I’ve never been great at being on-trend in my work. I’m usually either ahead of or behind the curve. When I came up with the idea for Enchanted, Inc. and was shopping it around to publishers, I was hitting the point where chick lit was starting to tank but urban fantasy wasn’t yet a big thing, so no one really knew what to do with it. It got published as chick lit, then got caught in the collapse of that genre. I also managed to hit steampunk when it was on the downswing.
But I finally seem to be hitting the market with the right thing at the right time. Cozy fantasy is the current big thing, and I managed to get a book in that genre out at just the right time. Tea and Empathy is even selling pretty well, so thanks to those who’ve bought it and told people about it. It’s also hitting another trend where I fit in well, what they’re calling “romantasy,” or fantasy with strong romantic plots.
That one is forcing me to adjust my thinking because for so long, fantasy publishers have been rejecting my books for being “too romancey.” I may be known for writing fantasy, but I’ve never had a book published by a major publisher that was published as fantasy. A Fairy Tale was rejected for being too romancey — even though there’s not even a kiss. There may be some very faint vibes in that first book, but that’s it. I guess they just assumed when a man and a woman met early in the book that there would be romance, and it seems those editors didn’t read enough of the book to know. The same thing happened with Rebel Mechanics. That’s why it was published as young adult. The original version had the main characters a few years older, and it was submitted as adult fantasy. A fantasy editor actually suggested it be submitted to a romance imprint because it was too romancey. This is a book in which the main couple that meets at the beginning of the book doesn’t even kiss during the book. I had to wonder if this editor had ever read a romance. Since the characters were already young and the rebels were all students, I dropped the age of the characters a bit then submitted and sold it as young adult, where they had fewer qualms about romance.
The tables have really turned now, and publishers are looking for romance in their fantasy. One publisher has even launched an entire fantasy romance imprint. I’d been working on a book I was planning to publish myself that fits that fantasy road trip plot I’ve been talking about. To a large extent, it’s It Happened One Night, but in a fantasy world. But now publishers are eager for that sort of thing, so I’ll send it to my agent and see what happens. I’d written a draft that I didn’t like much, so I’m currently rewriting it, and I keep having to stop myself from editing out the romance. I’d gotten in the habit of toning that sort of thing down, in hopes of actually being able to sell a fantasy novel. Now, that’s what they want.
I’m actually not sure I’ll have enough romance for what they want now. I’ve said that although I’m considered a romantic writer when it comes to fantasy, what I write is actually more shipper bait than romance. Nothing much happens on the page. It’s more about making readers want something to happen and sparking their imaginations. In this book, it’s more about longing than about actual romance. If I write a sequel, the romance won’t fully kick in until then. So, I’m not yet sure whether I’m on-trend in this or if it’s going to be a case of me being too romantic for regular fantasy and not romantic enough for romantasy. In which case, I’ll just publish it myself because I’m sure there’s an audience for it.