So, August is Romance Month (or so I’ve been told, and in the grand tradition of the internet, I’m not actually going to independently factcheck this but simply use it to advance my own agenda) and a friend suggested I write about how I got into Romance and Romancelandia in the first place.
This also fits nicely in with the fact that yesterday, I finished my very first manuscript. As in, a book. Which I wrote? And an amazing publishing house (*cough* Brain Mill Press *cough*) actually want to publish. It’s…a very strange feeling. On the one hand, I knew that I was, you know. Doing this thing. But it still felt a bit like an out of body experience to actually format the thing and say, okay. So. I guess, like. I’m sending this to my agent? (I have an agent?!) And then, you know. Submitting it by deadline? (I have a DEADLINE.)
It’s all very strange and confusing, but back to Romance: it was December 2014, and I was desperate for some queer historical writing. Like, my entire being was clamoring for something LIKE Jane Austen, except queer. Someone I knew had recommended The Gentleman and the Rogue by Bonnie Dee and Summer Devon as a fun read, and I decided to give it a shot. Hey, it was four bucks. Hard to beat that.
I’d never read Romance before. I think I held the same prejudices as a lot of people who don’t know much about Romance hold, but it’s hard to remember now through my film of ROMANCE IS THE BEST EVERYONE STFU ABOUT IT. Regardless, I read it and enjoyed it, so I asked for more recs. Then another friend of mine (@booksandjoe, if you must know) sent me an email with a whole bunch of recommendations, which ended with “You have to read KJ Charles’s Think of England but just know that it’s the best one and nothing will ever top it.”
I took her at her word and put off reading it for a week or so. In that time, my wife picked it up and read it and looked at me and said, “This is amazing. She’s right – nothing will top it. Also it’s got, like, one of best blowjobs I’ve ever read.”
I read through the other recs, then finally picked up Think of England.
And that is what I think of as my head-first tumble into Romancelandia. I was gone.
And I needed MORE. Give me more historical British romance, I yelled at Amazon. Moarrrr, give me moar! A bunch of books fell out when I shook the internet. I read Joanna Chambers’ The Enlightenment Series while hungover on January 1st and it was the single greatest January 1st I had ever had. I read KJ Charles’s The Magpie Series. It was a school vacation for me, so I gorged myself until the well suddenly appeared to run dry. “Nooooooooo!” I screamed to the heavens as I poked at several free samples that just weren’t doing it for me. “What do I do NOW?”
Enter @booksandjoe to the rescue once more. She told me that I had to read Glitterland by Alexis Hall. It was contemporary, but still British (don’t ask; I have strange needs) so I decided to give it a shot.
And oh man, was I glad that I had done that. Was I ever, ever glad.
Reading Glitterland led me to Prosperity, which led me to write a truly embarrassing note to Alexis Hall via his website (!) to which he responded in the nicest, most gracious manner to a message that probably caused him to back away from his computer slowly.
And that opened up the door for me to read contemporary romance. And then romance that wasn’t just British-set. And then I was reading all the recommendations, ever, and I am beyond grateful that I did the thing. Still do, of course–no one shall take my Romance away from me. *clutches it to her bosom*
So, how does this tie in to me finishing my manuscript in August of 2016? I had had an idea kicking around my brain for a book, but could never figure out the hook for it. When I first had the idea, I had been trying to picture it as a finished book on a display in a bookstore. Which, to me, meant that it needed to be a lot of things I felt constrained by (in my general lack of knowledge about Big Six Publishing). But then, the hook came to me.
OH. It was a romance.
From there, it became many others things, and I felt a huge sense of freedom. Just…write what you know. Research what you don’t. And stop caring about where the project will end up (I’m still having trouble with this part).
Through Romancelandia, I have met incredible, wonderful people. I’ve met people I consider to be some of my closest friends. I’ve met people I admire, people I respect, people I love hearing from. I’ve met people who have supported me and whom I have supported in turn. It’s been a whirlwind sort of ride, and I don’t plan on getting off it anytime soon. ROMANCE! HOORAY FOR ROMANCE!
And that is how I got into Romancelandia.