Are you ashamed of what you read?
One day in a bookstore, I overheard a man berating his wife for browsing through the Paranormal Romances. She apologized and promised not to read such “filth”, and of course she knew vampires weren’t real. I started to wonder how many readers of Paranormal Romance novels faced the same sort of criticism from family and friends.
By paying closer attention to what people said when discussing books, I learned that many regard PNR as either “Fluff” or “Trash”. Fluff apparently refers to books that show only idealized events and characters. The unbelievably romantic vampire with the tortured soul who hates what he is but suddenly his existence is given meaning when he meets the innocent and perfect heroine. The Trash label seems to be assigned to the grittier PNRs with their truly evil villains, heroes that don’t mind getting a little blood on their hands, and heroines who are perfectly capable of, and willing to, kick ass – and the hero and heroine enjoy an active and inventive sex life.
I found few people willing to admit to reading PNR, and those who did sort of laughed it off, giving the impression they were either embarrassed about it, or didn’t read it seriously. The covers often seem to cause discomfort in readers, too, even though many are gorgeous. But people have a certain expectation from a book with a man’s beautifully sculpted pecs and washboard abs enhanced by a mysterious tattoo – good literature isn’t it.
Almost all Romance, including all the sub-genres, takes more than its fair share of belittlement. But Paranormal seems to receive an extra helping of negativity. I’ve talked with many readers who hide what they read – a cover to conceal the cover, an e-reader, reading only when there’s no chance of anyone seeing what their book is, and on and on. Many authors, myself included, use pen names – you wouldn’t want your teen-age son taking flak from everyone at school because his mother writes about vampires having sex either.
It took me a long time to get past being ashamed of some of my choices in reading material. I only recently admitted to extended family and friends what I write. I don’t care what strangers think, and if my friends and family can’t accept the work I love doing, then they might not care for me as much as I thought.
The truth is, I have nothing to be ashamed of – at least in relation to my reading and writing.<G> And neither do you.
Of course we know vampires and werewolves, and those other creatures aren’t real. Neither are space aliens or elves or zombies, and on and on. They’re fiction, meant to entertain, no matter the genre. Good Paranormal Romance is as well written as any other genre. Good writing is good writing, no matter the subject matter. As for the accusation of having no plot, much to the contrary, Paranormal Romance plots are often intricate, full of twists and turns, and many are more complex than those from any other genre. That’s what happens when you combine two or more genres into one book, and do it well.
Those sex scenes – nothing to be ashamed of. Mainstream fiction, literary, and other genres have sex scenes as well. Granted, not as many, or as well written, but they’re there. And maybe that’s the problem. Romance writers in general have made an art and a science of writing sex scenes, but the sex in Paranormal Romance is often… more. The very nature of our paranormal beings turns ordinary sex into something exceptional. Perhaps the detractors are jealous, either of the ability to have that incredible sex all the time, or of the ability to write it in such a way that the reader almost experiences it.
Because I have immediate family members who could be negatively impacted by the public perception of the genre I choose to write, I will continue to use my pen name. I wouldn’t want them to be hurt by the comments of those who consider Paranormal Romance to be porn with vampires. But hell will freeze over before I hide what I read again.
Do other peoples’ opinions about your choice of reading material cause you discomfort or shame? What do you do about it? Is there a way for you to “take back your books”, even in a small way?