I’m always happy when historical romance authors are guests on my blog. And I’ve got a really good one on today–she’s Elise Rome, and she writes lush and lovely Victorian romances. Elise has written a very, very interesting blog about some of the things she’s learned since she starting writing romance novels, and how she creates her heroines.
Take it away, Elise!
Thanks so much to Vanessa for welcoming me back on the blog! As I count down to the release of my first book as Elise Rome (THE SINNING HOUR, due out late June), I realized that I wanted to share a self-discovery I’ve made since becoming a romance writer.
In the past I never thought of myself as being a feminist. Raised in East Texas, there was a definite bias against the word. In my mind, feminists were loud, brash, rude—and yes, even braless; the opposite of my mother, who was hard-working, quiet, respectful toward others (and always wore a bra). Women’s rights never concerned me much growing up, probably because the issue had a “been there, done that” feel to it. I was born after the suffrage movement, after women wearing pants in public became normal, and grew up during a time when it was status quo for women to work rather than stay at home raising children. I didn’t understand what else there was to fight for, and it often seemed that women who were termed “feminists” were people who just liked to stir up trouble by making a big deal out of nothing.
Ignorant, I know. I don’t think there’s any better word for it.
Two things happened when I began writing romance, though. One, I became part of an international community where women (for the most part) write love stories for women (again, for the most part). If any group of people could rightly be called feminists, it’s romance readers and writers… and yet, despite the stereotype I grew up believing, they’re some of the nicest, most generous, caring people I know. Through them, I’ve learned that being a feminist is something to be proud of. Modern romance espouses the idea that men and women should have equal footing in intimate relationships and, in turn, in every other arena where men and women interact. I’ve learned that being a feminist doesn’t mean that I want to beat down men or show myself to be superior to them; it means that I insist on being treated with the same respect and right of personhood that every human being should expect.
Part of my understanding of what feminism means and who I am as a feminist came from my participation in the romance community, and there are hundreds of fellow romance lovers to whom I am grateful as a result.
The second part, however, came from the actual writing of romance novels. As I hinted above, I think my entire (erroneous) perception of feminism can be attributed to social stereotyping. In truth, I think I’ve been a feminist all along. This truth continues to emerge in the heroines I write. Since I write historical romance novels—currently set in Victorian England, and soon also in the 1920s—my heroines have even less rights and privileges than we do today. Yet despite these boundaries, I’ve always been drawn to write heroines who refuse to settle for what’s expected of them; they know they are worth more, they know they deserve more. They want more, and they go after it, even if there are disastrous consequences to bear.
When I began toying with the idea of a new series, my first thought wasn’t how I could promote feminism by giving five heroines a chance at complete independence in a time when other women were constrained by the wills of their fathers, brothers, husbands, and other male relatives. No, I began with who the heroines were individually—both internally and externally—the type of respective heroes they each should have, and a general premise for their love stories. Then, at the end, I finally put together the idea of the women knowing one another because they’re all co-owners of a gaming hell.
To be honest, I don’t think I would have come up with that idea if I’d started by asking myself for a great hook for a new romance series. As a writer, to me every story begins with individual characterization. But once the idea evolved and the premise came of five women owning a gaming hell together, it resonated with me as a reader. And that’s when I realized how well the label “feminist” truly fits me; I want to read and write about strong women (this also helps me understand why Scarlett O’Hara has always been a particular favorite of mine).
Some may be beautiful, some may be plain; some may be rocket-scientist smart, some may be of average intelligence; all of them are vulnerable in one way or another, but that doesn’t mean they’re inferior because of their gender, just that they’re human. Most importantly, each heroine either knows who she is or discovers who she is through the course of the book, and while they may all long for an intimate, meaningful relationship with the hero of their dreams, they would never see themselves as unworthy or incomplete because they’re not attached to a man.
Yes, I’ve finally discovered what a feminist is, and what being a feminist means. It’s opened my eyes to see how much prejudice against women still exists, and it enrages me when I hear that a woman is raped every 26 seconds in South Africa, when I wonder why there is any rape at all.
Upon this realization, I’m more proud than ever to be a part of the romance community where we give hope to women who, possibly unlike our heroines, aren’t able to be strong at this very moment…but who grow more cognizant of their inner strength with each happily-ever-after ending.
The world that scoffs at the romance genre does so because they believe it’s all about sex and women who are dependent on men; they have no idea that while a committed relationship between two equal and loving partners is essential to our HEAs, a woman who will fight for herself with self-possession and intelligence is just as important.
Obviously, they’ve never met one of my heroines.
Elise Rome has never forgiven Margaret Mitchell for making her fall in love with Scarlett and Rhett in Gone with the Wind and then not giving them a happy ending. She likes to think that she makes up for this injustice with each romance novel she writes. When she isn’t telling stories about sexy, headstrong heroes and intelligent, independent heroines, Elise stays busy chasing after her two young daughters, semi-attempting to do housework, and hiking in the beautiful foothills of Colorado.
THE SINNING HOUR is Elise’s first book in her new Victorian Unmaskedseries, in which five masked women claim their independence by creating the most exclusive gaming hell in London. The book is scheduled to be published in late June 2012.
For more information about Elise, please visit her website at www.eliserome.com or connect with her through Facebook and Twitter.
What does the romance genre mean to you as a female reader or writer? One random commenter will win a digital copy of THE SINNING HOUR upon its release.
Vanessa, here. Thanks so much for visiting with us today, Elise, and for writing such a thoughtful blog! Now, readers, have at it. What does the romance genre mean to you? One person who comments will win a copy of Elise’s upcoming release.
31 thoughts on “Guest Author: Elise Rome & Giveaway!”
The (historical) romance genre, for me, means optimism and empowerment — our heroes and heroines encounter seemingly insurmountable obstacles in the course of finding true love — it makes me hopeful for the real works. If our romance writers can imagine it, then it cannot be as impossible to accomplish.
The HEA is a constant promise that, despite all odds, things will get better.
This was a great interview — I look forward to Elise Rome’s debut as Elise Rome. ^_^
…hopeful for the real *world
Thanks for stopping by, Tin! =) You hit on something that is another reason why I love romance novels–they give us hope. For the woman who has a loved one dying (been there), for the woman who’s going through a rough time in a relationship (been there, too), and for so many other situations, the hope in love and the strength of the heroines we see in romance novels is something that we can look to, because we know this is only a moment, and we will get past that moment eventually. =)
I find the idea of a healthy and balanced relationship to be one of the draws to feminism and romance novels . IN real life, I’ve only met a small handful of people in what one might consider a truly fair and balanced relationship.Luckily, in a romance novel, the number is alot higher, with many a H.E.A. to add to the enjoyment.
Hi Rebekah! Thank you so much for this comment! Yes, if my girls are going to look to a form of media for inspiration for healthy relationships, I would definitely point them in the direction of romance novels before popular music, TV, or movies. And while some non-romance readers point to romance as setting women up for false expectations when it comes to men/relationships, I think that 1) they obviously don’t know how smart we are to separate real life from fiction, because we KNOW no one is perfect and 2) it makes me sad that expecting your partner to treat you with love and respect has become an “ideal” or a symptom of “high standards”.
I’ve learnt a lot from reading Historical Romance books. I love to lose myself and imagine that I’m the Heroine. Another thing that it has taught me is that if I was 20 years younger, I would be a very naughty girl putting into practice all that I’ve learnt.!!!
LOL!!! Thanks for commenting, Diane! You make a great point…although I don’t think you should let the 20 years younger thing get in your way. 😉
🙂 wink wink
I love the romance as well as seeing the power that women have over men and the way that men never see it coming till it is too late…
Hi Linda! =) My first thought upon reading your comment was “be still, my heart.” Lol. There’s just something so wonderful about the hero finally “seeing” the heroine as someone who may be a worthy opponent–or an even better match. =) I have to admit that this is one of my favorite things in romances, too. =) Love the power shift.
I think romance for novel was story about interaction hero and heroin. They met and encounter many problem before end story wih always happy ending 🙂
Hi Filia! =) Thanks for visiting with me today! This is it exactly. =)
Three Cheers for you, Elise. Well said. I’ve always loved Scarlett O’Hara and am also disappointed that there was not a happy ending for their story. I am a huge fan of the romance genre because it allows me to learn how women have been held back over the years and how far we have come. My favorite romance novels are those with a strong heroine who has a bit of rebel in her while retaining her femininity. I love your books and cannot wait for your new series to be published. I’ve marked it on my calendar!! All the best! 🙂
Thank you so much, Connie! =) Have you ever read the GONE WITH THE WIND sequel, SCARLETT by Alexandra Ripley? It’s definitely different in terms of voice/style because it was written by a different author, but I really enjoyed it and was so glad to finally get my Rhett/Scarlett HEA. =)
I have always loved the historical romance more than the other genres. I just do . they are so Fun to read !!! 🙂
Hi Ebony! Well…I may be biased a little, but…I totally agree with you! 😉
For me the world of romance is one that allows me to leave my everyday life behind for a while…I love strong relationships between the lovers and (not the milk and water kind) the struggle that ensues. I love the pictures that develop in my mind as I read the printed words….I love the excitement that raw passion gives me and the dynamics of the relationships…
Hi Jennifer! =) Ah, the struggle. As much as I love the HEA, I love reading about the journey to how they get there. (And I can’t believe some people don’t see pictures when they read books; I’ve heard of some who just see the words on the page. This makes me very, very sad…)
I love the beauty of historical romance, while there’s plenty of nature’s beauty around us, sometimes I enjoy reading about beautiful gowns and parties [unlike today where jeans and pj’s appear to be the dress up code..
Lol! All I can say is thank goodness for changes in women’s fashion. I love reading about the balls and gowns, too (and would love to actually dress up and attend one someday), but I am not envious at all when I think about how hot and uncomfortable all those layers must have been!
As a female reader, reading romance means enjoying the reaffirmation of hope and love as core to people’s lives. Love gives us reason to continue and opportunity to heal and live fully as we’re meant to.
Wonderfully said, Fedora. =) It probably would have taken me an entire essay to say this as well as you did.
Hi Elise & Vanessa,
The romance genre for me helps take me away from the everyday dealings to escape to a world that was another time, but the heroine is able to do almost anything they want and most times get away with it. It feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this story to become available.
Hi Tina! First, thank you so much for visiting with me today! Secondly, thank you so much for your patience and support! I’m so glad that you’ll get a chance to read THE SINNING HOUR soon! =) I, too, love the freedom that we are able to give our heroines in romance novels. I always want to read about heroines who are not afraid to step out of their comfort zones, too.
I think being a feminist means not settling. And I definately find heroines in romance noverls who don’t settle: for society’s expectations, for their parents or guardians expectations and often for the expectations of the men they love. Of course, those loves soon realize they wouldn’t want someone who would merely settle.
Hi Sue! =) Ah, I love this: “Of course, those loves soon realize they wouldn’t want someone who would merely settle.” To me, this just shows how perfect the hero and the heroine are for each other. For example, while a hero might want the heroine to do something because it’s convenient for him, in the end he’ll come to appreciate and respect her more when he realizes that she’s her own person. That is a true man, in my opinion. =)
I enjoyed your post. I think it means that a couple is able to overcome their differences and have a happy ending.
Congratulations on your upcoming book!
Yep, working together to overcome their differences and challenges is an integral part of the HEA.
Romance reading is the Happily Ever After. Everything else is up to the authors. And when they are good, any type of story, hero, heroine, secondary characters, etc can be great. As long as there is a wonderful Happily Ever After.
100% agree, Lisa! That’s what makes the genre so great. There are countless ways to deliver that HEA.
What a great post Elise! I think I have viewed “feminists” the same way, people that just liked to stir up trouble and they lived in large cities far away from me so it didn’t affect me.
But I also can see that the romance community is full of feminists, and I love that! An amazing group of women that are empowered and in control. And if that bleeds over into their writing, all the better.