Men Need Romance Too
When I first had the idea to write a gay historical romance I decided to do a bit of research to find out whether there was such a thing as gay romance (yes, but not much) and whether people would:
1. publish it
2. buy it
3. read it
4. like it
I wasn't sure of the answers, even though I did as much research as I could do.
I was told so many things and they all turned out to be wrong.
- That only women wrote it (wrong)
- That only women read it (wrong)
- That gay men wouldn't read a gay romance book by a woman writer. (wrong)
- That I'd never sell it (wrong)
- That there had been an attempt in the 1980's ("Gaywyck" by Vincent Virga) to kick-start such a genre (true)
- but it had fizzled out (wrong)
I had a gut feeling that that gay men would read gay romance as opposed to – or in addition to, gay porn. I read both - why not men? From my fanfiction days I knew that a lot of women liked it, but even there male writers were rare.
When I looked on the net I found one site "Romentics" established by two gay men, Scott and Scott, who were so disillusioned by the paucity of gay romance in the gay fiction world that they decided to start up their own publishing house, and it's doing pretty well, too, by the looks of it. I got in touch with them and they were very helpful. However, even they said that it was difficult to get the stuff accepted by the publishers.
From the first page of Romentics Website:
"Gay men may be more willing than ever to claim their inner Cinderella and read up on Prince Charming. Certainly, most people's everyday lives could use a little more charm and a lot more prince..."
So it was after Standish was released, and when I started to receive emails from male readers, I found they were more than happy to have some romance in their novel.
I punched the air, I felt so bloody amazing. I replied to them, and I voiced my concerns. I couldn't say "Are you gay?" because it seemed rude, although it also seemed rude for me to assume it, too, but I said that I was glad they'd like it, and that I was worried that men wouldn't read it.
"Are you KIDDING?" they said, whole heartedly. "Why wouldn't we read it?" One man, a member of a large internet book club said that he knew at least ten other men who were reading Standish and reading it slowly because they didn't want it to end.
I can understand this, not for any big headed reasons about my book, but merely for the point that the gay historical romance is a rare beastie.
I got talking to a tutor of creative writing - his son was gay - and he often bewailed the fact to his father that there were no gay romance books, no Mills & Boons, no Harlequins, no books where he could read - knowing that gay men like him could find love and end up happy ever after.
Going back a few years, gay "romance" seemed to be separated into distinct categories.
1. Porn (the one handed goodness from publishers like Starbooks)
2. e-books (Lots of it there, with an emphasis on fantasy)
3. High Literature (At Swim Two Boys, The Charioteer, Maurice, Wicked Angels etc)
Thank goodness for them all, say I.
.... But... There was nothing much to compare with "Love's Savage Splendour" or "His Faithful Heart" or whatever. No "formula" (and yes I hate that word too, even though I write romance) romances. There *are*, however a very few writers writing it, but so few of us that each book is snapped up and read voraciously by an eager audience of women who like gay romance, and gay men themselves. Then they wait (im)patiently for the next one to come out. They are active, they share books and recs, they post on Amazon to share their new finds. They are passionate, and there's not enough of it to satisfy their voracious appetites.
Slowly the publishers are catching on. Let's hope that trend continues. In this financial climate, we all need romance - not just the men!