Paradoxa Interview with Barbara G. Mertz

Publication year
Para.doxa: Studies in World Literary Genres

KM: When you agreed to this interview, you commented: "...I don't think of myself as a romance writer, and have been fighting that categorization for years, unsuccessfully, as you may have observed. This is not because I'm an academic snob; the mystery genre is no more respectable than the romance. I consider myself a mystery writer." (180)


BGM: [...] I don't care for modern genre romance novels. I don't read them. The guidelines forced on writers by publishers like Silhouette and Mills and Boon were so restrictive that original work was virtually impossible. The mystery novel has far fewer taboos - and I've broken a good many of them.

KM: Are your "Barbara Michaels" novels more likely to be categorized as romances than those published as "Elizabeth Peters"?

BGM: I frankly admit that many of my books have a strong romantic element. I suppose it's for that reason that they appeal to romance readers, and, mistake me not, I am grateful for their approval. Conversely, the romantic element turns off certain of the stricter mystery critics. (180-181)


KM: Your early work as Barbara Michaels was frequently classified as "gothic" or "romantic suspense" in the same vein as Mary Stewart or Victoria Holt. (Mary Stewart also objects to being called a romance writer.) [...]

BGM: [...] My first few mysteries were in the tradition of Holt, with strong elements of the true Gothic novel. Of course, books of that type were not new. [...] Mary Stewart is correct, her books are not romances. They are, for want of a better term, romantic suspense novels, as are mine. (181)