"Once you label me, you negate me."
-- Soren Kierkegaard
What's with the philosophizing, you may ask?
I had a long, delightful conversation with a fellow writer the other day. As we were yakking away about what we're doing, the state of publishing and the world in general, she did something that startled me for a milli-second at the time, but I've been thinking about ever since.
She referred to her romance novels as "novels." No adjective, no qualifier, no label, not the very general "book," but "novel."
I was startled because I don't think I've ever heard a romance writer refer to her work that way, simply as a novel. And I've been thinking about it and wondering, why not? We, and by we, I mean my fellow genre writers, do write novels, after all.
I think there's more to it than just describing the sort of novel I write. I believe there's a subtle stigmatizing afoot. A novel is admirable, literary, worthy of the Pulitzer or Oprah's magic wand o' promotion. A romance novel? Well, that's something else -- and to a lot of people, something a lot less worthy.
Should it be that way? No.
Do I think that's right? No.
Am I ashamed I write romances? Heck no.
I doubt my work will ever be described as "literary" and I won't hold my breath waiting for Oprah to give my book a nod, but I do think my novels are as worthy as some literary novels I've read.
So I'm going to start referring to my published works as novels. Not romance novels. Not historical romance novels. Novels.
Of course, if people want more information, I'll be happy to describe what I'm doing in more detail using those adjectives. But first and foremost, I am writing novels.
And that's what I'm going to call them.