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Articles - Romance
Written by Joyce Lavene   
1999-12-31

Write from the Heart: The Men of Romance


by Joyce Lavene


It is your work in life that is the ultimate seduction.
-- Pablo Picasso

Letís get right down to it. When you think of romance authors, you think of women. And for the most part, itís true. Women write 98% of the books that are published in the romance field. Of course, most of the books are written for a female audience. Itís not a surprising statistic.

But there is a growing, vocal, movement of men who want to be romance authors. Recent letters to the Romance Writers of America forum include complaints from male members that they are excluded in everything from conferences to story lines. Conferences are too female, they say. Editors wonít look at story lines that are written from the male point of view. All they want is to be themselves and write romance. They donít want to hide behind womenís names. They want to be accepted.

Everything changes. With the variety in romance today, itís not inconceivable that there could be stories written exclusively from the male point of view. A quick scan of romances that are out right now show that most are written from both points of view. Most women like to read the male point of view in a story. It shows emotion and depth in the man.

There are no statistics that tell us how many men are out there reading or writing romances. The market could be a viable one. How long will it take to accommodate that sort of change in an established genre? That is anyoneís guess.

For now, thereís Harold Lowry and Jim McBride. Harold Lowry is a male romance writer. He has been for fifteen years. He was the first man to serve as president of a local RWA chapter and the first man to be elected to the RWA board of directors. He is also a very successful romance author with 23 books and three novellas to his credit. He writes under the name Leigh Greenwood but doesnít make any bones about the fact that heís a man who writes romance. "Maybe Iím just unaware, but Iíve never felt out of place."

He started writing when his wife started reading romances and the genre was in the process of becoming what it is today. "I suggested that she try to write a romance." She said she couldnít and suggested that I do it. I said if sheíd give me a plot, Iíd try to write a book. She gave me a line. "Iíve lost everything." 889 pages later, I had finished my first book. It was much too long and badly overwritten. I later sold the first half which became Seductive Wager.

His advice to men who want to pursue a career in this field? "This is not a job to jump into and expect quick success. For 99% of us, it takes years to build even a modest career. If you really love writing-and writing is a profession that needs to be a passion-then you can endure the ups and downs. If your family depends on you for the regular check that pays those monthly bills, think very hard before you plan to quit your job. I donít want to discourage anyone from writing, but I donít want them to think itís easy."

Harold does write from a mixed point of view. Heís not a radical romance writer but letís face it. If there is going to be a man who writes a romance from a manís point of view in the future, it will most likely be a man who already fits into the system and has a proven track record. Itís not impossible to imagine finding a book one day with a banner that touts "Leigh Greenwood writing as Harold Lowry."

His next book, The Winners Circle, is the July launch title for the Kensington Bouquet line.

Jim McBride is more of a maverick in the romance field. He doesnít really see himself as a romance author, although his first book The Clearing was described as a "tender taut tale of love and mystery". His second book, Horsethief Moon was reviewed by Romantic Times, which is a dead giveaway since they only do romance.

Jim writes: "I never gave any thought to what kind of writer I am other than a not very good one or a poor one. I donít think that has much to do with gender. To other men who want to write romance: I would encourage men and women to do what they want in life. My advice: Write from the heart; write what you like. I write about people I know or knew. Memories. There are a lot of great horsewomen out there, who would put many a man to shame. Iím sure the same could be said about male romance writers. I donít think itís unmanly to be sensitive. The soul has no sex."

Jim has worked as a playwright, screenwriter, and actor as well as a novelist. He has just completed a new play, Heartaches and Hailstones, and a novel, Sunrise and Forgiveness.

According to both Jim and Harold, women at conventions are always nice, always helpful. There is never any sense of not fitting in or not being welcome. They are willing to share experiences and give advice. Both men attend conventions (Romantic Times, RWA) and credit the experiences as helpful in their careers.

So, male romance writers: donít give up hope. There is a place for you out there in the romance market. You might have to be willing to work with whatís available right now. You might even have to write under another name. Many authors do write under a pseudonym, even when theyíre women writing romance. The important part?

Harold says: "Love what you do. The sacrifice isnít worth it otherwise. Besides, youíve got to spill your guts everyday. Youíve got to be a little crazy to want to do that."

As any writer will tell you, that about says it all.

-- JL
©1999 Joyce Lavene

Joyce Lavene, with her partner/husband Jim, is the author of three romance novels. She currently writes a romantic travel newsletter as well as a website and newsletter for alternative medicine. She has been the editor of a poetry press and in her spare time has raised three children. Email Joyce at RadMedAlt@aol.com.


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