Maggie Boyd has discussed the varied careers that some romance authors had prior to becoming a writer. Boyd notes that these experiences are what give authors a solid foundation upon which to build their stories. This shouldn’t be surprising since other writing genres require a similar knowledge set. For instance, many writers of science fiction, past and present, have also had careers as scientists. Indeed, one of the first rules of writing is to write what you know. Why then are romance authors assumed to be single, lonely women instead of smart individuals sharing their knowledge through a different medium?
The most obvious answer, is that our society values science and everything it represents more than it values human condition with all its fallibilities. It’s not just the medium of romance novels that are devalued. The humanities and social sciences are also devalued in comparison to the “hard” sciences. At its core, the romance novel is about human relationships. As individuals, humans cannot be pared down to a few basic rules that describe all human behavior. Fiction is one of the ways we as a society have attempted to overcome the lack of rules by trying to describe human behavior.
Yet another explanation for the stereotype of the romance author is that romance novels are a female domain. Instead of an industry controlled by men, women are writing what other women want to read. By subverting the dominant social structure, women have shown they have power. Stereotyping is a common defense strategy used by the dominant to retain their power.
Fiction authors must be keen observers of human interaction. It would seem then that any activity that puts one out in the real world would give an author greater insight into the creation of realistic characters. Women authors, romance authors in particular, should embrace and publicize their past careers in order to help dispel the lonely, female, romance author stereotype.