Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Not Every Story Needs Romance

Over at the Book Smugglers blog, Nicole Kornher-Stace, author of the fantasic Archivist Wasp, as a post: Alternatives to Romance.

In the three years since Archivist Wasp was published, there’s one thing about it that keeps coming up in reviews and reader comments/questions again and again. Which is fine by me, since I haven’t gotten tired of talking about it yet! …

And so, without further ado! The full, entire, possibly long story of why I write all my close relationships as friendships instead of romances, the pros and cons of same, and how I wish more books/movies/shows/etc would do so

Three years, really? It honestly does not seem like nearly that long.

Kornher-Stace continues:

Because here’s the thing about preteen- and teenage-me. I didn’t give a shit about romance. I still don’t. It’s just not who I am. And being completely surrounded by it on all media fronts, growing up, I started to get this little voice in the back of my head, like, is something wrong with me that I just don’t see the point of this thing that’s allegedly all-important? … all the thousands of books and movies I consumed didn’t provide me any frame of reference for when one person is super into another person but has zero interest in getting into their pants. I pretty much literally never saw that represented. I needed examples of strong platonic friendships that could have turned into romantic/sexual relationships and didn’t. And they were — and are — really, really hard to find.

So she wrote the stories she wanted to read, as one does, and they got rejected:

A few [rejections] that were more specific basically said, Look, this is YA, you need romance. Love triangles are especially popular, but romance is key to sell YA. 

I am pretty lucky that my editor at PRH didn’t object to the complete lack of romance in The White Road of the Moon.

A thought that drifted through my mind here was: I just wonder what would have happened if she’d sent the manuscript for Archivist Wasp out under a male pen name? Maybe her experience would have been exactly the same . . . but I just kind of wonder. I also wonder, how about sending it out as adult rather than YA? To me, this story could have worked just as well either way. However, Kornher-Stace really wanted it to go out as YA so that kids would be more likely to find it. 

Side note: pushing teens toward YA as though it is especially impossible and also undesirable for teens to identify with adult characters is a modern idea that should die in fire. I am quite grateful I was a teenager before YA was a thing.

As a second side note, my agent said she thinks perhaps the adult SFF market has drifted off toward the YA type of story, very fast paced and very emotion-driven and angsty. If so . . . I would love to see that trend brought to a crashing halt. We’ll see.

Anyway, through a fortuitous series of events, Kornher-Stace found the people at Small Beer Press and they loved Archivist Wasp, as they should, and the book took off in a pretty decent way, as it deserved to, so now we have the sequel, Latchkey.

I haven’t read it … I am not reading anything at all right now, because I am very involved in writing … but the first reviews at Goodreads look very positive. I am very much looking forward to re-reading Archivist Wasp and then diving into Latchkey.

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6 Comments Not Every Story Needs Romance

  1. Megan

    I am exactly the same with regards to romance—not interested, never saw the point, it’s usually a turn-off in a book and not a selling point. And I agree it’s extremely difficult to find a book that focuses on friendship and not romance. I tolerate it because there’s pretty much no other option, but I adore books like The Faraway Paladin (and all its sequels so far) which don’t have a romantic component except in a minor way during the book of shorter side stories. (In fact that series makes fun of the fact that the people Will rescues from various situations that all became fast friends are all guys, when you’d expect at least one of them to be a girl who then falls in love with him.)

    I do like that in your books—both the first Griffin Mage and White Road of the Moon. I think there’s so many avenues to explore between people who are fast friends but romance never enters the picture. And in some ways romance can ruin that, because the dedication to someone because you’re romantically in love is different from the dedication to a close friend (although they’re not mutually exclusive by any means).

  2. Elaine T

    I don’t mind a good romance, but I’ve been delighted to find friendship stories. I get tired of the reader/fan pushing for pairings. Sometimes people are just friends. Really, and it’s nice to see it in writing.

    I wish I hadn’t bounced off The Archivist Wasp .

  3. SarahZ

    The series finale for Adventure Time aired recently, and some people were asking about who the main character “ended up with”. He’s just 18! He’s got time. The show was about him growing up, and now he’s just starting the rest of his life. The only characters in that show who got HEAs at the end count their ages in the high triple digits.

  4. Rachel

    The show was about him growing up, and now he’s just starting the rest of his life.

    Honestly, every YA character has plenty of time. Arguments about Team Him vs Team The Rival always leave me cold.

    Evelyn, the “friendship with romantic elements” is a perfect way to work a romance, imo.

    Elaine, too bad Archivist Wasp didn’t work for you! :-(

    I do want to add that I do like a nice romance sometimes, which is why Chachic got me reading Laura Florand. It’s just that I do get tired of every. single. relationship. having to evolve into a romance, especially an emotional, angsty romance.

  5. SarahZ

    The series where Team That Guy annoyed me the most was Hunger Games, because Katniss clearly didn’t have time to worry about romance, and was pretty clear on that fact (except when she was faking things for the audience), so it seemed like those readers entirely missed the point.

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