Novelist?s job is more gruelling than romantic
By NEELIMA CHOAHAN
LOVE, jealousy, passion: the air was thick with thwarted desires, dejected suitors at a recent Gold Coast gathering of wannabe romance writers and published authors.
Organised by the Romance Writers of Australia, the conference attracted editors and agents and more than 600 writers from all across Australia.
Among them was Elanora resident Bronwyn Houldsworth who has been trying to get in print for 15 years.
"It's really tough getting published but it is my dream," Ms Houldsworth said.
On hand was the New York Times bestselling romance author Debbie Macomber to offer some TLC and encouragement.
With more than 60 million books sold, she is the dream that many aspiring writers hope to live.
"I started writing on a rented typewriter on the kitchen table and had no success for the first five years," Ms Macomber said.
However, commitment, passion and pure stubbornness kept her going. "I wanted it very badly.
"If I had given up my dream I would have lost a piece of my soul."
Also at the conference was Dr Glen Thomas, a Creative writing lecturer at Queensland University of Technology.
Dr Thomas is researching the phenomenon of romance novels and said they were more popular than imagined.
"A lot more people read romance than you would think," Dr Thomas said.
However, romance novels were often regarded with disdain.
"There is a patriarchal overtone to it because it is perceived as women's business."
Women's business though it might be, romance novels still account for $1.2 billion in sales in the United States each year.
"About 40 per cent of all fiction sold are romance novels," Dr Thomas said.
And although the numbers for Australia are hazy, according to Dr Thomas sales were 'more than you'd think'.
"Their age-old appeal lies in happy endings. People are looking for fantasy, for that feel-good feeling," he said.
However, what was changing was the way characters are portrayed.
"The men are more vocal than before and the women often have careers as diverse as secret agents and even spies," Dr Thomas said.
The shift in characters reflected the varied readership of the genre.
"The stereotype of the average romance reader being an older housewife is utterly untrue."
The average punter is well educated, highly qualified who used the novels for a mental break - much like some would watch television, Dr Thomas said.
Ms Macomber said a good story and multi dimensional characters is what kept the readers turning the pages.
However, she said getting the first book published was the hardest. She urged the budding authors to keep trying.
"Believe in the power of your dreams," she said.
Ms Houldsworth said she was inspired by the message.
"My batteries are recharged and I am ready to get back to writing."