When you write gay rom you run risks. Actually, let me backtrack just a smidgeon. When you write any book, you run risks. You run the risk of readers not believing your characters or the premise of your story. Now, the risks are not quite as great when you write in a genre that guarantees everything is completely made up like sci fi, fantasy and paranormal as opposed to writing a contemporary. When you write a contemporary, every reader will come at your book as if they are an expert because uh duh, they live in this world. Does that make them an expert? Not really. There’s plenty of stuff in this world that I don’t have any experience with and the same holds true for you and you and you and you…
Now, let me shift over to my opening statement about writing gay rom. At the risk of being tarred and feathered by a gazillion women who read gay rom, I’m going to say that there’s faction of women who read gay rom who expect the male characters to be a certain way and if they aren’t, they don’t like your work. I don’t exactly like people to bring a set of expectations to a book I write. I don’t want to be Carol Lynne. I don’t want to be Z.A. Maxfield. I don’t want to be Heidi Cullinan or Mary Calmes or Jan Irving. I want to be Lex Valentine. Notice I did not mention gay male authors who write in this genre. For the moment, I’m sticking with women writers who write gay rom and are read by women readers. Male writers and readers are in a different group altogether when it comes to this particular subject. Or least, that is my observation.
When I write a gay rom, I almost always have a gay man read it. Ethan Day and Jason Edding read Fire Season for me. Ethan made a really simple comment to me that made a big impact on the motivations for some of the scenes. It is a comment I have never forgotten and if I write something where a character is inexperienced or in a gay for you situation, I keep his words in my head to keep me on track. Tim McGivney read my free story Entangled that wrote for the Goodreads M/M group. He made a comment that had me expanding some descriptions.
I listen to the men who read my gay rom, both the men who beta read and the ones who send me email after the book is out. Why do I listen the men who read my gay rom? Because they are MEN. They know what’s like to have a penis. I don’t. I can only imagine and while I have a great imagination, I also like to base my characters somewhat in reality. It’s one reason I don’t write one of those gay worlds where female characters are cardboard, less than three dimensional or are always the bad guy and where all the men are gay or bi-sexual.
Anyway, going back to the expectations of female readers and gay men in books. I’ve had gay men write me and thank me saying they liked that my gay men were still men. They’ve said they liked how my gay men weren’t female characters with the pronouns changed out. (And we’re not talking about my freebie Finding Your Heart which was something I did because of author Patric Michael.) A gay man wrote me after reading one of my books and said, “Gay men are still men. We don’t like to talk about our emotions. We prefer to act on them. We don’t need a bunch of dates or a lot of words spoken between us in order to hook up. I like that you get that.”
Well, I could argue his words because honestly, I don’t think all men gay or not are that way. I know that the world is made up of pretty much every type of person imaginable. But I get that he’s probably right in the general sense. So when my male characters hookup pretty quickly and my female readers raise a loud hue and cry that my characters aren’t believable because of it…I wonder what planet they are from. Do they not know that men DO that? (Hell, in my world I’ve seen a heck of a lot of women do that.)
So, I pretty much write my characters with the understanding that men are men. My characters act like the men I know both gay and straight. If they don’t fit into a reader’s expectation of how a gay man acts then they need to go read one of those other authors who write gay rom. I can’t stop myself from being tweaked when female readers tell me a gay male character in my story doesn’t act real because I know that gay male character has already been vetted by a gay male reader and/or gay male author. If the real gay man didn’t find fault, why did the straight woman?
Expectations is the only answer I can come up with. And if a reader expects me to be like another author, they will be disappointed time and again because I am who I am. And so are my characters.
Here’s a happy Monday photo to start off the week on the right note.
How pretty is that? Bet you all wish yo could be there! Have a great Monday!