Judith Ann McDowell is a novelist with four finished books. When not working on a manuscript, Judith and her husband Darrell like to travel to different cities such as New Orleans to learn about voodoo and talk with those who have experienced, first hand, true hauntings.
Judith is the mother of four grown sons: Guy, David, Rhett and Nick. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband Darrell and their two Pekingese, Chi and Tai, and their three cats, Isis, Lacy and Reefer. Judith is at present working on her next novel.
Long Ago Memories & Fated Memories, are currently being reformatted and will soon be available at World Castle Publishing.
Women’s Fiction or Romance?
by Judith Ann Mcdowell
I write in two different genres, western historical and paranormal. My two western historicals also cross genre lines. They have been called romances by some readers, women’s fiction by others. What’s the difference? That’s what I’m here to explain.
The first book I wrote is Long Ago Memories. It’s the story of Tia, a half-breed girl in search of her Montana roots. While on a visit to her grandparents’ ranch she comes across some astonishing truths about her past and meets a handsome young man whose image has haunted her dreams for as long as she can remember. The results are not always happy.
I realized after I wrote Long Ago Memories that the story was a long way from finished. This is how I came to write Fated Memories, which tells the story of Tia’s mother, Jessie Thornton, the beautiful only child of one of the most powerful men in Montana. When Jessie dares to fall in love with a handsome Blackfeet Indian hired onto the Thornton Ranch, all hell breaks loose in 1903 Montana. Again, the results don’t make for the typical HEA (happy ever after) ending required in most romances. That’s one reason my books are often called women’s fiction.
However, there’s more to it than that. Women’s fiction focuses on issues that are important to women. Sometimes there’s a romance involved, but not always. The stories might also form a family saga consisting of several generations. Rosamunde Pilcher’s books are a good example. In addition, secondary characters are often more important in women’s fiction. I like to develop several characters in my stories, not just the hero and heroine. Each character has a story to tell, and I enjoy letting them tell it.
I also enjoy writing about the olden days when people didn’t have all the conveniences we now take for granted — such as an indoor bathroom. Instead, they had to walk out to an outhouse to take care of business. Or, have in the bedroom at night what was called The Honey Pot. I don’t think I need to describe it’s purpose. The point is I like to tell it like it really was for our pioneer ancestors, not romanticize their life.
Law and order was also handled a lot differently in the old west. Instead of law suits, wrong doings were handled on an individual basis. Meaning…individuals either settled the problem at hand with their fists or guns. Or, if their dispute made it before a judge, justice was swift and didn’t linger in the courts or wait for years of appeals. The sentence was handed down and the convicted one was either shipped off to prison where he did hard time until his sentence was up or he was taken out the next morning and hung by the neck until dead. Once again, I go for the nitty-gritty truth.
Another thing about frontier justice: it gave the town’s people something to watch and enjoy. Especially the women who had an excuse to get away from the everyday chores of making the family’s clothing, canning food for the winter, washing clothes in the creek, and bearing another baby each year. There wasn’t a lot of entertainment in those days and you had to take it where you found it.
In conclusion, I think the difference between women’s fiction and romance is the happy ending required in a romance but not in women’s fiction, the fuller development of secondary characters in women’s fiction, and a style of writing that’s more true to life. And if you stop and give it some thought you’ll realize most stories that have left a lasting impact are ones that don’t end in smiles but in tears. That my friend is called life.
I am glad stories of the old west have made a come back. I am sure we have all missed those good old days.
Hello Judith, I really enjoyed your article and I can totally relate. I love the stories about women in the olden days. Sometimes I think the simpler times might have been alot better than things we go through nowadays. The work and lives were harder, but at least it was honest!
Have a really wonderful day!