Why Going “Light” on Romance Can Be More Powerful than Going “Heavy”
by Resa Nelson
For me, a little bit of romance in a novel can be far more powerful than a lot. For example, I’m a huge fan of The Hunger Games, and when I finished reading it I immediately thought of it as the polar opposite of Twilight. While Twilight depends very heavily on romance, The Hunger Games includes romance but doesn’t spend much time on it. Ironically, for me, The Hunger Games is a far more romantic novel.
I once asked a good friend what she likes about romance novels, and she said it’s all about how the relationship develops. To me, the most satisfying relationships to read about are ones about partners who are equal. I’m not saying that the two people have to be similar – but I want them to be able to see and treat each other as an equal. This probably comes from my own desires. The only way I will consider being in romantic relationship is if a man has my back in the same way soldiers fighting a war look out for each other. If a man chooses not to be there for me when I need him, why should I trust him? How can I be attracted to someone who doesn’t have my best interests at heart?
First, let me be clear that I respect everyone’s choices. If you think Twilight is the most romantic thing ever, that’s your experience and I respect it. My experience of Twilight is that the romantic relationship felt very unbalanced and unequal. For example, Bella seems to make Edward the focus of her life, and I think that’s a dangerous trap, which far too many girls and women fall into in real life. I’ve been there. Long, long ago, I made my love interest my “everything.” The result was that I lost myself – I became a hollow shell of who I used to be. It felt like drowning in quicksand while at the same time feeling elated. And the elation turned out to be nothing but an illusion. The love I felt wasn’t real. It was as fragile as cotton candy, fun and sweet at first, only to become empty and sickening because I had too much. So I have a hard time with Twilight because it reminds me of a place that was no good for me.
Virginia Woolf wrote of the importance of a woman having a room of her own, and I’m on board with that. I believe every girl and woman deserves to have a life of her own. I believe every girl and woman is entitled to choose what her life will be like instead of letting others dictate what they want her to do. This leads us to The Hunger Games.
For my money, Katniss is the complete opposite of Bella. Katniss knows how to survive in a harsh world. When her younger sister is selected to participate in a deadly competition, Katniss takes her place, an act of courage and love. Just as she has learned to live in a difficult world, Katniss adapts and learns how to survive and even thrive in a new and very dangerous situation. Katniss is attracted to two different boys for different reasons, but she is focused on the task of her own survival. Her romantic thoughts don’t disrupt her world or put her in danger. Instead, her romantic feelings of attraction are an organic part of who she really is. I wouldn’t describe The Hunger Games as a romance novel – I see it more as a thriller or action/adventure. And yet I think the romance in The Hunger Games is far more effective and believable than the romance in Twilight because it’s only part of the story. Katniss has her own life and her own journey – a room of her own. The romance she experiences isn’t the “be all and end all” of her life. Instead, it’s in addition to her life, and that’s why it has such a strong and positive impact on me. I trust Katniss to make good decisions. I have faith in her.
I think it boils down to how each individual reader approaches a book. For example, many readers can use a book as an escape to experience all kinds of things they’d never want to experience in real life. That’s difficult for me. Because my books are so real to me when I’m writing them, other people’s books are real to me when I read them. So things in which some readers find innocent delight will freak me out because it feels so real and immediate.
The characters I create in my novels are much more like Katniss than Bella. In my Dragonslayer series, a female blacksmith named Astrid is the hero. The world she lives in is challenging, but she always rises to meet whatever challenge comes her way. She has romantic interests but there are usually more pressing issues in her life, and she never hesitates to put any romantic feelings on the back burner until she can give her full attention to them. Ironically, even though I don’t put a heavy emphasis on romance, it’s what drives the entire series. The books couldn’t exist without romantic elements, and my hope is that my light touch on romance makes it that much more powerful.
My Dragonslayer series began as a couple of short stories, which were published in Science Fiction Age magazine. Everyone is welcome to download a “mini” ebook of these two short stories to sample the Dragonslayer world and see if you like it. There’s no cost or obligation, and you can download at http://www.resanelson.com/files.
Resa Nelson has been selling fiction professionally since 1988. She is a longtime member of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) and is a graduate of the Clarion SF Workshop.
Resa was also the TV/Movie Columnist for Realms of Fantasy magazine for 13 years and was a contributor to SCI FI magazine. She has sold over 200 articles to magazines in the United States and the United Kingdom.
Her first novel, The Dragonslayer’s Sword, was nominated for the Nebula Award and was also a Finalist for the EPPIE Award. This medieval fantasy novel is based on a short story first published in the premiere issue of Science Fiction Age magazine and ranked 2nd in that magazine's first Readers Top Ten Poll. The Dragonslayer's Sword is Book 1 in her 4-book Dragonslayer series. Book 2, The Iron Maiden, was published last December, Book 3 was published in May, and the final book in the series is scheduled for publication in November.
Resa's standalone novel, Our Lady of the Absolute, is a fantasy/mystery/thriller about a modern-day society based on ancient Egypt. Midwest Book Review gave this book a 5-star review, calling it "a riveting fantasy, very highly recommended."
Resa lives in Massachusetts.
Resa Nelson’s links:
Resa’s website: http://www.resanelson.com
Free “mini” ebook of Dragonslayer short stories: http://www.resanelson.com/files
GoodReads giveaway: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/27323-the-stone-of-darkness
Ebooks ($4.99 each) are available directly from Mundania Press at: http://mundania.com/author.php?author=Resa+Nelson (get a 10% discount at checkout with the coupon code MP10)
Paperbacks are available from Mundania Press, Amazon, and Barnes&Noble:
http://mundania.com/author.php?author=Resa+Nelson (get a 10% discount at checkout with the coupon code MP10)
Resa Nelson’s 4-book Dragonslayer series:
The Dragonslayer’s Sword (Book 1)
For Astrid, a blacksmith who makes swords for dragonslayers, the emergence of a strange gemstone from her body sets in motion a chain of events that threaten to destroy her life. Her happiness is shattered when her lover--the dragonslayer--disappears without a trace, and the life that she knows and loves implodes without warning.
Astrid lives in a world of shapeshifters whose thoughts have the power to change not only themselves but others. Everything Astrid knows to be true is called into question when she learns the truth about her past and the mysterious family from which she was separated as a child.
Reality turns inside out as Astrid gradually learns the truth about the people she loves as well as those she disdains. With the fate of dragons, ghosts, and slaves in foreign lands resting on her shoulders, Astrid faces the challenge of deciding who she is and how she will stand up inside her own skin. Will she withdraw and hide from the world that has disappointed her so much...or will she rise to lead others to freedom and peace?
The Iron Maiden (Book 2)
Astrid is reluctant to travel the winter route beyond the Northlands, even though it’s her duty. She’d rather stay home in her village, surrounded by friends and neighbors. Ignoring the bonds of tradition, she decides to spend the cold winter months in the warmth of her blacksmithing shop. Why should she leave the comfort of her cottage to serve and protect foreigners who might raid and harm her native Northlands?
Everything changes when a traveling merchant steals Starlight, the first dragonslayer’s sword Astrid forged and her last link to her sweetheart DiStephan. Having no time to alert her friends, Astrid races in pursuit of the merchant, determined to reclaim Starlight as her own and return home in time for dinner. Instead, her quest leads her to new lands, unexpected friendships with foreigners, and a harrowing encounter with the damage done by the followers of a new god that considers women as nothing more than servants to men. All the while, she must be ready to face any dragon traveling the winter route.
In Book 2 of the Dragonslayer series, Astrid must learn that deciding who she is isn’t a decision she can make just once. It’s a decision she must make every day.
The Stone of Darkness (Book 3)
In Book 3 of the Dragonslayer series, Astrid accepts her duty and follows the winter route--until she's bitten by a dragon. Everyone knows dragon bites are poisonous and deadly, so she reluctantly accepts her impending death. In a twist of fate, she survives. Desperate for an explanation, Astrid believes she has somehow been protected by the black stone she keeps with her at all times, a stone that emerged from the sole of her foot a year ago.
Determined to find out what the stone is and what kind of powers it possesses, Astrid begins a journey that leads her to alchemists and an army of men under the rule of the powerful warrior, Mandulane, the acting lord of the Krystr army. Mandulane's mission is to spread the word of the new god Krystr, which preaches the evil intent of women and the danger they pose to all men, who are entitled to dominate the world. Rumors about this new god and army have spread, but Astrid is the first Northlander to encounter them.
Soon, she stumbles upon a secret of a far-reaching and mind-numbing plot that will impact the entire world. Astrid must find a way to spread the news of this threat and protect her people and everyone else at risk. She's convinced the answer lies inside the Stone of Darkness, and she must find a way to understand the stone and the powers she's convinced it must hold before it's too late.
Book 4 will be published in November 2012
-- Lynda Again,
So, what do you think? Is The Hunger Games a more romantic book than Twilight? I have to admit that I prefer the romance in The Hunger Games to that of Twilight but then, as my friends know, I'm a little odd ;-)
Have a Blessed Day!