They say that Romance is dead, or at least dormant in most situations. This is not the case in the Pacific Northwest. Starting September 20th (and throughout the week-end with different events), the Gay Romantic North West Book Festival is alive and well underway in the downtown section of the great Emerald City. More than 200 authors of the GLBT Romance genre will be meeting, sharing and attending workshops at the Downtown Seattle Library as well as panels being held at the Hotel Monaco and a reading of several authors at the Rendezvous/Jewelbox Theater. But as all the authors gather to celebrate GLBT Romance, it leaves the question of definition. What exactly is Romance when it comes to writing? Is Romance different from sex and if so, how? Is Romance limited to clichés of chocolate and flowers and the crooning sounds of Barry White, or is there something emotional, mental, or maybe even spiritual about the mysteries of romance.
“Romance is a journey,” says Radclyffe, the President of Bold Strokes Books publishing – one of the largest GLBT publishing houses in the United States. The author of more than two-dozen lesbian romance/fiction titles explains that, “[Romance is] shared by two people that encompasses an emotional, physical, and spiritual connection unique to them.” David Holly, author of The Raptures of Time (a science-fiction tale of homoeroticism) says that, “Romance can be a bond, a sharing, a mystery. It’s a participation in something outside of yourself. And yet it can encompass all of those and more.”
So how is this mystical event ignited? Is it something that can be cultivated or does it have to happen within a natural occurrence? “Romance can be unexpected,” says Jeffrey Ricker, author of The Unwanted, a Young Adult Fantasy novel. “The ‘bolt out of the blue’ sort of thing that metaphorically knocks you over.” Rick R. Reed, author of Husband Hunters, a novel about a gay Seattle based reality show, replies, “Romance does not have to be about hearts and flowers, although it can. It does have to be about putting someone else ahead of yourself.”
Does Romance have to be based in the metaphysical, or can it be harvested among physical elements as well? “Romance needs to be rooted in the everyday,” says Karis Walsh, author of the lesbian romance Harmony. “Simple gestures that offer help or comfort or support shows that you’re in tune with your partner/love. [Although] Grand and stereotypical romantic gestures don’t have as much meaning to me as the little day-to-day acts of caring.”
Ok. So the spark of Romance, through whatever forces, has been ignited. What now? Can Romance be cultivated as an individual entity, or does it have to lead to sexual contact? “The differences between romance and sex are probably only one of degree,” says Radclyffe. “One can have sex without romance, and romance without sex, but both might be less than they could be without the other.” Another view suggests that Romance and sex can be separated by where they are enacted. “Sex is physical,” Ricker says. “Romance occurs in the realm of the mind.” And the view can even be extended to one of age. “There’s a big chasm between fucking and making love,” Reed says. “And I think most people past a certain age and level of experience, know what that difference is”.
Can sex and Romance survive as separate entities? The answer is an individualistic as those entwined. “Sex doesn’t have to be involved [with romantic writing],” says Holly, “but it sure helps. You can never have too much sex.” Karis describes a scene from her novel Blindsided that she feels is romantic and yet has no sex in the scene: “Cara makes a hanging basket for Lenae, who is visually impaired. The scene in which Cara guides Lenae’s hands over the different plants shows what romance means to me – the willingness to get out of her own mindset…creates an emotional and erotic connection between them.” When sex and Romance are combined it can be something all together different. Sex and Romance are “a nice component and when it works, it can demonstrate passion, intimacy, and caring,” Reed says. “But I think real Romance stems from emotion and not lust.”
If the two can be separated as well as combined then, does sex need to be included when it comes to writing? Does every romantic written scene have to give way to sexual passion? “You can fade to black or follow the characters until the bedroom door shuts,” Ricker says. “And then pick up after the fact. It depends on what your intent is as a writer”. But there must be some truth to the old adage of sex sells. “I feel strongly that sexual union or the physical expression of love is an important part of romance fiction,” says Radclyffe. “Otherwise we are writing about intense friendship but not complete union.”
The Gay Romantic North West Book Festival is taking place at the downtown Seattle Library. Beginning Friday evening with a reading at the University Bookstore starting at 7 PM. Continuing at the Seattle Central Public Library on Saturday morning at 10 AM, the day will include panels and workshops with some of your favorite authors. A ‘Pitch’ session is also scheduled with several major publishing houses including Bold Strokes Books, Dreamspinner Press, and Decadent Publishing among others in attendance. A Book Festival, where books can be purchased and signed by your favorite authors, will be presented at the Hotel Monaco. A reading will follow at the Rendezvous Bar/JewelBox Theater will be happening from 8:30 – 10 PM. For more information, please go to: http://gayromancenorthwest.wordpress.com/programming/
A special Bold Strokes Books author book reading will also take place on Sunday, September 21 from 6 – 8 PM at Orca Books in Olympia (509 E 4th Ave).
Eric Andrews-Katz is the author of The Jesus Injection, a gay spy thriller featuring Agent Buck 98, and the November released sequel, Balls & Chain.