Guest Post: Do Readers Cross The Romance/Women’s Fiction Line? By Laura Drake

Thumbnail CoverWhat do my readers want from me? In today’s publishing climate, we’re often afraid to give something new a try, afraid of losing our readers, our followers, our mojo even. Sometimes our publishers are afraid as well, using the word “brand” to help us shape our new books. Staying within genre makes sense, but it’s not always possible. Especially when we have a story we want to tell that falls outside certain industry parameters. (I have a few floating around myself.)

Today we have with us, Laura Drake, multi-published, award-winning, romance author whose first women’s fiction title is releasing today! She wonders if fans of her romance novels will read her women’s fiction. Will the new readers she acquires with this book pop over and give her romance novels a try? Below, Laura shares with us her excitement and her fears for her new journey. She’s also sharing an short excerpt. 

Please welcome Laura Drake to WFW! And tell us what you think, in the comments.

Amy xo

Do Readers Cross the Romance/WF Line?

By Laura Drake

Thumbnail CoverThis is a question I’ve had since I began writing. See, I write in the ditch between Romance and Women’s Fiction. I didn’t set out to do that, my stories just come out that way. Half the editors who read my first book (and RITA winner *pause for a squee*) thought it was WF, half believed it was romance. I wrote it thinking it was WF. It sold as Romance, and with a few changes, it started me on the road to two contracts with two publishers, for a total of seven romances.

I just completed both of those contracts (whew!) and I didn’t have to think about what was next. See, I’ve had an idea for a book for years. You know, the one that keeps tapping your consciousness, saying, ‘I’m here. I’m waiting.’ I finally couldn’t resist any longer – see, this was my sister’s book. The baby sister I lost to cancer, twenty-six years ago. I wrote it in a blizzard of emotion, the story pouring out of me in ways that surprised me. The plot is not autobiographical in the least, but the underlying theme is (don’t you love when that happens?). When it was done, I felt it was a fitting tribute to the most important person in my life. I love this book.

But. I’d written it from the inside out; I hadn’t thought for a moment about the market. There is no romance in this book. Oh, the reader could foresee a future with the protagonist and her partner in the arena, but I give no hints of that on the pages. This is a sister story. I’ve steered out of the trench between Romance and WF for this one – it’s pure WF.

Will my readers follow me?

New York says no. They believe that the two genres, although they may have a small pour-over readership, are distinct and separate. And never the twain shall meet.

I’m not sure I agree. I think readers follow voice. Anyone who’s read any of my romances will recognize my voice in Days Made of Glass. It has deep seated issues and big conflict. (You don’t take Laura’s word for it, there’s an excerpt below! ASN)

 

I’m a reader too, and I’ve followed authors as they’ve crossed genres. Many I’ve stuck with, a few I haven’t. It depends – romance to pure suspense? I didn’t. But then, I don’t care much for the suspense genre (personal preference). Romance to WF or vice versa? I’m all over it. But then, I love both genres, so that’s no testimonial.

So I polled a few friends. Some would jump genres, some would not.

I took a completely informal poll on Facebook. The results surprised me – there were a few readers of romance and WF, who wouldn’t read the other. But they were outliers on the curve. The vast majority of the respondents said they’d read both. A caveat here (hey, I’m was a bean-counter in my career and I loved stats, okay?) these are MY followers only, and since historically I’ve written romance that leans toward WF, my FB followers may be more likely to be that type of reader.

I think it’s more about what you’re looking for in a read. Wanting to escape? Having lots of drama in your life? You may not want more – in that case, you may veer to romance. Looking to find someone worse off than you? (hey, don’t laugh, I’ve done it!), you may want WF.

So, readers, what do you think? Do readers cross the Romance/WF line? Do you?

Excerpt from Days Made of Glass:

A half mile down the road, she reached the yard, littered with fire trucks and police cars, strobes flashing. Leaping the ditch, she scrabbled through the weeds on the other side, her eyes locked on the flame-licked smoke pouring from the broken windows of the porch. Angel!

A yellow-coated fireman backed out the front door holding the handles of a stretcher. A limp, blanket-shrouded body came next, another firefighter hefting the trailing end. Harlie’s vision narrowed to a tunnel. She dropped the backpack as her legs buckled. She fell to her knees, fingers clenching the dusty soil.  Her panicked brain took a second to process what she was seeing.

Too big.

Mack, then.

When her starved lungs hitched a breath, dizziness receded and the world righted.

Where is Angel? She leapt up and ran to where a fireman stood, shouting into a two-way radio. She snatched at his arm and he started.

“My sister.” She screamed up at him. “My sister’s in there!”

Arms grabbed her from behind and she twisted, fighting.

“She’s not!” His fingers dug into the flesh of her arms. “She’s okay. Calm down.”

Harlie stopped struggling and he let go. She whirled, chest heaving. “Where?”

The uniformed cop pointed to the side yard.

She dashed around the corner of the house. Angel, blanket-wrapped and clutching a dirty child, stepped out of the barn, led by a fireman. Sound, previously dulled by fear, surged to full volume. Water blasted the side of the house with a liquid roar. Men shouted. A lone siren wailed a warning in the distance, getting closer.

Angel’s gaze fastened on Harlie. Prying the sobbing child’s arms from her neck, Angel handed her to the fireman, then ran to launch herself into her sister’s arms.

Harlie was shorter than most of her classmates but at thirteen, Angel’s head still fit easily under her chin. The scent of smoke drifted off her sister’s hair — musty ash with the bite of alkaline, leaving a taste like spent adrenaline in Harlie’s mouth. She ran her hands over her sister’s bony back, still reeling from the gaping hole of a future without Angel.

Buy Days Made Of Glass here.

Author Headshot 250x250Laura Drake is a city girl who never grew out of her tomboy ways, or a serious cowboy crush. She writes both Women’s Fiction and Romance. In 2014, Laura realized a lifelong dream of becoming a Texan and is currently working on her accent. She gave up the corporate CFO gig to write full time. She’s a wife, grandmother, and motorcycle chick in the remaining waking hours. www.LauraDrakeBooks.com @PBRWriter

 

 

27 thoughts on “Guest Post: Do Readers Cross The Romance/Women’s Fiction Line? By Laura Drake

    • It’s so fun to host a friend who not only writes great books, but brings up important topics! I definitely read both WF and romance (and other genres as well). Sometimes I get into a pattern of reading the same thing, and then remind myself to switch, or am lured by a good story or favorite writer. I think you’re on your way! 🙂

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  1. Don’t you get frustrated by New York creating a division where none need exist? Your voice IS WF, Laura, and I fail to see how the inclusion of romance in a WF title makes it NOT WF. (I speak from the POV of a long marriage and a writer who jumps that NY-invented line occasionally, too–WF and romance fit snugly together under the fiction umbrella.) I’m going to buy DAYS MADE OF GLASS right now. See? Crossing the line. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Laura – your excerpt is lovely! I agree — readers pick types of reads, many times, based on their own personal situation at the time. This is exciting for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post, Laura! Lots to chew over. In my mind, romance is a fairly clear-cut genre-there are expectations of content and structure-with many possible permutations (sub-genres). Women’s fiction, however, encompasses a very broad range of books, because the possible themes are so vast. I don’t consider it a genre, really-more of a fictional region with very porous borders.

    Romance fiction doesn’t appeal to me as a reader and I wouldn’t be likely to follow a writer “crossing over.” But I have a feeling there may be a much greater pour-over readership going the other way, because WF has such a broad range. There’s something for any type of reader.

    I have followed writers into vastly different writing worlds (e.g. John Banville writing 1950s Dublin crime noir as Benjamin Black) and there are writers like Mary Doria Russell and Margaret Atwood who can do ANYTHING. If a book appeals to me, it’s not because it’s women’s fiction or any other category or genre, it just looks like a darn good story.

    As a writer, that’s my goal, too- to tell a darn good story. I’m not sure that most readers who love books categorized as women’s fiction know that’s what they are reading, since the books live on general fiction shelves in stores and libraries. We who write about women’s emotional journeys have a more solid sense of what makes something WF, but I think we all just want to write the stories that clamor to be told and to reach as wide an audience as possible. xoxo Julie

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  4. I’m on the WF side of the ditch. While I never write Romance, I see the connection in so many WF books. I read both with WF getting the edge. Personally, the story’s the thing. Give me great characters and I’ll follow you anywhere. 😉

    Have a great release day, Laura. Days Made Glass is already loaded on my Kindle.

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  5. Powerful, Laura. I congratulate you for your previous work, but I would say this will certainly take you places. No writer should be pinned to one form of creativity and your expansion here is purposeful. Wishing you the best with a book that will leap off the shelves, title, cover–and please with its pages. Awesome, Beth Havey

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  6. I’m more a WF reader than Romance, but you’re right – if I want to escape, I’d head for romance. (Might do it more if it were easy to find clean romances these days. ) But if a WF novel has a strong romance in it, I’d still consider it WF. And another poster is spot on: if the story grabs me, I’ll read it.

    Switching from Romance to WF puts you in good company. It seems when I look for older novels by WF writers, many times they’re straight romance. Susan Wiggs comes to mind. Yours looks good, Laura – congrats! I’m off to get it now.

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  7. My vote goes to voice, because I follow my favorite author’s to most any genre, including memoir.

    Maybe I’m wishful thinking because my books sit in the ditch between Romance and WF too. I’m not yet published and hope that my readers will follow them on both sides.

    Congrats on your new book, Days Made of Glass!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Tropical – and best of luck to you! I’m not sure if it helps or hurts – but it doesn’t really matter, because I have to write what I want to write. I have respect for those who can write to the market, but I’m not one of them. If I’m going to pour 6-8 months of my life into a book, it has to be something I believe in, and feel compelled to get out into the world!

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  8. Voice wins every time for me. I’ve read so much great YA purely because of voice. And happy pub day. May your new book baby bounce to Kindles and nightstands everywhere.

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  9. I definitely agree with those here who said voice is what sways them. I have followed many writers into different genres, and even when I don’t like one book as well as another by the same writer, I’m always curious to see how they fare in new territory. Pretty much the only exception to this is true crime–it gives me the creeps–except when it’s in the hands of a gifted writer like Truman Capote. I admire you for deciding to write the book that was in you, Laura,rather than writing to the market–that really takes guts. I’m about to jump off a different cliff, but a jump all the same, from women’s fiction into historical fiction. We’ll see how that goes…

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  10. HI Laura, Congratulations on your release! I like your point about how much drama somone wants in thier life being critical. I’ve been told by agents and editors over and over that “this book doesn’t know if it’s romance or woman”s fiction”. I see it as a continuum on the character driven scale and I’ve decided to indi-publish my series later this year rather than warp my voice either way. And believe me I’ve tried, but I’m neither sweet nor hot enough for romance, and the issues have to be solves before the romance can blossom. So I’m calling it “romantic Woman’s fiction” and we’ll see how it flies. Or maybe I’ll just call it “life.”
    Good luck with this one. Looking forward to reading it.

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  11. Laura…Loved reading your thought provoking post. For years, as a reader, I was all about the romance novels. Then, for some reason, as I got older, I transitioned to mystery/suspense with a good romance sprinkled in for lighter reading. I still read a lot of mystery/suspense but within the past 6 months have ‘discovered’ the WF category. To me, WF is about life…but guess booksellers, publishers, etc., don’t want to have a shelf that is titled ‘LIFE’ or they might have to have another titled ‘DEATH’…and what would they shelve there?? Okay…am making my own brain bleed here. The bottom line for me is a good story told well. I don’t really care what category it falls into.

    At any rate, I am an aspiring writer with a WIP that has nagged at me for years to be written. I jumped in with both feet and am excited each day to be writing this story. Recently, I stopped to wonder where it would fall…and I think I might be telling a story that is in that ‘ditch’ between WF and romance. To me, it is more WF but an agent might think otherwise as there is indeed a romance blooming within the story. But I am going to write the story and hope it finds a publisher and readers who are willing to sit in the ‘ditch’ with me.

    The excerpt you included hooked me. I look forward to reading the book. Good luck!

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    • Thank you, Beverly! I’m not usually a suspense fan, but someone who straddles WF and suspense is Kimberly Belle. Have you read her? She’s amazing.

      Write the story that’s burning in you. Let others worry about where it goes. You just WRITE!!!

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