Ever hear this one? I have. And when I look at the people asking that question, people who invariably think that I write romance because it's easy, or I write romance because I'm not talented enough to write in another genre, I think, "If I just ignore that stupid question, does that make me part of the problem? Is it my job to try to convince them that what I do is valid? That what I do is special, and a dream come true? That what I do is art, and that when people look at my art, it makes them happy?"
I'll be honest here. When I first started writing romance, I used to lie. It would go down something like this:
"So, Bitsy tells me your an author. What do you write?"
"Ah. That's...nice." (insert condescending smirk emoticon here).
"B-b-but, I, uh, the next phase of my plan is to write a mainstream bestseller."
Chloe<-------- pausing to assess reaction
"BUT, that would just be a stepping stone, you know, for money, so that I could write what I REALLY want, which is a work of literature. Like the next Dickens, you know?" quick peek, still not impressed, "Then finally moving to my true passion, all non-fiction, all the time." we have a winner! "Mostly about the Civil War and stuff. It's going to be epic."
"Civil War. Impressive!"
Chloe <-------- nodding sagely
"Yes, well, I am very deep, and cerebral, which I have now proven to you beyond a doubt."
The last time it happened this way, I had some sort of epiphany, that was a combination of, "You can't please everyone" and "F&%ck those people." It was like I had woken up from a long sleep. Romance novels are read by over 50 million people, and the industry takes in over $1.5 billion annually. Why is it so popular? Because people love to read about love, and happiness, and sex. And I love to write about it. Romance writer's, stand proud, don't hide your work, or make excuses for it. Most of the people asking the question aren't in the Peace Corps making annual trips to the Sudan digging irrigation ditches. And, if not, what makes what they do more important or valid than what you do? Embrace it. You'll be surprised how much YOUR view of yourself and what you do, and YOUR confidence changes the way people react to you.
And if not, then f&%ck those people.