A reader’s expectations, or: “None romance! NONE!”
The Monster’s Daughter is not paranormal romance.
Until yesterday, I failed to understand why people would buy my first novel expecting romance. After all, nothing in the title, cover, nor description hints at romance. See the description:
Ginny Connors doesn’t believe in vampires. There’s totally a rational reason her dad is a lot more bloodthirsty and a lot less interested in food than he used to be. Still, she hangs a cross on her bedroom door. Just in case.
When Ginny discovers people aren’t the guests but the main course at her father’s New Year party, she wishes she could save the day with garlic pancakes. Instead, she must face the limits of her daydreams, and attempt to stop the monster her father has become.
Vampires: check. Dads: check. Daydreams: check. All present. Romance, though? Romantic love? Smoochie-face? Gaga-eyes? Infatuation? These guys had other places to be.
Likewise, the word “romance” fails to occur a single time in the book’s reader-generated tags on Amazon. There’s plenty of love in the book, to be sure, some of which is between the protagonist and her long-time boyfriend, but none of it is the hopeful, longing sort that comes with the question of whether two characters will even be given a chance to love.
I was perplexed why anyone would expect that from my novel. Nothing promised it. Nothing so much as hinted at it. Sure, Twilight features both vampires and angsty pursuit of paranormal love, but that alone didn’t seem like enough.
Yesterday I hunted for some new YA paranormal books to read. I skipped past the first couple, deciding they were too romance-y for me. Then I skipped past a couple more. Another dozen more. And, after that, another dozen more.
By the time I’d scanned through about thirty, I was no longer confused about why folks check out The Monster’s Daughter expecting a romantic ride. At long last, it was clear:
Readers’ expectations aren’t being set by my book, but by the other, seemingly similar books they’re reading.
In 2004, I wrote a coming of age novel involving vampires, having no idea sparkly vampires would soon take over the YA scene. Now as then, I am most fascinated by the love people learn to have for themselves, and by the moments that illuminate their growing comprehension that they are themselves worthy of their own love.
That’s the kind of love about which I most want to read. It’s the kind about which I wrote in The Monster’s Daughter. Not romantic love.
Yet, as always, understanding a thing–like why other readers expect what they do–makes acceptance easier. I get it now. Still, a small part of me will probably continue to toy with the idea of starting the book’s description with “NONE ROMANCE HERE! NONE!”
Most the rest of me will keep working on new novels, some of which will involve romance. Heck, my second novel, despite my outlines and wishes, involves some romance. (Those pesky characters had to go and develop minds of their own. Curse them!) It will be too much smoochiness for some readers and not nearly enough for others, but all these considerations are apart from the act of creation.
I cannot make people, readers or otherwise, expect differently than they are wont. What I can do is dream up more of the kinds of stories I want to read and keep writing them, regardless of who else will or will not read them.
Yeah, I’ll stick with that.
With entirely non-smoochy love,
— Your paranormal-not-romance-writing closet monster