Whenever we go through the painful process of birthing a book, it is our hope as a new parent that our book will toddle out in to the world and be well received by everyone. Sure we figure not every single person who reads it is going to like it, but for the most part, we hope that most folks will have a positive response. House of Cards is in the virgin read stage by several friends and family members in addition to my beta readers. It’s going to get revised, of course, but it’s more polished and finished than other rough drafts of mine tend to be. The response has generally been overwhelmingly positive. My mother in law and husband are both ready to legally change my middle name to “Nora”. My friends are getting a good kick out of it and are suitably impressed with how it came together (most of them having known me through many earlier versions of the book). Even folks who are only just finding out that I am a writer find out that I’ve just finished a 99k novel and have a predictable response of “wow” or “cool” or even a “huh.”
So I was expecting something when I mentioned casually to my mother (whom I am visiting this weekend) yesterday that I finished. No response. Not even a “that’s nice dear.” I wondered if she’d heard me at all (she does tend to not hear as well as she used to). Well, she was listening apparently because tonight, as I was cleaning out an old desk of mine she asks “Why do you write romance?”
So I told her. “Because I enjoy it. It’s what I like to read.”
Me: “Romance novels are not all about sex, Mom. They’re not all bodice rippers.”
Mom: “Is there sex in your book?”
Mom: “Why do you have to write about sex?”
Me: “Because sex is a part of life, because I’m not a prude, and because it is a genre standard.”
Mom: “Has [hubby] read it?”
Mom: “What did he think?”
Me: “He thought it was well done and wanted to know when I was getting published.”
At which point I went back to cleaning out my desk. There were never any accolades of the fact that I stuck with it and finished it or a request to read it. She does not now, nor do I ever think she will, see my writing as anything other than a hobby, and she will disapprove of the fact that there’s any sex in the book at all, particularly the fact that it’s premarital sex (never mind that I was a good little girl and waited until I got married), and dismiss it out of hand. After my mother in law’s enthusiastic praise (and really, shouldn’t I be more uncomfortable talking about sex with my husband’s mother?), my prudish mother’s response left me feeling–well many things. Irritated. Disappointed. Angry. Unsurprised. And, frankly, sorry for her. Because she’s missing out on a great genre because of these antiquated and unrealistic attitudes.
One of these days when I am feeling more generous with paper and printer ink, I may print a copy and send it to her and let her think what she will. It doesn’t sway my confidence in my capabilities or make me not want to do what I’m doing. My self-actualization is not based on my mother’s approval. I am, however, looking forward to getting home.
I haven’t written but 32 words so far today (and granted I’ve not gone to bed yet) and after this latest debacle I’m feeling uninspired. I’m hitting a wee bit of a rough patch with Flash Point in terms of what comes next. And all my non-chronological writing friends would tell me to jump to something else I know happens in the story. I just hate doing that. We’ll see. I haven’t talked to Pot since yesterday, and that’s usually part of my getting into writing mode. But I have to pirate wireless when I’m up here (my mother is still on dial up), so connections are spotty, and we’re both busy with family stuff. Maybe I’ll go write Holt and Stella’s first kiss to make myself feel better.
I’m sorry you had to have that conversation. No matter what you tell yourself about how it’s her problem, I imagine you just can’t help but let it get you down some. Because really, it’s so much easier to keep writing when people show approval and interest, isn’t it?
Now, because it’s my personal pet peeve, spend the rest of your time there, and the rest of your life, interrupting your mother during any watching or discussion of TV or movies with: is there sex in this show? Have these people had sex? Why do you watch this?
Pot, who is taking a break from reading a very sexy book in which clothing has ripped and buttons are flying.
I’m sorry. That’s a reaction we all never want to hear. While we may not “need” that response, it does hurt and is incredibly hard to take when it comes from a parent. My mom doesn’t read anything I write (because she doesn’t read the genre), but she does think I can make a life of it and she roots for me. I’m sorry that isn’t there for you.
From what I’ve read so far – I absolutely love it. Though I don’t usually read romance, I love the story lines you’ve set up and I think the characters are interesting and complex. Writing a novel is something to be proud of – Writing a novel well is something to brag about.
I hope it doesn’t get you down too much – but whoorah for you mother-in-law 😀
There should be a LIKE on Susan’s response. 🙂