I’m finishing a romance trilogy this month, one of those billionaire ones. How many have I written now? It must be close to fifty. Fifty books, not fifty trilogies. Fifty trilogies seems ridiculous, though that’s where I’m headed. And that’s not counting sci-fi, or thrillers, or nonfiction.
Anyway, I’m finishing a romance trilogy, but it occurred to me this morning, plodding away, I’ve never updated my reading habits to reflect what I’m writing. Here’s what I’ve bought and read while writing this trilogy:
Klara and the Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro – I suppose you might call this one YA dystopian. I was writing in that genre, but that was last year.
The Great Silence – Ted Chiang – Sort of a meditation on birds. I was inspired by it, and wrote a much angrier reflection on the same subject. I did it in Russian, and not very well. I’ve got better at Russian, but I’m still far from fluent.
Later – Stephen King – Horror. Duh. (One of his better outings, I thought, at least by recent standards. He kept it nice and trim.)
The Cold Solution, and Other Stories – Don Sakers – I read this because of another story, Tower of Babylon by Ted Chiang. I was discussing it with a friend, trying to work out how they’d built such a tall tower from such inflexible materials, and it hadn’t collapsed. From there, the conversation passed to engineering fails in sci-fi, and of course someone mentioned The Cold Equations. Probably me. I always mention The Cold Equations. That led to The Cold Solution, which of course I had to read.
After that, I read everything Amazon had by Kazuo Ishiguro, including the ones I’d already read. I don’t know why I did that. It was singularly unhelpful. I found myself writing in a new, restrained style, unsuitable for romance. Mr. Boose made me go back and sex things up. I was going to read some romance to get back on track, but Amazon recommended At the End of the Matinee by Keiichiro Hirano. I read that instead, and while it was quite romantic, it wasn’t romance.
Yesterday, I started reading Остров Сахалин, which is not only the wrong genre, but in the wrong language. But I’m reading an English translation alongside. That’s something, right?
I think the problem is, I don’t enjoy romance. I’ve tried, but it doesn’t feel like it’s for me. Writing it is exhausting, maintaining that rapturous style. Reading it’s worse, because I’ve both been in love and wanted to be, and neither my relationships nor my fantasies are reflected in these stories. It’s like watching Friends on repeat—couple after couple who shouldn’t be together, who go together like chalk and cheese, clinging tight to their dreams but ending up with each other. Ending up disappointed after THE END. Ross and Rachel didn’t make it, no way, no how. Romance is like that for me, every damn time.
Speaking of Friends, I only laughed once through all nine seasons (or were there ten)? I laughed when Chandler’s TV Guide was addressed to Chanandalar Bong. Later, someone told me that joke was kind of racist. Fucking Friends.
What can I read that would sell me on romance? I think I’d write it better if I could learn to love it. If I weren’t drifting off constantly, coming back with foreign thoughts. (Not that I write it horribly. I get good reviews. But I’m not writing classics. I’m not contributing to the genre so much as…padding it out. What could I read that would show me what I’m missing?)
As ever, I’m lost.