Saturday, May 28, 2011

That Daily Mail Article again

As it's a week since that stupid, inaccurate - fictitious - article  about the RNA Summer party  I should mention that as well as organising the brilliant 'This is What A Romantic Novelist Looks Like' campaign and page on Facebook. Kate Johnson also wrote to the Daily Mail protesting at the 'mistakes' their columnist Claudia Connell made.  Her letter and her photograph - proof if anyone needed it that  the description of  RNA members as having blue rinses and twin sets and pearls  was distinctly wide  of the mark - was published yesterday - see above.  Brilliantly done  Kate - congratulations.

My only concern is that now I'm sure the DM thinks it has rectified the problem and provided a new balance - well, no, not in my book.  Kate has her point made and her picture in the paper but  where is Ms Connell's explanation/apology for creating such a fiction in the first place?  Where is there any indication of awareness of the 158 members of the This is What A Romantic Novelist Looks Like - not to mention the hundreds of other members of the RNA /all romantic novelists slighted or ignored in the original  article. And why were the comments on that article closed at 24 replies when  people  still wanted to comment - criticising the inaccuracie ?

 I'm so tired of lazy,inaccurate, bigoted reporting  - on any subject - that resorts to using old, worn-out stereotypes without any concer as to whether they are  still - or ever were - maccurate and relevant. Why do journalists always drag out images of Barbara Cartland and Catherine Cookson to illustrate a profession in which neither lady has been active for over ten years?   What next? Illustrating an article on the present day Members of Parliament with images of  Harold Wilson or Margaret Thatcher? 

Hopefully the point has been made - to this newspaper at least. But I'll be watching with interest for the next article/comment/report on anything to do with romantic fiction or romantic novelists  and I'll not be surprised if some of the same old, same old surfaces again -  the words bodice-rippers, slushy stories, "heroines swooning with alarming frequency and heroes, with names like Troy and Cassius"  repeated ad nauseam. Probably illustrated with photos of Barbara Cartland ..  .sigh!

But at least Kate  - and everyone else who joined the This Is What A Romantic Novelist Looks Like pages - have  scored a well honed point - we can hope that it is just the start of a change in the way this wonderful, successful, bestselling form of fiction and the  fabulouswriters who create it are portrayed.


Cathie Dunn said...

Thanks for posting up the letter, Kate.

Like you, I wonder about the lack of acknowledgment from the DM, especially that particular 'journalist'.

Whilst driving home yesterday, I made a point of listening to lyrics of songs played on the radio. They were top of the charts, very popular, by big names in the music business. And they were all about love, relationships and sex. So why is it that music is widely accepted, but novels about the same topics are scrutinised and given wrong coverage?

Ultimately, the readers decide. And, boy, they do! :-)

Valerie Parv said...

Thanks for the follow-up, Kate. An "oops, we goofed" admission would have been nice, but this is as close as we're likely to come. One point I'd make for others responding to the DM debacle and others like it is NOT to repeat the original rubbish. Doing so gives it credence and worse, attaches the words to the writer using them, even to refute them. Better to say simply, "I don't agree. My view is..." and let em have it. My 2c worth anyway.

Laura Vivanco said...

"Kate has her point made and her picture in the paper but where is Ms Connell's explanation/apology for creating such a fiction in the first place?"

In addition, I'm not sure that Kate's letter and picture made it into the online version of the paper. Maybe they did and I just can't find them, but if they didn't, that means the original article (which can still be found online) is likely to have a longer "life" than Kate's rebuttal.

Cathie Dunn said...

Laura, I searched for the letter on DM online but couldn't find it either. It's probably because it's a letter, not an article. I.e., 'only' someone's opinion. You're right about the article being visible for longer - it came up top when I searched for romantic novelists. :(

Kate Walker said...

Thanks Cathie - and I agree with both you and Laura - below - that simply putting Kate's response on the Letters page makes someone - and only one person's - opinion. I wish the Facebook page or the number of comments people have made had been cited too.

I'm forced to wonder too why only 24 comments show up for the original article - when I'm pretty sure that more people commented/protested. VValerie for example wrote to let me know she'd made a comment - but the number of posts stays resolutely at 24 - some censorship going on here?

Like you, I tried to find Kate's response yesterday and it doens't come up on the DM site while MS Cullen's fiction does. But at least the stupid article didn't go entirely uncontested.

Liz Fielding said...

Thanks for sharing, Kate. And well done Kate. :)

If the DM were moved to cut off the comment thread they clearly realised they'd boobed and - hopefully - won't make the mistake of irritating several hundred literate ladies again in a hurry.

Next time they, or anyone else, digs up a pic of Barbara Cartland to illustrate an article on romantic fiction, we might all write and ask them if they'd cover the Labour Conference using a picture of Harold Wilson.

Trish Morey said...

Kate, thanks for posting the letter. I'm still shaking my head at the unprofessional attitude of the so-called "journalist". Maybe they should have sent a grown up to the event, rather than an adolescent who equates romance with sex and can't see beyond that. Although adolescent might be pushing it. The DM level of reporting actually reminded me of schoolboys who have just discovered the word "fart" in the dictionary.

I do applaud the "this is what a romance author looks like" postings, although I would like to add one rider - I don't think it matters two hoots what romance authors look like and how old they might be. No, I've never seen one with a blue rinse and in support hose, but would it actually matter?

When we write romance, it's not just about the sex, as any one of us knows. We're writing about real people and real life changing events (well, we've made them up, sure, but out of real material). And the reason our books are successful is that they touch a chord with the readers.


Because we authors have experiences these same things. We have gone through the joy of birth, the tragedy of death, the agony of a loved one fading away. We have suffered through cancers and miscarriages and road crashes and remember being told to sit down before we hear news because we will fall down if we don't. We remember the thunderclap of hearing that news, we remember the impact it had on our hearts and our minds and our lives. And heaven forbid, we've made love. Maybe still do! Shocking.

Bottom line, we've lived. We've experienced all life has to throw at us and we've survived to tell the story, in a million different ways, all with a happy ending.

And yet, because we've lived, because we got the experience of a lifetime, or a goodly portion of it, because we're on the wrong side of twenty years old, somehow that makes us less worthy to write about the things we know?

Bollocks to that, I say. We write real stories for real women because we are real women.

The feeble hearted need not apply.


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