I was recently on a panel with several romance authors, and the delightful and business-savvy Kimber Chin made a statement that I'm not going to forget. "We sell happy."
Ain't that the truth? And ain't it great?
This is what romance readers and romance writers understand and appreciate. What we also understand and appreciate, but that dismissive critics of the genre don't, is that happy does not equal easy as in "causing or involving little difficulty or discomfort," for the writer or the reader or, I'd add, the characters.
Anybody familiar with romance knows that we want our characters to suffer and strive before they get that happy ending. We want our readers to be in a fever-pitch of anxiety over their fate. And heaven knows writing anything is stress-inducing, let alone a novel. Of course, we want it to read as if we just sat down, started typing and voila! A book! We do want our characters to achieve a blissful, successful outcome after their struggles, both internal and external. We want our readers to sigh with satisfaction after they close the book -- but it takes a lot of work and effort to get there.
That's what the workshop I'm conducting at the conference of the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America this March is really all about. It's called "What Lies Beneath: Adding Layers to your Characters and Conflict" but it could also be called "Adding Complications." "Making It Tough." "How to put your characters through the wringer."
In other words, making it the opposite of easy for your characters, for you the writer and for the reader, too.
So yes, we happily sell happy. But that doesn't mean it's easy.