inAuthors: Kimberley Freeman Riffs on the Prejudice Against Romance Novels
February 13, 2012 by inReads
Kimberley Freeman’s twenty-first novel Wildflower Hill has brought her work to new heights of attention and praise. As she wondrously notes on her blog Hexebart’s Well: “The number of books ordered to meet the projected demand probably amounts to more than I’ve ever sold of all my books in all territories combined.”
While Hexebart’s Well, supernatural thrillers, and more are written under her birth name Kim Wilkins, Freeman chose her grandmother’s middle name as the pseudonym under which to write her work in the romance genre. She grew up and still lives in Queensland, Australia, and teaches at the University of Queensland.
I work in a university English department, and I’ve seen a lot of prejudice against romance. Sometimes from staff, sometimes from students, sometimes in textbooks or research papers. Nothing makes me crankier. Romance is seen to be somehow trivial, compared to the work of “serious” fiction. But what could possibly be more important than romance? Let me explain.
Our role as a species is to reproduce ourselves. How do we do that? By having children. How do we have children? Well, among other things, we fall in love and build relationships. So, I could argue that romance is in fact the MOST serious thing that we can write about, the most important genre of them all.
I also suspect that romance is sniffed at because it’s so heavily associated with women. It’s a women’s genre, and whether we like it or not, we are still struggling to be valued as much as men. Romance can be seen as a feminist issue, and it’s no surprise that so much writing in this genre is about female empowerment.
These ideas—about building relationships and women struggling to be valued—are deep at the heart of all my writing, but especially in Wildflower Hill. Beattie falls in love with the wrong man and it turns out to have lasting consequences for the rest of her life. Even when she finally meets the right man, society doesn’t approve and only heartbreak awaits her. She has to struggle to have her voice heard and make herself safe in the world, and chooses an unorthodox, even immoral way of empowering herself. Beattie’s granddaughter, too, must learn what’s important; and it isn’t chasing the wrong guy halfway around the world. Love can be the thing that’s right there under your nose, if you take a moment to stop fantasizing about knights in shining armour and decide instead to take control of your own life.
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Elsewhere in inReads: Discover what romance author Eloisa James reads when she’s not writing.
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Reading and writing in DC.