I want to share something, and I hope it’s taken in the spirit I intend. There have been days when I’ve been down, or that I’ve thought maybe the genre I write in is not as “important” as other genres. Then last month, I took a writing workshop from Joshua Perkey where I was encouraged to write a few pages about WHY I WRITE WHAT I WRITE. I blasted it out there in about half an hour, and it’s rough, but as I hashed it out, the words helped me see why clean fiction is vital. It’s long, but I wanted to share it with you all, and give you a huge thank you for all YOU do to bring light to the world.
WHY I WRITE WHAT I WRITE
Why do I write light romance? First and foremost, I believe that it helps others escape from the stress and pressure of their daily lives. Escapist fiction, clean and uplifting (at least on some level, giving a hope of love and resolution to problems), is a needed quantity in the world. People need a break from their own concerns to worry about someone else’s for a while. They need to be able to vicariously experience an emotionally wrenching “dark moment” as a relationship looks like it’s about to fail, and then the triumph as love overcomes. In this way, a reader can be transported to a place of escape, as well as a place of emotional healing. The vicarious experience is part of why storytelling has been prominent in every society in all the history of the world.
Here’s another way to consider it. To paraphrase G.K. Chesterton, “Children do not need fairy tales to know there are dragons in the world. They need fairy tales to know that dragons can be slain.” The same can be said of light fiction, especially including romance. We need to believe in happily ever afters. We need to believe that love and romance and happiness can all exist in one good relationship. We need to have something to model our own behaviors on, as women and men treat each other well and make one another fall in love with each other. We need to be able to see it working out, even when we might have imperfect relationships in our own lives.
There is so much of the other kind of writing out there: the tawdry, the titillating, the downright filthy. Sectors of my genre can often be boiled down to pornography for women. Women crave a love story, and if there isn’t a clean one, all that will be left is the sludge. If writers like me and those in my clean romance movement failed to write, there would be nothing to fill that need, and a huge void would be left. We offer a solution, fill a need, and a wholesome—if not always necessarily uplifting—escape. I’m only saying this that it’s not necessarily uplifting because I usually would attribute a spiritual aspect to that word. However, on the other hand, true love expressed (within bounds of morals and decency) must needs be uplifting.
A few years ago, there was a huge incident of civil unrest in the Middle East, which became known as the Arab Spring. Governments were overthrown by military groups, upheaval was everywhere, putting civilians at risk. I have a cousin who grew up in Idaho but who married an Egyptian man. She has lived many years outside Cairo. During the Arab Spring’s events, we all worried for her and her family’s safety. And then, she gave me a gift: an email that changed everything about how I saw my writing. It was along the lines of this: Jenny, During all this craziness, I’ve been confined to my house. We placed large barricades in our cul de sac to keep tanks from entering our neighborhood. I couldn’t go outside or leave for several days. So, to take my mind off things, I reread your book Delicious Conversation. It was a great escape until the smoke cleared.
Tell me that fluffy fiction is useless or powerless now.
The final thing is from a Kate DiCamillo quote on Facebook that I didn’t read but heard about. I should note that she is my favorite writer of all time. She is beautiful and amazing, and every book of hers that I read feels like a glimpse into a wise and precious soul who knows what our ideal of love and relationships should really be, and she conveys that through gentle relationships, quirky and broken souls who need the healing of love. Anyway, Kate DiCamillo recently said on social media that she felt so helpless in a world that felt like it was growing darker all the time, and that there’s no way to combat it—until she realized that her writing was light, and that we have to fill the world with stories. “Stories are light. Light is precious in a world so dark.”
I feel like my voice cannot shout and tell the world to stop its sludgy trudge toward Gomorrah. I can’t be like one of those terrible, shouting radio announcers or bloggers that tell us everything that is morally sliding into the murk. I have those thoughts, but I don’t have that gift, nor do I want to accomplish such an outcome through contention, which I assume that type of communication would always entail.
Instead, I have a different gift, a talent that I’ve cultivated and practiced and given time to over the course of more than two decades. That gift is stories. That gift is to fill the world with light—and when I say light fiction, I can mean it both ways: light as in fluffy, but also light as in illuminating to a dark or heavy soul. I can do as Kate, my writing hero, says, and fill the world with light. The world needs my stories. I’m not wasting my time by writing. I’m giving the world my little, happy gifts. I hope they will receive them.
That’s why I write what I write: light fiction.