Hi, readers! I am beyond pleased to announce a very special post today on ILRB. Recently, I asked both authors and romance readers to come to me with their responses to this big question: “What Does Romance Mean to Me?” I was genuinely interested in what made us all tick, what continued to draw us to the genre. Why do we love “love” so much? I wanted to dig deep into the heart of each person. And I’ve gotten some incredible feedback. Today is the next post in this series.
So, without further ado, let’s turn the mic over to author C.L. Donley, who has some things to say about the question at hand.
It took me my entire 35 years to realize that I was a romantic person.
It was the last thing anyone would ever accuse me of being. None of the telltale signs were there. I didn’t particularly enjoy romantic movies, never had any bouts of boy craziness or childhood crushes. Certain love songs made me cringe. I was never particularly girly, didn’t go to dances or prom, hadn’t really been on a proper date really. Certainly I wanted to be in love, like any woman. And when I met my husband it was likely all of these misnomers that caused me to accept much less than I deserved. Anniversaries went uncelebrated; Valentine’s was just another corporate holiday. Even birthdays could sometimes be considered vain, if too much money was spent.
Several years and three kids later, after enduring all this, not to mention infidelity and a host of other problems, I found myself wanting to escape. It’s cliché, I know, but which part? The situation itself or my reaction to it?
I knew I couldn’t very well get in the car and leave my family behind. If only there were a way to go somewhere without physically leaving. Instinctively, I reached for romance.
At first it was a concession, a guilty pleasure. Like everyone else, I knew all the stigmas attached to the genre. As an English major and writer, I had to get over my own pretenses and open my first romance novel. I chose a Harlequin, being familiar with the name. And it didn’t take long for me begin a steady diet of romance literature.
Within a week I was coming across some really compelling stories and I realized that like anything else, romance could be done well. One day I remember reading something and just feeling completely alive and happy. I realized that I actually was a romantic person. That romance wasn’t necessarily a certain order of outward gestures or traditions. It was the business of loving and being loved and the fruit of that, because all love bears fruit. I learned that it wasn’t romance I lacked, but sentimentality. It’s this lack of sentimentality that makes my voice unique among romance writers.
It didn’t dawn on me at first that I should write romance. I was a writer in denial, on the run. I never wrote for fun; the idea of writing as a job sounded like the worst torture. I pretty much only wrote for school, which was years ago, and after three small kids all under five, the idea of writing for me was pretty much laughable. Part of me was unsettled, because it was the most prominent talent I had. People that barely knew me would ask me if I was still writing, and I would have to break the news to them. In the back of my mind I felt all kinds of guilt that I wasn’t utilizing my gift.
In the thick of a separation from my husband, I was starting to think about the future, and what, inevitably I would have to do for money. I dusted off my résumé, started looking into childcare prices for my kids. In the midst of that I got a germ of an idea. Not unusual. I got story ideas all the time, all of which I ignored. But this one was a romance, and it gnawed at me all day. The thought of taking pencil to paper was nauseating, so I saved an audio note on my phone. And that was the moment the floodgates opened.
The ideas wouldn’t stop. I wrote for twelve hours that day. I had 12,000 words by the end of the weekend. In three weeks I had the whole novel, the initial draft of what eventually became Amara’s Calling.
Romance saved my life. Not only did it connect me to my heart, but to my identity as a writer. It kept me from taking out my frustrations on my family, propped up a marriage that would’ve otherwise crumbled before its time, and was the hope that kept me buoyant after it was over. It showed me that love was not a matter of being attractive or deserving, but a necessary part of being alive, not to mention a necessary part of being a woman. It made me realize that nothing was wrong with me or my sexuality, that my marital issues were less about my personal failures but more about the fact that I was being starved. Without that realization I might still be blaming myself today.
I suspect that all women have an infinite capacity to be loved, as in no amount of romance is enough. It sounds like it’s a bad thing, but it isn’t. Do we ever get to the point as humans that we’ve had enough food and we no longer need anymore? No, because it’s not the way the system works. I suspect love is like food in that it can have a variance in quantity and quality, and these variables can positively or negatively affect the health of the individual.
Love should be daily, fresh and new in the same way. To me, romance is life itself. And now that I’m waking up every morning, excited to see what more I can create, I’ve never felt more loved than I do now.
C.L. Donley is a future New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of multicultural and interracial romance. Armed with an B.A. in English and M.A. in Writing, she is a natural born writer and can’t wait to be done with this bio so she can get back to it. Her writing style is sophisticated yet simple, apologetically escapist and character driven. She likes to write lovable, redeemable and believable characters and place them in equally lovable, romantic and relatable settings and scenarios– removed from reality just enough so that reader can properly escape, and even revisit!
She loves hearing from readers and discussing her favorite parts of her own books, so feel free to indulge her. Check out her website, Facebook page, Twitter page and feel free to email her at email@example.com.
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/C.L.-Donley/e/B078Z6TSS8/
Wait, we’re not quite finished!
So, I put the question to you as a reader today as well. What does the word ‘romance’ really mean for you? Is ‘romance’ a driving force in your life? How have your beliefs about romantic relationships informed your own relationships? Perhaps seeing other couples (parents or friends) were some kind of influence. By reading romance novels, does that help to reaffirm things for you?
If you’d like to participate in this special feature, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll schedule a spot for you. As you can tell from the schedule on the right hand side of the page, we’re getting booked fast, but don’t hesitate to join in! You do not need to be a writer or author. We want to hear from anyone. We’d love to get your take on how you feel about romance, and why you keep reading our books! ♥♥♥
Thanks again, C.L., for giving us your take on what romance has come to mean to you. Lovely! 😀
Readers, stay tuned for a historical romance blog tour feature when author Sofie Darling visits us on April 24th! Yay! 🙂
Have a great weekend, everyone!