One thing I've always loved about genre fiction is that it allows the reader to develop relationships. OK, so they're imaginary relationships - but relationships nonetheless. Genre fiction, at it's very best, feeds into the reader's emotions. It allows us to fall in love, find justice, go on an epic journey, explore new worlds - well you get the idea. These emotions can be quite powerful, and because of that readers have a tendency to develop relationships with authors.
And no, I don't mean in a creepy stalker way.
It's a lot like music. You hear a certain song on the radio and you're immediately transported back to your high school prom, wedding day, the birth of your child, to certain moments in time that are hopefully happy ones.
It's also that way with books, at least for me. Certain authors that gave me what I like to call "A-Ha!" moments, or books that make me recall moments in time. These are all relationships, one-sided to be sure, but they illustrate the power that fiction can have on our everyday, rather ordinary lives.
So what authors do I have relationships with?
Lorraine Heath, for the Texas Trilogy. I read all three books on my very first trip to California back in 2001. I plowed through them while attending the ALA conference in San Francisco. Yes, I saw Haight-Ashbury, Fisherman's Wharf and the Golden Gate Bridge, but I also spent time with the Leigh brothers, and my love affair with the western romance was etched in stone.
Ruth Ryan Langan, for giving me Nevada Nights, a book she probably only recalls because it was one of her first published historicals. I read it, while lying on the back seat of a mini-van, on my way to visit family in central Ohio. It was the first grown up book I read in one day, and the first book I recall reading that had s-e-x in it. It was like a soap opera, only with a happy ending, for my brain!
Barbara Michaels, whose Into the Darkness I was reading when I met the first boy I ever fell madly in love with. I didn't hold it against her when he eventually broke my heart.
Kathryn Smith, for her debut novel, Elusive Passion, a book that I read all the way back in 2001 and the only romance novel that I can recall one complete line from. “The rich man’s disease, after gout, was boredom." I have a memory like a sieve, but that one line sticks out. Not only because I laughed out loud from the truth of it, but because I still think it's one of the most insightful lines I've ever read in a Regency historical.
Cheryl Reavis and Kathryn Shay, for both helping to teach me how beautiful, powerful and complete the category format can be. Every word counts. There is no time to waste. You need to hook readers, invest them in the love story, and not muck up the works with a bunch of stuff that doesn't really matter anyway. Up until I discovered both of them, I dismissed categories out of hand. I was a thousand times a fool.
Mary Higgins Clark, for writing some of the very first grown up books I ever read. What a stroke of luck to stumble across her early page-turners when I outgrew my library's meager young adult section.
Emma Holly, for teaching me that erotica can be sexy and feminist.
Megan Hart, for teaching me that erotica can be emotional, thought-provoking and about a hell of lot more than "just sex."
Nora Roberts, for Murphy Muldoon. You mean a genuinely nice guy can be a romance hero? They don't all have to be an emotional cripples or Alpha brutes? Talk about a light bulb moment! The only disappointment came when I realized Murphy a) wasn't real and b) wasn't going to show up on my doorstep any time soon. Damn.
Maggie Osborne, for writing strong, independent heroines who have to work their asses off for their happily ever after. Her heroines were also allowed to make their own decisions, for good or ill, and exhibit an inordinate amount of free will. Another massive light bulb moment.
Sue-Ellen Welfonder, whose debut novel, Devil In a Kilt, I was reading the morning of September 11, 2001. Literally. I was sitting on the couch, reading, with the Today Show on in the background.
Kay Hooper, for writing Touching Evil, the book I had to read for review immediately after September 11, 2001. Needless to say, it was a time when I couldn't concentrate on much of anything, let alone reading. But that book! Damn, I couldn't help myself. I was probably the only romance reader in the country who wasn't suffering from a "slump" during that time.
Certainly all fiction is capable of this type of emotional recall, but it's really genre fiction's stock in trade. So the next time someone is ragging on you for your choice of reading material, simply smile and quietly nod. Because genre fiction readers, regardless of genre, know better. That these books can be just as big a part of our lives as our family, friends, and the simple minutia we are surrounded by on a daily basis. We all know that fiction isn't real, but that doesn't mean it cannot examine very real truths. That's where you find the charm, and that's where authors can impact lives for the better.