March 24, 2016

How Romance Saved My Life

Doesn't this book look delicious?
Doesn’t this book look delicious?

by Madeline Iva

Last weekend was #Love Fest at Virginia Festival of the Book.  All the panels were well attended, but the biggest event of the weekend was showing LOVE BETWEEN THE COVERS–the latest documentary all about the romance world–followed by a discussion with Maya Rodale and Eloisa James and a book signing.

I experienced rapture from meeting Eloisa James in person.  Her stories have made me laugh and cry–almost at the same time.  We went out to dinner together along with Maya Rodale, and a smattering of other authors.  First of all, bringing people together always makes me feel kinda high.  Second of all, Maya Rodale’s husband was like a walking romance hero.  Handsome, British, and also, oh you know, an artic explorer.  Ba-bam!  Romance authors always have the best husbands.  It’s like they say, Write What You Know.

At the same time I was full of revelation.

First revelation: OMG, why am I sniffling and sobbing all the way through this documentary? Okay, any ‘we women‘ vibe gets me going.  Mix that with comments like (I paraphrase) “This is the one genre where women are the center of attention, where their needs are important and they are active in getting those needs met. Romance shows women as sexual creatures in a possitive way.  They get to have satisfying sex without being punished for it.”

Whoa! That’s so true–damn straight!

Sue London and Eloisa James at dinner. Sue's a good friend. Eloisa is so generous and friendly.
Sue London and Eloisa James at dinner. Eloisa is so generous and friendly.

Second revelation: We are pioneers! I was moved to witness women who wanted romances about them, and when they didn’t see those romances on the shelves, they went out and wrote them.  That kind of “If you build it they will come” ethos makes me bawl. Beverly Jenkins in particular comes to mind.

Third revelation: Romance can save your life. I already knew this one.  There was that crucial time in my teens that was spent in ER waiting rooms. Many, many hours I sat in uncomfortable chairs, my face buried in a Georgette Heyer novel.  How did I get through those horrible years full of stress and crisis? How? I always credit romance novels.  I desperately needed an escape, and we had no money.  Instead of dropping out of school, having babies, becoming a drug addict, breaking the law, or doing all those other things traumatized teens without parents tend to do, I escaped into a world of civility. It was full of small kind, intelligent, sane, and responsible people.  Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t read romances? I’m sort of dubious that I’d even be here.

What I didn’t realize was that:

Kim Castillo on the left. Famous authors wuvs her.
Kim Castillo on the left. Famous authors wuvs her.

Fourth revelation: Romances taught me how to live happily ever after.

Kim Castillo–assistant to Eloisa James and other romance authors–talked about growing up in a home without good role models for relationships.  That’s when the real hard sobbing started.  Me too, Kim. Me too.  Then she talked about how romances gave her hope.  How she found her true love — and now all is good.

I don’t know what Kim went through.  But what I saw at home–it was ugly.  And sad. A lot of domestic violence–while my mom was pregnant, mind you.  Guns.  A house full of guns.  That day my step-father almost shot my mother in the face.  BAD, HORRIBLE, AWFUL stuff that I don’t even want to go into.  Events that left me taking sleeping pills when I was eight, alone in the house at night, and couldn’t get to sleep.  Events that left my mother poor, mentally unstable, and broken. Events she did not recover from.

Tragic.  Traumatic — but you know, I never questioned how I went from Dysfunction-ville to being in my first serious relationship at 19, and married to that same guy 30+ years later. Where did those crazy excellent relationship skills come from? Cause I didn’t learn it at home…that’s for sure.

This documentary–and by documentary I mean Kim Castillo–revealed all: it had to be romance novels. Kim, I love you. I AM you, Kim.

Jenn Scarpa drove hours to have Eloisa James sign a stack of her books.
Jenn Scarpa drove hours to have Eloisa James sign a stack of her books.

“Romances provided me with hope,” Kim said. They provided her with models of caring, support, and bonding, just like they did me.  In a world bereft of good male role models, romances provided me with examples of men who were responsible, even tempered, loving, and tender.

There’s a shot of Kim–my new personal hero–clasping hands with her husband, and, dear readers, I know that clasp. It’s the One True Love hand hold.  I dissolved, readers.  I dissolved like a f***ing pillar of salt.

I kept thinking, the movie’s going to be over soon and I have got to stop crying.

You’d think I’d know better, but no.  I had to share my new insight at dinner with Eloisa and Maya and everyone.  And while telling them about it, I sobbed.  So embarrassing, but so not at the same time.

Got Duchesses? Eloisa's latest.
Got Duchesses? Eloisa’s latest.

Because I thought I was writing fluff, here.  It’s much more important than that. Or at least it can be.  I’m proud that I survived that time. Okay, all the trauma left me a bit on the weepy side, but ultimately, who cares?

I’m blessed that I found my One True Love.

I’m proud to be one of these women creating love on the page.  I’m proud to be sending it out into the world.

Have you seen the documentary? What did you get out of it?

While I type this at the cafe, my writing buddy Joanna Bourne is dancing to “What I Like About You.” I love you Joanna. I love you readers.  Okay, I need some kleenex.

Follow us at Lady Smut for other tips on surviving this cold, cruel world with some blazing hot romance.

Madeline Ivaimgres writes fantasy, paranormal, and contemporary romance.  Her novella ‘Sexsomnia’ is available in our LadySmut anthology HERE, and her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, will be out Spring, 2016.

Laura Kaye and Stephanie Dray were also at the fest with their latest collaboration.
Two authors I adore–Laura Kaye and Stephanie Dray–were also at the fest. Bet they were swarmed–people at the fest love all things Jefferson.

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  • Post authorbarbaramikula

    This is so true. I remember lying in bed reading romance novels in the almost-dark while lying beside my (now ex) husband. It was definitely a means of escape. That was before I started writing them myself. He would laugh and put on a falsetto voice and mimic what he thought was the dialog. But I persisted. Many years later I started writing my own romance novels, and now I have 30 published.

    My proudest moment was when a reader thanked me for writing my books. She said they helped her revitalize her stale 20 year marriage, and now she and her husband were texting and rushing home at the end of the day. What a thrill! To have impacted someone’s life like that — and “they” say it’s only romance! – Skye Michaels

    Reply to barbaramikula
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      Yes, impacting someone’s life is so powerful. Good for you!

      Reply to Madeline Iva
    • Post authorEloisa James

      That dinner was a highlight of my tour — totally fun! I’m so sorry your childhood was so rough, but glad that Georgette was here for you. And yes, Romance ROCKS!

      Reply to Eloisa James
      • Post authorMadeline Iva

        Thank you so much Eloisa! And thank you so much for being such a generous, inspiring spirit. xoxo

        Reply to Madeline Iva
  • Post authorromancenovelsforfeminists

    Yes, it’s a great film, isn’t it? I got to see an early cut of it, then saw the final version at a showing here in MA, where the filmmaker is from. And our local RWA chapter will be screening at our conference next month. Laurie Kahn did a great job of covering a much-maligned genre and its readers and writers!

    Reply to romancenovelsforfeminists
    • Post authorPeggy Hendrickson

      Based purely on the name, I would be thrilled to join your site. Is there a sign-up page or way to prove I’m not a horrible troll?

      Reply to Peggy Hendrickson
      • Post authorMadeline Iva

        Hi Peggy! So glad you like the name. You can find the follow button on the right to follow our blog and get emails of our posts. You can also hit the subscribe button–and in return for proving you’re not a troll, I swear not to load down subscribers with spammy newsletters. 🙂

        Reply to Madeline Iva
  • Post authorMadeline Iva

    It was fascinating to hear Eloisa James discuss Laurie Kahn after the documentary was over. She said Laurie focusses on these ‘invisible economies’ produced by women, and how Laurie really knew nothing about romance when she started, but stuck with it for four years, so that by the end she had a very deep understanding of our realm. I gave a little cheer when I saw the flash of the Romance Novels for Feminists blog on the screen towards the end, sandwiched between the other heavy hitting romance blogs. You must have been so proud! ;>

    Reply to Madeline Iva
  • Post authorKim Castillo

    Hi Madeline! Thank YOU for letting me know I’m not the only one! Know that you’re a hero and there are women out there reading you and their lives are changed. Authors create a magic that is hope, love, acceptance.

    I’m so happy you enjoyed the film. Laurie did an amazing job and we’re all a big family now – I love her madly. Although I am sorry that you cried so much. 🙂

    many hugs,

    Reply to Kim Castillo
  • Post authorKim Castillo

    Hi Madeline! I’m so happy you enjoyed the film and while it sounds like your tears were therapeutic and not sad, I am sorry you cried. Thank YOU for letting me know I’m not the only one!
    Congratulations on your HEA! I’ve never understood how other people who grew up in a f***ed family didn’t rise above but then I realized they didn’t have romance novels, they didn’t have anything that gave them hope. I’m so glad you did!
    And please know that you are a hero. With each word you type, you create magic, hope, love, acceptance for your readers. To some of us, it’s not just entertainment.
    Will you be attending RT next month? If so, I’d love for our kindred souls to get together.


    Reply to Kim Castillo
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      If not RT — then another place, another time! I would so love to meet you in person. 🙂

      Reply to Madeline Iva
      • Post authorKim Castillo

        Sorry I posted twice. urgh. I thought it deleted my comment but it was just waiting.

        Eloisa and I are at RT and Barbara Vey this year and I know RWA next year. I would dearly love to meet you!

        Reply to Kim Castillo
  • Post authorheathercm2001

    Oh this is perfect! I hope to see this documentary soon because it sounds wonderful. I still have my hope for my One True Love. Seeing many people around me rush into horrible situations make me even more grateful for the wonderful stories and the wonderful authors writing them. Reading gives me patience for the whole situation, and a reminder that it is okay to be single and to wait for something good than to be okay with something bad.

    Reply to heathercm2001
    • Post authorMadeline Iva

      It’s fabulous to be single! And you’re right! It’s far more important thing is to feel good in yourself and your situation instead of letting whoever etc make you feel that you need to *grab* that relationship just to have that status. Blah to that!

      Reply to Madeline Iva
    • Post authorKim Castillo

      You hold out for Your Hero! You are amazing Heather and deserve only the best man. xoxo

      Reply to Kim Castillo
  • Post authorElizabeth SaFleur

    Madeline! What a wonderful post during which I spent the whole time nodding and saying, ‘yep, that’s me’ and ‘that’s me again.’ Romance novels saved my teenage years, too, as they gave me something to strive for (i.e. get the hell off a horse farm and abusive stepfather). How wonderful you found your One True Love so early, and continue to experience it (him?) today. You’re a wonderful person, and deserve all the happiness romance authors can conjure. XO

    Reply to Elizabeth SaFleur
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