United By Love
How does the human condition cross boundaries and unite us? Can a character's emotional journey become a social equalizer? Adite Banerjie and Geri Krotow share their thoughts.
Growing up in Mumbai, it often seemed like there were just two options for a die-hard romance aficionado like me: read romances with all-White characters or watch Indian movies with its song-and-dance setpieces and over the top melodrama. I did both—and enjoyed both immensely. It was perhaps this ‘diversity’ of fiction that was to help me years later when I started writing fiction.
Over the years both movies and romance novels have gotten a bit more relatable. Indian romance readers can pick books from shelves that are about Indian characters and set in cities that we have grown up in. Movies too have become more grounded to real life issues. But somewhere along the way we have lost out on the ‘diversity’ factor. Indian romance novels are increasingly about the ‘campus’ experience. Our mainstream movies echo the same love stories that are deemed ‘saleable’ but continue to lose money at the box-office.
Traditional publishers, in their marketing wisdom, prefer to shell out more-of-the-same content and lean heavily on campus romances. Already scarce retail shelf-space is farmed out to books that are expected to rake in the big moolah. And the choice for readers shrinks further to a handful of authors and books that the publishing industry props up in their bid to make money. The film industry, taking its cue from publishers, make films based on books that have been labelled ‘bestsellers’, in the hope that their fans will flock to the movie halls to see the filmed version of their favourite books!
In this vicious cycle of shrinking content, indie publishing offers some hope. As indie publishing grows by leaps and bounds and offers readers the chance to go beyond the sterile and stereotyped stories favoured by traditional publishers. For authors, it’s a golden opportunity to give wing to their imagination and tell stories they want to tell, rather than tailor content to meet some mythical bestselling formula.
By telling stories from multiple, diverse and offbeat perspectives, Indie authors are giving a new lease of life to romance novels. Making the jump from traditional to self-publishing, I hope to be able to rope in new readers not just among Indians but also offer readers, who know little about India and its customs, a peek into the diverse cultural heritage of my country.
In fact, as digital technology expands, it offers readers and viewers the opportunity to experience cultural differences in a more personalized and meaningful manner. Take the manner in which Netflix now brings Indian movies right onto mobile phones and bedrooms of the American viewer. An American friend recently told me she is delighted to be able to add 18 Indian films to her Netflix queue, something she wouldn’t have been able to do a couple of years ago.
Let’s then celebrate our uniqueness and universal- ness by telling stories that are intensely personal. As writers, let’s go beyond so-called marketing wisdom and engage our audiences with rich content and a shared love for stories. Let’s make technology our ally in storytelling.
Adite Banerjie is an author and screenwriter based in New Delhi, India. After five years and three books as a traditionally-published author, she is excited about going indie. For more about her, check out her website.
What is more universal than love? No matter our walk of life, color of our skin, sexual identity, religion, age, sex—we all need love. And the romance novels we all devour reflect this, as their characters take us on a journey to happily ever after no matter the net worth of the hero or heroine, no matter where they were born, where they live, or who they know.
When I picked up my first romance novel as a young girl who’d run out of Nancy Drew’s (don’t worry, it was very sweet with only a chaste kiss at the end), I began my education in the human condition. Romance novels took me all over the world, and gave me a front row point of view of social and cultural experiences I never knew about. I had no idea women had to completely depend on men and the construct of marriage for much of history. Pick up any regency or nineteenth century romance and it’s clear how far we’ve come.
Contemporary romance allows me to feel what it’s like to be in professions I can only dream of, like being a firefighter, professional athlete, barista, wedding planner or country singer. Heroines who struggle to make ends meet and still find time for love are my favorite characters. To be able to cling to hope and go for a happily ever after when you’re not making enough to feed your children—that’s heroic.
A wonderful benefit the romance genre has gifted me with is that I’ve been able to both write and read about the interracial and intercultural romance, in historical and contemporary settings. In our modern, diverse, culturally rich world, this is not only welcome but necessary. I’ve been able to take my readers inside the life of a military family and hopefully impart some of the sacrifice made by these families. Yet I don’t write to impart a heavy hitting message or lesson—that’s not my job. The characters and their circumstances are the teachers, and they open my mind as much as the reader’s.
Whether a heroine is born in Mumbai, Moscow or Memphis, her heart yearns for completion by the one special person for her. How she gets to her happily ever after will be her unique journey. But the result of everlasting love? A universally desired outcome.
Is love a universal equalizer or do we still have some work to do there? Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the PHS discussion on this subject on Social Media.
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