Nathan Bransford, Author

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Me and Romance

I know, it's confusing. I'm a guy in publishing, I watch the Bachelor, I like to wear orange shirts, I watch a lot of sports, I attended RWA.... So I just want to make it clear:

Yes, I represent women's fiction.

I know! Women's fiction. Not just for women anymore.

Now, when it comes to romance romance, I should probably clarify a few things: I don't represent category romance, and if it's too squarely in pure romance territory there are probably agents out there who would do better by you than me.

I did attend RWA though, because in addition to more mainstream women's fiction and memoir I'm also interested in what I like to call "romance plus." As in romantic suspense, romantic sci-fi, romantic (fill in the blank).

All this said, especially because all of these genre distinctions blur into each other I still stand by my main sentiment on the subject -- when in doubt, query me.

Hope that clears things up.


Dan said...

Can't someone come up with a better idea for 'reality romance tv' than the Bachelor?

Suzan Harden said...

Nathan, thanks for spelling out what you're looking. Contrary to what some agents think, not all writers want to waste the agent's time sending an inappropriate query.

Nathan Bransford said...


If they do, you can bet I'll be watching it. Because the Bachelor is some good TV.

ilyakogan said...

How about young adult fantasy erotic romance? :)

Seriously. The project I'm working on has a sixteen y/o female protagonist whose romantic relationship is at the center of the book. There is a detailed sex scene that was necessary for story development making it erotic romance.

Then things escalate into the unreal where the consequences of her actions throw her and her friends into the middle of struggle between magical forces...

Would that be too much for you to consider when it's done?

Lynne said...

Nathan, I *am* planning to query you first, because you said to. Goes like this: Dear Mr. Bransford, aka 'Query Me First.' Story starts where hero and pals discover a bunch of dead people. Girlie enough?

Keri Ford said...

Bachelor may be good tv, but it ain’t good romance tv! Cause what's a staple in every romance??

Happily Ever After!!

They break up after the show's over, so technically, that's part of their 'story' since the media lets it out. For a good romance reality, I think you’d have to watch other reality tv shows and hope a romance happens along. Something like Big Brother. Two houseguests fall in love, but can their feelings survive the cut-throat eliminations every week?

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynne said...

Did we decide 'A silence ensued' is a lousy way to begin a sentence? Has it approached The Deadly Cliche? Is that a rhetorical question? Oh, another question. If the country in your book changed management (melted into a larger country, or was conquered) does it make your book a fantasy?

ilyakogan said...

Romance+ example:

I'm reading the last book in the twilight series. (Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer) I liked the first three. I'm about nine chapters in and find reading it a chore. I dread the moment I 'need' to pick it up... Soap opera, so far.

Joanne said...

I'm not sure if any other genre can claim as many sub-categories as Women's Fiction. Thanks for clarifying your interests!

Pamala Knight said...

I'm with Lynne and I secretly place the tag 'Me First' after your name, Nathan. And the genres are blending at an alarming rate so when in doubt, just send those pages, I guess. As Cherry Adair said, 'the worst thing they can say is No.'

So, once I'm all polished and shiny, you'll be the first to know. Or not.

Erik said...

Stupid question:

Is there such a thing as "Men's Romance"? I don't mean porn, either, but a story from a man's perspective that, in addition to a little blood and action/adventure has a pretty serious romance angle.

Or am I just being wacky again?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...


Yes, I'm writing one right now. It's going to be a masterpiece! Seriously.

Nathan Bransford said...


Try again, this time without the rudeness.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, you really feel that detailed sex is a necessary for plot development? I don't.

Elyssa Papa said...

Erik, check out Barry Eisler's books. They have action and romancce. I just got the first book in the John Rain series and see a serious glom coming up.

Good to know Nathan re: romance preferences. And I agree---The Bachelor is the best for romance reality TV.

Anonymous said...

And, I do apologize for the rudeness. I'm just sick of this sex-crazed culture we have going on, I really am. I'm trying to raise daughters and about the only thing we can watch together on TV these days is Little House on the Prairie.

Nathan Bransford said...


It depends on the book. ATONEMENT has a somewhat graphic sex scene that I would argue is very integral to the plot development because its intensity is misinterpreted by Briony as violence.

It also can be a genre expectation, and if someone is working within certain genres they may need to satisfy those expectations.

And then there are times that it is indeed gratuitous. But I would never make a rule about it -- every book is different.

Elyssa Papa said...

Also, Erik, if you like paranormal, check out J.R. Ward's Daggerhood books featuring vampires who fight eeevil and find romance.

Keri Ford said...

Hi Wanda. Romantic Suspense:

Cindy Gerard's Bodyguard series is wonderful. Love them and have reread them many times. Her new series, BlackOps begins in I believe October.

Gennita Low has a wonderful, wonderful series. Started with a 5 book series from Avon, then switched publishers to MIRA (*shakes fist in air* darn you, MIRA!). They have delayed the release of her latest and should be out this christmas.

Christina Skye has a series of military Romantic Suspense. The Code Name books. If you want to sit up at night thinking, I wonder if the goverment can do this sort of thing, she's your gal.

Christie Craig has some laugh out loud suspense. Divorced, Desperate, and Delicious and Weddings Can Be Murder

For Romantic Mystery:

Suzanna Enoch has a contemporary series (she also writes regency), also quirky and funny in spots. Starts with Flirting with Danger. A theif steals from a billionaire and that kicks that series off.

Linda Howard had a two-book series come out a while back. FUNNY. Told from first person. Romantic Mystery. To Die For and Drop Dead Gorgeous

I don't know about Nathan's likes in back in the day romance (meaning historical/regency/scottish/mediveal). Nathan?? Many of those are more romancy-romancy. I have several of those I can give if anyone's interested.

ilyakogan said...

Anon: Believe me I tried to remove the sex scene and it sounds completely false and artificial without it.

The only way I know to send my characters on their paths was through the raw electricity of sexual attraction that drives them together against serious odds.

I'm raising a daughter too and I'm sick of equating sex and violence.

I hope that my sex scene is beautiful and healthy. There is no "aggressor getting lucky" theme I abhor.

Elyssa Papa said...

Wanda, romantic suspense: also check out Suzanne Brockman and Karen Rose.

Nathan, did you read that Audrina (from The Hills) admitted on her website that the show was fake. Shocker!

Nathan Bransford said...


My world has been shattered.

clindsay said...

Anon 1:44 -

I would very much disagree that our society is "sex-crazed". We are (refreshingly) more open about sex and can talk about it with fear of having a scarlet letter branded on our collective foreheads. But discussion of sex doesn't make one sex-crazed.

Sex can certainly be an essential plot element, much in the same way that any other basic human interaction can be; it's simply another form of communication and fiction is all about the ways that characters communicate (or don't communicate) with one another, thus driving plot forward.

I would agree with Nathan that without the crucial sex scene in Atonement, much of the rest of the plot makes no sense.

And, honestly, if the only thing you can find to watch with your kids is Little House on the Prairie, may I suggest getting cable? There are a lot of great programs out there that are sort of designed to be watched by the whole family. Kyle XY is a great example.

My two cents.


Elyssa Papa said...

Nathan, mine too. I'm going to still watching it though.

And I don't want to ruin your day any further with Bachelor break-up news, but you probably already know about it.

Elyssa Papa said...

God, my typing stinks today. Sorry!

Colleen, I so have to agree with you. On everything you just said.

clindsay said...

Erik -

I would think that a lot of what Nicholas Sparks writes could be construed as "men's romance".

Also, there are a growing number of authors writing gay men's romance (romance sans a lot of explicit sex, that is) these days. So I guess the answer to your question is yes. :-)


Erik said...

anon, I'm going to beat ya! :-)

elyssa, thanks, I will see what he did with it.

I'm not really writing a male romance, but I'm getting into some elements of such a genre. Then again, I hate genres so why not be a part of inventing a new one (that I can then hate)?

Lynne said...

Currently struggling through a vicious 'murder mystery/romance.' Koff. Author has rounded up all the usual suspects. Husband dies. Widow is informed it might be murder. She hates the guy who told her. Guy doesn't like her, either. Lemme take a wild guess; I bet it's the butler, in the library, with a candlestick. Then widow and mean guy get married.
The house decor is lovely, too. Gag.

zymweu said...


You're into YA and more familiar with the workings of the publishing industry than most of us. What's your take on the phenomenon of Twilight readers returning their copies of Breaking Dawn?

(Article for reference:

Keri Ford said...

Sex is not the main feature of a romance book. If a book is written purely for detailed sex scenes, then it’s not a romance anymore. Sex should always, ALWAYS move the story forward. Like Colleen said. It’s communication. It’s a place where that hard-headed hero can be brought down a few notches. Or that shy, skittish heroine being at ease and learning to be herself, even if just for a few moments.

Now I know this doesn’t always happen. I’ve read several places where comments have been about such and such book only being a book of sex. Just like every other book genre out there, romance has some not so great books, too. Same as there are not great movies, not great songs, and not great pieces of art. But in all the arts, you also find fantastic ones. And what I find exciting and wonderful, you might not share my feelings.

Some books are more detailed sex than others. Romance has a whole genre of Inspirational. Some Inspirational publishers are very strict on what words are even allowed. Most that I’ve heard of close the door. The hottest thing you’ll find is an embrace. I don’t read or study this market, so that’s all I can say with the assumption I’m right. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Everyone has their own tastes of what they like read and why. There’s a lot of books our there where the sex doesn’t come until after marriage vows are made. After a love that can be seen on the page is made or on occasion, even spoken.

As an aside. I’ve heard about so many readers/authors who dug in their mother’s stash of romance books. They read with a flashlight under the covers late at night. And you know what? They saved themselves for marriage. I’m not so old that I don’t remember my teenage years. The curiosity. The wondering. Romance books showed that curiosity to those readers. It made them understand that something special and encouraged them not to go out fornicating with anything that walks with sparkling eyes and broad shoulders. :O) I suggest you turn off Little House on The Prairie and prepare you daughters for the world today before they land in it blind.

Keri Ford said...

Oh, geez. I always said I wouldn’t post one of those really long comments, and there I went and did it!

Anonymous said...

Nope, sorry, I'm still not buying it. Great literature can be done without graphic sex, IMO. Yes, I know I'm going against the grain here, but I still think our society has been degraded by being too open and casual about sex. I wish literature didn't contribute to it, but alas! We live in a Jerry Springer culture.

Colleen, discussing sex and reading/writing graphic sex scenes are two different things.

To me, it's kind of sad that sex scenes are "expected" in certain genres, but the best I can do is not write it or read it myself...and I hope this will make me a better writer, because I will have to try much harder to entertain without resorting to what is probably easiest and most expected in fiction today (namely sex, sex, sex and did I mention sex?).

Anonymous said...

Keri -- don't worry, when my husband comes home from work he watches Family Guy, and all my hard work shielding and protecting their innocence is undone!


Erik said...

I think you can be demur about sex in some places, but if you're writing a hard book about reality than "the bodily fluids must fly", as my coach tells me.

Is sex required for certain genres? I hope not - nothing should be "required", except perhaps a body in a murder mystery. If a genre is defined such that it "requires" sex, I'd say ... well, I already said I hate genres and this is why. This and the admonitions in the Tao Te Ching, 'natch.

Keri Ford said...

Anon, I have to ask. What romance book did you read to give you this hard-core opinion?

I'm not asking to slam the author or name why you didn't like it. Just give title or author.

Anonymous said...

Keri, I can't even recall the names of the books, they were run-of-the-mill bodice rippers, and gradually through the years they just got worse and worse.

One great book I recall is "Forever Amber". It never really gets graphic, but it's steaming hot anyway. That's sort of what I'm aiming for, even though it's still not something I'd want to give my kids to read.

Other Lisa said...

Graphic sex scenes are like anything else in a book - they are necessary if they move the story forward, reveal character or reveal theme. If you need them to tell your story, you need them.

On another topic, be very afraid...

Cougars: NYC.

Josephine Damian said...

Male romance? Am I the only one around here old enough to remember Endless Love by Scott Spencer?

What about Love Story by Erich Segal?

Apparently the answer to that question is: Yes Josie, you are the only one around here old enough to know these books (and have read them when they first came out!).

JohnO said...

Nathan, when are you going to link to the clip of you singing "Stand by your Main" on your blog?


Anonymous said...

How about romantic smut--it's a Harlequin style romance, but wity XXX-rated sex scenes. So they're wondering how to save grandpa's farm in one scene, then they're goin' at it smut-style in the hay loft, then they're back to saving the farm...Just the same as a category rtomancwe novel except the sex scenes are not left to the imagination. You know exactly what they did.

Do you handle that kinda thang?

Anonymous said...


Family Guy is one of the best shows on TV (and the mnost financially successful).


Anonymous said...

You can watch Meerkat Manor with your kids.

Who would have thought Hollywood would find a way to commercially exploit a once obscure rodent? But they did.

Anonymous said...

Explanations are hardly necessary. There can be very few forms of fiction that do not have some element of romance, and not easy to get a novel looked at if there's no "boy meets girl" element.

Keri Ford said...

odice-Rippers. That explains a lot. The way it was told to me is, back when those books were published it was socially considered ‘bad’ for women to like sex or maybe it was crave it, or something or other. So, how did authors who wanted to push the envelope write around that? The bodice-ripper and all it’s graphicness was born. Romance still carries that description and the genre has come such a long way since those days.

I looked over my shelf, and my absolute will not part with book (in the regency) at the moment is Gaelen Foley’s Lord of Ice it’s book 3 of her Knight Miscellany series and all of them were wonderful. Lord of Fire is my 2nd fave by the same author.

Other authors I’ve gone back started buying a backlist after finding one book: Sabrina Jefferies, Kimberly Logan, Suzanne Enoch, and Johanna Lindsey (while Lindsey doesn’t exactly follow the rules of the regency, she tells a darn great story. I’ve read both of these at least 3 times, maybe 4: Tender Rebel and Gentle Rouge)

I asked a question to one of my RWA loops for their favorite authors and this is what I got: Eloisa James, Gaelen Foley, Julia Quinn, Lisa Kleypas, Samantha James.

Then if you want to go a little older, Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer (neither of which have sex scenes to my knowledge—Heyer’s Venetia doesn’t)

Something steamier: Cheryl Holt, Jenna Peterson/Jess Michaels, Kate Pearce’s Simply Sexual

And, of course, I couldn’t end this out something for you to look at for your daughters :O)

Now look, another long post!

Lynne said...

Nathan sings 'Stand By Your Man?' Does he do it with gestures like in THE BLUES BROTHERS? I'd love to see that.

Anonymous said...

Keri -- thanks for the link. That was one of the saddest commentaries I've seen in a long time.

Can you just imagine the generation that will follow the generation represented on that board. One of the worst: disappointed because YA erotica fades to black at the good parts! YIKES.

: (

That said, I realize you're just trying to help, and it's appreciated.

Keri Ford said...

Sorry, anon, I might have given the wrong link (I had six or seven up, sorry). there's one entry on that site where a mom requested romance novels to ease her daughter in. The daughter was taking an interest in mom's book and mom wanted to find something interesting but not so, descriptive. but I couldn't find that entry. Instead, I wanted to give you a link with YA recomendations:

If you want to chat further, by all means, drop me an email. you can reach me through my website

ORION said...

I think it's refreshing to see that there are books for every kind of taste (I may have used the wrong word there...)
I have no problem finding books that do not have graphic sex...go to your local independent book store- there are plenty-
I also have no problem reading sex scenes (as in Atonement) that are necessary to the plot-
And if you get bothered by the media bombardment? Well the on-off switch is right there...

Anonymous said...

I don't get all this. The only chick-lit romance I ever read was The Story Of O, and more than odices got ripped. It didn't work for me though - too much blah blah blah - know what I mean?

Anonymous said...

Nathan, do you take romance short stories, or just full novels?
Thanks. Mary

Adaora A. said...

That was great of you to clear that up for us. Honestly!

The Bachelor is seriously addictive. It's genius TV actually. It feeds on people's need to see drama (hile lounging comfortable with a bowl of cracker barel and a bottle of water). Every season has the 'personality' : the drama queen, the pyscho, freakishly is already crying about being sent away after one day, the girl who is there to be on TV, the one who you just know straight away is going to make the finals......

Damn good TV.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Whoo romantic sci-fi! I write something similar to that. TBH, I'm more a fan when the romance is a sub-plot (both in books I read and books I write), but I definitely plan to query you someday anyway.

As for the debate raging in the comments about how sex-crazed our culture is and there not being any good shows on TV anymore--yes, our culture is very open about sex, and at times I do think it borders on mania, but more in film and advertisements than literature for me. (I know that literature is out there; I just tend not to read it.) As for television, there are plenty of programs that are safe for the whole family. There are entire channels devoted to such programming.

My main gripe is when sex is used gratuitously, which unfortunately is often the case. But I have just as much an issue when violence is used gratuitously. Both can dumb a story down by pandering to the audience.

Polenth said...

Joanne said:
I'm not sure if any other genre can claim as many sub-categories as Women's Fiction.

I think speculative fiction is up there. Gone are the days when it was fantasy or science fiction. Now you find out you've written a new weird, slipstream steampunk novel. I kept stumbling across new ones, and it often isn't obvious what they are from the name.

Betty Atkins Dominguez said...

I really do not care for romance novels, however, I think most novels benefit from some romance.

Jana Lubina said...

I really like having sex, so I also really like reading it, and that's regardless of the genre.

Gentle. Hard. Slow. Fast. Sadistic. Masochistic. Gratuitous. Hidden. Whatever. I'm all for it.

People get too intense about the subject -- on both sides.

Kimber An said...

Be proud, Mr. Bransford, and I'm sure you're future wife will be grateful. At least, she should be. Expressing gratitude is the secret to enduring romance.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:47 Story of O is NOT chick-lit it's considered classic/'literary' erotica.. I apologize in advance if I'm not seeing/reading a sarcastic tone... if you were joking.

Nancy D'Inzillo said...


I've heard of the burgeoning romantic sci-fi (or is it science fiction romance?) before, and I was reading on one of the romance blogs how that seems to be one of the current trends in romance over contemporary fiction. Is it simply the marketing department that decides where such a book gets placed (whether it ends up on the sci-fi/fantasy shelves or in the romance section)? Or is it the booksellers prerogative? I'm curious because I know a lot of books in both genres (like Erik, I can get frustrated with genres, specifically for this reason) that bridge this gap, but can rise or fall based on which category they are marketed in. Would you ever pitch a romantic sci-fi you found at RWA as sci-fi? How do you know which audience to pitch it to?

MoJo said...

The Story of O is chick-lit? I'm so out of the loop.

Chrissy said...

Hi all, not sure if anyone has heard of the new book coming out after October 6 called 'Letters Between us', by Linda Rader Overman? It's a womens fiction novel and I had the pleasure to get it from a pre-book release party. I really liked it and I think its going to be a big hit!
I really loved this book, I couldn't put it down. It is a very quick read, but don't be deceived by how short a novel it is. The author has a great talent for weaving a multifaceted tale. I can't believe it's her first book. I can't wait for her next one. Surely she won't leave us hanging long. Please get writing Linda Rader Overman!

Rachel Hamm said...

glad I kept reading for another hour! you DO represent my genre!

Lindsey Edwards said...

I would love to send you a query for my fantasy/historical romance novel. I think you are a fantastic agent with great taste and any author would be darn lucky to have you on their side in this crazy industry, but I want to first make sure I should send it to you instead of a Curtis Brown agent who might tailor more toward genre romance. If it's not right for you but you feel it would sell, would you refer it to another agent within the company?

Thank you for your time!
~Lindsey Edwards
Witch Way To you: “Lorelei and Hayden are thrust into an investigation of magic
and intrigue, where nothing, not even each other, are what
they seem.”

Kristin said...

Hi Nathan. I'm a bit confused by the difference between romance and women's fiction. We're having a discussion on this topic over on Forums under All Things Writing, Genre Help. Maybe you could write a post on this to clarify. Are all love stories with a happy ending "romance", even though the plot also chronicles a woman's personal journey in dealing with her past and emotions? I have no idea what label to put under my name at the PNWA writer's conference. Any help would be appreciated, and I know there are lots of other blog readers with this same question. Thanks!

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