Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Day in the Life

I had a rather interesting conversation the other day and thought I would share. I was speaking with a woman who turned out to be an avid romance reader. The meat of the conversation went something like this:

Me: “Would it surprise you to know that I write romance novels?”
She responded with a snort and a derisive “Yeah, right.”
Me: “No really, it’s true.”
Madam X: “Ok, so tell me about some of your books.”
I proceeded to give her a brief rundown of The Dance, Pixels and Pain, and Tuttle’s House of Horror. Sure I have others, but I figured that was enough to give her a good idea of the range I write in.

Madam X: “Sounds more scary than romantic.”
ME: “Oh, sure I have some dark elements and yes, my characters often experience horrific moments, but they all have a strong romantic element to them.”
Madam X: “I don’t know, that sounds like a perverse mix to me.”
ME: “Think about it… romance really comes down to the bond between two people… what better way to form a lasting bond than through a shared intense ordeal?”
Madam X: “I can think of a few better ways to develop that bond.”
ME: “Ok, there may be better ways, but you can’t deny that people who survive most trauma’s have forged a relationship that will stand the ages.”
Madam X: “If you say so… it still doesn’t make it romance.”
ME: “It does in my books. What’s the point of dragging these characters through the wringer if I can’t give them a happy ending?”
Madam X: “So, you dabble at romance...”
ME: “Ok, my books may not be hard core romances, but I would hardly call what I do dabbling.”
Madam X: “Well, whatever you call it… you’re no romance writer.”
ME: “Excuse me…”
Madam X: “You can’t be…”
ME: “Why the hell not?”
Madam X: “Because you’re a man.”
ME: “So, because I’m a man, I have no idea what romance is?”
Madam X: “Oh, don’t get me wrong, men can be romantic.” She paused to laugh. “It’s the only reason we let you live, but there is more to a good romance novel than the pursuit and the happy ending.”
ME: “Do tell…”
Madam X: “Look what do you think the ration of men to women is when it comes to reading romances?”
ME: “I have no idea.”
Madam X: “Well, I don’t have exact numbers, but I can assure you that the majority of readers are women.”
ME: “Ok, for arguments sake, I’ll give you that.”
Madam X: “The reason men can’t be real romance writers boils down to one thing… sex.”
ME: “I don’t see your point.”
Madam X: “It’s a proven fact that men concentrate more on the mechanics, point A to point B and the visual and physical aspects of sex, where as women are more concerned with the how you make us feel, the desire, the emotional aspect of it all.”
ME: “That’s a pretty sweeping generalization.”
Madam X: “Well, I think if you bother to do a bit of research, you’ll find I’m right. Having said that, when it comes to writing, doesn’t a writer draw on their on experiences to create their stories?”
ME: “I suppose to a certain extent that’s right.”
Madam X: “Then when it comes to writing a love scene, wouldn’t it stand to reason it would be nothing more than an extension of real life? Man takes woman, admires well endowed body, slips part A into part B and so on and so forth, describing the act itself?”
Before I can respond she continues. “I could really give a rat’s ass about what positions they are doing it in, I want to know how she feels about it. I want to feel something emotional when I read about them. I want to be carried away.”
ME: “So, you want to live vicariously through the characters?”
Madam X: “Something like that…”

The conversation went on, but I think you get the gist of it. I never was able to convince her that not everyone fit into her black and white definitions. But she raised some points that had me curious. What are you feelings on men writing romance? Is it just not the same? Are we missing some key aspect? Are we not able to convey emotion as well as a woman? What are your thoughts on the subject?

Oh, and just in the interest of full disclosure, here is a “love scene” from my latest novel Tuttle’s House of Horror as an example. Enjoy…

The radio sprang to life when the engine started. The Dandy Warhols poured from the speakers, crooning a catchy tune called Minnesoter. Ty deftly maneuvered the car in and out of the late evening traffic and onto US 169. Fifteen minutes later they rolled through the outskirts of Owasso and turned on to the back road that would lead them to the overlook, a parking area on the large hill to the East of the city. Just past the lot, the hill dropped off so steeply that it was nearly as sheer as a cliff. At the bottom was the Port of Catoosa, but the view of the city of Tulsa from that vantage was fantastic. The lights lit up the horizon and the cluster of skyscrapers that comprised downtown was like a multi - peaked beacon in the night.

They rolled to a stop in the deserted parking lot and Ty killed the motor. He leaned back, put his arm across the seat and his hand on her shoulder. “So…”
“Oh, wait,” she said, reaching for her purse.

She rummaged briefly and produced a CD case. “Here, put this in.”
Ty took the disc and read the spine aloud, “Kala… by M.I.A.” He flipped it over and appeared to read the track listing on the back. “Oh, yeah! I’ve heard of them.”
He slid the CD into the stereo and the hypnotic beat of Bamboo Banga filled the car.
“Good choice.” He nodded approvingly.
She leaned over in the seat until her face was only inches from his and whispered huskily, “wanna climb in the back?”

“More than anything else in this world,” he said before kissing her tenderly.
“Race ya!” she taunted and clambered through the narrow opening between the headrests and hood.

Ty drove a Chrysler 300, so the car was quite roomy, but when he joined her in the backseat they nearly bumped heads. She was still giggling about the near collision as she nestled down on the leather upholstery. He leaned close, his lips brushed hers, hovered just out of reach, teasing. Her hands roamed down both sides of his chest. She pulled at the hem of his shirt. “Take this off.”

He rose to his knees and bumped his head against the roof. “Could’ve done without that,” he laughed. “Take yours off too.”

They struggled out of their clothes, normal movements hampered by the cramped quarters. Maggie was nearly breathless from the effort when she finally collapsed back on the seat. Ty lowered himself on top of her, a knee on the floor board, the other stretched behind him. She lifted her legs, pressed her right foot against the back window, and locked her left around the headrest on the driver’s seat. Face to face, chest to chest, skin on skin, this was the feeling she wanted… needed to carry her away from her fears.

They fell into an easy rhythm. The car rocked back and forth in time to their gyrations, lending its unique sound to the music that sifted over her as she gave herself to him with utter abandon.

Her mind was set adrift on a sea of pulsing sensations. Her building climax fell into a cycle of ebb and flow. She couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t focus. The pleasure was there, but she couldn’t shake free of intruding thoughts of being in the Tuttle House.

He suddenly switched positions, pushed himself up on his arms, their bodies still joined at the hips. He was a vision. His face wracked with pleasure, his bare chest glistening with sweat, illuminated by moonlight. It was enough. Her fears, reservations and thoughts were washed away in an orgasmic rush. Her body quivered, her eyes closed. When he finally collapsed around her, she lost herself in a wave of post - coital bliss.


Six Sexy Sirens said...

Hi, James! I know three men who write romance, and they are far better at writing the suspense, horror, terror, and intensity stuff. They tend to tiptoe around erotic love scenes, or won't delve into that aspect at all. When sex happens in their books, it is more an 'occurrence' than a natural process. Torrid and sensual is not their cuppa.

The action, intensity, and emotional content of their books are fabulous, but I don't read them for the romance, because it is secondary to the plot. All three of these men are fabulous authors. But I would call their books "romantic suspense" or something other than "romance". Their books are well worth the read, but not from the romance aspect.

The feeling I got from your love scene was that it was simply there to tell us that the two are sexually charged for each other, and that there is a relationship there. The male-female moment in the back seat was humorous. The couple seemed just plain horny, but there was no real sensuality in the scene. It felt like you were holding back the touch, taste, scent, and FEEL of their joining. A lot of men don't feel comfortable with the in-depth sexuality that women love in a scene.

James Goodman said...

Madame X, is that you? lol. Thank you for the input, SSS. I tend to agree with you about the sex scene I provided. I chose that one because it had no real "point A inserts into point B" feel to it. But it seems, I've misjudged the reason I chose it. I'd hoped it conveyed the need rather than the act, and in doing so bring us as readers closer to being in the characters head.

Having said that, nothing I write could ever be classified as purely romance. I definately fall into that romantic suspense/thriller category.

I have written scenes that use all the senses, but it is definately not the norm for me, perhaps I should work on that...

Anny Cook said...

Interesting scene and observations. Personally, I believe a lot of female authors--particularly of erotic romance--become so wound up in describing the physical feelings that the emotions disappear.

I'm not sure that men are any better or worse about describing emotions. I simply think that the male perspective of emotions is different. I've known some very emotional men. And I've known some who would die before they admitted even recognizing such a thing.

Generalizing whether a male can write romance is kind of like generalizing whether a female can write action adventure. Oranges and apples.

There also has to be the DESIRE to convey tender emotions. If the writer truly works to do so, is truly willing to open their heart and soul to do so, then their gender has nothing to do with the end product.

Julia Barrett said...

The truth is, a lot of men do read romance, hence the success of epublishing. My husband likes a well-written romance - not the TSTL variety, but then, I don't like that kind of book either. He gives me some great ideas and he is an extremely macho, but tuned in guy. I think more guys should write romance. As women, we write male characters from our perspective, why can't you write a female character from your? By the way, I like action and I appreciate it when two characters survive a traumatic experience and end up together on the other side. I'm not big on inner dialogue no matter who writes the book.

Mona said...

I don't know... I guess to some extent SSS is right, But it is not always so. I have read some men writing very tender romantic scenes. But women do write them better. Or maybe, I understand them as 'better' being a woman myself. So its a woman's perspective.

I guess its all about perspective, Nothing about being better or worse, since I feel that both male & female perspective4 are slightly different.

& I guess that difference, that mystery is what attract them to each other. Its a need to explore both the minds and the bodies & yes, if you ask a woman, the heart too :)

Mona said...

ah yes! I love the resplendence covers! :D

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