Who says romance novels can't be smart? Chicago native Julie Tetel Andresen is a romance novelist with a doctorate who blends her love of language and her fascination with the language of love. Whether writing within the academic discipline of linguistics or within the fanciful realm of romantic fiction, Anderson communicates with aplomb. She spoke with Our Town about everything from Noam Chomsky’s influence over the linguistic discipline to her BDSM novella.
Our Town Linguist and romance-writer seems an unlikely combo.
Julie Tetel Andresen In the popular imagination, a fundamental incompatibility seems to exist between people who read and write emotional, neck-down romances and those who engage in cerebral, neck-up academics. Since I do both, I believe I can explain the riddle of how it is possible for the two activities to coincide and cohere in the writing life of one person.
OT What’s the biggest misconception about romance novels?
JTA Many people think that romance novels are written by no-talent hacks for people with poor taste. To this misperception I have two things to say: i) sure, some romance are stupid, just as there are some stupid murder mysteries, thrillers, magazine articles, TV shows, movies, etc.; and ii) I emphatically do not think the idea that writing or reading about love – which (last time I checked) “makes the world go round” – is a stupid activity in and of itself. The stories are emotional, yes. Readers read them for the pleasure of participating in the formation of an intense emotional and physical bond between two people. However, I reject the notion that the farther you are down an emotional pathway, the farther away you are from anything to do with the intellect. In fact the best romances are not only emotionally satisfying, they also have to be psychologically satisfying, and the psychological profile of the relationship is created through dialogue between the hero and heroine and in the description of their interior reactions to one another.