A group blog featuring an international array of killer mystery, suspense, and romantic suspense writers. With premises and story lines different from your run-of-the-mill whodunits, we tend to write outside the box. We blog several times a week on all topics relating to romantic suspense and mystery, our writing, and our readers. We welcome all comments and often have guest bloggers. All our authors can be contacted separately, too, using their own social media links.

We find our genre delightfully, dangerously, and deliciously exciting - join us here, if you do too!

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I-SPY : Writing M/M Romance

Join the authors and friends of Not Your Usual Suspects for an occasional series of posts about their world of reading, writing and publishing.

Short and sweet, hopefully both informative and entertaining - join us at I-Spy to find out the how's and why's of what we do.

TODAY'S POST: I-Spy something beginning with ...


Here are just a few of my thoughts on one of my favourite topics :). I hope they're enjoyable, enlightening and expressed well enough - but remember, these are only my personal opinions.

What is it?  
M/M romance is the shorthand for male/male romance – in other words there are two heroes rather than a hero and heroine. A gay relationship is central to the book, though its plot can fit in any other genre – suspense, crime, fantasy, scifi etc. Many of fiction’s tropes are familiar too – cops and villains, star-crossed lovers, friends to lovers. It doesn't have to be erotic or explicit, but often is, like many romance books.

Why do you write it?  
I’ve written in several genres over the years, but m/m romance caught my imagination most strongly. I like men – no excuses there! – but I’m not talking about physical attraction alone. I also like to explore their character, behaviour, upbringing and attitude. The difference from my own character – and sometimes the similarity – is fascinating and intriguing. To set two of these men together in a romance novel is even more challenging, and I find it both empowering and refreshing. Other authors quote the excitement of creating a new dynamic on the page, and that’s certainly true. Both female and male characters can be portrayed away from the usual male/female stereotypes.

Can anyone write it?
Of course, anyone can write about anything they like, though to publish successfully you also have to consider issues such as publisher guidelines, the right market, and what’s popular. But even more importantly, in my opinion, you should follow your heart and instinct. An author knows what s/he likes to write, just as a reader knows what s/he likes to read. There’s a strong argument that if you try to write something you don’t love, it loses sincerity. In other words, if you try to write it for the wrong reasons – to keep up with other authors? To cash in on what looks like a new, better market? – it won’t feel right, either for you or your readers.

What are the challenges?
*As a female writer, the first challenge is that I’m not a man myself! However, my imagination is as strong as anyone else’s, so is my respect for reality, and my perception of human nature. Writing is a process of setting all that into an enjoyable story.
*There are logistical difficulties though. You can write “he put his hand on his shoulder, and turned him to face him” and no one knows who did what! It becomes even more tricky with intimate scenes, when you can easily lose track of whose (always male) leg went where :).
*There are significant differences in love scenes, of course, where – if you’ll excuse the bluntness – the whole process of Tab A and Slot B proceeds and concludes in very different ways.
*You should always show respect for your characters, and as they are, not as you’d like them to be. It may be tempting to take a classic m/f love story and replace the F with another M, but it rarely works successfully. Men think and act in a different way, even before the author allows for individual characters.
*You also need to step carefully into a genre where you can’t claim automatic, biological sisterhood with the main characters. It takes extra care to avoid being accused of being either ignorant or exploitative.

Why not?
All the things I love about m/m romance are the same as for other romance novels – after all, men are as strong, sexy and sympathetic as women can be, and a m/m relationship deserves its happy-ever-after the same as a m/f one. But…
*Some readers like to fall in love with their hero, and imagine themselves the heroine. Readers of m/m find a different excitement, because their hero will never fall for them!
*It’s not a guaranteed successful route. There’s fast growth in the genre at the moment, due to the accessibility of e-books and new exposure. But it’s still (excuse the pun) a closed book to a large percentage of the reading population. It’s a niche market: people can feel either uncomfortable or hostile with the subject matter, and this affects readers and book outlets.

So it’s different – but the same?
In many ways! As in any romance, if you write two-dimensional characters who talk and act the same way, whose motivations are boring or implausible, who don’t appeal to universal emotions – it won’t work, whatever gender they are.

Lastly (a late addition) - who reads it?
Well obviously I do LOL. But so do plenty of other people - men, women, gay, straight, young, old, and the list's not limited to these examples. Numbers are growing all the time. Some people who've never come across m/m romance before, assume it's for the same audience as the main characters - gay men - but that's far from the case. It genuinely is for anyone and everyone. We all have our valid preferences, but there are no restrictions on trying something out!

Needless to say, I love writing it - and hopefully my readers enjoy reading it!  Clare :)


If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them. Maybe we’ll return to the subject again if there's more you'd like to know!  
I’d also like to encourage anyone who’d like to try a m/m romance book, maybe for the first time. If you email me off-blog, I’m happy to offer you one of my short stories for free. 

Clare London publishes novels and short stories of m/m romance, and is an author at Carina Press, Dreamspinner Press, Amber Quill Press, JCP Books, MLR Press, JMS Books, Torquere Press and Pink Squirrel Press.
Visit her at her website and her blog, and at Facebook and Twitter.


FUTURE POSTS will cover:
Kindlegraph / the art of research / writing male/male romance / rejection and writer's block / building suspense / writing love scenes / anti-piracy strategies / audio books / interviews with editors and agents / using Calibre.
We welcome everyone's constructive comments and suggestions!


Marcelle Dubé said...

Interesting post, Clare. I agree that male and female characters can't be interchangeable. After all, each character is an individual and one of the most defining characteristics of a person is gender.

Clare London said...

Good point, Marcelle. I write m/m because I enjoy writing about men, and devoting most of the action to them :). But seriously, the premise holds true for whoever you make your "heroes" - you have to be true to their character. Gender shouldn't be ignored, even if many human aspects are universal.

Rita said...

Clare, I apologize for being so late. I'd be looking forward to your post then totally spaced it. For me love is love, is love. Seeing a relationship build between two people, no matter what the combination, is what it's about. I've read a few M/M books. Some have been excellent (like yours) others have been a total disappointment. They were written simply for the shock value.
Thanks for the post and insight.

Toni Anderson said...

I love writing in a male POV. I question my ability to pull off m/m though. Big time. And I don't think I'd do the genre justice the way you do, Clare.

Dee J. said...

Very interesting post. I have to agree with Toni. I don't think I'd do the genre justice. I think a writer has to go the extra mile to make the picture clear and I respect your talent for it.

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