Women Writing M/M Romance

I interviewed three groups of m/m romance authors at the Romantic Times convention in May, asking the authors primarily the same questions. I let the discussions go in any direction the authors wanted with the idea that the mix of authors would put a different spin and focus on the topic.

Authors Z. A. Maxfield, Mary Calmes, Amy Lane, Anne Tenino, and Josephine Myles gave new insight into why women write gay romance fiction.

Amy began by saying that “love is redemptive” and if any group needs the redemptive qualities of love, it’s gay men.

ZAM agreed, saying that what was missing from the previous fiction about gay men was the happy ending. By writing gay romance, “we’re rewriting the traditional endings the way we want them,” she said.

“Romance itself is the emotional side of literature,” Anne explained. “That’s what we’re bringing to gay fiction.”

Writing about two men falling in love is completely different than the traditional romance. For one thing, both characters are equals, each with his own power.

“In fact, in many ways, I feel like a man,” Josephine stated in her British accent. This realization makes it easier for her to bypass all the traditional tropes found in mainstream romances.

“I’m tired of women’s nasty, mean games, and don’t want to write about them,” Amy added. Backbiting and undermining of friends’ goals and aspirations aren’t often found in gay romance since men are more direct in their interactions.

Mary echoed this thought by saying, “I don’t want to write about bitchy women.”

ZAM said the equality of the partners is much more interesting to her. “There’s an equality at the beginning of the relationship that’s a very powerful dynamic to explore,” she explained.

This power extends not just to the gay couple but to the fans as well.

Mary told about fan response to her writing. One letter was from a husband of a reader who started by saying in capital letters I AM NOT A FAN. The letter went on to say that his love life had improved since his wife had started reading Mary’s books, and he thanked her. He ended the email with I AM NOT A FAN.

As we laughed, everyone wondered if the balance of power had shifted in the non-fan’s marriage.

Pat Henshaw

154 thoughts on “Women Writing M/M Romance

  1. First of all, I read many of these women’s work and I personally knew some of them. I don’t recognize them in these comments, nor I recognize their books. So my question is:

    > Amy began by saying that “love is redemptive” and if any group needs the redemptive qualities of love, it’s gay men.

    who said “if any group needs the redemptive qualities of love, it’s gay men” cause you didn’t quote it, so I suppose it wasn’t Amy.

    > ZAM agreed, saying that what was missing from the previous fiction about gay men was the happy ending. By writing gay romance, “we’re rewriting the traditional endings the way we want them,” she said.

    this can be true, meaning that, aside from some example like Vincent Virga (Gaywick) or Gordon Merrick (The Lord Won’t Mind), there weren’t many happy ending in gay fiction, and romance is all about happy ending; it wasn’t that these women are changing gay romance, it’s that gay romance was really limited before.

    > “Romance itself is the emotional side of literature,” Anne explained. “That’s what we’re bringing to gay fiction.”

    maybe I don’t entirely agree with this comment, even if it’s not romance, gay fiction can be very emotional, even without an happy ending.

    > Writing about two men falling in love is completely different than the traditional romance. For one thing, both characters are equals, each with his own power.

    I suppose this is a comment of the interviewer, but I have to say I agree with that. I was talking with Rick Reed, a man and a gay romance writer, who asked me why I was reading Gay Romance, and I told him that is probably cause I wanted that equal balance of power in the main characters I wasn’t finding in “traditional” romance (even if, sorry, I really hate this “traditional” term, who is saying heterosexual romances are traditional and gay romance aren’t?)

    > “In fact, in many ways, I feel like a man,” Josephine stated in her British accent. This realization makes it easier for her to bypass all the traditional tropes found in mainstream romances.

    well, me too feel like a man sometime.

    > “I’m tired of women’s nasty, mean games, and don’t want to write about them,” Amy added. Backbiting and undermining of friends’ goals and aspirations aren’t often found in gay romance since men are more direct in their interactions.

    Amy isn’t saying she doesn’t write positive women characters, cause she does (I even remember a woman who found out her boyfriend was gay, and boy, was she supportive of him?). So please don’t put words that aren’t hers in her mouth.

    > ZAM said the equality of the partners is much more interesting to her. “There’s an equality at the beginning of the relationship that’s a very powerful dynamic to explore,” she explained.

    Completely agree with ZAM, that is what I think too.

    to end, I agree with many of the other commenters, for being an interview done to so many authors, it’s really strange you managed to cut out so few comments. I’m not saying I like longer blogs, actually I use to skip them cause I don’t have many spare time, so concentration is a good thing, but it seems to me you drove concentration towards a goal that wasn’t reflecting the above authors’ words.

  2. If you want to know what I think of this “interview” (besides that it’s full of crap) is that the author just won. People are talking about it. Lots of people. I think that’s what the author wanted. No matter how you reach celebrity as long as you reach it. Well, you did it! You’re famous. I’m not sure it’s a fame I would like to experience but hey, if you’re happy…
    And for the record, I love all these authors and read lots of their books.
    You’ll have to forgive me English as it is not my first language, but I think you’ll understand what I tried to say.
    You all have a good day, now.

  3. I’m told the writer of this interview is actually a supporter and writer of m/m fiction. If this is so – why was this article so completely derogatory to a genre you are a member of?

  4. Since I have read a liked books but several of the authors highlighted in this post and read their personal blog pages I feel that this presents some great authors in a bad light. It feels like the writer of the blog post had their own agenda.

  5. This article sure caused a ruckus, didn’t it?!
    Prior to this I had no idea why women wrote m/m romance. This is because it didn’t matter to me why. I figured it was because their muse told them to and they loved men and wanted to explore the dynamic in a relationship between two men. That’s wonderful. And as a happy coincidence writing these stories helped normalize m/m relationships. Double wonderful. In fact I’m downright proud of these writers and feel nothing but admiration for them.
    But then I read this article and found out from the quotes that some writers wrote m/m because they’re, “tired of women’s nasty, mean games and don’t want to write about them,” and “don’t want to write about bitchy women” Which translated in my brain to: women suck, so forget them, I’m writing about men. Ouch. Wait a second here- I thought we were all on the same page, writing about romance, furthering the advance of women’s portrayal in literature as well as the portrayal of LBGTQ relationships. Why must we trample one to get to the other?
    So okay, it was pointed out that these inflammatory quotes could be misinterpreted and taken out of context and maybe the article itself is at fault here. Alright. Then Amy Lane (smart, classy lady that she is) wrote a blog entry to explain her views which was linked here and I read because I was really, really hoping it would clear things up for me. Well, to be truthful it still didn’t, but, I can see where Amy is coming from and I respect her point of view. (see Blackjack1 responses, she said it all better than me). I still feel that if you think women are incorrectly portrayed in our genre, then be that agent of change and write the heroines you wish to see and self pub them if you have to! I completely respect wanting to explore the dynamics of power between a m/m couple as opposed to a m/f couple and the freedom there is in throwing out stereotypes. Just please don’t talk poorly about women while you’re doing it! (I’m not referring to Amy when I say that last bit, but to the blog commenters in general- again, Amy is a smart, classy lady who’s opinion I respect. In fact I’m planning on tracking her down at a future rom con and buying her a drink at the hotel bar so we can bond over this. lol).
    One more thing-
    There are quite a few commenters who have basically called people posting here “bitches”. Ugh. Please don’t do that. “Bitchy” is what men call us when we are arguing/debating and have an opinion different than theirs and they don’t like what we’re saying! It makes me sad to see women appropriating this word and using it against each other, picking up where men left off.
    I guess this article set off the sticky intersection between women’s rights and gay rights that we didn’t realize needed to be explored. I’m hoping that our take away from this discussion is that we are still all on the same page. No one is maligning m/m writers or the genre. NO ONE. If I heard anything like that at a rom con, or at my local rwa chapter, or anywhere, I’d be the first person to shut down that bullshit. I can’t even listen to it for half a second. I adore and have befriended m/m romance writers both male and female. I love their books, and their writing is exquisite! Again, I’m just saying, please don’t use women’s portrayal in m/f as a reason to leave the genre- instead help m/f to change! We’ve come a long way already, with your help we can go even farther.

  6. What shocks me most is that a lot of commenters immediately feel offended and imply misogyny. Or fell justified – yes, m/m is obviously bad.

    Geez…no benefit of the doubt with those here.

    On the other hand, readers of those authors are all shocked by this accusations because longtime following of them had shown them to be all very loving, caring and great women, who write great books with wonderful characters, male and female.

    And what strikes me the most interesting is that the author of this article is still missing……

  7. I’ve been a fan and regular reader of AAR longer than I’ve been married – so close to 20 years. The past couple years I have been concerned with the quality of the site but it’s volunteer-based, so I have appreciated the efforts and I keep coming back. I don’t want to be accused of bigotry, back stabbing, nastiness…so I’ll sum up my opinion in 3 words: I miss Laurie!

  8. At first, I was upset when I read this interview. Then I quickly realized that had this been a real interview, Pat Henshaw never would’ve been hired by a decent publishing firm or allowed to conduct an interview in any shape or faction. A reporters first job is to remain neutral and report facts. This is nothing more than the ramblings from the crazy cat lady down the street. If you don’t enjoy books published by women then grow a pair and don’t read them. That’s really hard to follow, isn’t. I’m so tired of these articles! These authors are amazing. They work hard, take time away from their families, and stay up all hours of the night working. They do not deserve to be raked over the coals for be women. Are you 5 and afraid of getting cooties? Grow the hell up and stop posting.

    • Attacking the messenger is not very classy. Also Ms Henshaw is a blogger/reviewer, not a reporter.

      “This is nothing more than the ramblings from the crazy cat lady down the street.”

      Well that’s not sexist or anything, is it?

      “They work hard, take time away from their families, and stay up all hours of the night working.”

      So what?

      “They do not deserve to be raked over the coals for be women.”

      They’re being raked over the coals for being misogynistic and clueless/offensive about gay people. Their gender is irrelevant.

      “Grow the hell up and stop posting.”

      Excellent advice. Why don’t you take it?

  9. The reactions of fans in this thread is even more embarrassing than the words in the article. Pat Henshaw didn’t throw these women under the bus. They said what they said, and it wasn’t good. The rude comments here aren’t doing the authors any favors. If my readers were trying to defend me by calling women bitches and telling them to grow some balls, I would be appalled. I would also step in to stop it.

  10. As a gay man, I can say the opinions expressed in the interview are outrageously ignorant of how REAL gay men and relationships operate.

    ‘Writing about two men falling in love is completely different than the traditional romance. For one thing, both characters are equals, each with his own power.’
    ‘Backbiting and undermining of friends’ goals and aspirations aren’t often found in gay romance since men are more direct in their interactions.

    This is ignorantly generalising at best and at worst a huge insult and disservice to the gay community.
    Real M/M relationships are never ‘equal’, they are diverse, complicated and not just a ‘genre’ the author can appropriate and simplify to suit his/her fetishized fantasies.
    Social politics, bitchiness, manipulation, and every emotion under the sun exists in the gay community. To simplify men as ‘more direct’ to suit one’s idealisations of M/M undermines both the genre and gay community itself.

    If you want to write fantastical gratuitous smut with sexy hotties by all means do so – but as with all genres, to write authentically requires research and an educated insight into the topic.

  11. What I get from this article and a great number of the comments following it are, if you disagree with something said by a woman who writes M/M, you’re disrespecting the entire genre and you’re a meany poopy-head who needs to go read some books by the authors cited. Well, I have and I still find it offensive. I’m a woman who’s WRITTEN M/M and I still find it offensive.

    And no, the fact I’m in possession of a fully-working vagina and dare to disagree with other vagina-ed ones doesn’t mean I’m nurturing a festering ball of internalised misogyny. It means I have a brain of my own which is able to formulate its own opinions.

    The whole problem I have with a M/M author saying “I don’t want to write about bitchy women,” is the assumption “Girl cooties or M/F = bitchiness and snark from all female characters.”

    Hell, some of the worst-written women I’ve ever read have appeared in M/M novels by some pretty big female authors of the genre. Tell me you haven’t read a M/M novel where the ex-wife is a raging harridan who succeeded in turning the hero gay with her self-hating nagging ovaries.

    Yay for demonising the vagina!

    /sarcasm mode off

    (PS: Bit late to the game here; had a Twitter break for over a month so I’m not up on all the drama in the erotic romance world…this discussion illustrates exactly why I’m sick and tired of it.)

  12. By the way, I don’t give a toss if the authors cited are lovely people in real life. I don’t know them. I only read their books, and quotes they give. So that’s how I judge them.

  13. I’m really sorry for cropping up here a THIRD time in quick succession, but I just had to say…

    Any female author of M/M who avoids writing M/F because they believe female characters are automatically bitches, is saying a fuckload more about their own writing abilities than they are about whether or not women are more bitchy in this genre or that.

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