Love Between the Covers
A Documentary Film
Written, Produced & Directed by: Laurie Kahn
Releasing July 12th, 2016
Distributed by: The Orchard
Love stories are universal. Love stories are powerful. And so are the women who write them.
Love Between the Covers is the fascinating story of the vast, funny, and savvy female community that has built a powerhouse industry sharing love stories. Romance fiction is sold in 34 languages on six continents, and the genre grosses more than a billion dollars a year -- outselling mystery, sci-fi, and fantasy combined. Yet the millions of voracious women (and sometimes men) who read, write, and love romance novels have remained oddly invisible. Until now.
For three years, we follow the lives of five very diverse published romance authors and one unpublished newbie as they build their businesses, find and lose loved ones, cope with a tsunami of change in publishing, and earn a living doing what they love—while empowering others to do the same. Romance authors have built a fandom unlike all others, a global sisterhood where authors know their readers personally and help them become writers themselves. During the three years we’ve been shooting Love Between the Covers, we have witnessed the biggest power shift that has taken place in the publishing industry over the last 200 years. And it’s the romance authors who are on the front lines, pioneering new ways to survive and build communities in this rapidly changing environment.
The Official Trailer
10 Surprising Facts about Romance Novels by Laurie Kahn
Four years ago, when I began making my documentary film Love Between the Covers, I stepped into a community I knew nothing about: the global network of women who write, read, and love romance novels. What I found surprised me. Here are ten things I learned:
1. Romance fiction is a billion-dollar industry
Romance novel sales total more than a billion dollars a year. They sell as much as sci-fi, mystery, and fantasy combined.
2. The romance readership is HUGE and global
More than 70 million people in the USA alone read at least one romance novel per year, and most of them read many more. The work of popular American romance writer Nora Roberts is translated into 33 languages and distributed on 6 continents.
3. There is a surprisingly wide range of romance novels
Like romance blogger Sarah Wendell says, "Whatever your cup of tea is, someone's pouring it."
Romance novels are often equated with "bodice-rippers," but the steamy historicals with Fabio on the cover were published back in the 1970s and 1980s. Since that time, the spectrum of romance novels has exploded. On one end of that spectrum, there are chaste evangelical romances. On the other end, there are BDSM romances (yes, likethat one).
In between, you'll find paranormal romance with vampires and shapeshifters, time-travel romance, historical romance, contemporary romance, and romantic suspense. There are growing romance subgenres for LGBT love stories, a large community of writers who specialize in African-American romance, and there's even a popular Amish romance subgenre.
4. Everybody's writing romance
Women of every description (and a small number of men) are the engine of this industry.
Contrary to expectations, romance authors come from every economic class, every racial group, every sexual preference, and every level of education.
When I asked the pioneering African-American romance author Beverly Jenkinsabout her peers, she told me, "Women from all walks of life do this. We're not sitting in the proverbial trailer park in ratty nightgowns, eating jelly beans and watching soap operas. There are some pretty powerful women doing this! Geneticists, astrophysicists, lawyers, doctors..." The list goes on.
Len Barot (pen name Radclyffe), one of the main characters in Love Between the Covers, began writing lesbian romances during her surgical residency. Mary Bly (pen name Eloisa James), another main character in the film, is a Shakespeare scholar by day and an author of historical romances by night.
I interviewed PhDs, lawyers, and insurance executives. I also interviewed romance authors who worked in factories. There's an open door for anyone who wants to give it a try. Nora Roberts, the rock star of the romance industry, never went to college.
5. Women in the romance community are more likely than the general population to be currently married or living with a partner.
We've all seen depictions of the lonely, lovesick romance writer, who pens titillating novels while eating bonbons and sobbing over her keyboard.
Don't believe the stereotype. While romance does offer women a place to escape daily life and live out their fantasies, this community of readers and writers are statistically more likely than most to be in happy relationships.
6. Romance authors become personal friends with their readers, and readers find one another
In the romance community friendships that begin online - based on a shared love of books-- often become real and enduring friendships.
Beverly Jenkins and her readers are in constant contact at Beverly's Facebook page, talking about books, football, music, and the ups and downs of their everyday lives. Every other year, Beverly takes a trip with her readers to places where her novels are set.
Radclyffe invites beginning authors to her farm in upstate New York, where she leads workshops on romance writing, and several of Eloisa James's loyal readers told us they found their closest friends, with whom they communicate every day, through Eloisa's blog.
7. Romance writers get tremendous support from one another
Why are these women so happy to pull a less experienced writer up the ranks? I asked many authors this question, and almost all of them told me stories of their early romance mentors--and their desire to pay it forward.
At a Romance Writers of America (RWA) national conference, unpublished writers are always welcome (something that does not happen at other writer conferences), and there are dozens of workshops taught by established writers about everything from plot structure and writing knife-fights, to social networking and negotiating contracts. You will see bestselling novelists sitting down for coffee with unpublished newbies, critiquing their work and giving them business advice.
8. Romance authors are on the cutting edge, pioneering new technologies
Romance writers and readers were the first to enthusiastically adopt e-books, a service which works well for anyone who buys hundreds of books, and romance writers have always been mavericks of social media, using it effectively to build fan communities.
Romance has been at the forefront of the biggest change to take place in publishing in the last 200 years: self publishing. Together, romance authors have figured out how to succeed in self-publishing. Instead of being secretive, these one-person indie publishing houses share their knowhow and numbers (not a common practice in publishing).
9. You can take courses about romance fiction at Princeton, Harvard, DePaul and dozens of other universities
Literature scholars, cultural historians, and popular culture studies professors founded the International Association for the Study of Popular Romance five years ago. They hold annual conferences, and they've also started the peer-reviewed onlineJournal for Popular Culture Studies. It's a growing interdisciplinary field.
10. Romance writing isn't an easy gig
You might think writing romance novels is more of a breezy pastime than a professional venture, but the deadlines that romance novelists face are incredibly rigorous. Susan Donovan described the feeling of being on-deadline saying, "There's always a flame behind your ass." Some women publish three or four books a year. On top of this, most novelists handle their own promotion, and self-published authors also handle their novels' distribution. When you're a romance novelist, you are a one-woman business.
I had a blast exploring the romance community over the last four years. In creatingLove Between the Covers, I discovered one of the few places where women are always center stage, where female characters always win, where justice prevails in every book, and where the broad spectrum of desires of women from all backgrounds are not feared, but explored unapologetically.
*Originally featured in The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/laurie-kahn/romance-novels_b_7109458.html
Director/Producer LAURIE KAHN’s films have won major awards, been shown on PBS primetime, broadcast around the world, and used widely in university classrooms and community groups. Her first film, A Midwife’s Tale, was based on the 18th century diary of midwife Martha Ballard and Laurel Ulrich’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book A Midwife’s Tale. It won film festival awards and a national Emmy for Outstanding Non-Fiction. Her film TUPPERWARE! was broadcast in more than 20 countries, won the George Foster Peabody Award and was nominated for a national Best Nonfiction Director Emmy. Kahn previously worked on Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, The American Experience, FRONTLINE’S Crisis in Central America, All Things Considered, and Time Out. She’s a resident scholar at Brandeis’s Women’s Studies Research Center.
For more information on the film, http://www.lovebetweenthecovers.com/
Q&A with Laurie Kahn, writer, producer and director
Please give us your description of the film playing.
While romance novels and their signature covers are ubiquitous around the world, the global community of millions of women who read, write, and love them remains oddly invisible. Love Between the Covers is the fascinating story of five very different authors who invite us into a vast female community that’s running a billion dollar industry on the cusp of an irreversible power shift. In Love Between the Covers, we enter one of the few places where female characters are always center stage, where justice prevails in every book, where women win what they want, and the broad spectrum of desires of women from all backgrounds are not feared, but explored unapologetically.
What drew you to this story?
I want to bring the lives and work of compelling women to the screen, because any industry dominated by women is typically dismissed as trivial and “merely domestic.” My previous films -- A Midwife’s Tale and Tupperware! – are very different from one another, but they were both shaped by my desire to look honestly at communities of women who haven’t been taken seriously (but should be), who deserve to be heard without being mocked.
What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Two things really. Raising the money (isn't that always the case?). And figuring out how to structure the film. Love Between the Covers is more than the story of five characters; it is the story of an unrecognized global community. Structuring this film was even harder than structuring a film with five characters (which is a difficult task in and of itself!). We finally found a solution in the editing room.
What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theatre?
I want people to realize how deeply ingrained we all are in dismissing anything that is by women, for women and about women. Many romance readers told me stories of complete strangers looking over their shoulders on a train, or at the beach, leaning over and asking them, "Why do you read that trash?" I really don't think that would happen to someone reading a mystery or a thriller! Romance novels are dismissed as simplistic. People who've never read a romance novel tell me, "They are formulaic. They all end happily." But all genre fiction ends with a happy ending. Mysteries all begin with a crime and end with the case solved -- a guaranteed happy ending. Arnold Schwarzenegger is never killed in his movies. The good guys always win. So why are romances singled out? I think it has to do with a devaluation of women's work and a deep-seated fear of women's desires.
What's the biggest misconception about you and your work?
People tend to dismiss my ideas as fluffy. When they see the finished films, they realize the topics are not fluffy
How did you get your film funded? (Is it a studio film, a crowdsourced film, somewhere in between?) Share some insights into how you got the film made.
I started out with development funding from Mass Humanities, the Romance Writers of America, and the Nora Roberts Foundation. I then raised more than my $50K goal in a Kickstarter campaign (I raised $58K). That allowed me to start shooting. Most of my production funding came from the National Endowment for the Humanities. And several foundations and dozens of individuals came through for me at the end when I needed to pay for music rights, do our sound mix and color correction.
Believe it or not, Love Between the Covers and the larger Popular Romance Project it's part of have been attacked in the US Congress. Senator Coburn railed about the project in the US Senate, insisting it was silly and trivial. And Rep. Salmon introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives (H.R. 5155 - see attached), to kill this project! Fortunately, the bill didn't pass!
**Originally from: Indiewire – Women & Hollywood – Interview by Laura Berger http://blogs.indiewire.com/womenandhollywood/hot-docs-2015-women-directors-meet-laurie-kahn-love-between-the-covers-20150424