An MFA in romance?


At Seton Hill University, you can get an MFA in writing popular fiction. Nicole Peeler, who teaches in the program, thought she was headed for a conventional life as an English professor, armed with her PhD in English. But she began writing urban fantasy paranormal romances several years ago, and now teaches courses about dialogue and character, point of view, story structure, and worldbuilding to students who aim to be published in romance, mystery, sci-fi, horror, and fantasy (and various mixtures of these genres).

She says, “I’m very comfortable with the idea that genre fiction is storytelling, and I’m proud of the fact that I’m a storyteller. I consider myself doing a very different thing than a literary writer. Like I said, I love literature. I love what literature does in our society. It creates the ideas that trickle down. But I’ve discovered I’m able to lace ideas through my books. . . You reach so many more people with the carrot than you do the stick. And sometimes literature can be a stick.”

Nicole’s books straddle the worlds of sci-fi and romance, and she told me some funny stories about her interactions with writers and readers from the different genres.

What do you think are the differences between the cultures of romance, sci-fi, fantasy, and mystery? What interactions have you had with readers and authors in the different genres? Do you have any stories like Nicole’s? Please share your stories below the cut!

Download a transcript.

Laurie Kahn is the executive producer of the Popular Romance Project.

If you enjoyed this interview, you can find more information at Nicole Peeler’s website.

To stay up to date on our news, please join us at