Deirdre Thornton: Romance & Fantasy

I've been looking around for more writers to join me on A few people have stepped up to the keyboard, and the first of these is Deirdre Thornton. She'll be writing about various topics in fantasy, most notably the intersection of romance and fantasy. This is her introduction.

I'm a reader, some have termed me voracious, others have wondered how I do it. Truth is I'm not sure why I read so much I just do. I think it all is rooted in my childhood. Ever since I started to read I've read a lot. When I was learning to read my teacher had to supply extra books for a few of us to keep us interested. She used to rent them out for 2p per book, and I cost my parents a relative fortune in books.

These days I cost myself a fortune in books but I've also got access to Dublin City Council's Library service because I work for them. This doesn't help the pile but it does help my pocket, to a degree. I own a considerable quantity of the 4000-plus books I have up on Librarything. Over the past year or so I've been reviewing the books as I've been reading them.

I'm a Fantasy fan. The majority of my reading is Fantasy. When I was younger I read a lot of SF but I'm not as much of a fan these days as I used to be. I still read the occasional one or two, and there are a fair few SF novels in my collection, however they're more my husband's than mine. I'm the more organised person who decided to get my books up on Librarything and make sure that we reduce the number of duplicates.

I also read thrillers, mysteries, historical fiction and romance.

I almost feel like I should whisper that.

Romance has a bad image. An image of being lesser than other genres. Along with westerns they're often under-represented in bookshops and relegated to back corners, if you can find them at all. They're not much better treated by libraries. Seeing as how a lot of the readers just pick up bundles of Mills & Boon, and tend to pick up what they see as new or specific lines rather than specific authors, it's not difficult to see why the people trying to manage them have the attitude they have.

Harlequin and Mills & Boon have some of the same attitude to the books; trying to find out what books are in a sequence can be difficult. Once the books are out of print they tend to stay out of print unless the author becomes famous, like Nora Roberts (apparently's third most popular author). The books are treated as quite disposable, which is a shame because some of them are very readable. Some of them are quite predictable and very much following the formula as laid out on their website. However they've also branched out into some other areas. Luna and Mira are two branches that are less formulaic and more "mainstream". Mira is a catch-all imprint that publishes everything from romance to thrillers and Luna is a Fantasy imprint. Some paranormal aspects are creeping into some of their more regular imprints, and they've specifically branched out some of their imprints to include some paranormal or fantasy elements.

But Fantasy also has a bad name. My mother keeps hoping that I'll graduate to "real" fiction one of these days and I've got a sneaking suspicion that in her heart of hearts Fantasy has an equal status to Romance. Possibly a slightly higher one but just about. Years ago she read some Fantasy and SF and dismissed them as being too unreal, and I can't convince her otherwise. Actually I've given up trying, some fights you're just not going to win. Then again some books she reads drive me insane and I just give up after a short while. To each his own.

And this is the truth. To each his own. For everyone there is a genre and it's up to the shops and the libraries to fulfil that need, and if local shops won't that's what the internet is there for.

You can contact Deirdre at

Posted by Drew Shiel at October 21, 2006 7:01 PM

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