Dangerous Men & Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance

By Jayne Ann Krentz | Go to book overview

Judge Me by the Joy I Bring

Kathleen Gilles Seidel

I can't read Danielle Steele.

This has perplexed me. Several million American women like her work. Why don't I? I can't draw myself up and sigh with smug superiority that she doesn't write well enough. I, believe me, am no snob. It is, I now understand, what Danielle Steele chooses to write about. Her characters are ambitious television journalists and glamourous cardiac surgeons. Being married to a cardiac surgeon is not my idea of glamour; it is my idea of hell.

But if there were a book with a plot similar to Steele's, with the same depth of characterization, the same felicity of expression, and if all those doctors were dukes or if it were set in a small town with the hero something of an outsider, then I might have a thunderingly good time. These are my fantasies, not doctors. I cannot read Danielle Steele because she is not writing about my fantasies.

I assert that fantasy is the most important element in the appeal of popular fiction. I'm not talking only about texts populated by dragons, scorceresses, and vampires. My idea of fantasy is much broader than that, and I focus my definition not on the text but on the reader, the writer, and their experiences.

In a fantasy you are longing, wishing, desiring to walk -- for some time at least and perhaps only in the imagination -- in some other pair of shoes. A book of popular fiction succeeds when you have, within the reading experience, achieved that desire, when

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