don’t have to read my books. But – new rule – if you want to make snide remarks about them with impunity, you have to buy them. Show me a receipt and you can go to town on the hilarious subject of romance novels. As long as you’re aware that you have to pay me to listen to it.


Fed up of it? Join me in the comments!


Think of England is out from Samhain right now. The Magpie Lord is a Romantic Times Top Pick for September! (“The dialogue between the heroes is fun and intense… The building steam combusts into heat that sizzles right off the pages.”) 



26 replies
  1. susana
    susana says:

    Unfortunately, a lot of people criticize without knowing what they are talking about. The first rule for giving an opinion about something is that you need to have a previous knowledge of the thing you are talking about. It happens every day. People just feel entitled. It is good to see you can face it using your sense of humour. Irony is the best weapons against people who always feel entitled to express their unwanted and inconsistent opinion. I like your attitude!

  2. MishaBurnett
    MishaBurnett says:

    I am reminded of Robert Heinlein’s “All You Zombies” in which the (male) character says “I’m an unwed mother” and if he was feeling slightly less murderous would add, “for 50 cents a word. I write for confession magazines.”

    For my own part, I want to get some cards printed that say, “Yes, I write science fiction. No, it isn’t a Goddamned thing like Star Wars.”

  3. Diane
    Diane says:

    I always get funny looks from my friends when I mention that I really enjoy reading M/M fiction. It’s funny how judgemental people are about what other people like to read! 🙂

  4. taylorgraceauthor
    taylorgraceauthor says:

    I loved your answer: “Yes, I write romance. Yes, they’re real books. You know what else is real? My royalty cheques.” I loved that! Made me laugh out loud at the sheer awesomeness of that answer (I know..not a real word). Still. Your answers rock!

      • Becky Black
        Becky Black says:

        And I’d always take anyone to task for dissing people for write for Mills and Boon/Harlequin. Now I know people who do write for them I know they are hard work. I couldn’t do it.

      • KJ Charles
        KJ Charles says:

        Doing M&B well is as hard as doing anything else well. I have no idea why people have this idea it’s easy. As I said in the FB group, if you think *anyone* can write romance, a couple of hours going through the M&B slush pile will prove you 100% wrong.

  5. lillianfrancis
    lillianfrancis says:

    Yes, yes, one hundred times yes.
    Love your response “In which genres are your books published?” Must remember that one.

    My conversations tend to go like this:

    “You write GAY romance? And there’s SEX?”
    “Because those are the characters that speak to me.”
    “But you’re a GIRL. How do you know what to write? You know…” (weird hand gestures that I assume are meant to indicate sex)
    “Google is your friend and the internet is for PORN.”

    • KJ Charles
      KJ Charles says:

      Oh God that conversation. I write yakuza gangsters, Victorian noblemen, bloody murder and horrific paranormal shenanigans. Why the hell does everyone fixate on ‘two people banging’ as the thing I couldn’t possibly understand?

  6. Catana
    Catana says:

    The funny thing is that I don’t care for romance, either het or gay. If no one ever wrote another sex scene, that would be fine with me. But I read books like yours because they are more than *just* romance. And I would never judge either writers or readers of romance.

    • KJ Charles
      KJ Charles says:

      Thank you! Tbh I don’t even mind (much) if someone says, ‘well I read it and I didn’t like it.’ And ‘I’ve tried romances and they’re not for me,’ is fine too. It’s the baseless assumption that it’s crap that gets on my wick.

  7. scarlettparrish
    scarlettparrish says:

    I get similar comments because I’m epublished. “Oh, not real books then?” (Even though the majority are in print too, but my publishers are digital-first.) With one woman, I took her coffee cup off her and when she protested, I told her she wasn’t drinking coffee or sitting on my invisible sofa in my house that isn’t there because the books I used to pay for them with fake money don’t exist.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] recently blogged about the incredibly tiresome things people say when they discover you write, read or work in romance. One of the comments, by the hilarious […]

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.