You Write What?!?!, by Jannine Corti Petska

Romance authors are reminded everyday how their genre of books are viewed by the literary and the non-romance readers. We get no respect. While this subject has been written about often, I won’t give you statistics. But I will tell you about an experience I had.
Several years ago as I stood in line at the pharmacy, an elderly, well-dressed gentleman behind me commented on a book on the shelf. These books were geared toward health. He couldn’t understand how some of them made it to published book. Of course, being the curious person I am, I told him I’m a writer. He said so was he. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: What do you write?
Him: Books on engineering.
Now I’m sorry I asked.
Him: What do you write?
I looked him in the eyes and said historical romance books.
Here it comes, the put down on romantic fiction.
Him: Oh, those aren’t real books.
Me: It is for millions of people, men, too.
His eyes narrowed, as if I had spoken blasphemy and he was suspicious of my character.
Him: Men don’t read romances.
He puffed out his skinny chest and gave me a pointed look of superiority.
Me: The statistics don’t lie.
Him: Well, you should write a book people can use. Non-fiction books people are really interested in. Romances are silly, and they’re all written by women who have nothing better to do.
Okay, my Italian temper started to rise.
Me: That’s not true. I tutor Italian, Spanish, German, English as a Second Language, and library sciences at (local college). I’m also a student there. I have three daughters as well as a home-based movie memorabilia business. I also sew clothing for my family.
Him: See there, you have something better to write about.
Is this guy for real?
Me: I prefer reading and writing historical romances. A lot of research goes into each book. Although it’s fiction, I research meticulously to make the book as real and as close to history as possible while creating a love story between the hero and heroine.
My name was called. After I paid for my prescription and walked off, the man commented, Spend some time in a book store. You’ll find so many books that aren’t pure fantasy. You’ll learn new things. Maybe you will start writing the books people really want to read.
Of course, I let my Italian show and  what I said next  wasn’t a smooth move, but he didn’t know my name. And he’d definitely never look me up or read my books.
Me: Take your own advice. Maybe you will find there’s more in a bookstore than how-to books. And while you’re at it, check out the psychology section. I’m sure there’s a how-to book there on close-minded, rude people like you!
His features froze. The two ladies behind him who had heard the entire conversation turned their heads to hide their amusement. I left the pharmacy feeling like I just slew an enemy of the romance genre. Then I remembered. If he paid attention when the pharmacist called me to the window, he does know my name.

That wasn’t the only naysayer I came across and still continue to find. In Italian we say ciascuno a ogni tempo—to each his own. And that is what I live by these days, just so I don’t fly off the handle and strike someone with words of anger and frustration. Because, somehow, one person in the bunch might find me. With the internet, my name could be strewn about the world wide web like a casualty of war.

Book 2, Italian medieval series

Available from The Wild Rose Press

Prima Ranieri seeks retribution for her family's death and loss of home and land. Her plans go awry when the heir to the powerful Massaro family returns home. After only one glance, Prima's attraction to him undermines her furor toward those she blames for her plight.

After a fifteen year absence, Antonio Massaro returns to Palermo to find a war raging between his family and the evil Falcone. His refusal to accept his rightful position as the head of the Honored Society carries serious consequences. The welfare of the people of Palermo is at stake. But one look at the beautiful woman Prima has become costs him his heart. She's a deadly that jeopardizes her life as well as his own. 

Antonio ordered Prima thrown into the dungeon. In this scene, he goes down to release her from the rack where he had previously secured her wrists and ankles.


“If you confess, you will find yourself free before nightfall.”
    “I have naught to confess.” She lifted her chin and met his gaze.
    “You attacked me. By what reason did you greet me with unfriendly intentions?”
    “I thought you were a…thief, looking to prey on the innocent women weeping for their dead.”
    She glared up at him.
    “You had no other reason than to seek revenge on the Massaro and the Falcone. You thought I came, summoned to Palermo by one of those families, another man willing to join forces with powerful foes.”
    “Was it not I who you bade to confess? Alas, since you have spoken my truth, as I already did after you captured me, am I free to leave?”
    Antonio forced back a grin caused by her saucy remark. “Clever, piccola.” He pulled open the cuffs at her wrists anyway, ignoring the shock spanning her features. “They were never locked,” he admitted, watching her shock turn to seething hatred.
    She sat up, rubbing her wrists. He scooped her surcoat from the rushes and sat down beside her legs on the raised rack. When he took her hand in his, she snatched it away.
    “I mean only to tend your cuts,” he said.
    “I shall see to them myself.” Prima tugged her surcoat out of his hand. “The ankle cuffs?”
    Antonio glanced back at her wiggling feet, all the while aware that her eyes were on the leather tie holding his long hair in place. It was uncommon for a man of wealth and honor to wear his hair below his jaw; he didn’t care. He turned then and caught her staring. The ill-lit dungeon did not conceal the warm flush unfolding up her cheeks.
    “It appears we are in a small quandary. The ankle cuffs are locked, and I have not the key.” He rose to search the dungeon. He picked up an axe and curled his fingers around the leather  wrapped handle. From the corner of his eye he watched Prima as he raised the old weapon to his lips and blew the dust free. When he cleaved the table with the sharp blade, Prima gasped. “This should do, I think,” he said.
    “Wh-what are you about?” Her eyes widened as he raised the weapon high above his head. “What—? Dio!” She clasped her hands behind her neck and pulled her head between her knees. The chains jerked  her ankles and her legs slammed together, snapping against her ears. He knew of no easier way to rid her of the chains. One final blow freed her completely. She raised her head, rubbing her ears, and shook herself of the gypsy bells undoubtedly tinkling within. She touched her hair, felt her neck, and exhaled loudly.
    Astonished, Antonio asked, “Think you I would take your head?”
    She boldly met his gaze. “Sì.


  1. LOL, Jannine! Have to wonder if he only watches documentaries and reality shows on TV. I read and watch TV to escape reality, unless I'm doing research for a future romance.

  2. You go girl! You spoke with all our voices.

  3. Love the article! Wow I just went through something like this today. An author I promoted on my blog, her son went on twitter (yes I do see everything on twitter) asked people about me. One woman who is a writer responded, oh her fairy on her blog is disturbing and it doesn't scream professional. So I tweeted back at her. Her response: Oh I don't like romance. My response: Oh well I am a professional writer, been published at 15 with two degrees. Her response: Nothing. I'm glad I got her to not respond back,

  4. Wow, what a great conversation--you really held your own. I'm proud of you for supporting all of us dishonored historical romance authors. Yes, I've had this sort of reaction too.

  5. To each his own indeed- I ageee-so long as it isn't insulting or demeaning. Sadly some people will probably never broaden their reading horizons. Not sure I'd have coped with the man in the aisle!

    1. Nancy, I'm the type of person that doesn't like public confrontation. But after hearing people put down what you do, something inside just...snaps! Normally, I'm not a rude person, lol.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  6. Grr! I've been there, Jannine. Makes me so mad, though usually I get comments from people who couldn't write their way out of a bag. They have no understanding how difficult it is to write believable, sympathetic characters and to sustain internal conflict. For all the naysayers out there, I'd like to challenge them to write a romance, and then they can talk about how "easy" it is.

    1. You're right, Susan. Put your money where your mouth is, lol.


  7. Brava, my good friend! That was a perfect thing to say to the uneducated man!!

  8. I say Hurray for you for standing up to that man. Unfortunately, I'm expecting some of my extended family members to have the same attitude once I finally let them know I've been published. Not because I'm ashamed of writing romance, but because I just don't want to deal with the comments.

    1. Katherine, I've had a few family members think what I do is menial. We don't speak any longer, lol.

      My husband, daughters, mother-in-law and other family are so proud of me and aren't afraid to say that I write romances. My 80-something uncle (twice a recipient of the purple heart)read my books! That shocked me, lol.

  9. Good for you. I had two teenage girls turn their noses up when I told them I wrote historical romance. Then I told them that the same amount of research goes into an historical romance as historical fiction

    1. It amazes me that people don't equate historical romance fiction with historical fiction. The word "historical" shouts research is needed.

      Thanks for commenting, Ella.

  10. My husband reads a wide variety of books, including romance. He even takes them to work to read on his breaks. Other men there have asked him why he reads them. He tells them about the great stories of intrigue, mystery, etc...Then they ask about all the 'Lovey, dovey stuff'. He response by asking them, "How happy is your wife in your marriage? You could learn a thing or two from these books". I wouldn't be surprised if he's converted a few people.

    1. That's too funny, Sandra. Good for him.

  11. Wow, what a moron. What I find funny is those who call romance silly, but read the likes of Stephen King and Tom Clancy. I have nothing against those two writers, but Helloooooo, they are fantasy, too. But I bet that older gentleman reads at least one of them, and if he doesn't, they he's for book burning!

    1. LOL, maybe he's a closet romance reader!!!

      Thanks for stopping by.

  12. Susan, I'm with you. Fiction is a great escape from reality. I think everyone needs to get away for a while now and then.

    Thanks for commenting.

  13. Thanks, Carole. We must have each other's back.

  14. Sheesh, why do people think it's okay to tell you that what you do for a living is a waste of time and your books are rubbish? Even if I thought that way, I wouldn't say so to someone's face! Such a waste of an opportunity too. If I ran into another writer I'd want to have a conversation about being a writer. The issues we have in common, and where our experiences differ in the publishing industry. But then I hope my mind is open and I want to learn new things, I don't just want to close down all new ideas and spout off my opinions at someone.

    Good for you for standing up to this rude, closed-minded idiot!

  15. LOL, Becky, my sentiments exactly.

    Thanks for stopping by.