From Corín Tellado to ‘Bridgerton’, the endless romance with the romantic novel | Culture

Like a “dream come true”. This is how Marcos Santana, director of Telemundo Global Studios, a US network dedicated to the soap opera universe, defined the agreement with the Planeta group that has made them owners of the audiovisual rights to all the work of Corín Tellado, the great lady of the romantic in Spanish.

It has been a multi-million dollar pact, although the figures have not transcended. Nor how will those stories by Tellado (1927-2009) be adapted, which reflected in many ways the limited life of women in Spain in the second half of the 20th century. Santana assures that the stories “will be modernized”, and that they will not give rise to a single soap opera, but that telefilms, series and even miniseries will come from there. “It is something great and deserved,” says Esther Escoriza, editor of Esencia and Zafiro, the two romantic novel labels of the multinational Planeta.

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The news invites us to wonder how the rose novel has managed to adapt to the times, decade after decade and phenomenon after phenomenon. Also why this genre continues to be stigmatized while others, such as fantasy or black, have completely come out of the closet. “In some way 50 shades of gray [el libro más vendido en 2012 y 2013] was the Game of Thrones erotic novel, although in the nineties, the chick lit [literatura de temática joven y femenina] with The diaryof Bridget Jones at the head, he has already taken the romantic from the darkest corner of the bookstore, ”says Ana Liarás, editor of Grijalbo.

Sales support this genre, but even the purely quantitative does not manage to get it out of the niche. “It’s another thing that is not talked about. Megan Maxwell is the best-selling national author each year. We have more than three and a half million copies ”, Escoriza points out. Maxwell, actually, María del Carmen Rodríguez del Álamo, doesn’t care too much. “I have learned not to be on the lists. The only ones that matter to me are my warriors, ”he says. With their warriors it refers to its readers. “There are more and more men, huh? Although it is difficult for them to contact me, they do so in networks, but privately ”, he says.

Simon Bassett, the leading man of the couple, wears nineteenth-century brocades and embroidery that escape the classic style of the English Regency.
Simon Bassett, the leading man of the couple, wears nineteenth-century brocades and embroidery that escape the classic style of the English Regency.Netflix

“The concept of guilty pleasure [importación del inglés guilty pleasure, que denomina esos gustos que se disfrutan en la intimidad] it bothers me especially; If it’s a pleasure, why do you have to hide it? ”says Elísabet Benavent. The author of the series Valeria (adapted by Netflix) and, in total, 21 books in eight years – “the trick is that many had already written before,” he says – he has also sold more than three million copies of his novels.

In the romantic there is not much competition because “there is a market for everyone,” says María Eugenia Rivera, editor of Harper Collins Ibérica and head of the historic Harlequín label, which continues to be sold at newsstands. “Our readers are book eaters,” she says. “Many end up writing their own novels, they self-publish them, they start working, and we buy them. Or they go directly to us, because they know that we are always looking ”, he explains. Zafiro, the Planeta label run by Escoriza, is “a laboratory”. “Everything that we think can work is published in digital, and if it does, it ends up on paper,” says the editor. “The romance novel is the genre that is most consumed on digital,” he adds. Above all, books by national authors are sold, indicate Escoriza and Alix Leveugle, editor of Plaza & Janés and Suma de Letras, which publishes Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts or Josie Silver, the author of One day in december.

“The concept of ‘guilty pleasure’ bothers me especially, if it is a pleasure, why do you have to hide it?”

Elizabeth Benavent

The most powerful trend is the return of the regency romantic novel, due to the fury of the adaptation of The Bridgertons, on Netflix. The series is inspired by Julia Quinn’s books, edited by Urano 20 years ago, although they went unnoticed then. “What happens with The Bridgertons it is cyclical. It happened before with Twilight. Suddenly something works and directs the market somewhere. But the change is not as important as what it supposed 50 shades of gray. He promoted eroticism as a theme; Since then it has been possible to speak of the desire of women explicitly ”, explains Ana Liarás.

Elísabet Benavent, at the Penguin headquarters in Madrid, in 2019.
Elísabet Benavent, at the Penguin headquarters in Madrid, in 2019.Alvaro Garcia

And the novels of Corín Tellado? Could the millionaire purchase of the rights to her books have something to do with the success of soap operas like Woman, “Whiter”, sexually speaking, how does Esther Escoriza describe them? “Something essential in the romance novel is humor. Woman It is an entirely television phenomenon precisely for that reason, because it lacks humor, “says the editor, who does not know to what extent the stories of Tellado, that popular writer who respected Nobel Prize Mario Vargas Llosa, can be” modernized “for 12 years. after her death, she remains the most widely read author in Spanish.

“Romance novel readers are book eaters”

Maria Eugenia Rivera, editor of Harper Collins

Editors and writers agree that the romance novel “reflects the woman of her time.” In Tellado’s first novels, they were accompanied by their parents and husbands, and in the last, they were dedicated to computing, or to the legal profession. “Regardless of the society in which they are conceived, romance novels are always starred by women who rebel against the norms of the time,” says Leveugle. Of course, when they are read in another time, it happens that nothing fits. That spurs many readers who become authors.

Maxwell’s mother was fond of the genre, and the little aspiring writer read through all the novels in her library one after another. And she remembers being angry, because she did not like how the protagonists of the stories behaved. “I would ask my mother, ‘Why are they always one step behind? Why are you fainting? ‘And she would say to me,’ When you’re older, write one where that doesn’t happen. ‘ And that I did. Life does not make it easy for us, and sometimes we fall, but we get back up, “he says.

The genre in which that girl has ended up making her fortune, however, never falls.

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