First and foremost, I consider myself a storyteller. And I'm endlessly fascinated with people, with what they do and why... and how they feel about it. Which means I'm interested in romance fiction. I was drawn to it, as both a reader and a writer, at the very beginning of my career. It's my kind of storytelling.
You see, I believe that romance fulfills two separate but complementary human needs--for story and for hope. It's a way of looking at life, one that offers optimism and at least the possibility of “happy endings.”
Romance focuses on emotions and on relationships, both of which are fundamentally important to women. Yes, I certainly have male readers, but it's well-documented that women read more, especially more fiction, and what they want are stories that make sense of life and that reflect the realities of their lives--the importance of love, family, community. Of belonging.
As a genre, romance has changed and expanded and redefined itself many times in the 30-plus years since I wrote my first novel. Back then, romance was more narrowly defined and typically marketed as either a Harlequin or Silhouette series romance or a single title historical. Many exciting changes came about as writers pushed those original boundaries and broadened them. Today a romance can involve vampires, royalty, single mothers, hot mammas, westerns, suspense--the possibilities are as endless as authors' imaginations. The stories can be realistic, fantasy oriented, traditional, futuristic, lyrical, comedic or any combination of the above. Romance can be the main focus of the novel, or it can be a strong element in a story with a broader focus.
My personal journey in the genre has gone from Silhouette and Harlequin romances to single-title mass market releases to hardcover fiction. As I have grown as an author, so has my audience. I am grateful that the readers who discovered my novels in the early days when I wrote category romance are still fans. Today, much of the fiction I write focuses on communities (whether a neighborhood, as in the Blossom Street stories, or a small town, like the setting of my Cedar Cove series). I explore the lives of the characters who live there, which include a multitude of relationships, among them--of course--romantic ones.
In my books and in romance as a genre, there is a positive, uplifting feeling that leaves the reader with a sense of encouragement and hope for a brighter future--or a brighter present. If ever there was a time for an outlook that promises optimism and relatable characters who try to behave with honor and courage, that time is now. I believe this explains the increase in sales within our genre during the current economic downturn.
The theme of my new spring hardcover, Summer on Blossom Street, is this: we all have the capacity to change our lives for the better. Lydia, a continuing character in the series, organizes a new class at her store, A Good Yarn. It's called Knit to Quit, and the people who join all have individual needs and desires they're trying to achieve. They help each other overcome their difficulties, providing encouragement and a sense of community.
We all face difficulties of our own, and how comforting it is to immerse yourself in a book--my book, any book, any romance. It's entertainment, it's escape, and it can even be an inspiration!
|Debbie Macomber is the author of Summer on Blossom Street and the Cedar Cove series.|