Let’s make something clear right now: I don’t like billionaires in real life. I think they’re parasitic, violating the social contract. No, they didn’t make their money through hard work or personal genius. Elon Musk got his money from blood emeralds and colonial violence. Jeff Bezos had parents who had enough to give him the loan he needed to start Amazon. And we know how Amazon treats their workers—Bezos makes more money in a day than the average worker makes in a year.
So, by and large, billionaires exist because they’re good at exploiting other people. And if they shared a little, itty bitty teensy tiny bit more—through taxes, not just pitching their money at whatever cause they think will get them good PR—our society would be more equitable. When society is more equitable, we all get along better. And when we all get along better, capitalism can actually keep doing its thing.
Capitalism Will Eat Itself
The existence of the mega-rich, the billionaire class, will topple society at some point. Capitalism as we understand it needs markets to keep growing—which means people need to keep spending. All those stories about millennials “killing” this industry or that are actually tales of capitalism buckling under its own stupidity.
I’m a business owner myself, so I’m not inherently anti-business. Perhaps I’m anti-corporate capitalism or anti-profit (you can keep running a business without profit, folks.). It’s the relentless pursuit of profit that screws everything up—if businesses were content to break even, continue reinvesting in themselves, then society would likely be better off.
So, given this is my stance, why the fuck did I write a billionaire romance? I mean, sure, Boardroom Omega isn’t explicitly about yachts and extravagant vacations, gold-plated dinners. But neither Perce nor Jake are hurting; both of them are firmly into the billionaire class before the end of the novel.
A Billionaire Romance Removes the Worry of Money
I think one of the reasons I’m attracted to the billionaire romance or royalty or other wealthy characters is that it removes concerns about money. That’s an attractive fantasy for me. I was raised in a blue-collar household. I have what I call a “blue-collar mentality” to money.
Blue-collar mentalities are edge-of-poverty. You know you’re one or two steps away from disaster. A missed paycheck, EI benefits running out, debt piling up—will you be able to keep food on the table or a roof over your head?
This goes hand in hand with a “hard work” attitude, or the Protestant work ethic. If you have a job, you don’t leave it. You can’t. You keep working, even if it’s making you miserable. Because if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. And if you don’t get paid, you’re fucked.
You can look for another job, sure. You can leave your job once you have something lined up. But you don’t move until you have something in place. And that’s because you don’t really have resources. So long as you have a paycheck coming in, you can buy food and pay your bills. But you’re just keeping up, barely keeping your head above water. If you miss a paycheck, you’re going to start falling behind.
So you have to just keep on keeping on.
The White-Collar Mindset
My partner was raised in a different economic class. It’s fascinating watching him approach money. Because his family always had assets, they were able to take risks. You can quit your job. You can chase your dreams.
Of course, my partner’s family isn’t rich in a certain sense of the word; they still have to manage money wisely. But they have assets to burn, choices, options. I remember “small” and “big” grocery shops, alternating because my father only got paid every other week. Big grocery shops happened when he was paid. Small ones happened the week he didn’t get paid; we had to tighten up and make the money last.
It’s an enormous difference. As I said, it’s not to say his parents didn’t have their anxieties about money, but that those concerns were a very different set of concerns from the ones my parents had. And those are again a different set from the people who are on the next economic rung down.
That’s where a billionaire romance appeals to me. They do not need to worry about money. The idea that missing a paycheck might mean they lose their house is not an anxiety that exists here. Sure, if they miss too many mortgage payments on that mansion, they’re going to default. But they’re not going to go live on the streets—they’ll have to sell the house, maybe, and downgrade. There is a safety net; if they fall, they’re not going to fall far.
For me, that’s an escapist fantasy. By dealing with these characters, I can completely remove the most pressing problem in most people’s lives.
So Many Issues Are Caused by Poverty
I think the appeal in that is it allows me to strip away the fact that for the majority of us proles, money is the problem. Money causes so much stress. Our economic situations makes us miserable in our marriages. It forces us to move, to work jobs that break us down. It convinces us to work ourselves to exhaustion, to burn out, to suffer depression and anxiety. We suffer health consequences from not sleeping well, from not exercising enough, from not being able to prepare healthy meals.
Poverty prevents a lot of us from living in healthy environments. It might trap us in abusive relationships with significant others or parents or even toxic friends. It prevents us from accessing education, which then allows us to get better jobs and all the other things that come with it.
So, in some ways, billionaires, royalty, and other insanely wealthy characters are experiments. When you strip away poverty, what issues do human beings have? And from there, it’s possible to get to the emotional core of a person.
Poverty Becomes Who We Are
So many of us are shaped by poverty that there isn’t much more than that there. It causes all kinds of issues and problems, including mental/emotional ones. And it shapes us to believe things about ourselves—such as that if we fail, we just have to work harder; that taking time off is being lazy; that hard work will get us everywhere, and so on.
Strip poverty away from people, and you’ll find that people don’t actually know much about themselves. They’ve been too busy trying to survive to actually deal with the ramifications of their emotional lives, to form a self-identity outside of poverty. All their fears, beliefs, needs … everything is wrapped up in poverty.
So, we can also see that a billionaire character might easily be boring. Or we might see that they’re divorced from society, out of touch and almost sociopathic because of their wealth.
But, in fiction, we can get at the core of who they are. That’s, to some degree, what I’m playing at with Perce. Perce is a hard worker, incredibly driven, and, in fact, an asshole. And he has his reasons for that—but they don’t extend from poverty. Perce wasn’t raised in an environment where hard work was valued because “being lazy” meant falling further into poverty, barely surviving. Perce works hard because he has a chip on his shoulder, feels the need to prove himself.
Critiquing Billionaires and Capitalism
Perce is not meant to be a terribly likeable character at the outset of the story. But he is deeply traumatized; removing poverty and economic concerns allows him the freedom to fully explore that without worrying about economic ramifications. When he asserts that he doesn’t need his parents, his family, he’s not wrong. He can easily escape their orbit, so long as he wants to. It takes him a terribly long time to realize he can do that, though.
For people in poverty, this may not be an option. I am still, to a degree, beholden to my own family, even though I’ve recognized there are abusive individuals within that structure. But economic dependence forces me to straddle a line.
Economic dependence can force you to sacrifice the emotional independence you need to be healthy and happy and start healing. Perce represents an exploration of what happens when someone recognizes trauma and abuse, the journey it takes to be ready to leave—no need to worry about the economic strings holding them back.
And that’s true about Perce’s journey to having a child too: it’s entirely emotional on his part. There’s no concern about the costs of having a child, the economic impacts of him needing time off or maybe getting fired from his job.
Economic concerns factor for a lot of people; it’s a factor for me. Is it fair to have a child in those conditions, to condemn us all to poverty? The question “can I provide” is twofold: it’s not only an emotional question but a question of economics as well.
For Perce, the economic question doesn’t even factor. It’s an entirely emotional decision for him.
Billionaire Romance Becomes Worry-Free Escapist Fantasy
And again, this comes back to escapist fantasy for me: what if we were all free to make decisions based upon our emotional needs? What if we could do what’s best for us, not economically, but mentally, emotionally? What if money wasn’t a factor?
That doesn’t mean I have to write a billionaire romance; I could just as easily envision a kind of utopia where society’s resources are organized quite differently. (I’m working on one of those!) But if we want to look at contemporary society or a society that feels “familiar” to us, then a billionaire romance gives us the slate to explore that emotional side of things without needing to factor in money. And that, to me, is far more interesting.
That’s not to say I don’t find characters who lived in poverty, who have grown up that way, intriguing. I’ve always had a soft spot for slum dogs, thieves, sex workers, the impoverished who are eking out a living, finding ways to survive. But poverty shapes and forms almost everything they do, so that the economic and the emotional become intrinsically bound.
Of course, we can make the argument that the emotional and economic are still intrinsically bound for billionaires—that having so much wealth, so little need to worry, doubtless impacts their mentality and emotional lives. So it becomes impossible to examine human beings from purely an emotional standpoint, because the economic is so fundamental to our existence.
That said, billionaire characters and their ilk will always hold an appeal for me because they represent an escape from the constant anxiety about poverty. And that changes the way that these characters act and react, allowing for fuller exploration of the emotional—because it can be centred, because money doesn’t have to be the sole focus of existence.