Utah author Shannon Hale is one of the nine authors in the discussion of “romance and the modern woman” series by USA Today’s Happily Ever After blog contributor Serena Chase. They’ve discussed a variety of topics surrounding romance stories, how they are perceived, who is reading them and trends in the business.
Hale is the author of the romantic comedy “Austenland” (Bloomsbury, $12.99) and the more mysterious sequel “Midnight in Austenland” (Bloomsbury, $15), along with other middle-reader and graphic novels.
Here are a few excerpts of Hale's answers to Chase's questions:
Serena: What level of importance do you think modern women put on romance (not just in books!) in their daily lives?
Shannon Hale: I think there is a common post-feminism sentiment that says too much focus on romance is unhealthy for women; that we need to be independent from men in order to be healthy. That has shamed a lot of women from being open about their desire for romance, and books are a private way of exploring that interest and need without shame. Romance is fun! And it's a way of discovering that lifetime partner that so many women desire. Research shows that personal relationships are the most important factor in happiness. I don't find it surprising that modern women still put a great deal of importance on discovering and nurturing a loving relationship.
Serena: What is the most memorable response you've had to your novel or to someone finding out that you are a romance novelist?
Shannon Hale: I received a fan letter for "Austenland" (which is dedicated to Colin Firth) from a group of cloistered nuns. One line in the fan letter still astounds me with its perfection: "Even though we are espoused to Jesus Christ, the perfect man, we too have a crush on Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy."
Serena: Oscar Wilde said, "The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily. That is what fiction means." In a society where long-term romantic relationship stability seems to be ever-decreasing, do you think romance novels play a role in bringing hope that "happy ever after" can exist for women?
Shannon Hale: The most important relationship in my life is with my husband. Our friendship and romance of 20-plus years fuels that optimism in me. Like Tamara (Leigh), I stumble on the phrase "happily-ever-after." There's no The End in a long-term relationship and lots of storms, but lots of good times too. As much as I'm comfortable here in the middle of the "happily-ever-after," it's still fun to go back to write or read about the beginnings of romance and remember those flutterings and thrills.
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