Pick a year, any year of the last ten and I'll have had a similar conversation a few times that year, most often talking to another writer at a party.
Here's one from last week.
This one writes poetry. I write romance.
She says in a friendly, pleasant way, "I suppose it's kind of easy because it's formulaic."
I've heard those words often enough before: easy and formulaic.
She seems interested, so I have an answer. I'd say yes, there are expectations--but I'd call it a structure rather than formula and there's structure in most stories. Yes, the genre is about romance-- but hey relationships and growth and change--isn't that interesting and the focus of many, many novels? Yes, it usually includes an HEA but then again most genres have some kind of framework. Mysteries=crime committed at start, exposure of perpetrator at the end yada yada yada. Even with poetry...You expect a particular pattern. Right?
About that claim of easy? I don't bother with that one. I think we've got that one covered when we both talk about finding particular words that strike chords.
Okay, she's cool. We talk some more. She says she doesn't "do" romance. Does she do Austen? Does she do these popular titles. Yes, yes, she does. Yay! We have talked. We are good.
I go looking for wine, she goes to find a friend. We meet again. She introduces me to her friend as Kate who writes sexy bodice rippers.
Hey, it's cool. I sure didn't lie awake grinding my teeth. I rarely do about this topic. I'm not on a rant for once. It's not even one of those comments followed by *SMH* or *sigh*. It's life. I don't mind this stuff because it's not personal. Unless you act sneering or dismissive with your attitude--and not just use those easy, formulaic words about romance--I'm not going get pissed off. She didn't really sneer. People usually don't, not to my face.
But it does get a teeny tiny bit old.
I publish this as a public service, a warning:
If you ever DO meet a romance writer who's having a bad day, or had too much wine, or gotten a bad review....and you mention formulaic or bodices or what-have-you AND she decks you, it's probably because she's heard practically nothing else when she mentions what she writes.
You've been warned.
Generally speaking, I think the "my books are my beloved children" thing is creepy. But in a sense, I get that kind of possessiveness about my genre, just like I do about my kids. I can whine about my kids, but if you complain about them? Oh no. No. Way.
This is how I feel about romance to a less vicious degree. I'm allowed to sneer and mock my genre. People who don't write it or read it? Not really interested.