A profile of author Elizabeth Conte for the daily driver (under the Los Angeles Time) upset romance readers because, in his attempt to claim the already existing (and controversial) genre of literary romance as his own and present a half-baked publishing house, Conte rejected millions of readers and of writers around the world – an unfortunately common occurrence with the genre.
As she acknowledged the success of Brigderton and Downton Abbeyshe noted,
There are all these historical stories of the Old World and [people] just eat, but we don’t get the same from the books. […] We don’t see the same character development, long term romances. It’s very ‘wham, bam; thank you ma’am’ the romances, not like ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘North and South’… all those stories they keep remaking [in film].
There’s a reason some romances get so remade in movies, and it has more to do with the age of the text, popular media’s aversion to female pleasure, and not investing in stories. of working-class women than an inherent quality of writing lost to time. But go ahead, Conte, and tell me more about what’s wrong with a genre you don’t like.
Jane Austen and “literary romance”
I don’t know how many people read Conte’s whole profile, which is worse than a quote here or there. The interview begins with journalist Lilly Nguyen describing how much Conte loves books from the 1800s. Nguyen writes: “She said she liked what this period of literature gives, but also realized that the average reader probably not chasing authors like Jane Austen and Elizabeth Gaskell.” She didn’t just say it in an interview, but also on Quora, in a way that echoes the interview with the daily driver.
Despite the name of the storybook Finding Joan, and naming her new publishing house Jane Writes Press, she seems to know very little about the contemporary cultural impact of Austen’s work. The fact that she tried to use Jane Austen as a defense against contemporary romance and a norm shows her cards, especially Pride and Prejudice. On the one hand, Austen is almost like a secular bible for women writing fiction, one that certainly extends to romance, rather than an untapped well of inspiration. Personally, I love it, but I recognize that it’s almost a writing cliche at this point because Austen’s work is so beloved and she’s one of the few women read in general education .
Just a week ago I read the webcomic turned non-fiction wedding memoir It Can Be Arranged: A Muslim Love Story by Huda Fahmy. She brought up Austen at least once comparing the courtship with a large family of girls to the Bennett family. In addition to outright evoking Austen as a source of sentiment, Austen’s adaptations (among other literary romance novels) are very popular in adult and YA romance books – which I would put it off. money on Conte feeling a certain way.
The concept of “literary romance” is already ruffling some feathers because it is seen by some as a sort of way to outrun or elevate a romance book, as if the romance is otherwise low and shameful. I’m not opening this Pandora’s box. However, it is a fundamental fact that Elizabeth Conte did not invent the genre or the phrasing. It’s been around for a while. A fascinating New York Times retrospective on the term published in February traces its origins to Austen herself. Conte energizes the Colonizer even though she does so against many of her own people. Speaking of race, all it entails is quality romance, it’s very white, and it’s conversation on its own.
Unoriginal and uninspired
What is very frustrating and revealing is that this profile seemed to promote this publishing house that Conte is creating. She talks a lot about how self-published authors (especially women and marginalized people) are looked down upon while failing to realize that the most profitable sector of self-published work is often women writing erotica and romance. Conte told the daily driver, “There are so many self-published authors. The publishing world doesn’t satisfy the market and I think that’s what’s really cool about the independent market. It almost feels textual like it’s coming from the same group of writers that she’s implying not having enough drama or not being brainy enough.
Conte doesn’t bring up any other authors she thinks are doing something similar to her, but at least acknowledge they’re out there, so I guess that’s a bit of humility. However, her publishing house does not offer any advantages, except that she is associated with her. Authors are expected to do almost all the backend work like self-published authors (graphic design, marketing, editing, etc.). Editor Rochelle Deans got into more specific red flags in a recent Medium post.
Instead of reading through the genre to find her people (which isn’t a historical romance, as she said she doesn’t like historical romance), she chose to introduce herself and her brand. as a “choose me” alternative. Pretending to invent a genre that’s already in the talk aside, it’s not a good idea to try to revolutionize a genre you don’t like.
(Going through The daily driver (Los Angeles Time), featured image: Alex Green via Pexels)
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