Four women sat before the audience on a rainy Thursday at Walsh Bay in Sydney. They were there to talk about romance, or more specifically, the Spirit of Romance, at Sydney Writers’ Festival.
Kate Forsyth (The Wild Girl), Rachael Treasure (The Farmer’s Wife) and Suzy Duffy (Wellesley Wives) were in a good mood as facilitator Amanda Hooton, who wrote Finding Mr Darcy, introduced them to the predominantly female audience, although you can spot a male figure here and there.
The three authors write about romance – the world’s most popular literary genre. “Love makes the world go around,” said Suzy and Kate added “Romance is the human longing for love.”
The three guest authors agreed they had always loved to read romance novels. As Amanda pointed out, the definition of romance today is almost too broad. It ranges from Pride and Prejudice to Fifty Shades of Grey. That runaway bestseller motivated Rachel to create her own “farm porn”. So she wrote Fifty Bales of Hay last year within six weeks – 12 short erotic stories of lust in the country dust. “My mum set me up on that platform when she sent me erotic literature at college,” Rachel remembered.
For Suzy romance writing came naturally. Originally from Ireland she had some light but very successful shows on the radio but gave up broadcasting when she had children. A wife and mother of five, she wrote her first book when her children were at school. Wellesley Wives is the first in a series of four; the next will be published in September this year. She said she aims to make the audience laugh and let them escape reality. “If you don’t write from the heart people will feel that. So you have to write from the heart,” she said.
Kate agreed: “If I write a bad book I feel I’m betraying the reader. When I write I think about them all the time, how I can make them laugh or how I can bring them to tears. That’s what my job is,” she said. It helps her to think about she wants to write the kind of book she’d love to read.
After reading Kate’s first book a friend said to her: “This is romance; I thought you wanted to write proper books?” That made the audience laugh. Sometimes, romance struggles to suit different tastes. But it’s not there to suit everyone. According to Suzy, life is romantic. So why not read about it?