A Blog for Writers: Women and Adversity, Karina Cooper, Part 3

Karina Cooper, Author, Paranormal Romance, Steampunk, Historical Urban Fantasy

Karina Cooper, Author, Paranormal Romance, Steampunk, Historical Urban Fantasy

Author Karina Cooper explains the biggest obstacle she faces today.

Karina: All this (See Part II of blog, published May 22) would be fine if I intended to remain a romance author and ONLY a romance author forever. Unfortunately for me, I write across the board. While my Dark Mission books are romance (crossed with urban fantasy, because hey, it’s me), my St. Croix Chronicles are more of a historical urban fantasy with steampunk aesthetics. Some call it romance, but it’s not—there are not Happily Ever Afters in each book. Simply misadventures that come to their natural conclusion, and all the steps and missteps made along the way. I have written other works that are not even remotely romance, but which have been painted as such by non-romance readers—most likely because of the protagonists’ sexual agency or interest in the emotional well-being of herself and others.

The hardest obstacle I face now is trying to break out of the mold set by non-romance genres: if you are a woman, writing about a woman protagonist, then you MUST be writing romance.  And Romance, continues the unspoken motto, Is Not Welcome Here.

When I first started writing, I didn’t think it would be this hard. The pervasive belief that romance authors are just “mommy porn” writers, and literary fiction authors—such as SF/F authors—are writing important manifestos about the human condition, is unavoidable.

As one can no doubt assume, this gets tiresome very quickly. In romance-centric cons, such as RT Booklover’s Convention (which started as a romance con but now welcomes all genres equally), women are made to feel extremely comfortable, supported by each other and the things they write. In other places, where women might be the minority, the number of anecdotes about poor treatment at the hands of “established literary authors” or by readers are rampant. It seems that in order to gain any credible validation as a female author in a non-romance industry, there are a number of hoops to jump through:

  • can you handle being treated like “one of the guys”? (i.e. don’t cry or complain when you are mocked or harassed)
  • are you published with one of the mainstream literary houses that aren’t romance?
  • do you write books that don’t do you write books that don’t center around female agency, including sexual agency?

There are women who have bridged these lines, women like Seanan McGuire, N.K. Jemisin, and Margaret Atwood—and others, have no doubt—but they remain by and large the minority. You know they’re the minority because those are the names outspoken voices rail about when they talk about “women in their fandom.” And yet, they are there, they are doing well, and they write very good books.

Will I ever follow suit? I don’t know. I will try. And I will no doubt keep trying, because regardless of reception by mainstream views, one must write what one writes. But it’s a fairly scary obstacle to scale.

Read Karina’s conclusion about her career in Part 4, to be published June 5.

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Article By: Jo Ann Mathews

I’ve been a professional freelance writer for several years and specialize in writing feature stories. I have more than a 1,000 bylines to my credit and have written on countless topics from autism to zoology. My columns on fashion and the Internet appeared in a Chicago area newspaper in the 90s. “Brunswick Buzz,” the column in The Sun News, the Myrtle Beach, S.C. daily, ran for seven years then “Events on the North Strand” took over in October 2013, also in The Sun News.

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