Evangeline Holland

Sweeping Drama ⚜ Larger than Life History ⚜ Exquisite Romance ⚜ Diverse Perspectives
February 10th, 2016 by Evangeline Holland

Romance for Newbies

It’s obvious to readers of romance that the genre is comprised of endless variation. To outsiders, every book looks the same: naked chests, clinch covers, sometimes flowery titles, and sometimes uniform color schemes. So let’s break it down:

Sub-Genres

These are the basic umbrellas under which romance falls:

  • Contemporary Romance
  • Historical Romance
  • Paranormal Romance
  • Romantic Suspense
  • Erotic Romance

These sub-genre umbrellas can often overlap: for example, Kristen Callihan’s Darkest London series is paranormal historical romance. Kate Pearce even tackled Tudor vampires.

There’s also the Inspirational/Christian romance market, which, encompasses all major romance sub-genres; however, since these books are forced to follow specific content guidelines, they are often treated as a genre in and of itself. Some Inspy authors exist outside of this rigid market (Piper Huguley and the ladies of Black Christian Reads, or “edgy Inspirational” author Deeanne Gist).

Sometimes Western/cowboy romance can exist in its own bubble (Genevieve Turner, Amity Lassiter, and Francis Ray, to name a few).

Science Fiction romance is sometimes lumped beneath the Paranormal romance sub-genre: see The Galaxy Express, the mother of sff romance Linnea Sinclair, Ann Aguirre, Cathy Pegau, and Alyssa Cole’s Off the Grid series.

Should we consider LGBTQIA+ romance its own sub-genre? Either way, it exists: Rebekah Weatherspoon, KJ Charles, and Joanna Chambers are some great authors to begin with. Riptide Publishing is another source for great works.

Covers

These sub-genres of romance shout who they are on the covers, which is why non-readers never “get it;” they aren’t attuned to the specific language these covers express.

A shirtless man in breeches and a lady with a ballgown about to slide down her back is–you guessed it–historical romance.
the-tattooed-duke

Got a sword? A tattoo? A broody color scheme? Tough looking characters? Paranormal or SFF romance.
Archangel's Shadows

A couple in contemporary clothing, gazing deeply into one another’s eyes–contemporary romance, of course!
zuri day

Romantic suspense is where things can get murky. Usually, if there’s a man or a couple on the cover, the book is going to be about 60/40 of romance to suspense. If it’s just a woman and the cover seems kind of vague, the suspense plot is going to dominate the story.
karen rose

pamela clare

Fifty Shades of Grey’s simple, textured book covers made a huge impact on how erotic romance was packaged. You can clearly see the before and after with the cover for Sylvia Day’s Bared to You.

bared to you

Tropes

Romance readers discover what they like to read like everyone else: by reading. Some love road romances, while others loathe them. Some readers will read anything that features a marriage in jeopardy, while others prefer characters to be strangers when they first meet. Military heroes may be your catnip, while for another reader, they only want blue collar handymen.

All About Romance has a long-running list of popular books by trope, but thanks to Amazon, you can type in whatever trope you like and find a variety of books to purchase.

Language

Non-romance readers love to mock the genre by reading snippets of the prose. Taken out of context it does sometimes read breathy, overwrought, and hit-you-over-the-head. But the function of romance prose is to immerse the reader in intense sensation: you feel the hero’s anguish when he’s lost the hero. You feel the heroine’s triumph when the man of her dreams lays his heart at her feet. Romance is supposed to stimulate your emotions as well as your mind.

Sex

Don’t worry if you squirm while reading sex scenes–some authors have admitted they squirm whilst writing them! Yet, their existence is consistent with the genre’s adherence to creating intimacy between the reader and the text.

And can you honestly sit there and say you haven’t ever perched on the edge of your couch while watching TV, urging your ‘ship to Do It!!?

Readings

Lest you think the romance community gulps down what it sells uncritically, and that it isn’t a “serious” genre, I point you to the amazing scholarship being done in Popular Romance studies. For a more accessible overview of the genre, Sarah Wendell and Candy Tan of Smart Bitches published Beyond Heaving Bosoms: The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels in 2009. Top romance authors of the 1990s published the still readable and thought-provoking Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance.

And hey, if you want to watch something, find (or set up) a screening of Love Between the Covers, starring Beverly Jenkins, Eloisa James, Celeste Bradley, et al.

Looking for African-American romance? Try Romance in Color and Girl Have You Read?. Saris and Stories are a group of Indian-American romance writers.

Happy Reading!

February 7th, 2016 by Evangeline Holland

On Black Art, Beyonce, and Diversity in Publishing

Beyoncé Formation

I’m forming a knee-jerk reaction against the word “diversity.” At this point it’s like saying Beetlejuice three times, and then a serious debate/rant/conversation will materialize, and then die down until the word is chanted in the mirror again. And the word/conversation keeps being framed as though ~diverse~ authors, editors, agents, other industry professionals, and readers only came into existence once mainstream audiences and media began to discuss the issue.

(But, if you want to read the latest pithy and amazing testimonies, I point you to Piper Huguley, Christina C. Jones, India Valentin, and the hashtag #WritersofColor)

Which brings me to the topic of this post.

One of the academic points I love love love to read about and discuss is African-American performance and identity via the arts. Two “soundbites” from Du Bois converge here: the concept of Double Consciousness and his criteria for Negro art.

When I opened my Instagram app and saw a post from Beyoncé’s account, I mosied on over to Tidal to see what she was up to. A caveat: I’m not a member of the Beyhive (cue gasps of shock), but I respect her longevity, work ethic, and the way she can put on one helluva show. But as I watched Formation, I was speechless in shock and awe. The melody is kind of throwaway, but the lyrics and accompanying music video leapt out to me as completely fulfilling Du Bois’s criteria. The Veil was ripped off.

I closed the Tidal app after watching the video twice and bemusedly anticipated the onslaught of yaaas, slay, and queen to fill social media and my favorite pop culture sites, as well as a gazillion thinkpieces on every single media website in existence. So my eyebrows rose considerably when so many other people got it and called for the thinkpieces to be written by black women.

Later on, as I began to formulate this post, I mused over Beyoncé dropping this overtly black female political music video into the mainstream. Granted, Beyonce hasn’t ever not celebrated her black womanhood or the black womanhood of her audience, and videos like Bootylicious, or Déjà Vu have head-nodded to black icons—yet, they’ve never as blatantly talking to the black community only as the lyrics and video for Formation.

I’ve been having lots of thoughts about “diversity in publishing,” but they didn’t snap until this video. In a nutshell, I feel the topic is flattening and compressing into an eventually generic conversation the more it spirals into mainstream circles.

The conversation assumes that black (or other POC) art should be fully accessible to the mainstream to be ~marketable~ and enjoyable.

(I find this is probably where the pearl-clutching over “quality” comes into play–the book reads “poor” because it’s not written for you; it’s not written in the same voice and vernacular to which you’ve grown accustomed after years of reading canonical literature and A-List genre fiction writers).

It assumes that diverse voices must be packaged exactly like mainstream work to succesfully reach mainstream readers.

It assumes that diverse voices need mainstream attention to pull them into the spotlight–that the diverse writer’s core audience isn’t enough to declare said writer successful.

Last year, British writer and Man Booker winner Marlon James caused an uproar when he stated that “writers of colour pander to the white woman.” Somewhat around the same time, an older Pew Report about college-educated black women being the most likely to read a book popped back up. And then there’s the Lee & Low survey, which clearly shows that the gatekeepers in publishing are mostly white women.

But all of this is to say that the push to normalize diversity risks erasing the nuances. It chances pushing the intra-community dialogue between the writer and his/her readers out of focus. It may do the opposite of what the campaign intends, which is to nurture and nourish diverse voices.

Space needs to be made for all, but if the book is fulfilling Du Bois’s criteria, it should still have the same shot at similar shelf placement, advance, and marketing dollars as a more mainstream novel (and POC authors ought to have the ability to shift back and forth between audiences—like Beyonce).

November 5th, 2015 by Evangeline Holland

Book Publishing Newbie: First Pass Pages for Fall of Poppies

A week ago I received the first pass pages for my contribution to the Fall of Poppies anthology.

Cue excitement!

Until I realized I had no clue what I was supposed to be doing with this document. The editing process, I get. I think I aced the copy-edits. But First Pass…what is this foreign language thou dost speak?

The process of What Happens Next (after the snagging an agent, selling a book, yadda yadda yadda) can be so hush-hush, and the rise of self-publishing has created a downturn in author blogging about traditional publishing processes has increased the difficulty in discovering just what heck I’m supposed to be doing. But I like to think that a post from 2009 or 2011 is just as relevant in 2015, so on we march Googlefu.

According to Laini Taylor: “First pass pages are the first typeset draft of the book, printed out as proofs. These pages are exactly as they will appear in the ARC, or Advance Reading Copy, which is sent out to booksellers, librarians, reviewers, etc. At the same time that the publisher is readying the ARC to print, they/we are also going over the book in this format one last time before the final print version is arrived at. So, though this is the way reviewers will see it, it is not the final-final-final draft.”

Got it! But what I am supposed to do with them?

Pete Hautman says I’m looking at “the stage just after copyediting, when the copyedits have been incorporated into the manuscript, and the work is set in the font and layout that will appear in the final book.”

So that means I can do some light clean-up of the text, right?

Yes you can, says Alyssa Palombo (a 2015 post!): “The point of the pass pages is for the author to go through the book again and make any small changes that still need to be made, correct anything that may have been missed in copy edits, etc.”

Phew! So that sentence I cringed over while looking at this file isn’t set in stone. Hallelujah!

There you have it–a semi crash course in unfamiliar publishing terms and its process. Back to work I go!