Stick to Your Romantic Guns
A Guest Blog by Dylan Madrid
I recently had a conversation with fellow romance author Kait Ballenger, during which we discussed what it means to do just that: to write love stories for a living. More importantly, we shared the second-class citizen status we’re often relegated to by some literary scribes who consider what we do and create to be of lesser value and certainly not as challenging. We both agreed we wear our romance monikers with pride. We are in love with love and we’re not ashamed to admit it.
Growing up I devoured every Jane Austen novel I could get my hands on. I memorized every line of dialogue spoken between Romeo and Juliet. I rooted for Cathy and Heathcliff and I envied Jane Eyre and Scarlett O’Hara. It’s no wonder that as a writer I feel compelled to create to-die-for love on the pages of my novels. It is the driving force behind my every written word. The discovery of attraction between two people and the possibilities of what that ignited spark might set off is what motivates me to sit down daily on convince my readers what I firmly believe: true love really does exist.
Unlike Kait Ballenger, though, the love stories I’m telling are for and about men. Without a doubt, mine is a tougher audience to please – and to find. While fans of gay romance novels exist and are very faithful readers, the concept of selling romance to a male reader is complex. Erotica tends to not only grab the shelf-browsing reader (thanks in part to aggressive and sexually suggestive cover art) but also gets the lion’s share of marketing and reviews.
So what’s an author to do who wants to stay on the sensual side of erotica and is more inspired by the courtship and ignited spark of love between characters rather than the hard core details of the sex between them? Stick to your romantic guns, I say. Yes, yes, yes. We’re told over and over again write what you know. But I also firmly believe an author should write from the center of curiosity, whether it’s about places unexplored, cultures that have piqued your interest, or beautiful strangers you meet in your life who leave such a lasting impression that you just have to write about them.
M/M Romance is now a genre of its own. And it’s a popular one, too. Up until the last few years, the majority of romance novels about gay men were written by female authors, as many female readers (yes, it’s true) read these novels just as soon as they are published. While that trend is still alive and kicking, more and more male authors, such as me, are stepping into the arena with romance novels of their own. The correspondence I get from readers always confirms my theory that gay readers are looking for love, too. For some readers, the erotica is not what they are seeking in a story. Instead, they crave the happily-ever-after; they want a modern day version of a Prince Charming; like I once did for Cathy and Heathcliff and Romeo and Juliet, they also want to root for star-crossed lovers. They want the reassurance that love has not become a casualty of an ever-growing desensitized society. They want the promise of forever.
Is it any wonder why both gay authors and male readers have only recently embraced this genre? From the beginning of our young lives, men are led to believe that romance is sentimental, it is a sign of weakness, it’s feminized and is strictly reserved (and is wholly marketed to) women. For the young man who is discovering love for another man for the first time in his life, finding an echo of his feelings in contemporary literature is no longer as arduous task as it once was. Authors such Michael Thomas Ford, Neil Placky, Dan Stone, Greg Herren, and Ken O’Neill all incorporate romance into their bestselling novels.
I have three romance novels that will be published within the next year. The first is a romantic thriller set in Chicago called Mind Fields, just released from Bold Strokes Books. The novel is about a college student named Adam Parsh who is heavily pursued by a wealthy married man who becomes his employer when Adam accepts a position to tutor the man’s young daughter. Sounds like a great set up for a secret affair, right? Well, I took Adam on a different journey, one in which he discovers he’s really in love with his best friend, the sweet and intellectual Victor Maldonado. Although I loved the characters and the plot kept surprising me each step of the writing process, I often found myself struggling with the erotica vs. romance factor in Mind Fields. As the author I finally had to ask myself: is it my job to titillate, or to tell the best story possible? In the end, and as I do in my novels and in my life, I chose love.
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Genre - Gay Romance, Suspense
Rating – R