On Fifty Shades of Grey & Romance Authors Reactions

Full disclosure: I have only read a little of 50 Shades of Grey – basically what you can download when you choose to ‘sample’ a book on Kindle. It didn’t work for me – for the same reason Twilight didn’t work for me (although I did manage to make my way all the way through that one). I don’t like needy, angst ridden, my-life-looks-good-but-I’m-miserable-and-not-doing-anything-about-it heroines. Not my cup of tea.

What put it on my radar right now was a discussion I had recently with someone on how literary circles seem to ‘look down’ on romance writing, despite the fact that romance sells a heck of a lot more books and is, therefor, much more widely read. When literary ‘purists’ talk about romance novels, particularly genre romance novels, they complain about the lack of theme and plot and the level of character development (or perceived lack of it) and the quality of the prose.

The *exact* same thing many romance writers are now doing to Fifty Shades of Grey.

I’d like to think we’d be more compassionate given we’ve walked (and still walk!) in those shoes. We’ve heard our stories aren’t ‘good literature’ (don’t believe me? Here’s a link to an article from March of 2012 calling romance novels ‘a low form of literature’ just above advertising copy), so why are we doing to this to 50 Shades?

I’d like to think romance authors would be more accepting that a story may not be up to their standards in terms of character development and plot but can still be a ‘good’ book.  I’ll admit the grammar thing does bug me and some of the point of view issues would drive me mad (the story is entirely in the first person, from her point of view so it should only include what she sees/experiences and there’s apparently at least one scene where she’s blindfolded and there’s a description of what Mr. Grey is doing, which she can’t possibly see).

I know, I know! that ‘romance authors’ aren’t a homogenous group and there are plenty of people who don’t have this (or any) opinion on the piece. But I’ve also seen many tweets and comments from writers on how ‘bad’ everything about the book is, some very strident and others less so. And it bugs me because we should know all to well what it’s like to be told your book isn’t ‘real’ writing. So why the heck would we do that to someone else?

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4 thoughts on “On Fifty Shades of Grey & Romance Authors Reactions

  1. I understand your argument, but I think you’re missing the point of why many of us are so opposed to the book. Ethics aside, the books do nothing to dissuade those literary critics from their usual degradation of genre romance. Instead, the very lack of skill, plot, character arc, story arc and even editing reinforce the very dismissal of genre romance as worthless dime store trash.
    There are fantastically written genre romance series such as the Black Daggar Brothethood which consistently land on the NYT Best Seller list but it’s not newsworthy because it doesn’t serve as fodder for their claims.
    It’s not about jealousy or retaliation, it’s about taking pride in what we write and wanting to further the genre rather than perpetuate the stigma.

  2. I followed this link from Triberr, and I’m happy you posted this. I too did read the Amazon teaser and found that it is not my cup of tea. I also struggled through twilight to see what the hype was and also I tend to read a book before I let my girls read it…and it wasn’t my think. My girls didn’t like Twilight either. Anyway, I try not to make any comments about my indifference to 50 G because I have fans who read them and loved them, especially book 2 and 3. So I say, stop bashing other authors’ works and move on.

  3. I think not reading “based on principle” is just a personal choice. I don’t like reading such themes in any book, literary or not. But I don’t write or (generally) read books tagged as romance. Honestly the first “romance” I read was Twilight so I guess all those that are similar are counted as such.

  4. I am really glad to see a post like this. I have been over-the-top perturbed at some of the negative comments I have seen from romance writers on the 50 Shades books, especially since most of them are coming from writers who admit to never reading them and vehemently claim they won’t “on principle.” It boggles my mind.

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