Blaze Author Survey

Return to ATBF: To Blazes with Rita by Karen Scott

Author1 – Tori Carrington (Agreed to be named)

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Tony's been a member since 1984. I (Lori) have been a member on and off during that same time, although I've been a steady member for approximately the last ten years (resource-related).

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

We entered two titles, in the Contemporary ST and Novel with Strong Romantic Elements categories. We purposely didn't enter our one qualified Blaze title in the Long Contemporary Category out of curiosity, to see which books I (Lori) would be asked to judge. (Tony didn't judge this year.) Curiously I received two Blaze titles out of the three Long Contemporary entries.  Fwiw, the Long Contemporary category was the only category in which we received multiple entries, which, given, might be due solely to the number of entrants in each category. But perhaps also supports my case for a separate sensual category made below.

Was I tempted to give the Blaze titles higher marks because the authors were our peers and because of the widespread belief that Blazes are frowned upon because of their sexual content? (See comments below.) Most certainly. But ultimately my scores bear out that I was fair in judging all categories, not just now but in all the years I've been judging. Which is perhaps why I'm confident in sharing my views and pointing out the opportunities that exist for bias...the consequences of my actions thoroughly understood.

If not, why not?

What do you think of the current judging process?

We fear the contest may be too subjective,with the anonymous nature of the judging itself leaving a wide margin for prejudice and, possibly, manipulation. The water cooler buzz has it that during the times that the national RWA office has been in charge of "randomly" assigning the entries, the RITA's have become a popularity contest of sorts. Do we buy into this? I don't know. But while it's a serious allegation virtually impossible to prove, it's also worrisome. In this day of IM and email and vast on-line networking, we have to admit that the possibility for abuse exists. Beyond the allegation that friends are being sent other friends' entries to judge favorably, friends of an author can perhaps propel her to the finalist stage by lobbying or campaigning on her behalf...and by extension expect the same in return. Or, by the same token, make sure someone else doesn't make the list.

We also fearthis creates an environment in which the authors themselves are encouraged to campaign or lobby for a win once they do make the finals. During "finalist season," there's an interesting number of finalists that "pop" up on various published author listserves and email loops to introduce themselves and "socialize"...then just as quickly drop off the radar screen when the winners have been announced.

Coincidence? Perhaps. Savvy business sense? Maybe. Manipulative? Definitely.

Welcome to the wonderful world of contests.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

We'd highly recommend doing away with anonymity and making a full list of judges and their scores available to anyone who requests it.

More realistically, we'd suggest that a separate sensual category be created, that includes historical as well as contemporary sensual fiction.Thegrowing influence of sensual romance fiction in pop culture (that won't be diminishing anytime soon -- the very successful Blaze imprint celebrates it's 5th anniversary this year, Tina Engler and her Ellora's Cave are wildly successful, and publishers across the board are expanding their lists to include more sensual fare), demands that the expansive genre be given fair recognition.

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

Nil, because no Blaze titles have made the finals this year. Also, only two Temptation titles (line discontinued summer 2005) made the finals in the Short Contemporary Category. And while both of the Temptation titles are great books and more than hold their own against the more traditional title finalists, we're afraid their chances are slim.

We'd like nothing better than to be proven wrong.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

See above.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

Five. Solely because the contest isn't "the" RITA's, but rather "our" RITA's. Meaning that we're fully active, longtime members of RWA and this is our contest as much as it is every other member of RWA. A way for us and our peers to applaud extraordinary effort. It's a shame that this same consideration isn't being extended to certain authors because judges can't see beyond the sensual content of their books.

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

Unfortunately we're afraid Blaze books are regarded as the redheaded stepchildren of the romance community. And while this may be an inescapable reality, we still yearn to be loved. Or at the very least respected. If not for our honest portrayal and exploration of human sexuality within the context ofa romantic relationship (who doesn't have sex in their lives outside those who choose to dwell in a monastery or a convent? And in the case of the love of your life, it should be damn great sex), then because of our love of a compelling romance novel.

Author 2

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes.

 

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

Yes, but not all of my releases

If not, why not?

Frankly, I didn't enter my Blaze because I do believe there is bias against erotic romance as far as some long contemporary judges are concerned. I entered my Bombshell, but I was disheartened by that result (LOL--I think I'm not alone, here).

What do you think of the current judging process?

I feel that there absolutely needs to be an erotic category, no doubts about it. The lack of one makes the contest a bit behind the times. Erotic romance is not a flash in the pan, and our contest--which reflects RWA as a whole to the public--doesn't acknowledge this part of the industry. This makes RWA seem a little irrelevant

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

I really like the "opt in" option. And I think reorganizing the entry categories is necessary. But you can't change how people are judging--you can't change attitudes.

What do you think is the likelihood of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

Zilch.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

On a whole, definitely not. The fact that one of our authors received a "not a romance" mark from a judge says it all. Maybe that didn't happen across the board, but it makes you wonder how many people lowered the score instead of just outright marking the book "not a romance." Based on the letters in the RWR as well as talk on romance loops, there's a very vocal, very passionate contingent who will never accept erotic romance as part of the genre. This is a problem when it comes to judging those erotic romances against the more traditional books they must compete against.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

2

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

As the red-headed step child: saucy, but a source of embarrassment that must be hidden away. LOL. I say this about the "very vocal" crowd, but not about many other members. It's that "very vocal" portion that's causing the problem

Author 3

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

Yes

If not, why not?

n/a

What do you think of the current judging process?

I actually prefer the new judging system as it allows me to read/judge books in more than one category. I like being able to choose the categories, too.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

Absolutely! As a Blaze author, I would much prefer to have a category for hot and steamy romances. After what happened to Jamie Sobrato, with a Blaze being marked “NR” (Not a Romance) it’s more apparent than ever that a specific category for sexier books is needed. If inspirational can have it’s own category, why can’t the sexier books.

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

None. Blaze’s were completely shut out this year, and I believe last year as well. I blame the new judging system for this, which I realize is contrary to my comment above.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

Definitely not. They used to be, under the old judging system as one of my Blaze novels did make the finals. Coincidence that that was the last year of the old judging system? I think not.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

5

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

I hadn’t realize the snobbery against sex until the last two years once the judging system was changed. Last year an RWA official sent an email asking for authors willing to judge the steamier books. This year we were shut out completely. There is definitely a bias against the sexier romance novels, but they are being judged unfairly because the sex in Blaze is really no more explicit than what I’ve been reading since the 80’s.

Author 4

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

no

If not, why not?

personal reasons

What do you think of the current judging process?

willing to give it a shot as long as we have the option to pick the types of books we want to read

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

not the judging process, but the categories need to be redefined -- for example, we need an erotic romance category (Blaze) and since there are 3 slots for contemporaries -- short, long and single title -- then romantic suspense (Intrigues, Bombshells, SIMs, Supers, maybe other lines) should have a category or short RS category as well as a ST or long RS category

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

 none

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

 no 

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

 3 -- because the lines I write for -- Intrigue, Blaze and Bombshell -- don't get a fair shake

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

 many RWA authors and members think of them as smut -- it's not fair that judges with that attitude should have the chance to sink a potential Rita finalist

Author 5

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

Yes

If not, why not?

n/a

What do you think of the current judging process?

I don't like the mixed books approach.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

Go back to having judges judge books in a particular category.

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

Zero. None were nominated.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

The way the system is currently set up, no.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

3

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

Some enjoy them, some think they're just sex books.

Author 6

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes.

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

Yes.

If not, why not?

n/a

What do you think of the current judging process?

I do not like it.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

Other than opening the judging up to readers?  I understand it's supposed to be "peer" judged, so in that case, the judges simply need more instruction and there needs to be a way to weed out those judges who simply aren't qualified.

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

This year?  None, since none finaled.  I think it could only happen for a very popular author or if the author is lucky enough to get five judges who can judge with an open mind.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

Not in all cases, no.  I'm THRILLED that a SECRETS novella made the finals, but I think that the novella category, because it's so wide open in terms of subject matter, is naturally open to any kind of book.  The judges don't seem to be so uptight.  Maybe someone needs to use that category as a model.  But there is an obvious "no sexy books" atttitude prevalent in RWA--you see it in the letters to the editor.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

A 1.  I'd rather make a bestseller list.  But as a former finalist, the whole experience was wonderful.  It's not important, but it's a great honor.

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

As trash.  All that sex!  Many people don't even believe they are romances.  They don't accept the conventions of the line as realistic, but they'll buy another secret baby in Presents with no problem.  It's frustrating.

Author 7

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

 YES

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

 YES

If not, why not?

 n/a

What do you think of the current judging process?

 Not Good!

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

 Not sure but pub authors judging pub authors feels like a popularity contest

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

I don't know how many were finalists but my sense is not good based on the books that final in every category, not just short or long contemporary. It's rarely the hotter books. 

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

 No I don't.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

 Less than they used to be. There are more important criteria to a successful career than validation of one's peers. I think validation is nice but in reality it's only the opinion of five people who let one final and a handful more to win.

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

 Left blank

Author 8

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

No

If not, why not?

I didn't have any 2005 titles

What do you think of the current judging process?

As a judge,I like the mixed packages of books

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

The categories need to be revamped to better reflect the current market

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

Zilch, zip, zero chance of a Blaze even being nominated/ finaling

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

Not at all, based on my own experience and that of several fellow Blaze authors, one of whose entries was marked 'not a romance'

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

Once upon a time it was a 5, now I'm realistic enough to put it 2-3 because too many of the judges don't like sexy books

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

That's an entirely subjective question- it depends on who I'm talking to But from the majority there's a nudge-wink type reaction, "Oh you write those sex books"

Author 9

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

No

If not, why not?

I think that the judging is bias against certain types of books.

What do you think of the current judging process?

I think it could be improved.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

I think the RITAs should be peer judged instead of sent out in random batches

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

Slim not because the writing isn’t top-rate but because there is a bias against sexier books in the contest.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

No, I don’t. 

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

2.  I think within RWA we place a lot of importance on the RITA but outside of our community I don’t think many people know about it.  Also for a category book like BLAZE the book is out of print and unavailable if it does win.

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

I think there’s a certain negative attitude to the books because of the perception that they are all about sex and not about plot and character and emotion. 

Author 10

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

Yes. Novella.  a temptation in short contemporary.  a Blaze in Long contemporary.

If not, why not?

N/A

What do you think of the current judging process?

No problem with the judging

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

Left blank

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

HA!  One would have to final in order to win.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

No.  I think there should be a "sensual" category, just like there's an "inspirational" category and for the same reasons.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

4

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

I think for the most part they are considered "lighter" reads by most RWA authors.

Author 11

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

yes

If not, why not?

n/a

What do you think of the current judging process?

I think the judging process is fine, the categories available are what put Blaze at a disadvantage.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

Not really. I liked the changes

What do you think is the likelihood of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

Not at all. They are lost in entry categories that are too broad. Basically, they need separate categories for series and erotic romance, so they are in competition with each other, and not ST and general long contemp.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

I'm sure individual authors judge fairly and try to do a good job, but I think erotic romance doesn't appeal to a general long contemp readership, so no, there's no way they can be judged fairly in the entry categories available to them.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

3

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

I think many writers don't really understand Blaze -- they think it's just "more sex" when they are rich, complicated stories. They don't expect to find the emotional richness in Blaze and the plot complexity that actually exists in the series. In general, I would say views range between being underestimated and misunderstood. However, I also think so many Blaze authors have gone on to make it in ST and become very well known, and it's a very difficult line to break into for new writers, so it also has some rather high status in that regard.

Author 12

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

 yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

 yes

If not, why not?

What do you think of the current judging process?

 I am concerned that no Blaze has made it to the finals since the new system started, while Blaze finaled every year they were entered before.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

 I think first that there should be a "spicy" category.  Second, I think people should be able to "opt in" to 4 categories.

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

 Zero since none finaled.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

 No.  A friend's Blaze was rated NR (not a romance).  That is just absurd.  I have also heard complaints of Blazes and other hot books being returned since the judge couldn't handle it. 

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

 2

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

 Too many judge them solely by the sex, and if explicit sex isn't to their personal taste, they diss the entire line.  I feel that as professionals we ought to be able to put taste and prejudice aside and judge on craft issues.  I don't believe this happens as much as it should.

Author 13

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

yes, all five

If not, why not?

 

What do you think of the current judging process?

The judging process itself is as fair as it can be without removing all author identity from the books (impossible unless they were submitted in ms form with no accompanying i.d.). However, I do think that the categories for the entries need to be reevaluated.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

Categories should be reevaluated, and I do think that judges should be able to opt out of judging categories they dislike strongly. I don't want someone who hates explicit sex judging one of my Blazes.

I'd like to see a romantic comedy category, as well.

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

very doubtful.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

For some reason I think people automatically assume that Blazes are "trashier" or "less romantic" simply because they contain explicit sex. That's just not true.

There's also a perception that Blazes are simply a string of sex scenes which it takes no particular skill to write. Also not true. Blazesare just as hard to write as any other book--in fact often more of a challenge, since there are only so many positions <g> and an author runs out of ways to make the sex fresh and interesting. This means that deeper characterization is the key and to my mind, if that's employed,  it will always *raise* the quality of a book.

I do know that this year there was a Blaze which was judged to be "not a romance," and that was very hurtful to the author. I don't think she should be penalized in the RITA's for simply doing her job and writing a steamy book for a line which is clearly recognized as a romance line by a romance publisher. Harlequin's marketing tag-line is "We are Romance."

So I think that perhaps the "NR" option should be removed from the judging score sheet, simply because it can be applied unfairly.

However, judging will always be a subjective activity and there's no way to "legislate" a completely "fair" contest because of that.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

The RITA's are important because they are a reflection of what your peer group thinks of your work. But I don't obsess about them. So I would say a 3.

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

As I said before, I do think there's a perception that they're "trashy" or "sex-a-thons." But all we can do to combat that perception is write quality books--books with engaging characters and quirky or intriguing plots and satisfying endings. Books with style, substance and yes, sex!

(Shhhh, don't tell anyone, but romantic relationships do generally encompass sex.)

I would hope that other RWA authors understand that Blaze is a line written by many diverse and talented authors. The books are not all the same, by any means. They vary in tone, plot, setting, character and yes, quality. But the sexual content of a Blaze has *nothing* to do with its quality.

Thanks for exploring this issue! I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts.

Author 14

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

no

If not, why not?

I write Blaze and Brava and didn't feel there was any point entering since hot books usually don't do well. Also, I was lazy.

What do you think of the current judging process?

Mixed feelings. On one hand, it seems fair that books should be judged against other romances of a similar length and a hot book should be able to hold its own if it's good enough. OTOH, I do feel a bias exists from some judges against hot books.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

I think it should be easier to opt out of judging what you don't care to read.

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

Since none were nominated I'd say it's zero.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

I judged the RITAs and certainly feel I judged every book according to its own merits. I would hope every judge acted the same way.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

2

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

Lots like them, some don't. It's the nature of the beast. I don't lose a lot of sleep over it. I write for my readers. Their opinions really matter and they judge our books with their wallets. If I keep my readers happy I've done my job. Contests are fun and being a finalist or a Rita winner is wonderful, but we have to remember we're writing for our readers.

Author 15

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

Yes

If not, why not?

 

What do you think of the current judging process?

I don't like it.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

Return to judging the first round by categories, and include two categories, romantic comedy, anderotic romance 

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

None

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

No

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

5 -- Editors care about them, so it affects your standing with the company        

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

From the response in the RITA judging, they're not rated very highly

Author 16

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

Yes

If not, why not?

--

What do you think of the current judging process?

I think judging books is a very subjective business no matter how you slice it.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

No, but I believe RWA is reviewing the contest process this year to see if we need some changes.

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

No Blazes finalled this year.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

This is very difficult toguess since a certain amount of personal opinion weighs in a judge's decision when looking at any type of writing.  

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

4

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

RWA is a huge organization so I can't speak for the group overall, but I can't imagine why the series wouldn't be as respected as any other Harlequin/Silhouette line. Blaze has an excellent track record for sales and a popular following among readers. 

Author 17

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

Yes

If not, why not?

n/a

What do you think of the current judging process?

Hate it

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

adding a sensual romance category would help. It's ridiculous to have an entire category for Traditional romance when there is, effectively, only one line that would fit in it. Or for Regency when there is now just one publisher issuing them. There are MANY more sensual books published every year than Regencies or Traditionals.

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

Zero chance, none finalized

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

I believe they CAN be judged fairly if the book is fortunate enough to get a panel of judges who aren't automatically disposed to dislike hot romance. Every person has likes and dislikes when it comes to fiction. Woe be it to a vampire novel that entered my hands for the Ritas...but fortunately, that will never happen. Because I can opt out of judging paranormal, so I am *certain* a type of book I dislike isn't going to end up in my judging pile. With sensual romance, there's just no way to opt out of it, so the odds are that at some point, one of the 10 judges it would need to "wow" to win a Rita will be one who just doesn't enjoy that type of book. 

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

2

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

I think they're looked down on. The "hotter" authors think they're not hot enough. The "sweeter" authors think they're filth. Blaze just can't win, can't please everyone. Frankly, when I'm writing one, I just put that out of my mind and write the book my heart and gut tell me to write. I don't write for prizes like the Rita, but it sure would be nice to think the field would be even enough that I might someday have a chance to win one. The way the judging & categories are now, I know that won't happen unless a miracle occurs and I can get TEN judges who aren't offended by hotter books.

Author 18

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

Yes

If not, why not?

 

What do you think of the current judging process?

No better or worse than any other writing contest. They’re all based on subjective opinion because that’s the only way you can judge a book. Or a movie. Or a song. Or painting. Do I like it? How much do I like it? How much do I like it compared to the four others I just read?

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

About the only thing I can think of is to not have judges who think frank sexuality is disgusting or trashy judge the sexier books. Same way as someone who finds the brand of spirituality offered up in inspirationals offensive shouldn’t judge those. Or the same way someone who thinks anything with paranormal elements is evil shouldn’t judge those. Judges should at least start out in a neutral frame of mind regarding the books they’re judging and not come to it predisposed to dislike any particular book before they even read it because they find the subject matter offensive. But unless a judge ‘fesses up to their particular prejudice beforehand and opts out there’s probably no way to ensure that.

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

Don’t know. I have no idea who the finalists are this year. Was there a Blaze among them?

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

Probably. My ’02 Blaze Good Time Girl was a finalist in the ’03 RITA contest.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

2 – It would be nice to win—it’s always nice to win, isn’t it?—but I don’t think it makes any real difference to a writing career. Publishers might put “Award Winner” on the cover of your next book but they won’t give you a larger advance or a bigger print run.

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

Probably they are considered a little to a lot trashy, depending on the individual—but I think that’s the way it is in the general population as well. Unless it’s in a clinical or scholarly setting frank talk about sex (esp. by women) is always considered not quite respectable

Author 19

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

YES       

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

NO

If not, why not?

I don't believe BLAZE books get fair treatment in the current judging system. Possibly not in the previous one, actually, though a Blaze book would final from time to time. In addition, the word-length puts it in long contemporary and in competition with bigger S-T books. It's really a short-contemporary in tone/feeling.

What do you think of the current judging process?

It has some appeal because of the possibility of "shaking up" the conventions and giving people different books to read, but it results in wild ranges of scores and people do have reading prejudices. I'd rather poke needles in my eyes than read an inspirational, but there are probably excellent stories there.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

Other authors have some good ideas, but the short-contemporary category and the regency category are passe. There is no reason on the planet for an inspirational category, and there seems to need to be a highly sensual category and a romantic comedy category. Humor will never trump angst. Those, however, represent my prejudices.

What do you think  the likelihood is, of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

None, since I don't believe a Blaze even finaled this year, except, maybe in novella

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

NOPE

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

If you win, it's HUGE. But it's such a long shot, esp. for Blaze writers that I basically ignore it. 

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

You know, I never thought of it as an issue until the last couple of years, but there is a contingent of what I believe are older authors who find full sex scenes or sexual experimentation distasteful, behaving as if a Blaze story is merely erotica, not a fully realized love story. It's hard to overcome cultural/generational influences on attitudes. By the same token, out-there erotica creeps ME out, so I have my own cultural influences/prejudices, too.

Author 20

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

yes

If not, why not?

Left blank

What do you think of the current judging process?

it's a popularity contest

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

Don't use people as judges. Use sales numbers

What do you think is the likelihood of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

Unlikely

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

If one reader doesn't like a hot book, no matter how good the story, you won't win. From my experience someone always objects to the sex

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

1

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

I don't care what other authors think of my books. Sales drive the market and a Rita win doesn't mean squat.

Author 21

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

Not under this name, no.

If not, why not?

I didn't think my Blazes had as good a chance as, say, a romantic suspense.

What do you think of the current judging process?

I like the mixed panel and the opt-in process. I like to read across the board, not just one subgenre.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

Yes. The categories should be revamped. At the moment, some are decided by word length and some by content (i.e. inspirational). All the categories should be framed by exactly the same criteria: content. With the demise of the Regency and many of Harlequin's traditional lines, and the shortening of others such as IM and Blaze, length is now irrelevant.

What do you think is the likelihood of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

Zero

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

No. Last year, sexy books were sent back to RWA head office in droves and RWA had to scramble to find judges who would read a second panel. This tells me that many members of the organization won't read them. In such a case, being able to opt out of a "sensual category" makes total sense. Leave it to the readers who enjoy it!

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

4 ... I'm a RITA winner under another name, so yeah, I have a high regard for it :)

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

Difficult to say. There are lots of authors who enjoy reading sensual fiction. There are lots who don't. We need to find RITA judges who like it by making a category that they can choose.

Author 22

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

Yes

If not, why not?

 

What do you think of the current judging process?

I don't like it. I think that people who don't like the sexy books mark my books lower.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

Revamp the categories by adding a Romantica or Sexy Book category and go back to the way it used to be where authors could choose the categories they wanted to judge.

What do you think is the likelihood of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

There are no Blazes in the RITA contest this year. I don't believe we've been represented for a couple of years now.

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

No. Not really. It's odd to see the scores on my score sheet all over the place.

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

5. I think the RITA's are a sign of excellence in writing.

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

As trash and porn.

Author 23

Questions

Response

Are you an RWA member?

Yes

Did you enter any of your books into this year’s RITA contest?

Yes

If not, why not?

 

What do you think of the current judging process?

I like that in the preliminary round we read from different categories (it helps me to be more educated about all the subgenres), although the old way made it easier to compare books within a category.

Have you any thoughts on how the judging process could be improved upon?

I would like to see a separate category for sexy and romantica books

What do you think is the likelihood of a Blaze book winning a RITA this year?

This year or any year—low

Do you believe that Blaze books, or other ‘sexy’ books are judged as fairly as other romance publications when it comes to the RITA’s?

No. I feel that ultra sexy books are at a disadvantage against other books in a general category such as “long contemporary series” because sex elicits such polar responses from readers (as does lack of sex, which is why the “traditional” category is set out by itself, so those titles don’t have to compete with books that are more sensual).

On a scale of 1-5, how important are the RITA’s to you? (1 being not at all, and 5 being extremely important)

5.

Personally, how do you feel that Blaze books are regarded by other RWA authors?

I think that most members believe Blaze books are all sex with no story. But on the other end of the spectrum, members probably believe that the traditional books are all story with no sex. Neither stereotype is 100% true. But the current judging process will force some members to read books that they might not normally read and help to dispel some of those stereotypes.

 

Return to Karen's ATBF column
Post your comments and/or questions to our Potpourri Message Board

 




Use Freefind to locate other material at the site
 

Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved