A part of me tries to avoid mass cultural activities out of some inner desire to preserve my integrity. Call it a left over residue of literary elitism from my days as an English Major, or a fear that by participating in the norms, I will lose touch with the ability to be ‘unique’ or to form my own thoughts–a fear of cultural brainwashing, shall we say.
On the other hand, just because something is wildly popular is not reason enough to write it off. Think Adele, Harry Potter, The Beatles, Facebook, Twitter, Martin Luther King or Obama, for that matter. We can be engaged and inspired by mass cultural figures, pastimes and entertainment while keeping our discerning minds in tact.
Perhaps this view explains my recent caving expedition. Not spelunking or potholing but caving, as in giving in to things.
For example, the other night I met up with a friend to see Fifty Shades Darker. It’s not the type of film in which to invite your child or the minister of your church, but it works just fine as a sexy film to see with your girlfriends. (In fact, there were only women in the theater!)
After the film, I had an interesting discussion with my friend. Why is this genre so popular? Although The Fifty Shades stories have been called mommy porn and this latest film received a 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, that doesn’t take away the facts; the novels are wildly popular the world over. In fact, 100 million copies of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy were sold worldwide through 2014 (The Gaurdian, 2014). That number has certainly only grown in the last three years.
I believe this series is popular for several reasons. 1) It pushes the norms of the romance genre (tell us it’s forbidden and we want it more), 2) it features an innocent heroine and a rich bad boy (two popular elements in the romance genre) and 3) it provides a narrative that goes beyond the sex and physical attraction to offer up what we all want in our lives: Love.
Although S&M plays a role in the film, and Grey’s stalker mentality would make any woman squirm (and not in a good way), the lead characters care so deeply for one another that they inspire positive change in each other’s lives. He’s willing to give up his dark habits for a chance at love. And who wouldn’t want a sexy, successful multi-millionaire to consider you ‘the one’ who could make his life complete? (Given that you feel the same way, that is. Otherwise that could be highly problematic.)
The heroine of the story is also strong. She is able to say no to power freak Christian Grey while every other woman in his past only knew how to say yes. Her innocence and integrity are her weapons in turning a bad boy good, without taking the sexy out of him.
As we left the movie, my friend gave me the ticket stub, suggesting that I could use the ticket as a tax write off or memento, since I’m an author of romance.
As I prepare for the launch of my second book, I revisit why, with my interest in literature, I continue to write romance. It’s quite simple, actually. I believe that everyone deserves love in their lives and I am most attracted to works of fiction that bring messages of hope, connection and joy into the world, while honoring the social narrative in which they are written. Romance is a genre that gives space for all of these qualities.
It is thus with pride that I share with you the cover of my upcoming novel The Things We Said in Venice!
It’s no Fifty Shades of Venice, but it does take you on a romantic journey through Italy, Argentina and The Netherlands with characters that make you laugh, cry, contemplate and open your heart to the chance of love.
With a launch date planned in May 2017, you will undoubtedly be hearing more from me in the coming weeks about this novel. But for now, a picture is worth a thousands words.
I would love to hear what you think of this cover design!