I have an embarrassing confession to make. As a fragile teenager, I used to carry around the great literary novels of our time and pretend to read them. From Aldous Huxley to Ernest Hemmingway, I fake read them all. Charles Dickens? I owned every book, though the Muppet Christmas Carol was as close as I got to analyzing Dickens’ work.

Author Kay Stephens

Author Kay Stephens

            And why? Because I had an inherent belief that these books would make me look smart and mentally tough—someone to be taken seriously. Because I had been taught the stack of romance novels I hid under my bed would make me appear too weak, too undereducated...too damn feminine for the real world. I had so tightly embraced the stigmas associated with the romance community that I had transformed them into facts rather than the misogynistic nonsense they are.

            If I could talk to that fragile teenager, I would let her know those untoward romance books would stay at her side, both through college and through her masters program. That they would be on her bookshelf along with her legal textbooks for three long years of law school. And that she would someday be reading those “too damn feminine” romance books before presenting complex legal matters to conference rooms full of lawyers with their suits and ties and John Grisham novels.

            Sadly, I could never quite erase those romance-novel stigmas from my teenage brain. Nor can I now erase them from society, try as I may. So I choose the next best course of action—I embrace those stigmas for the benefits they bring to my world.

            Embrace the benefits of the romance-industry stigmas? Yes, this may sound like the gibberish of a person who once fake read Dante’s Inferno in both English and Italian but bear with me because I’ve discovered two incredible benefits in this unfortunate space.

            First, is there is no more efficient way to identify people you need to avoid than listening to them blather on about the social ills of the romance industry. Because who stigmatizes an activity that makes people happy and has no negative impact on society? Love haters, that’s who. So the next time you hear someone say romance novels are written only for lonely, desperate women, put your hands up and back away slowly. Take a deep breath, recenter, and celebrate the glorious gift of social efficiency! Life is far too fun to waste time on a love hater.

            Second and more importantly, these romance stigmas are part of the reason we have established such a strong, beautiful reading community—bonding over what we love despite outside condemnation. Our community roots cross national borders, gender lines, and generational differences. Though we may disagree on authors’ writing styles, appropriate word counts, and the ever-controversial fade-to-black scene, we never seem to forget our underlying connections. We are optimists. We are social beings. We are a group obsessed with searching out others’ Happily Ever Afters. And these idyllic qualities are only amplified when held up to the fun-house mirror of uninformed judgment.

            There are eight billion people on this Earth with eight billion opinions and eight billion voices. We will never be able to bring them all into our community or silence our many critics. So let’s stop trying. Free those dirty romance novels from their hiding spot under your bed. Hold them up high while reading them in the most public of places. Place them on the podium next time you present to a packed conference room, just to remind your audience who’s in charge. And smile back at their attempts to stigmatize us, knowing each of those stigmas makes us stronger.

Author Bio

Kay Stephens practiced law for nearly 20 years and was recognized as a leading attorney in her field. As a result, she has presented at national law conferences to thousands of attendees—both on matters of law and, more importantly, on addressing discrimination in the workplace. Kay holds a Bachelor's Degree in History from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana, and an MBA and law degree; both from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

Now as a lawyer turned romance novelist, a divorcée turned member of the illustrious third-wives club, and a party girl turned . . . uncomfortably old party lady. After spending her early days living throughout the world, from Boston to Barcelona to New Orleans, she has finally settled down in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Kay adds, she has the extraordinary privilege to write every day due only to the loving support of her wild-ass husband and four crazy teenagers.

Connect with Kay at www.kaystephens.com and follow her on Instagram @kaystephensbooks.

The Book

TPSD book cover

How do you escape the stigma of your parents' porn empire?

For Tali Hunter it's easy . . .

—Attend college in New Orleans, a city her parents hate. Check.

—Overhaul her image to leave all traces of her past behind. Check.

—Invent a story about a stay-at-home mom and a business-mogul dad where the world of pornography has no place. Check. Check. Double check. 

Tali's plan goes sideways when the first person she meets in the airport recognizes her. James is not only hot—he's also attending the same school—and has the power to expose her secret.

Tali dives into college life for better or worse. Laugh or cry, what she wants isn't what she gets. She faces a roommate who has no regard for social norms, a sleazy dean that wants to capitalize on her family money, and an attraction to the one person who knows her secret—exactly what she doesn't need at a time she doesn't want it.

Tali can keep running from her past or pull her friends close and embrace her future

The Porn Star’s Daughter is available wherever books are sold and is out January16th.

by for www.femalefirst.co.uk
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