On the inside covers of many books, or sometimes on the back jacket, you will see a bald summary of the category they belong to: Suspense. Self-Help. Horror.
When I asked the editor I hired last fall how he would pitch my writing, his answer was: "Anne Tyler meets Canadian romance novelist." If he's right, apparently, if and when my book gets picked up, its cover will be tattooed with the word Romance.
I am not entirely sure how I feel about this. I'm rarely sentimental or maudlin. I haven't seen any of the Jane Austen adaptations, let alone attended a weekend back-to-back screening of them. I have watched several of The Lord of the Rings films back to back, but I have to admit that, in reading the series, I sometimes skipped ahead looking for scenes between Arwen and Aragorn.
This week I've been reading Stephen King's book On Writing. It is likely the first Stephen King book I've read - and it's brilliant and helpful. One thing he says is that for a long time he felt somewhat ashamed of the kind of writing he engaged in, that it wasn't Literary enough, that it appealed to much to popular audiences. But, Mr. King says, the material and the themes you write are often not yours for the choosing. They just are what they are.
And the main reason I squirm a little at the thought of being classified as a romance writer - besides the fact that I might be called upon to wear flowing dresses and heave my bodice with sighs - is that I associate the genre with cheap thrills, offering unrealistic men to unsatisfied women.
But, as King so aptly demonstrates in his own writing, there are writers in every genre who rise above the classification, who care about the reader, the characters, the language and, most importantly, the story.
So, if I can do that, okay. I'll accept the label. I think.