In today's Sunday Telegraph, in the Seven days section -- the one with John Sims on the cover -- there is an article about the Harrogate Crime Novelists festival. I took exception to the unattributed remark that you had to be careful at the Romantic Novelists as they all hated each other, and that some passing book-editor replied 'Yes, it is always handbags at dawn there.'
I have seen versions of these remarks before, generally emanating from crime novelists. However, having attended several RNA functions can I state that I have never seen any handbags at dawn, nor have I ever seen any cat fights. And no one has ever hidden a knife in their stiletto heel.
The Romantic Novelists Association like any other professional writers group is composed of largely affable people who when they get together talk. They talk A LOT. The RNA, like the crime writers, are also notorious for drinking places dry, but that is another story. When I have gone to the RNA conferences, I have returned home tired and inspired. I have always renewed old friendships and made new friends.
I do not know how this story started that somehow the crime writers are composed of placid people because they are able to murder people in their books and romantic novelists are repressed neurotics because their books are so nice and pleasant. I suspect it was someone's bon mot and will leave at that.
It is possible in romance writing, just as in any other genre of writing, to have people meet grisly ends or to create truly horrible characters and get one's subtle revenge if one so desires it. It is one of the perks of the job if a writer is so inclined.
And I do think that writers tend to be on a more even keel in general as we pour the drama and emotion into our work rather than into creating crisis.
Writing conferences are fun. The RNA is very welcoming as well as composed of highly professional individuals who are making a career out of their writing. It upsets me when we are portrayed otherwise.