Tracy Wolff | Why I Write Romances
June 15, 2009
A couple months ago, my husband and I were interviewing prospective agents to
list our house as we thought we were going to have to move to Dallas for my
husband’s job. I bring this up because, as we talked to the agents, all of them
asked what we did for a living. My husband is an electrical/environmental
engineer and I, of course, am a romance novelist. When we told them this, they
all oohed and aahed over my husband’s job (he’s a green guru/save the
environment guy/energy efficiency kind of guy) but when it came to my career,
two of them—both men, I might add—laughed. “So you write those books?” one
“What books?” I responded, more than a little annoyed by his condescending tone.
“You know, those trashy books about …” His voice trailed off.
“Love?” I inquired sweetly, though with bared teeth. “Life? Family? Happily
“Yeah. And, umm—“ The guy was such an idiot he hadn’t yet figured out that it
was offensive to refer to my career choice as “trash.”
“Oh, you mean sex?” I filled in the blank for him, much to my husband’s
embarrassment. “Why, yes, real estate agent moron (names have been changed to
protect the terminally stupid) my books do have some sex in them. Why? Do you
not like sex? Or is it just sex with love and commitment and a happily every
after that you object to?”
Needless to say, he went running from my doorstep like the hounds of hell were
after him and we decided to go with a different agent—one who could respect both
my husband’s career and my own career.
But his attitude (there was more to the dialogue, but I shortened it for time’s
sake) has stuck with me for a couple of months now. All of my friends in the
business tell stories of running into people (once again, usually men) who make
fun of what they write, but this is the first time I’ve ever had someone
actually say something like that to my face. And I was—and still am—ticked off
So here’s the answer I wish I’d given him, and would have if I’d been more
prepared and less angry.
“Yes, you rude, sanctimonious little man, I do write romance novels. I write
them because I love to explore the relationship between two people as they meet,
fall in love and start to build a life together.
I write them because I believe in love—and all the angst and joy that comes with
I write them because it’s exciting to think about special times in my
characters’ lives—falling in love, having a baby, becoming a family.
I write romances because I’ve spent twelve years teaching literature to college
students, and each year I have to field the following questions. Does someone
always have to die, get maimed, lose everything, for a story to be considered a
good one? Or, why can’t the stories we read in class have happy endings—life
isn’t always depressing, Dr. Wolff.
I write romances because reading them makes me happy and writing them makes me
I write romances because, from the time I read my first Harlequin in fifth
grade, I’ve been hooked. Through an undergrad in English, an MFA in creative
writing and a Ph.d in American Lit, I’ve never found another kind of book that
speaks to me in quite the same way—and I’ve never, never, never imagined writing
anything else. I mean, why write literature that depresses people when I can
write something that makes them smile instead?
My June Superromance, From
Friend to Father, is a story that deals with a lot of heavy subjects—loss,
grief, fear, abandonment, failure, anger. Yet it also looks at family and
fatherhood, love and life. And yes, my book has a happy ending, but I wouldn’t
have it any other way—and neither would most of my readers.
So, why do you read romance novels?
22 comments posted.
Re: Tracy Wolff | Why I Write Romances
I don't really know why I read romances but I think it was a natural transition from my young adult books that always seemed to have a happy ending to the happy endings of romances.
I'm sure that many romance readers read other genres but gravitate to romances for many if not all the reasons you list, but like your students I know what life is about, and that's why another genre I love is Women's Fiction because it's nice to get a touch of reality every once in awhile that the HEA isn't always there.
That said...life without the romance novel in my life would be rather sad and boring, and I appreciate the fact that you and others like you see the world and are able to turn it into a romantic thing to take me away from my troubles.
I'm rambling and I hope I make some sort of sense!
(Sandi Shilhanek 8:22am June 15, 2009)
You said it all and so eloquently. Thank you.
(Linda Cacaci 9:53am June 15, 2009)
Sandi, I love women's fiction too. I just finished My Sister's Keeper and cried like a little girl, but romance has always been my true love :) I'm a sucker for a happy ending.
Linda, thank you so much!
(Tracy Wolff 12:20pm June 15, 2009)
I read romance books because I love the "happily ever after" endings. It is the same reason I go to movies that leave me feeling happy after I have watched them.
(Robin McKay 12:25pm June 15, 2009)
I got hooked on Romance Novels as a teen. The conflicts in relationships and situations keep me turning the pages.
(Alyson Widen 12:40pm June 15, 2009)
I like to lose myself in someone's story - not reality and I LOVE a happy ending!
(Kelli Jo Calvert 1:05pm June 15, 2009)
I have heard some men make similar comments and they are the same men who watch X rated videos (in the comfort of their own homes, of course)!
(Karin Tillotson 1:43pm June 15, 2009)
Who wouldn't want a happy ever after???? I like to see how the relationship grows, from begining to end. The real world is tough enough, nothing wrong with getting out of it for a few hours, where everything works out for a change!
(JoAnn White 3:02pm June 15, 2009)
Tracy, that was a wonderful post!!!
I respect you so much for having the courage to not only admit you read romance, but you also write romance (which we, your fans, happily await!).
I know what you mean when you repeated the questions your students posed: :Why do the "classics" have to be dark and depressing and end tragically?
When I was in college I wondered the same thing.
I would much rather read romance and be in a good mood for the rest of the day than read another Thomas Hardy novel and turn suicidal;P
(Mari M. 3:30pm June 15, 2009)
Robin, I love movies that end happily!
Alyson, I agree. Conflicts are definitely the spice.
Kelli Jo, me too!
Karin, I totally agree-- bet he has his fair share.
Jo, I do too. That's why my first book, A Christmas Wedding, spans my characters' relationships from the day they met until their daughter's wedding day.
Mari :) Thomas Hardy would make the happiest woman a tinge suicidal. So glad I'm not the only one who feels that way.
(Tracy Wolff 5:41pm June 15, 2009)
I think you're very lucky you are able to do what you enjoy.
So many people are stuck in dead-end jobs they hate ... maybe that was the man's problem -- jealousy!
(LuAnn Morgan 7:29pm June 15, 2009)
LuAnn-- maybe you're right. That or ignorance.
(Tracy Wolff 8:17pm June 15, 2009)
Not only are the authors of Romance novels looked down on so are their readers. Many times complete strangers feel the need to comment on my choice of reading material. I love books that are about family, love and children. I want a happy ending that makes me feel good! Thank you for providing that.
(Rosemary Krejsa 9:03pm June 15, 2009)
I started reading romance when I was 11 years old, any books I could find in our school library since my parents could not afford to buy me books. Then went on to Harlequin books my aunts gave me, all with doctors and nurses and to this day I still love romance books. For the love, friendship, understanding in a family. Like you when I read my books sometimes I felt co workers watch and wonder why I would read those kind of books and I would tell them for the joy and happiness they bring me.
Thank you for writing romance novels and please continue to do so.
(Diane Sadler 10:47pm June 15, 2009)
Rosemary and Diane, thank YOU for reading romance novels. And yes, I know what you mean about people commenting on my reading material. My MFA profs were the worst-- more than one told me I was wasting my talent "writing books like that." But like I said,, I'm a sucker for a happy ending :)
(Tracy Wolff 10:55pm June 15, 2009)
I read romances to relax, see a
relationship grow, and yes the happily
ever after. There are also a lot of
excellent authors out there doing
I work at a county library and there
are lots of romance readers. Some of
the men have made snide comments
about the romance books. Although I
don't think any have used the word
trash, it has been implied. Since a lot
of these men read the little serial
westerns, I decided to read one and
compare their merits. It was good for
a laugh. Relationship? What's that.
Tall, dark, quiet, handsome cowboy
rides into town. Goes directly to
saloon. All eyes on him as he enters.
Lovely lady "with a great pair of
melons" (I choked) hits on him and
they head upstairs for a good time.
Not bad for 30 minutes in town. Bad
guys abusing women. Outlaw
compound outside of town. Local
lawman is worthless. Hero rides out to
single handedly defeat 15 or so bad
guys and rescue women and children.
He is captured, beaten and staked out.
Beaten to a pulp, tied hand and foot,
our hero gets free and takes out all
the bad guys. Return to town a hero.
Ride out of town with Miss Melons
fondly watching him go wishing for
one more great time in the sack.
PLEASE!!! Those guys should know
trash, they are reading it! This is not
to say all westerns are trash because
they are not. I read them too. But the
male equivalent to the Harlequins in
both action and western series
generally have plots that equate to
meaningless sex and lots of violence.
There may be a plot thrown in, but it
I usually recommend a good book
written by a romance author that is in
the genre they usually read. They
usually really enjoy them. I've give my
husband lots of audio books (he
doesn't have much time to read and is
his car a lot) and he has enjoyed most
of them. He has asked me to warn
him if there are any really sexy
(Patricia Barraclough 11:55pm June 15, 2009)
I have read romance books for more years than I care to admit. I love getting caught up in the story and getting to know the charactures so well, they feel like friends. So okay, I admit it...I escape my problems for a while by reading about how the characters meet, fall in love,the problems they have, etc. I love the happy endings.
(Patsy Hagen 2:14pm June 16, 2009)
I read romance as, honestly, an escape from the real world. We all have to dream, right.
(Lanae Tatman 1:15pm June 17, 2009)
I read for the sheer enjoyment of an author taking me away from everyday and I do love happy endings. :)
In real life that doesn't always happen but in my books I can get that!
As to the attitude of the agent, it sucked.Women are often on the recieving end of this attitude, whether your experience or being a stay at home mom, yeah we get it from women and men. "So when are you going to get a job they ask, or ah I see". Yeah they really have no idea.
Happy Writing to you and please keep the happy endings coming!
(Chris Jones 3:52am June 22, 2009)
I love romance novels... For years its was because I had no life and the one I had was terrible.. Now I read them to see how much better my life is than the book... my fav books are Cedar Cover Series by Debbie Macomber.. This summer i am renewing my authors have not read in a while and some new ones.. You are on my list of not in awhile. I always have books around me as I have an online used bookstore. So before it goes on line it might go in the pile of books for me to read.. right now I am looking or a new stack so going to FF to look over my options and your is one I am going to look into soon.. Thanks for the wonderful blog
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