Hostile Questions: Zoe Archer
Posted by: Daniel Kraus
Zoe Archer knows how to mix it up. This ain’t plain old la-la romance she’s writing. We’re talking paranormal historical romance (Hellraisers series). We’re talking steampunk adventure romance (Esther Chronicles). We’re talking magical Victorian romance (Blades of the Rose series). We’re talking spaceship science-fiction romance (Collision Course).
In fact, I’m betting you could put any two descriptive words in front of “romance” and Archer could own it. Aztec quilting romance? Des Moines roller derby romance? Dang, I kinda hope she actually writes those.
Just who do you think you are?
For my senior year in high school, I described myself in the yearbook as a “pint-sized curmudgeon” and not much has changed in the intervening twenty-plus years. I think I was born to write—I started writing short stories and novels when I was a little kid, and never really stopped, despite the fata morgana of other potential careers (illustrator, costume designer, dramaturge [I don’t even know what that really is], academic). I am the only graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop who has made a career as a romance novelist, but I don’t think they put that in the promotional brochure.
Where do you get off?
At the intersection of Romance Boulevard and Feminist Avenue. The two streets actually intersect, which a lot of people—even women—don’t realize. Feminist Avenue isn’t always well-maintained by the city, and some people go out of their way to avoid driving down it altogether. A few folks even think men can’t or aren’t welcome to drive down Feminist Avenue, but that’s not true. Everyone can drive down Feminist Avenue, and I think we’d all arrive at our destinations happier and better informed than if we’d taken the Casual Misogyny Expressway.
What’s the big idea?
Romance novels and feminism aren’t incompatible. That’s where I come in. As my bio states, I write romance novels that are chock full of adventure, sexy men, and women who make no apologies about kicking ass. You’ll also find that my romance novels are not particularly kind to the aristocracy—I don’t believe in lionizing people who were given wealth and power. Meritocracy 4 eva!
I love romance novels. I love their settings. I love watching two (sometimes three) people face external obstacles while learning about the needs and wants of their own hearts. I love that they aren’t ashamed to celebrate emotion, and deliver happy endings in a world that’s notoriously stingy about handing out said happy endings. I love that the majority of the readers and writers and publishers of romance are women. I love that there can be a wide spectrum in the genre, from contemporary, to paranormal, to historical, to erotic, to inspirational. I love the fact that, no matter how embattled or criticized romance is by our culture and the establishment, the sale of romance novels basically supports the publishing industry.
Oh, and if I’m going to do some promo, I’ll have you know that in April, my book Sinner’s Heart comes out, which is the third book in the paranormal historical Hellraisers series for Kensington. In June, I start a new series for St. Martin’s Press, called Nemesis, Unlimited, which is basically a mash-up between Leverage/Burn Notice and Ripper Street. Gritty, sexy stuff.
What is your problem, man?
A romance author can’t really talk about romance outside of the world of romance without being placed in the position to defend the genre. Everything we say will sound self-justifying, when the truth is that I’m proud of the work I do. Romance authors believe in their work, and we don’t drift around our pink-walled houses wearing peignoirs. The people I know who are the most informed about the business of publishing are romance authors. There are no ivory towers for romance writers.
Haven’t you done enough?
I’ll TELL you when I’ve done enough.