by Sheila Connolly
Last month I spent four manic days in New York with 2,500 romance writers.
I joined Romance Writers of America over ten years ago, based on the recommendation of a college classmate I talked to when I had just finished my first manuscript and had no idea what to do next. I knew she was (and still is) a writer. She told me to join RWA. I was so new that I didn’t even know that groups like that existed, much less that they had local chapters that I could join and meetings I could attend.
I’m still a member of RWA, although a few years later I kind of slid sideways into writing mysteries, where I feel more at home. But a couple of years ago I dusted off one of those early romance manuscripts and self-published it, and then followed it with two more, so I guess now I’m writing romance as well as mystery, much to my surprise.
Which is why I decided it was time to go back to an RWA conference. This year was being held in New York, at a big Times Square hotel, and I was told this is The Big One that everyone wants to attend. Off I toddled with my overweight suitcase and my Little Black Dress, ready to invade enemy territory.
Guess what: romance writers look a whole lot like mystery writers, only there are far more romance writers. And they talk—long and loud—about writing. Non-stop. I had conversations about craft and publishing and career at breakfast, at the bar, in the hallways, and just about anywhere else (not the ladies room, though).
I went to the conference with the goal of figuring out how romance commands a larger market share than mystery. Is there some magic trick of promotion? Or are there simply more people who like to read about people falling in love and walking happily into the sunset, hand in hand? Hey, in most murder mysteries there’s a HEA, when the criminal is caught and justice prevails—but there’s no passionate clinch and promise of a glowing future with The Right One.
To be fair, many mysteries (especially the kind we Wicked Cozies write) include an element of romance. There’s usually a guy on the scene, or maybe even two. But he or they kind of take a back seat to our heroine catching a killer; at best they get equal time. The search for justice trumps emotion?
Mark Twain is usually given credit for saying “write what you know.” But the less well known Joel Chandler Harris, the author of the Brer Rabbit tales, said, “Write about what you know and care deeply about.” Romance writers care about what they’re writing, no question. So do mystery writers. There’s room for all of us (though romance writers take up a bit more space than mystery writers).
Truth time, Wicked Cozy readers: do you read romance and mystery? Would you like to see more or less romance in your mysteries?