Wednesday, September 21, 2011

University Romance


Most of us in the romance world, readers and writers, are used to the contemporary subgenre "Small Town Romance." Other specific tropes include, "Military Romance," "Alphamale Romance," "Secret Baby," "Urban Romance," "Western Romance," etc. These are sort of categories within the subgenre of contemporary romance. These little labels or handles act as little clues to savvy readers as to what they might expect from the story - certain character types, plots or settings, for example, or a particular "feeling" to the book.

Small Town Romances, for instance, will likely be contemporary romances set in a small town, involving regular people with jobs and normal lives, often with kids and money troubles (vastly different from categories like "Billionaire Mistress" romances). The pace is often slower, cozier, with some sensuality and a lot of heart.

The novel I completed for NaNoWri 2010, currently entitled Textbook Romance, could qualify as a "Small Town Romance," since it technically takes place in a small town in Ohio. But that doesn't really describe it. It's more of what I am now thinking of "University Romance." (I would call it "Campus Romance," but that seems to imply YA or naughty co-eds in my mind.)

In Textbook Romance, a professor who is up for tenure accidentally falls for one of her mature students, which is not only a professional faux pas, but is made even more awkward for her by the fact that her academic rep has been all about revealing how the downfall of society stems from notions of "romance."

The book is largely defined by its university setting; it takes place within that environment, involves stock characters from that world, and much of the conflict comes from the academic profession. That is not to say it is inaccessible to non-academics, I think. Much of the career-related angst is relate-able to many trades (i.e., getting a promotion, impressing the bosses, holding on to your image), and everything is simplified and/or explained as needed. Being a teacher at a university, myself, I inhabit this world in my real life, so this allows me to translate this to the page without much stress.

However, since this isn't a "big category," as readily recognizable as "Christmas Romance," or "Single Father," I'm concerned how well it will be received by acquisition editors. As the book does its rounds to the publishers, I am crossing my fingers, but I know it might be a bit of a long-shot. Perhaps readers don't want to think about profs getting it on? But, maybe they do.

Could this be my new niche category? Probably not. I can't see it becoming the next big thing, and I'm not sure I'd want to do it over and over. However, it was great to write about "my world," and bring my two intellectual loves (romance and academics) together in the same book. Contrary to popular misconceptions, there are a lot of academic types who enjoy romance.

It's about time that the Ivory Tower gets a little red roses and violin, too, right?

Questions? Comments?

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