Foz Meadows and Alexandra Rowland on Falling in Love with the Romance Genre
This Week from Tor Presents: Voyage Into Genre
Tor Books, in partnership with Literary Hub, presents Voyage Into Genre! Every other Wednesday, join host Drew Broussard for conversations with Tor authors discussing their new books, the future, and the future of genre. Oh, and maybe there’ll be some surprises along the way…
Today is a true journey into the unknown, for me anyway: romance fiction. In the space of two books, I go from not thinking it was for me to absolutely adoring what Alexandra Rowland dubs “fealty and feelings” novels—so let’s go, let’s get into it, let’s get our hearts messy! And we’ll think a bit about the politics of romance, too…
CW: some discussion of sexual assault and depression/anxiety
Foz Meadows (A Strange and Stubborn Endurance) talks about finding romance through the classics and fan-fiction, learning through points of view, the fun of language and translation, and writing about sexual assault.
Alexandra Rowland (A Taste of Gold and Iron) talks about their discovery of romance as a genre, writing anxiety, and why they always want to include economics in their books.
adrienne maree brown (Fables and Spells) muses on the balance of love and power in the speculative fiction she reads—and writes—and how we might find that balance in our world as well.
Read the full episode transcript here.
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Foz Meadows on how she found the kind of romance she likes:
I’m very sympathetic to this thing you’ve said about having to take a while to realize that romance is a thing for you; that’s definitely a trajectory that I personally have been on, because particularly when you are AFAB growing up, the assumption is that you must love romance, that you must love this particular genre.
And I’m a very contrary person. The more somebody tells me something, particularly when I was younger, that I was told, “this is for you and you will like it,” the more I would dig my heels in and say, no, I will not. And the thing is also, Hollywood romcoms, particularly through the 90s? Not very good. There’s a few standouts, and then the rest of it kind of makes you want to walk into the ocean and never emerge. So I would get really, really angry at this idea of romance, because my baseline concept of it was very heteronormative, often really badly constructed Hollywood romcoms.
Whereas I really loved the romances in Shakespeare and Austen and that felt not rebellious, exactly, but it felt like aha, they are doing it correctly and this is doing it wrong. It left me in this position. And it took me a long time to work through what was going on there and realize, oh, okay, it’s not that I dislike tropes, it’s that I dislike tropes being done in a sexist and bad, annoying way.
And then I discovered fan fiction. I was like, oh, this is so much better when it’s queer! Oh, now I see us leaning into the tropes and I understand why I like this one so much, but not this one! Or I like these two together, but not these two together. And suddenly it just made sense.
Alexandra Rowland on their discovery of romance and subgenre:
Alexandra Rowland: I had a similar kind of thing happen to me a few years ago, coming up on the better part of a decade actually—I’d been trying to read romance for a long time and I just wasn’t clicking with it, and I loved fanfic.
I loved romantic fanfic, and I have a friend who’s super super into romance, so I kept saying, recommend me favorites, I really want to see what the allure is and why so many people love this genre so much. And she recommended me three or four books and I read all of them and they just didn’t click with me. And a couple years later, another person recommended one to me. And what I discovered was that I don’t have any interest in reading about heterosexuals falling in love. I love, I love queer romance novels with all of my heart. That was a wonderful discovery to make, that awareness that it’s such a personal preference, and the kind of romance novels that you like are so dependent on what your heart is hungry for.
Drew Broussard: It’s so funny too, because of course that is a widely accepted thing about most other genres. Like some people don’t like space opera, but they like a little bit of science fiction.
Alexandra Rowland: There’s subgenres. Wow! Which is such a funny thing to realize in hindsight. But I think that the mainstream culture does have a tendency to lump all romance together into one thing, often in a kind of derogatory way. Because so many people just do not respect the genre of romance, which is a shame and a crime because there’s some really amazing stories out there. But I think that is a contributing factor into why I was struggling so much to get a foothold in it.
adrienne maree brown on balancing love and power in her own work and life:
What does it look like to hold power in a way that neither person, or none of the people involved, own each other, where they just really get to love each other? These are some of the things I think about, and as I’m beginning my own journey of writing longer form fiction, it’s one of the things I keep coming up against. Can I even notice the power dynamics that feel so normal to me? And can I make them seem abnormal, and can I normalize a different kind of power dynamic, a power dynamic where power is held with and between and at the center of relationships of care and community and love—where love means the willful extension towards collective growth?