The first time I ever knowingly read a romance novel was at my first ever writers conference. I traveled to Dallas, Texas in 1996 to attend the Romance Writers of America (RWA) national conference. When I arrived, I stepped into a world I’d never imagined. A world of 1,800 women and 7 men. And no, it’s not what you’d think.
These women are serious business professionals. They talk about writing, they study writing, they teach writing to each other, they breathe the romantic fiction genre. At that time, as a male in their world, I was ignored. “Must be someone’s lost boyfriend.” I did meet a gentleman who was there with his wife and another with girlfriend. Leigh Greenwood was the only published male romance author in attendance. And then my publisher had brought four men to prove that we could write romance as well.
The strangest thing was being discounted for my gender. I lived it for four mind-warping days. One session they actually stopped the whole program when I asked a question. They were shocked that I was writer, with a completed manuscript, that had been sold, and would be out the next summer. It was simply out of their realm of experience. I had an agent refuse to talk to me, even though I had an appointment to meet with him. It was a new experience , something that women have pointed out happens all the time to them.
No one, other than the agent, were rude or impolite, they were simply mystified. I was outside their realm of experience. Scroll forward to today. The latest meeting of my local RWA chapter had 40 women and 3 men in attendance. In my personal book study group of 8, the two romance writers and readers are both male. I’ll be going to RWA national this year for the first time since 1998 and I can’t wait to see how it has changed.
I often wonder at the disparity. The first question I ask myself, “Is a romance voice so unique?” Definitely, “YES!” I’ve always had a love story in my novels. A background element, but an important one. For who are we without hope and love, what would be the point? Yet when I set out to write my first romance, I faced huge challenges. Challenges so daunting that I actually discarded several complete manuscripts because I didn’t know how to make them work. Even The Night is Mine was still a thriller rather than a romantic suspense when Sourcebooks purchased it. It was only in working with Deb Werksman, amazing editor by-the-by, that I finally found the missing pieces in my voice. That I finally found how to make the love story the center, the purpose, the reason for the book. And I love that! It’s so much fun!
The second question is, “Why not more men?” You would think what with my being a male romance author I’d have some special insight. I don’t, but I’ll take a stab at it anyway.
A male home sapiens is a terribly linear beast. If I sharpen this spear, learn how to throw, learn where to aim, I bring home dinner. If I go the job, if I hone my skills, I will get better and better at achieving results.
The female is far less linear. I married a single mom. Her entire life was framed by expediency about her child. If I do this step during the nap, this step while she’s in the shower, then I can be set up to complete this before I go to sleep… and my wife carried twenty of this non-linear tasks in her head all the time. And that’s assuming the kid doesn’t interrupt and of those twenty chains.
I don’t think the male, as often posited, is emotionless, but rather that the female is forced into a heightened state of contingency planning and “what ifs” all forcing an intense awareness of the world around her. We’ve selectively bred for women able to feel heightened connections and to be aware of nuanced change, a child’s mood, over a forthright change, a male’s “what’s the next to-do item on the list.”
I think this is changing, in American culture perhaps faster than most. I think that the coming generation will bring male romance readers and writers in droves. I hope so, because I think it will become a kinder, gentler nation for the women if it does. And I’ll freely admit, my heroes act the same way, even if they would never admit it out loud.
THE NIGHT IS MINE BY M.L. BUCHMAN
NAME: Emily Beale
MISSION: Fly undercover to prevent the assassination of the First Lady, posing as her executive pilot.
NAME: Mark Henderson, code name Viper
MISSION: Undercover role of wealthy, ex-mercenary boyfriend to Emily
Their jobs are high risk, high reward:
Protect the lives of the powerful and the elite at all cost. Neither expected that one kiss could distract them from their mission. But as the passion mounts between them, their lives and their hearts will both be risked…and the reward this time may well be worth it. Here’s an excerpt to tease your senses…
“He shouldn’t have done it. He was her commanding officer, for crying out loud. He’d just risked his career for that kiss. And hers, which was truly unforgivable. He hadn’t even realized how badly he wanted her. Until he received the call that she’d been reassigned.
And when Emily Beale closed her eyes on so much pain, he’d given in. If he’d known how much her kiss would rock him back on his heels…
With a smile he’d do best to keep to himself, Mark Henderson decided it was worth all the risk for a kiss like that one.
He flexed his abused hand and wondered how much it was going to hurt to work the chopper’s collective on the flight back to base. A twinge shot all the way into his shoulder where she’d torqued it around before slamming him to the deck. It was going to sting like mad.
She really knew how to handle herself. Damn that was a turn-on. His brain tried to imagine what it would be like to tussle with a woman like that, and his body responded strongly. It made a very nice image.
He pulled the tab on the soda he’d dropped when he went down. It exploded in a cloudy spray of sugar water covering his face and uniform.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
M. L. Buchman has worked in fast food, theater, computers, publishing, and light manufacturing. It’s amazing what you can do with a degree in geophysics. At one point he sold everything and spent 18-months riding a bicycle around the world. In 11,000 miles, he touched 15 countries and hundreds of incredible people. Since then, he has acquired a loving lady, the coolest kid on the planet, and lives in Portland, Oregon. For more information, please visit http://www.mlbuchman.com/.
Sourcebooks will be giving away TWO copies of THE NIGHT IS MINE, so don’t be shy;tell us your thoughts on a male author writing a romance novel.