Sunday, August 05, 2007

Handbags at dawn

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.


Unknown said...

Here, here. Where do they come up twith this nonsense???

Michelle Styles said...

Well, yes rather.

I did write to the Sunday Telegraph and complain.

Not that it will do any good, but it made me feel better.

Kate Hardy said...

Blimey. There are the odd egos, but you get that in ANY genre.

Romantic novelists are a really supportive bunch.

A romantic author whose debut recently came out told me how delighted she was to find everyone was so friendly and approachable. I think she speaks for the majority.

As you say, someone was trying to be clever. And there's a lot of lazy journalism when it comes to romantic novelists.

Anonymous said...

Michelle - I don't know where this silly remark came from. A Senior ed spoke at the RNA and said she was always very heartened by just how supportive the romance community was compared to the authors in some other genres.

I think a handbag fight could be quite fun, fuelled by champagne!


Anonymous said...

Oh and Kate. I had an interview with a (male) journo on a big regional recently who said: "Romance has been dead since Jane Austen hasn't it? Have you reinvented it?"

I was so disappointed that someone at regional level could be so lacking in insight!

In contrast I find my ex collegaues on the locals to be very intelligent and well-informed.



Sela Carsen said...

Oh good grief. Seriously? What nonsense. Spoonfeeding people the comfort of their hypocrisies is a pretty base level of journalism.

Michelle Styles said...


I have been thinking about your journo's comment about romance being dead after Jane Austen.I think it might be because so many polls about favourite romance books include JA.
I have to give my fave today on BBC Radio and I thought I would use a more modern one. But it takes time to be come a classic.