Judge Not, Lest … Actually, Just Judge Not

8 Apr

I spent a long time in the Erotic Romance Writer Closet. I hated to tell anyone what I was writing, not because I was ashamed of it – I love writing erotica and erotic romance – but because I know how people judge.

Not you guys, of course. If you’re here, you’re probably not the judgey type. Nothing worse than being judgmental about who’s being judgmental, is there?

Anyway, I’m writing in the open these days, albeit cautiously. (I do still have to be discreet with my day job, since I’m in a conservative industry in a conservative part of the country.) Most people have been very good to me, and I’m grateful to have met such wonderful folks. But some people do still have their preconceived notions about what I do.

I’m used to that. I hear the same old things about romance and erotica all the time. Some of it’s just against the genre at large – it’s not intelligent, it’s for bored and frustrated women with no lives, it’s the source of everything that’s wrong with relationships. Some of it’s personal. I want to say for the record, again, that I’ve written things I’ve never done and would never do, even if you said, “Please please please pretty please with sugar on top and I promise I’m not videotaping.” Some of it is more subtle. You know, the frosty reception one gets from people who want to know when I’m going to write a “real” book.

All of this goes with the job. I used to hear most of the judgmental stuff from outsiders, people who don’t read much of anything or people who will read anything but romance. Some folks haven’t read romance in 25 years or so, when the field was very, very different. I get it. I think of myself as an ambassador for the genre, not an evangelist, so if non-readers have whatever preconceptions about romance, I will stand up for myself and my chosen field, but I’m not going to try to convert them.

Readers are different, though. I feel the need to reach out to a judgmental reader. A reader with a misconception about romance may just need a romance that better suits her needs. A reader who thinks erotica is all sex, no emotion might need an erotic romance with a higher supply of heart and heat. The reader who thinks BDSM is all about abuse may just need guidance to a better BDSM romance. Readers are naturally curious. Part of my job as ambassador is to have a grasp of the terrain.

The most disturbing brand of judgment has a surprising source. It comes from other writers. Yesterday, I read an internet post from a romance writer who described Romantica as “a feminist’s worst nightmare” and equated it to the bodice-rippers of the 1970s and 1980s. A few hours later, I saw a romance writer take a similarly spirited swipe at the sweet romances. It’s really discouraging to see that. I just don’t think there’s any excuse for that sort of prejudice on the part of writers. A preference is one thing; a preference is based on knowledge of what something is. Prejudice is based on perception, but not knowledge.

I’m not immune. I had my own little ideas about historical romance until I heard Joey W. Hill say that Kathleen Woodiwiss’s Ashes in the Wind was on her keeper shelf. It was as if she gave me permission to check out historicals. When I read Deanna Raybourn and Tasha Alexander in preparation for the Virginia Festival of the Book, well, I was delighted to find out how wrong I was about the whole subgenre. Smart, independent heroines, bucking society’s expectations for them – you know, they sound like my heroines.

I hope.

My job as a writer’s pretty complicated. Sure, I have to write the books, and that’s a big deal. But I also feel responsible for helping readers get better immersed in their fictional worlds. I’d love to be a part of their reading lives, certainly, but I find it just as gratifying to help them find other books that will suit them as well as, or better than, mine will. To do that, I have to have a decent grasp on what else is out there, but if I can’t manage that, I cannot retreat to prejudice. I keep inspirational next to historical next to BDSM romances in my library. Why shouldn’t my reader want to do the same?

**Alexa Day promises not to spend two years finishing her next book (her first book, ILLICIT IMPULSE, is available right now!). You can keep her honest by following her on Twitter, liking her on Facebook, or keeping up with her blog at www.alexaday.net. All you have to do is send frequent but gentle reminders that she ought to be working. She’ll take the hint.


12 Responses to “Judge Not, Lest … Actually, Just Judge Not”

  1. Sofie Couch April 8, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Excellent blog, And this is especially good, because it could be translated to cover the backlash that so many writers are subjected to for a multitude of reasons – writing vs. writing romance/writing erotica, tranditional publishing vs. self-publishing, And sadly, there are some pretty big culprits – organizations that purportedly advocate for writers. (You know the one.) Grrr. Okay, you got my blood bubblin’. That’s good.

    • Alexa Day April 9, 2013 at 5:47 am #

      Lol. Good! I like to hit people with a little thoughtful, informed discourse along with the hot stuff.

      I just hate to see writers putting down other writers without any factual basis for it. I felt the color drain from my face when I saw that person refer to my chosen genre as a “feminist’s worst nightmare.” I don’t mind hearing that erotic romance isn’t for a particular person — there’s stuff out there I don’t care for, either. But I hate to see people spout off without having their facts straight.

  2. Leah St. James April 9, 2013 at 5:54 am #

    My bookshelves look the same, Alexa, and I think we do a disservice to readers if we assume that they like only one kind of book.That’s crazy. As for writers who trash other genres, they’re entitled to their preferences like we all are, and they’re entitled to voice their opinions, but I think think they do more harm to themselves by exposing those feelings. When I read those kinds of opinions, my instinct is to put those people at the top of my NOT to be read list. One of the joys of writing is the ability to freely express all the “parts” that we’re made of. At any given point in time I could be feeling sweet or gritty or sentimental or scorching hot or nasty or…you get the point. At any given point in time, I’ll want to write in one of those tones, or even all of the above. I’m so glad you came out of the “erotic author closet,” and equally as glad that it won’t take you two years for the next one!

    • Alexa Day April 9, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

      I know what you mean — if you could explore everything there is out there, why wouldn’t you try at least a little of it? Just so you could say you could. I agree with you, though; all that disdain does the haters more harm than good.

      I hope it doesn’t take two years to finish the next book. Things have taken a turn for the crazy around here lately. 🙂

  3. Denise Golinowski April 9, 2013 at 9:23 am #

    Hi, Alexa! As usual, a thoughtful and thought-provoking blog, but then, I’d expect nothing less from you. It is sad, but seemingly so easy to leap from perception to prejudice without a shred of true knowledge. First impressions quickly shift from “first” to “only” and then often require the judicious application of information and a nuclear bomb to modify or even reverse. I suspect folks still equate erotica with porn, but the quality of STORY and writing in erotica is at an all-time high. Thank you for reminding us and championing diversity for readers of All Genres.

    • Alexa Day April 9, 2013 at 9:04 pm #

      Lol. I like your technique: judicious application of information + nukes. That’s some diplomacy I can get behind!

      This may be a golden age for erotic romance!

  4. Marilyn Campbell April 11, 2013 at 7:53 am #

    Great blog Alexa! Thanks for sharing.

    • Alexa Day April 12, 2013 at 5:07 am #

      But of course! You know how much I love to be here. 🙂

  5. Nara Malone April 11, 2013 at 8:29 am #

    Lovely post. Coming from the same part of the country, and trying to maintain a business with conservative customers, I have to stay under the radar too. I wish it didn’t have to be that way. It’s great to know folks like you that I can share this writing life with.

    • Alexa Day April 12, 2013 at 5:08 am #

      Maybe things would be different if we lived in Paris. Or maybe this is just an excuse for me to move to Paris. I don’t know, sometimes it gets all mixed up in my head.

      Working in secret is kind of a bummer, but it does make for great friendships, doesn’t it? That’s worth a lot. 🙂

  6. Pat Cochran April 15, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    Thanks for a great and thought inducing posting. Oh, BTW, Paris, Texas could
    use a new resident! LOL!

    • Alexa Day April 15, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by, Pat! Paris, here I come!

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