You often use Jennifer Crusie as a core example. Do you think she is the best in our genre? Or is it because she is an educator as well?
Sarah: Jenny Crusie is a core example (mostly for Eric) because she's a brilliant writer who produces multi-layered novels that are almost tailor-made for academic criticism. She also thinks hard about her writing and shares those thoughts on her blogs and in her essays on her website. I think she's probably one of the best in our genre, but I can list many other writers (Kinsale, Brockmann, Roberts) and I know there are romance writers out there who I don't read that other people would list.
Eric: Sarah's right: I'm the one with the Crusie-centric vision of romance. In fact, Laura Vivanco and I are editing another collection of essays focused specifically on her work. I don't know enough about romance to say that she's 'the best in our genre–?–"I've only been reading it for a few years, after all–"but she's a wonderful author and theorist of romance fiction, and I think she makes the case for the genre, and lets us academics make that case, in a particularly persuasive way. Once I know other authors' work better, book by book, believe me, I'll talk more about them!
What do you think that the romance community can do to improve the opinion of romance within the literary world or even with the general public?
Sarah: Mary Bly/Eloisa James said at the Popular Culture Association Conference in April that we shouldn't be defensive. Just be up front and straightforward and don't be let anyone make you defensive about what you read. And I think the only thing that romance readers should do is continue reading, continue loving romances like they do, continue participating in websites like this and the Smart Bitches and Teach Me Tonight. Continue doing what they do so well already. We shouldn't HAVE to do anything else.
Eric: I, too, found Mary's talk very inspiring. (There's another author I'd like to write about, come to think of it: Eloisa James. I'm re-reading Your Wicked Ways this week.) But I, too, think that the opinion of romance in the literary world and the general public has very little to do with the actual romance community, or even with actual romance fiction. “It's not you, it's Vile Richard–?: the reasons for the prejudice run deep, and I think it's up to critics within academia to change the academic attitude. One thing the romance community has been doing for a while now, which has certainly helped me, is to welcome new academics who want to study romance, really making us feel like we can be part of both communities (reader and scholar) at once. Jenny's Cherries at the Yahoo group, Michelle Buonfiglio, the folks at Romancing the Blog, the Smart Bitches, and now Dear Author: you've all been great, and for me at least the RWA research grant competition was a godsend. I'd love to see it continue–"and, in turn, I'd love to see all of us who win the award use it to foster other scholars and new scholarship, so that it has a ripple effect on the academic world.