Over at Dear Author Sunita's got a post up in which she contests the idea that Kathleen Woodiwiss's The Flame and the Flower gave "birth to the romance genre." The post is, in a way, a follow-up to a post by Jessica at Read React Review but Sunita takes the novel as a case study in how changes in the publishing industry affect which novels reach the book-buying public, and the formats in which we read them. Sunita mentions (but does not quote) Janice Radway's analysis of the changes in the publishing industry at the time of The Flame and the Flower's publication, so I thought I'd include part of it here:
A paperback original, The Flame and the Flower was given all the publicity, advertising, and promotion usually reserved for proven bestsellers. Such originals had been issued continuously in small quantities throughout the early years of mass-market history, but concentration on them was not widespread for the simple reason that it cost more to pay out an advance to an author and to advertise an unknown book than to buy reprint rights to an already moderately successful hardback. Avon, however, under the direction of Peter Meyer, had begun to experiment with originals and different advertising campaigns in the mid-1960s. When Coffey agreed to publish The Flame and the Flower without previous hardcover exposure, she was simply following a practice that had become fairly common within her firm. The house's extraordinary success with Woodiwiss's novel soon caused industry-wide reconsideration of the possibilities of paperback originals as potential bestsellers. (34)Sunita concludes that as far as the content of The Flame and the Flower was concerned, it "didn’t really break new ground, but it put together a winning combination of proven ingredients" and that reminded me of a description in Meljean Brook's In Sheep's Clothing of the difference it makes to have been changed from a human into a werewolf:
"I heal faster now [...] it was harder to fight myself when I wanted something. [...] And I didn’t want to accidentally hurt anyone.”Becoming a werewolf isn't depicted as being an inherently bad thing. Indeed, the truly shocking character in this short story isn't the werewolf; it's a human serial murderer who rapes his victims before strangling them.
“But now?”“I learned to control it better. And the more I let it—the wolf—out, the more control I have when I’m human.”
The transformation from human to werewolf, however, seems to enhance the powers and impulses the individual already possessed. I think one might perhaps be able to say the same about the paranormal romance genre itself. It builds on existing tendencies and plots which existed in the romance genre but makes them more intense: a vampire hero can be much, much older and richer and stronger than a human heroine, demons can be even more tortured and angst-filled than rakes, happily-ever-afters can be exactly that if the protagonists are immortal. And, of course, the frequent animal metaphors, which express the hero's physical power, his undomesticated nature, and his sexuality, can be given physical form in the werewolf.
- Brook, Meljean. In Sheep's Clothing. [Available free online from Brook's website.]
- Radway, Janice A. Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature. 1984. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1991.