Guest Post + Giveaway: Ruthie Knox – Coming Out of the Closet as a Romance Novelist

Fiction Vixen is pleased to welcome author Ruthie Knox today.

 

Coming Out of the Closet as a Romance Novelist

As a teenager, I hid romance novels in my closet. Literally. I had two older brothers, and I didn’t want them to know what I was reading, because if they’d found out, they Ruthie Knoxwould have teased me until the end of time, and they just possibly might have located the books and read them aloud at inconvenient moments, perhaps to boys I thought were cute, or highlighted the filthiest passages and written them on poster board and taped them to my locker.

Okay, they probably wouldn’t have done that. But something. They could’ve done something. It didn’t take much to mortify me in those days.

And it wasn’t as if I had just a few romance novels in the closet. After I read my first Silhouette Desire and realized they came out in a steady stream of six per month, I subscribed to get them in the mail. They arrived in a small brown box, the first shipment conveniently accompanied by a green pleather “cover protector,” which did an excellent job of ensuring no one could know I was reading a smutty book. Unless, that is, they happened to find it curious that I’d bothered to wrap the small paperback to which I was devoting my rapt attention in pleather—an act that declared in a whisper-scream, Nothing to see here, folks. Move along, move along.

I was not fool enough to use the pleather cover. No, I rarely took the books out of my room, and I never, ever took them to school with me. You see, I was a critical girl who had critical friends. We listened to The Cure and read Camus. Hell, I named my cat Camus. This was Pretension with a capital P, folks. This was Nine Inch Nails concerts and combat boots and ripped fishnet tights worn under baby-doll dresses with ankh pendants on strips of black rawhide. Romance novels had no place among my peer group. I ought to have scorned them. I scorned everything else. Publicly, I scoffed at the whole notion of romance and refused to talk about sex, ever, to anyone.

But secretly, at home, in my room, I watched Beverly Hills 90210 on a tiny portable black-and-white TV, and I read romance novel after romance novel after romance novel.

They were good for me, really. I was a dateless teenager (see: pretentious and cynical; see also: frighteningly brainy), and romance novels reassured me with the endless repetition of their message: Women who are unexceptional find men who love them for themselves all the time. Obstacles to love are removable. Happily-ever-after is possible. If you have a sharp wit, a good heart, and all the basic female equipment, there’s a guy for you out there somewhere. It’s only a matter of time before he finds you.

Who else was telling me that when I was sixteen, after all? Nobody, that’s who. I didn’t invite the message—I was, in fact, probably the human equivalent of a sign reading DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT ANYTHING PERSONAL—and had it not been for romance novels, the message may not have found me at all. But it did. And I devoured it.

In college, I had my first kiss, my first boyfriend, my first long-term relationship, and I drifted away from romance before I ever had to tell anyone of my love for it. It wasn’t until I came back to the genre as an adult that I finally came out of the closet and did it properly, publicly. Which is funny, because I was finally reading romance on my Kindle, and everybody says one reason for the spike in sales of digital romance is that e-readers conceal those embarrassing covers. No need to ship green pleather “protectors” anymore! The device itself does the job.

It was, I am not ashamed to admit, the Outlander books that hooked me back in. I read them all one summer, and I had no choice but to tell my husband, Sorry I’m ignoring you, but I am completely, utterly obsessed with these books, to the point that it is difficult for me to talk. The best strategy for you would be to hold all questions and conversation until I’ve finished book eight. Okthxbai. Once I’d admitted it to him—pragmatic, practical, non-fiction-reading, lovable man that he is—it was pretty easy to admit it to the friends in my knitting group, many of whom had similarly nourished an obsession with Jamie and Claire. It was the knitters’ fault that I read the books in the first place, actually.

But I can still remember feeling a bit weak in the knees and damp at the armpits when I mentioned it, casually, one Sunday afternoon at my friend Alison’s house. I’m obsessed with the Outlander books.

You? someone said. I never imagined you were into that sort of thing.

And I said, I am. I am so into that sort of thing.

There. Done. I am not the flinty, rational woman I appear to be. I am a flinty, rational woman with a heart of pure, romantic, cotton-candy dreck, and I am not ashamed.

Such a relief, that was.

And then, a few months later, when I started writing a romance novel on a whim, why not tell the knitters? They already knew my secret. They were surprised and amused and highly, highly entertained, but all in a good way. So I kept them abreast of developments as I finished the novel and began another one, and another one, and another one. I started sharing my manuscripts, sex scenes and all, with strangers. Then with friends. Then with family members. Everyone was nice about it. No one pointed their fingers and laughed at me. And at some point along the way, I ceased to care altogether what anyone thought about my love of romance. That particular worry fell away, cleaved off by . . . my maturation, I guess. My growing confidence as a writer. That, and the comfort of finding a community of like-minded, rational, intelligent women with mushy, drecky hearts, and no shame.

I love romance novels. I write romance novels. I write dirty, filthy, romantic, smutty, drecky, heartfelt books, and I am proud.

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Ride With MeRide with Me by Ruthie Knox, available from Loveswept on February 13, 2012

In this fun, scorching-hot eBook original romance by Ruthie Knox, a cross-country bike adventure takes a detour into unexplored passion. As readers will discover, Ride with Me is not about the bike!

When Lexie Marshall places an ad for a cycling companion, she hopes to find someone friendly and fun to cross the TransAmerica Trail with. Instead, she gets Tom Geiger — a lean, sexy loner whose bad attitude threatens to spoil the adventure she’s spent years planning.

Roped into the cycling equivalent of a blind date by his sister, Tom doesn’t want to ride with a chatty, go-by-the-map kind of woman, and he certainly doesn’t want to want her. Too bad the sight of Lexie with a bike between her thighs really turns his crank.

Even Tom’s stubborn determination to keep Lexie at a distance can’t stop a kiss from leading to endless nights of hotter-than-hot sex. But when the wild ride ends, where will they go next?

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Giveaway

How about you — have you come out of the closet as a romance reader? When, and how? Share your coming-out story!

One lucky commenter will be randomly chosen to win a digital copy of Ride with Me. Just answer the question above for entry. Winners will pick up their copy through Net Galley. Good luck to all!

Open to: US  and international entries. You have until end day February 16 to enter, winner will be announced soon after.

Giveaway sponsored by: Random House

[box style="rounded"]No purchase necessary to win.  You must be 18 or over to enter, void where prohibited. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. FVBR is not being compensated for this giveaway. If the winner declines to accept or fails to claim their prize within one week of the announcement, a new winner will be randomly chosen. Prize distribution is the sole responsibility of the giveaway sponsor. Fiction Vixen Book Reviews will not be held responsible for lost or misdirected prizes or for circumstances beyond our control. More information here.[/box]

Comments

  1. Andrea says

    I never had to come out when it came to reading romance books. I was publicly reading them in study hall in 8th grade. I even remember passing them around so that everyone close to me could read the particularly smutty parts.

    After reading the interview I’m sitting here thinking how much I want to join a knitting group.

  2. sara says

    What a great story!
    For me, the internet has been huge in helping me come out as a romance reader. It first started by lurking on blogs and seeing the incredibly intelligent and thoughtful reviews and comments, and occasionally getting confident enough to participate in these kinds of discussions. At some point it clicked for me that the romance community is full of wonderfully bright people who are actively debating things like whitewashing, gender biases, agency, and gay rights, probably more so than any other group of readers & writers.
    Why wouldn’t I want to publicly identify as one of these people?

    Thanks for the giveaway! I’m looking forward to reading this one, especially after the quotes featured in FV’s review.

  3. says

    I’ve always read romance. I used to get my big sisters hand me downs but that was okay because that meant I could re-read. I do remember the covers for the paperbacks though. My kids often wished I would use them as a matter of fact my daughter bought me a Nook so I wouldn’t embarrass her with the racy covers on my books.

    • says

      Ah, kids. You shower them with love, and they find you humiliating. Circle of life, eh? I love my Kindle, though. Easier for me to hold, and I’d rather not accumulate books.

  4. Arthemise says

    I used to read just fantasy–tons of fantasy. It’s a big part of who I am. I tried urban fantasy in the ’80s and hated it. It was silly and completely unbelievable. And romance? Forget it. No magic there. Then just a few years ago a friend was giving away a book on the Kindle. With my new Kindle, I figured why not? It was a Stacia Kane book, and I devoured it. And the rest of the series. And the rest of her books. I was thoroughly hooked. My Kindle bill is still enormous, even with my renewed use of the public library. Romance novels certainly aren’t what they used to be. They can be smart, thought-provoking, and well written. Oh, and hot.

    I’ve also started writing fiction again, after I gave it up about 20 years ago because I decided I wasn’t that good at it (despite getting published by Marion Zimmer Bradley!). This time I’m writing for me. We’ll see where it goes.

  5. erinf1 says

    Ummm… I grew up in a very religious household, so I became very adept at sneaking my romances. Plus, it really helped that I was the only reader. Now that I’m an adult, I don’t hide what I’m reading, but I don’t flaunt it either. The Kindle is a godsent and I love it :)

  6. Renee Brown says

    okay, I have not come out of the closet to anyone but my husband. I still don’t want them to know that I read romances. It’s embarrassing, but I can’t give them up either. My husband doesn’t care what I read. I wish I felt that the rest of the world felt the same way.

    • says

      The trick, I think, is not caring what the rest of the world thinks. But that’s easy for me to say — I hardly ever leave the house. :)

  7. TrishJ says

    Never hid my love for romance. My kids remember me dragging them to the used book stores (they had a big screen TV with cartoons playing). They would sit and watch TV while I browed the shelves. We would always get an ice cream cone and head to the park to play/read. My sisters still think of romance novels as “fluff”. If they would just try one …

    • says

      What well-behaved kids! Mine would pull the whole store down on my head if I tried to browse for books. Of course, he’s only 3…

  8. says

    Yep! I sure did. I did the Silhouette thing too–My drug of choice in High School was Intimate Moments. It’s how I found and fell in love with Nora Roberts.
    LOL

    And now I’m an author too–published even. That was even worse. *groan*
    It was a little startling for one of my writing groups to have to read my sex scenes. *BLUSH*
    Especially when it was very detailed on the…choreography. lol

  9. Tabs says

    I remember getting picked on so hard for reading them in middle school that I didn’t touch another one untill college when I bought Jennifer Crusie’s “Faking It” from the bargain bin at B&N without realizing it was a romance.

    I’ve given up hiding now-a-days and just explain what I love about them when people question me.

    • says

      Jennifer Crusie could convert a virgin spinster missionary to romance. She’s like romance crack. Or is that just me? I never seem to be able to put her books down until I’ve finished them.

  10. Patsy Hagen says

    The closet is the only room in the house I have NOT read a romance or any other book! Seriously, I have never hidden the fact that I read romance books. There have been many many times when I have told others all about the book I am reading.

  11. Roberta says

    Funny, my friend Alison knows I’ve been reading romance novels for years but I didn’t know she was a knitter until I started knitting. She hid it from her friends because it wasn’t cool. How sad is that? I like the historical novels best because I get too mad ant the men in the modern novels and I worry if they aren’t using condoms.

  12. JenM says

    I loved reading romance when I was younger and my friends always teased me about it and kind of made fun of it. Eventually, I just drifted away from it. Now I’m back reading it again, only I’m older and wiser. When those same friends make fun of it now, I just laugh and ask them why in the world I’d want to read some dark, depressing literary fiction when instead, I can read a romance that leaves me with a happy sigh at the end.

    • says

      Exactly! My mom told me once, “Ruthie, your hobbies shouldn’t stress you out,” and I try to remember that and refuse to feel any shame or stress of any sort about the aspects of my life that are supposed to be relaxing.

  13. Victoria Zumbrum says

    I have never had to come out of the closet about what I read. II have always publicly read whatever I want to. I love reading romance novels and variety of different generes. Please enter me in contest. Tore923@aol.com

  14. says

    I came out of the closet after my sis introduced me to the wonderful world of reading romance… having that support of a sis to back me when the haters (other siblings) tried to make fun was really great. Now we talk about books all the time and it has given me more confidence regardless of who’s around:)

    yadkny@hotmail.com

  15. Chelsea says

    Not only have I ‘come out of the closet’ I have recruited ALL of my friends with romance novels. I’m also a Librarian and I recommend romance books to everyone…well to those people who hint that they want the dirty, filthy, romantic, smutty, drecky, heartfelt books. ;) Oh, and let me tell you all of them are pleasantly happily satisfied after…

  16. says

    Fun blogpost, and fun reading all the comments. I have never been ashamed of reading romance, and I have done that for as long as I can remember. But I was an eclectic reading, reading fantasy and sci-fi and mystery as well. But hiding the cover? Never.
    And yes, some people look down on me for reading romance. When will I read this and that book? And I just tell them, I read for my pleasure, why would I want to read about real life, and get depressed at the bad things happening to people?

  17. sienny says

    i started reading romance since i’m 17 and read them publicly :D but now i diversify my reading with other genres

  18. Jane Thompson says

    I read alot of them when I was a teenager but didn’t have much time when my children were small and I was working. I now have started reading them again, my family thinks it is funny, but I tell them it gets me out of reality for a little while.

  19. Raelene says

    I was reading romance novels from as early as I can remember checking Harlequin romance novels from the library. My mother, and sister and I loved them, still do, and tell myself after I read 10 I have to read a novel LOL that happens never unless it lures me. Keep up the great writing.

  20. Stacy says

    I don’t hide what I read but I don’t flaunt it either. Well I do hide my Kindle Fire from my kids because the covers and titles of the erotic books on there are not for their eyes. Other than that its all good. My husband thinks its pretty funny that I spend so much time reading. He just doesn’t get it. He would rather watch TV. I love smutty books, bring it on!!! Thank you for this wonderful giveaway!

  21. says

    I’ve never been in the closet. Everyone knows that I’m a proudly lover of romance novels, and if they didn’t know it before, they do now that I have a blog. I recommend and defend them to everyone around me. Thanks for the giveaway!

  22. Patti P says

    I have been getting a hard time about my reading choices since I was in the 3rd grade and reading Judy Blume. Oh well such is the life of a bookaholic. But I did definately up the ante in 2011 by attending Ellora’s Cave Romanticon in October and told my family and friends about it. Now they really think I’ve gone off the deep end.
    To know me is to ….shake your head and chuckle.
    LOL
    musicalfrog at comcast.net