Sunday, April 26, 2009

What Your Mama Told You

I'm back from the Romance Conference at Princeton--and wow, do I have a lot to report. It was a fascinating event, with some great papers and presenters...but I need time to process before I can give a full update. There was just too much to fit in my brain and spit it back out neatly.

As a teaser: a story and a question. Sarah Frantz, one of the academics in attendance, told a story in the context of her paper about reading her first BDSM romance--a relatively tame Harlequin that was handed to her by her mother with the remark "This one has bondage!" when she was fifteen.

I know a lot of women were introduced to the romance genre by their mothers (or sometimes older sisters). I'm in the awkward position of having introduced my mother to the genre. She picked up her first romances after she learned I was writing one and working at a romance-related corporation (my former, pre-grad school job).

I'm a long way off from having a teen or pre-teen daughter. Or son for that matter. But I'm not sure whether I will be comfortable sharing romance novels with her or him. I hope I will be! I hope I'll be a published author well before then and that romances will be like wallpaper to my kids--ordinary, taken for granted aspects of their environment. Nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed about.

So, to the Damned Scribbling Women and friends: How did you start reading romance? How should mothers and children (daughters and sons) relate together over romance novels?


Kate Diamond said...

I guess my mom loaned me my first "racy" romance novels. I'd read sweet romance novels for teens and was already hooked before she loaned me the Clan of the Cave Bear series (she had me read it because of the detailed research. But come on, it's all about Ayla and Jondalar experiencing Pleasures).

As for my own prospective mommy-child romance rules: Mr. Marvelous and I have gone back and forth on whether to censor our theoretical children. As an author and a teacher, I am adamantly against it.

I think it would be sufficient to know what my kids are reading and be able to talk to them about it. I don't think I'd necessarily loan my kid a romance novel unless he/she seemed interested. I would probably let my kid initiate.

Again, all hypothetical.

Theresa said...

The lovely Kate Diamond and some other college friends introduced me. My mom is not a romance reader and probably won't become one, either. But with friends like these, that's quite alright!

Shelli Stevens said...

Hmm. I picked my mother's romance novels off the shelf at about eleven or so and went to town. Now my kid...I think I'm going to need to have a 'no reading mommy's books until you're 18' rule. Since I write erotic :D But I'd happily hand her some of the tamer stuff. I got my 14 year old niece hooked on some of the lighter romance novels (with no if any sex scenes!)

Vivi Andrews said...

I'm in the I-turned-my-mom-onto-romances camp. I picked up a couple that had been left at our house by my aunts as a teen and I was hooked.

My mom didn't really start reading them until I told her she couldn't read my romance manuscripts without a little perspective. I still haven't let her read my raciest stuff... but I won't be able to stop her when it comes out this June. Eep!

As for my own theoretical children... I got nuthin. I'm anti-censorship, but I'm not really looking forward to the Mommy-writes-sex-for-a-living conversation.

Angelia Sparrow said...

As a writer and a mother, whose own mother reads romance, I think I have some experience here.

It's all Gone with the Wind's fault, really. Mom let me watch the movie when I was 13. I read the book in 8th grade, and being a proper geek, I cross-referenced the dialogue with my copy of The Empire Strikes Back.

I then turned my nose up at romance for years, until I got bored while working at Girl Scout Camp one summer, having read all the SF/Fantasy on the shelf. I read The Windflower and was hooked.

My mother read Victoria Holt and Sergeanne Golon (I came very close to being named Angelique, hence the extra i). I devoured these and anything else I could find at our library or at used book stores.

When I started writing, I hesitated to let Mom read my stuff. I just sent her copies without comment, letting the Gay Christmas Werewolves stand on their own. She loved it.

My kids--ages 9 to 17--know I write romance. They know I write gay romance. (Big sis is VERY out, so we dealt with Gay Issues about four years ago) They know they can read anything they like. Most of them don't want to read my stuff, because "Mom? Writing kissing stuff? EWWWWWWW!"

I've been known to pass novels on to my oldest. Sometimes I even get them back.