Well there’s nothing to lose
And there’s nothing to prove
I’ll be dancing with myself
It’s funny that the lyrics to this particular song seem to be rather perfect at describing my inner mindset when it comes to my writing sometimes.
Anyway, what sparked all this was RWA’s recent announcement about membership and who was really qualified to be a member. And to clarify that they’ve always been about being open to “all persons seriously pursuing a publishing career in the romance genre.”
Which makes sense. But one of the things RWA killed this year was the RITA category of “Strong Romantic Elements” – which was what my books fit under, at least as far as RWA is concerned. Though to be honest, there’s such a mish-mash of understanding when it comes to defining a Paranormal Romance vs an Urban Fantasy. I’ve even seen the term “Urban Fantasy Romance” being bandied about, but I’m not sure that’s accurate either.
So what’s the main difference? Well, romance, of course. Even though some of the elements of UF and PNR are much the same – world-building, crazy creatures, spunky heroines and brooding heroes (YMMV here, but you get my drift) – it’s the romance that is key. HEA (Happily Ever After) or lack thereof aside, a romance book centers its plot about getting its main couple together. Many romance readers also insist upon the inclusion of an HEA or an HEA for now.
Urban Fantasy can certainly have romance in it…but at the end of the day, if you can remove the romantic elements and still have a well plotted story? It’s not a romance, regardless of who’s knocking boots.
A lot of people sometimes use PNR and UF interchangeably. They really aren’t the same thing, but the lines do tend to get blurred a lot in some cases. With a Brush of Darkness, it started out and sold as a PNR (though looking back at it, I’m still not entirely sure that was right…although the ending *was* different. Abby and Ion were together at the end of it.)
I was asked to turn it into a UF – and I’m not sure how successful I was at it – I ended up with more romance than a normal UF, but not enough for a PNR. (And I’ve talked about this multiple times, so if you’ve followed my blog you’re probably snoring by now. Apologies.)
But when it comes down to it, sex doesn’t equal romance – Abby and Ion have a fair amount of sex and are certainly attracted to each other, but it’s not actually love. (And okay, I’ll get a tad snarky here because I’ve seen the occasional review where the reader insisted the romance wasn’t realistic and they didn’t buy it, etc. etc. Which is fine – because it wasn’t supposed to be – and Abby even brings it up in the second book – i.e. maybe they’re just attracted to each other because of what they are…as opposed to actual compatiblity).
And yet, other PNR books where the “instant love bond” trope is used is apparently perfectly acceptable and believable, so I don’t know.
Hell, I don’t know if I actually really write UF anymore either. I’ve had a number of reviewers mention that they are starting to read like fantasy more than UF. (And seeing as so much of the story takes place in an alternate plane or dreams…yeah. I can see that.)
But enough about my books. The real question is do I still qualify to be a general member of RWA? I don’t know. The thing is, I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for RWA – as one of the few groups out there that you can join without being published, I would never have made the connections I did, or the friends, or attended the workshops, or entered the contests that helped to get me published.
And I’d hate to give that up.
But am I really writing with the goal of getting published in romance?
Probably not. Not anymore.
I’m in this genre limbo – because UF is often not really considered to be “real fantasy” either…whether that’s because there’s too much romance or it’s just not Great and Epic enough to be Taken Seriously.
So I guess I’ll just keep writing my own thing and see where it takes me.