Because Plagiarism is SO Romantic

What is it with romance writers and plagarism? Ok, I know I'm guilty of using a very broad brush here. Hundreds of romance writers ply their craft on a daily basis without resorting to plagiarism. Still, when I saw this headline in today's New York Times, A Romance Novelist is Accused of Copying, I got that old feeling.

Romance novelist Cassie Edwards is accused of plagiarizing a number of sources including a novel by Nora Roberts. Poor Nora Roberts, she's apparently the plagiarizers preferred source. Is this her punishment for being so damn productive? Or was Cassie Edwards hoping that she could join Janet Dailey in committing "mind rape" on Nora? I remember the Dailey case vividly, as much for the sheer lameness of her excuse - a psychological disorder made her do it - as for her dedication to her source. A kind of monogamy, really. It was only Nora Roberts for her. Lucky Nora.

But my original question remains: what's up with this? Cassie Edwards, Janet Dailey, Kaavya Viswanathan. (And I won't even mention writers who, literally, plagiarize themselves.) Is it the economics of this genre? The expectation that a romance novelist will churn out a minimum of two books per year. Is it a wacky coincidence? Do publishers put too much pressure on the semi-talented? Do the writers themselves lack respect for the readers of the genre? Do publishers lack respect for this genre and fail to do their due diligence?

Clearly there's no one answer but the lack of respect issue is ringing bells for me. Most genres don't get the respect they deserve. There are good and bad writers, good and bad books in all genre yet romance novels seem to be treated little better than porn. I think I read one book last year that would qualify as a romantic thriller. I'm not a major consumer of the genre. That said, I have fond memories of reading through every Phyllis Whitney one summer, all the Victoria Holt's another. I'm still planning on tackling a goodly batch of Georgette Heyer's one day. I respect the greats of this genre the same way I respect Agatha Christie or Arthur C. Clarke, and I respect their readers too. It's a shame a few authors seem to think that romance readers have zero recall.

Kudos to the women at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books for living up to their smarts and bringing this wretched behavior to light.

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