So way back before I got really ill the other week, I blogged about my difficulty talking about my books and how this Toastmasters guy was coming to my chapter meeting. And I did go to that meeting, even though I was running a fever and hoarse from coughing. After his talk, I asked him – if I’m a nervous speaker, what should I tell myself to get over that? I was expecting one of those “picture the audience in their underwear” type things. But what he said was, “Remind yourself that you have something important to share, something that will have meaning to the people you’re addressing.”

Well. That was sort of a light-bulb moment for me. Because I realized that a lot of my shyness in talking about my books probably stems from insecurity – my fear that what I have to say isn’timportant to the listener, especially if s/he doesn’t read romance novels. And yeah, that’s something I need to get over.

Because this genre is important, to a lot of people. If you attended RWA National Conference in Dallas last year, you heard Lisa Kleypas give that great speech about how she and her mother went to buy “essentials” at Wal-Mart after her home was devastated by a flood…and how, for each of them, a romance novel counted as an essential. My friend Deb Mullins told me that she’d had a fan letter from a reader whose husband was deployed with the armed forces. The woman thanked her, saying it was the first novel she’d been able to really get lost in since her husband had left, and it gave her a much-needed break from constant worrying.

When I went to the hospital to have Dareling #2 induced (I must have the coziest womb ever, because neither of my children showed the slightest inclination to leave it willingly), I took along a romance novel to help pass the time and distract me from those lovely pitocin-amped contractions.

So when someone asks me about my books, I’m going to try to follow Toastmaster-guy’s advice and remind myself that I have something important to share. Someday my book is going to give a woman a smile and a happy sigh just when she needs them, and that’s a worthy mission indeed.

But the more examples I have, the more confident I’ll feel. So how about you? When has a romance novel been important to you, or even essential?

14 comments to “TMI Tuesday: The Meaning of Romance”

  1. Gillian Layne
    · February 26th, 2008 at 2:28 am · Link

    Yeah, ok. (laughing) Quite the timing. My youngest is having a root canal later this afternoon. If I could do it for her, I gladly would. As it is, I just get to sit and wait.

    Guess who’s keeping me company, and who has the very best chance of keeping me at least a bit distracted while I sit in the waiting room? Today’s choices shall consist of Lisa Kleypas, Candice Hern, and Lee McKenzie.

    Romance keeps me sane in times of stress, for sure!

  2. Maggie Robinson
    · February 26th, 2008 at 8:04 am · Link

    I must read on vacation by the pool/lake/ocean—sometimes a book a day or more. I sit in the sun, drink and read. I’m at complete peace out-of-doors, relaxed.

  3. terrio
    · February 26th, 2008 at 8:44 am · Link

    When I first had to start giving my 2 year old up for entire weekends, I would wave goodbye, lay down on my couch and read a book a day until she came back. It was only like 32 hours but those were 32 very long hours.

    Romance (McNaught to be exact) got me through HS alive. I hated it and the only things that kept me going were the belief I would get out of there and go on to bigger and better things and reading romance novels. If I didn’t have the books, I don’t know how things would have turned out.

  4. Alice Audrey
    · February 26th, 2008 at 9:21 am · Link

    I’m with Kleypas, only without the flood. I don’t have one particular incident, but I consider it essential to have something good to read available at all times. What’s more, I need to have a wide variety in my TBR pile If I don’t have Romantic Suspense, Historical Romance in various settings, Science Fiction, and Classics on my shelf then I’m bound to get frustrated when I can’t find anything to read despite the hundreds of books sitting there. I often have half a dozen books going at a time. I never go anywhere I expect to have to wait, like the doctor’s office, without a book handy.

    It isn’t a thing, it’s a way of life.

  5. Lynne Simpson
    · February 26th, 2008 at 9:27 am · Link

    One of the best things about my PDA is that I can take hundreds of books with me wherever I go. Unfortunately, not all of my Desert Island Keepers are available in e-format, but hope springs eternal. 🙂 That little chunk of plastic and metal has traveled with me to the doctor’s office, the airport, you name it. I will be absolutely devastated when it stops working.

    I’m a firm believer that each of us has a story to tell that nobody else could relate in quite the same way. Sure, there will be similarities to other stories, but you’re going to tell it from a perspective that’s completely your own.

    And if that’s not enough to calm your jitters, the audience-in-underwear trick works wonders, too. 😛

  6. Lenora Bell
    · February 26th, 2008 at 1:20 pm · Link

    I did time working in an Alaskan fish cannery during the summers to help put myself through college. Let me tell you, when you’re working seven days a week, 15-20 hours per day, dressed head to toe in thick rain gear, and can’t get the smell of salmon guts out of your hair, romance novels are essential.

  7. Janga
    · February 26th, 2008 at 1:41 pm · Link

    When life sent the message that the very term “happy ending” was ludicrous, I read romance novels as an antidote. When I twice spent endless hours in hospice rooms watching beloved parents die by degrees, I read romance novels to stay sane. Escaping for a brief time to a world where love really did conquer all gave me the strength to keep on keeping on in a world where clearly love could not protect the beloved from war and illness and death.

    Write on, Tessa! What you do will matter, probably more than you can even imagine.

  8. Renee
    · February 26th, 2008 at 3:31 pm · Link

    Romance is my escape from the life of housewifery or life in general.

    I always wanted to sail the seven seas, break up an international spy ring, save the queen, be swept off my feet, have some charming rogue speak his undying love. I can live my fantasies through romance novels. Romance novels are the one luxury I allow myself.

  9. Tessa Dare
    · February 26th, 2008 at 3:43 pm · Link

    Great stories, everyone.

    Gillian – Isn’t the worst, when your kid has to go through those things? Absolutely, I’d take any injury or sickness before I’d watch my child suffer through it. I hope whichever author you chose, she worked her magic for you!

    Maggie – I agree, a good novel is essential on vacation. I hate it when I read everything I’ve brought along and have to scrounge for something.

    Terri – that must have been soooo hard, to say goodbye to your precious baby! I’m so glad the books were there for you. And I’m like you – never would have made it through junior high or high school without lots of escapist reading, in romance and other genres.

    AA – It isn’t a thing, it’s a way of life. Love that. As a librarian and writer, you know I concur!

    Lynne, I think I must get myself an ebook reader or such soon. I love the idea of books being so portable and having dozens of them at my fingertips wherever, whenever.

    Lenora, I am adding “salmon cannery” to my list of “Places I’ll Never Work.” Ugh. What a character-building experience, I’m sure. I can’t believe you had any time or energy left to read!

    Oh, Janga – you always manage to choke me up. It’s so true, that happy endings in books give us hope when our own HEAs seem so elusive.

    Renee, I love your point about luxury. I think a lot of us wives and mothers skimp on luxuries for ourselves – I know I do – but books are one thing I do buy without guilt. I know I’m giving my children a good example by being a habitual reader, and you are too.

  10. Kelly Krysten
    · February 26th, 2008 at 8:57 pm · Link

    Roamance novels came to me after my first really,truly horrible break up. I was a wreck but the more I concentrated on the stories the more I forgot what’s his name. Eventually the novels even helped me move on when he failed so utterly in comparrison to romance

  11. Keira Soleore
    · February 26th, 2008 at 9:16 pm · Link

    Romance novels are the ocean of hope that has kept me going these past few years. I wouldn’t be here without them. Writers like you, Tessa, have GOT to write the books they do, because there are always going to be readers like me who need to read them and to believe…

    Tessa wrote, “I must have the coziest womb ever, because neither of my children showed the slightest inclination to leave it willingly”

    *cough cough* #3 *cough cough*

  12. irisheyes
    · February 27th, 2008 at 6:35 am · Link

    I was a very frazzled, sleep deprived, stressed out (and unbeknownst to me, ill) mommy of 2 toddlers with a husband working a lot and going to school at night. I had very few breaks and fewer distractions. When they slept, I slept. I stopped watching TV for myself because I didn’t want my children seeing a lot of the inappropriate stuff that’s on and there’s only so much Barney you can watch before you’re ready to blow your brains out. I thought I was heading into a depression so I went to see a therapist. She, thankfully, suggested I get a physical (which put me on the road to getting healthier physically), but also suggested I try reading as a means of escape. She explained that I could still be present physically, just escape mentally every so often when I got them involved in a craft or game. It was also a great way for me to teach my kids to entertain themselves and that we all needed to separate for a little while every day. She also stressed that I read something fun and escapist. No “How To” books on parenting or mothering (which my masochistic self would have been drawn to in a heartbeat! LOL), something to take me out of my present world and help me to relieve a little of the stress. Reading a book gave me the flexible escape I needed. It was something I could do any time, any where and, more importantly, stop at any moment.

    It worked! I went to the library that day and picked up An Offer From A Gentleman by Julia Quinn and The Bride by Julie Garwood. The rest, as they say, is history! I’m still here, semi-sane, with two wonderful kids (now in school all day!) who love to read. In fact, now we have family reading time before we go to bed!

  13. Santa
    · February 27th, 2008 at 8:51 am · Link

    I have two or three books with me whereever I go. I never leave home without them. I read all the time and everywhere. I’ve done this all my life except when I was working in the city. For twelve years I took the train, used a backpack instead of purse and never read a book – of any kind. Now I can’t imagine my life without a romance in my hand – I’ve already got it in my heart.

    I feel it in my fingers that one of Tessa’sor (so many other fine writers here) will have their books tossed into the shopping cart of a woman (or man) who just needs to escape into a world where there’s always great sex and a HEA is guaranteed.

  14. Tessa Dare
    · February 28th, 2008 at 11:38 am · Link

    Kelly – I’m so glad you were able to move on from what’s-his-name and get ready to meet a REAL hero! They’re out there, really!

    Keira – I’m sending you some lozenges.

    Irisheyes – what a wonderful story! That’s so great, that your therapist told you to read something purely fun and for you. We moms (well at least I) don’t do enough of that – but you’re right, we’re better, happier homemakers when we do.

    Santa, you are the sweetest. And isn’t the best part that writing romance is even better than reading it? Seriously – the romantic “high” lasts for months, instead of hours!