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?