Wednesday, November 20

What I write...

...and why I write it.

I realized the other day that it had been a while since I'd written anything here myself. Depression and I have been doing the cha-cha this month and my creativity has suffered--but really, that's no excuse not to blog on my blog. 
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a Facebook post from someone who very politely declined to name her source (for which I give a lot of credit). It seemed the argument of "women have no right to write gay romance" had reared its ugly head again--and the perpetrator was a gay man who happens to write gay romance. I wasn't able to track the original article down (I tried, but without a name, I couldn't find it--which might be a good thing. When I Googled, I got mostly articles championing the female authors who write gay rom.)  I think this says a lot about the way we've evolved as readers--because I am as much of a reader as I am a writer. Lately, more so (but honest, feeling better this week and hope to knock out some kick-butt scenes. I've gotten preliminary notes back from one of my betas and apparently my story is on the right track *smile.*)
My own perception of what I write and why has evolved over the last three years, too. I wasn't sure how to define myself at first, especially in public. Author? Romance author? Gay romance author? M/M author?
Well, four books (three fiction, one non-fiction) later, I'm definitely an author. Just author. Not "published" author. Oh how it galls me when some people feel the need to tack "published" onto it. Seriously. If you've got a book out there, either in hard copy or electronic format, you're an author, plain and simple. Before my work was accepted and published, I called myself a writer and let folks know that I mostly wrote Torchwood fanfiction. I was completely proud of that. I still am. It's what led me to where I am today. 
A while back I decided to say it loud and say it proud: I write gay romance. I have totally stopped chickening out--and surprisingly, I haven't gotten any hairy eyeballs. I have to admit that I was a little nervous when I started volunteering at APM. I figured it was fair to assume that most of the people in the office would be gay men--or at least that most of the men would be gay or bi. And yes, they are. Most have asked "why?" but it's been as an honest, fair question, with no snark attached. Everyone in the office is tremendously supportive, and several people, both men and women, have bought my books.
But even amongst supportive friends, I do sometimes have to repeat the fact that what I write is romance, not erotica.  I don't mean to sound so defensive when I say that, but sometimes I have to say it so many times to the same person, I start to feel like a broken record. (Which is a reference the under-30 set probably won't get. Sigh. I'm old).
What's the difference (and why does it matter)? The heart and soul of my stories are the emotions of the characters--and yes, sometimes it's fair to categorize what I write as erotic romance (can we say Bound?  *grin*). 
The difference between erotica and erotic romance is the romance element--romance is, well, romance. It's about emotions. The flutter of your heart or that funny, giddy feeling in the pit of your stomach when that someone special walks into the room. That's what makes a romance a romance. Otherwise, it's just a hookup.
I know my friends don't actually think I'm writing smut (not that I have ANY problem with smut--quite the opposite in fact). But somehow there's this idea floating around that keeps getting repeated, even by open-minded, educated people that if it's two characters of the same gender it must somehow be automatically categorized as erotica or porn. Not only is that incorrect, but it only fuels the fires of some pretty dangerous misconceptions about real-life same-sex relationships. 
Think about that for a second.
Remember, words have power; that's why it's important to chose the right words.
Now, why do I, a bisexual woman, write gay romance? There are lots of answers, but the most basic one is because that's what I love to read.
Maybe that's because the characters are fighting the odds--things are getting better, but I still live in America, home of Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson. Even in a book where the characters' families are understanding and their bosses are great, there's still the element of the underdog about them that gives me something to cheer for.
Maybe it's because, as Pasha pointed out in Hanging by the Moment, no matter where you go (unless it's a gay bar), the chances of a gay/bi man meeting another a gay/bi man are pretty slim, so it's that much more special when you meet that perfect someone and hit it off. (And yes, of course that's strictly perception; online dating has changed a lot since I was young and out and looking for a girlfriend. Still. It's part of the fairy tale and I love a good fairy tale.) 
I write stories that are steamy and sexy because sex and sexuality are vital, beautiful, and healthy parts of the human experience. Of course it's meant to arouse the reader--I would be lying if I said otherwise. But my question would then become: what's wrong with that?


Anonymous said...

Maybe that's because the characters are fighting the odds--things are getting better, but I still live in America, home of Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson. Even in a book where the characters' families are understanding and their bosses are great, there's still the element of the underdog about them that gives me something to cheer for

I think that is a large part of why I read and write in this genre. It has more to do with the fact that I can appreciate (on a much smaller degree) what it is like to feel like an outsider, to have been ostracized or bullied when growing up. I definitely identify more with male characters than I do with the average heroine of a traditional romance story! And I find different types of men attractive--I don't want every hero to be some big muscle-bound alpha type who can only interact with a woman by being a total jackass--and we as readers are supposed to find him instantly attractive.

Just recently I read where not only are some people still questioning whether or not women should be writing M/M romance (and like you, I appreciate the distinction of the wording) but also the *presence* of female characters in these stories. Um, wow. Talk about marginalization.

To a certain extent, I can see where some of the conflict comes in. If you look at M/M romance as a genre written largely by women, for women (and its rapid rise in popularity as a result), I can see where some people can claim that women are fetishzing the gay experience. It's not how I feel about M/M romance--I simply find the stories about two men--coming together as equals and falling in love--more interesting than the traditional het romance as it is currently set up.

I keep saying that someday I'll create a heroine I don't want to bitch-slap 20 pages into the story. And my friends tell me. "Please God, don't make her perfect, either. We just can't identify with her then."

Well, I can see where they are coming from. How many women do you know who have lavender colored eyes (why is it always lavender??), do not realize how beautiful they are (REALLY? I have NEVER met a beautiful woman who didn't know it and use it to her advantage), never needs makeup and can eat more than a lumberjack without gaining weight?

Okay, it IS a romance, and we like reading stories about attractive people, but there are limits. :-)

Bottom line, I think characters are characters. We should make them as three dimensional as possible and then let them tell the story they want to tell, regardless of gender or sexual identity. Notice you *never* hear someone ping Stephen King for not being a teenaged high school girl on prom night...

Anonymous said...

Beautifully stated, HB.

H.B. Pattskyn said...

Great comments, Sarah! I might have to steal...erm *borrow* that line about Stephan King *G*

GoddessRuling said...

Speaking of Stephen King...he once said that if you've ever received payment for a story, then you are a writer. As a self-published writer I have to remind myself of that sometimes!