a type of fiction which self-consciously addresses the devices of fiction.and one of the most common forms of metafiction, and certainly of metafictional romances, is ‘A novel about a person writing a novel’ (both quotations from Wikipedia).
It is the term given to fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artifact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality.
On the listserv we were using the term ‘metaromance’ to describe romances in which one of the characters (usually the heroine), is a writer, and usually the author of a romance. I thought I’d mention the author-characters of the metaromances, so they could take their place alongside the poet-characters discussed by Eric. In that post, Eric mentioned that questions were often asked about possible negative consequences resulting from reading chivalric romances, and he alluded to Cervantes’ Don Quijote, who went mad from reading too many of them, and as a result ended up tilting at windmills. Here’s a picture of Don Quijote in the world of his imagination, surrounded by all the strange creatures and exotic people who inhabit the world of the chivalric romances.
I thought I'd start with Amanda Quick's Reckless. Gabriel Banner, Earl of Wylde, is the anonymous author of The Quest, ‘the most popular book of the Season’ (1997: 24) and Phoebe, the heroine, is Wylde’s anonymous editor and ‘the mysterious backer who had rescued Josiah Lacey’s faltering bookshop and publishing business’ (1997: 24). Both Gabriel and Phoebe are collectors of manuscripts of chivalric tales. The owning, writing and editing of chivalric romances, as well as a shared love of the genre set the hero and heroine on a quest of their own. In the process, it raises the issue of whether Phoebe and other reader of romances and chivalric romances are mad, or at least, naive, to believe in chivalry, love and happy endings to quests. This being a romance novel, not a parody of the chivalric romances, the answer is that they’re not.
Other metafictional works by Quick, The Pirate, The Adventurer and The Cowboy (all from 1990) have been discussed by Pamela Regis (2003). She writes that:
As a romance novel with a heroine who is a romance novelist and a hero who reads one of her books (208), The Pirate is self-referential. This novel points explicitly to its own genre. Krentz uses the romance novels that her character has written to create a perspective - an echo, a mirror, a doubling, an ironic contrast - for the essential romance elements of the actual novel, The Pirate, that we, the readers, are holding in our hands. Through mirroring or echoing an element of the core romance novel, Krentz adds a set of meanings to the actual romance novel, intensifying them, commenting ironically on them, but never actually undercutting them. This generic self-referentiality becomes part of the courtship. (2003: 171)This being the season of conferences for romance authors, though, it's interesting to explore not just how metafiction comments on fiction and the conventions of fiction, but also the ways in which the metaromance can explore issues such as the marketing of novels and what is involved in being a published author. The metaromance aspect of Reckless, for example, touches on issues related to the marketing of romance novels. Phoebe describes The Quest to a potential reader as a
novel [which] engages the most lofty of the sensibilities. Very inspiring treatment of the subject of love. You will be especially pleased with its hero. He is even more exciting than one of Mrs. Radcliffe’s heroes (1997: 110)It’s the verbal equivalent of the modern back-cover blurb and I imagine Quick/Krentz would consider this a fairly appropriate description of Reckless itself. Reckless even concludes with a publicity event which will boost sales of the book, though Wylde is a somewhat shy author who has trouble coping with the adulation of his fans: ‘Wylde was very set against being identified as the author of such a successful book. I believe that when it comes to that sort of thing he is rather shy’ (1997: 368). Wylde comments that:
“I do not like this business of being a famous author.”Clearly this is an extremely close editor/author relationship, but the reclusive author’s reluctance to court publicity, and the editor’s desire to have the author meet his/her fans in order to boost sales remind me of comments I’ve read on the blogs and websites of modern romance authors. Here's one such description of writers, from Susan Holloway Scott/Miranda Jarrett on today's blog post at the Word Wenches:
“Nonsense”, Phoebe said. “ [...] Surely you can handle a few admirers on the rare occasion such as tonight.”
“The occasions had better be extremely rare,” Gabriel warned. [...]
“They will be,” Phoebe promised. She gave him a gloating smile. “And just think of what it will do for your career. I’ll wager we shall have to go back to print for another five or six thousand copies after this lot returns to London. Everyone here cannot wait to inform his or her friends of the true identity of the author of The Quest. Lacey’s Bookshop will make another tidy little fortune.” (1997: 369-370)
Writers cherish anonymity. We’re not by nature a glamorous bunch. Books may be considered part of the entertainment industry, but writing is not a performing art. Which is why when we have to “go public” –– whether at a big conference like RWA, or a small book signing at a local store –– the results can be, well, challenging.-----
Quick, Amanda, 1997. Reckless (London: Orion).
Regis, Pamela, 2003. A Natural History of the Romance Novel (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press).