You Can’t Write That!
(R-rated excerpt follows)
By J.S. Wayne
Call me naïve.
What first attracted me to writing was the idea that authors can create and do anything they wish in their own spheres. I’m one of those funny cats who doesn’t have much patience or tolerance for a bunch of stupid rules, and anything that stifles my basic rights as an intelligent human being or my ability to express myself as I deem fitting falls firmly in that category. (I’ll mention the First, Second, and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution en passant; you figure out how they fit.)
When I was a kid, I read Star Trek novels. Yeah, I was a Trekkie. Wanna make something of it? D’o Ha! *Mad bonus points if you have any idea what I just said, or can even identify the language in question. In my own defense, it’s the only phrase from that particular language I still remember.* Many of the better authors, including the inimitable Diane Duane and C.J. Cherryh, were obviously women. (In C.J.’s case, it said so right in her author bio, along with the fact she’s an Okie.) Their gender did not detract from my enjoyment of their work at all, and in some cases actually enhanced it. There are just some things guys generally don’t get, and these ladies brought that missing “something” to my reading table.
So imagine my consternation the first time someone said in my presence, “Women can’t write sci-fi.” Since I had the straight line and we were in the library, I excused myself. In five minutes I was back with an armful of Diane Duane, C.J. Cherryh, Mercedes Lackey, Anne McCaffrey, and Madeleine L’Engle. Plunking the books down on the table so the “sci-fi” stickers on the spines showed proudly, I picked up each one and gave a brief précis of each author’s resume, including awards I was aware they’d won. With every new book, the small crowd got more uncomfortable. The jock (of course) in question just folded his arms and looked mulish.
“Well, that doesn’t prove anything. None of that’s REAL sci-fi.” He huffed. After that, I gave up trying to confuse the issue with facts. Some people just can’t be taught.
That digression is relevant because a very similar debate rages on today, as to what genders and orientations can write what kind of romance novels. According to one school of thought, I’ve broken at least three cardinal rules of writing romance, particularly the homoerotic variety.
Let’s veer back for a second and look at the homoerotic romance offerings I have available at this moment:
“Espiritu Sancti,” from Red Roses and Shattered Glass (f/f vampire/ghost)
Angels Cry (Two of my supporting characters are lesbians)
“Dancing On Flames” (gay werewolves)
“Dead Means Dead,” from Lesbians Vs. Zombies (lesbians)
“A Hope In Hell” from A Light In The Darkness (f/f demon/vampire)
According to my Goodreads backlist, I have nine works currently available. By this list, five of them include or revolve around homoerotic themes. So we know that much. What’s the problem?
The problem, according to the school of thought we’re discussing, is that I’m male (and therefore completely unequipped to write romance of ANY kind; add an automatic second strike if I’m writing about lesbians) and straight (so what do you know about being gay?).
With regard to the first, I find it interesting that people of ANY group who feel they’re discriminated against tend to be the most strident in protesting it and the first to engage in it when a square peg shows up in the vicinity of their round hole. This obviously does not apply to everyone, but those who do it know who they are. If I wrote a story with primarily black protagonists, someone would probably complain because I’m not “black.” If I wrote a story where the antagonist is a gay Sidhe, I’d be slammed for being anti-gay. And writing about lesbians? Well, we’ve already seen I’ve got three strikes in that realm, haven’t we?
With regard to the second, I have my reasons. If you’re curious as to what they might be, see this post: http://kevad-author.blogspot.com/2012/06/cedar-city-author-works-to-write-out.html. But I caution you: before you determine there’s a correlation in my attitudes toward child abuse and homosexuality, think twice. My backlist alone should tell you otherwise, with the application of a little common sense.
So, knowing I have all these strikes against me, why do I keep doing it? Most especially, what makes me, as a straight male, believe I know dick (ahem) about being gay?
Look, I don’t need to let go of a hammer and watch it fall to know it will. I don’t need to see the sky to know it’s blue. I don’t need to stick my hand in a fire to know that if I do, it’s going to burn me. And I don’t have to be female, gay, or lesbian to understand how love works. Love and hatred are arguably the most commonly shared human emotions, which is why the English language has only one word for them. We’ve learned to decipher the type of love or hatred involved from the context of the statement. “I love chocolate.” “I hate broccoli.”
The awkward part of writing m/m for me is making the love the characters share and express believable. Just about everyone probably knows “flamers,” “twinks,” “bears,” “daddies,” and just regular gay guys. I tend to write just regular gay guys. Guys who may not even KNOW they’re gay until the right man comes along. Okay, so far not breaking any new ground. A guy who sees a woman walk by on a busy street and entertains the flash of an idea to run after her and invite her for coffee, or a woman who finally screws up the courage to tell a man how she feels about him, is probably going to feel much the same as a gay man in the same situation, modified gender-appropriately, of course.
Where things get really interesting is when I sit down and try to write the sex scenes. Because I don’t have practical experience with some (well, most) of the ins and outs of male/male sexuality, I have to study up some. A book HC herself recommended to me (the title escapes me right now) was integral to understanding how men’s bodies fit together in an erotic context. I also asked, red-faced and through gritted teeth, several ladies of my acquaintance to give me their perspectives on penetrative sex. To my surprise and gratitude, they were most gracious and accommodating, to say nothing of extremely informative. (I’m not naming names, but the one who enjoys standing on your head . . . I’d’ve never guessed, you little vixen!)
But to me, the biggest test and the part that scared me the most was being able to write something that turned ME on. My litmus test for any sex scene I write is, does it evoke the reaction in me that I’m hoping to garner from my readers? If I don’t have to stop midway through a scene and, er, take a break, it’s because I either wrote the scene deliberately so as not to evoke a strong reaction (she’s about to get hit by a bus anyway, so there’s no sense getting all emotionally invested in her) or because I’ve done something wrong.
In “Dancing On Flames,” I deliberately wrote Russell and Ion’s liaison from the perspective of Ion, who for our purposes here is the “top.” I did this because penetrative sex isn’t something I’ve ever engaged in from the bottom, so I didn’t feel like it was a wise idea to try to explain what Russell was feeling. I can readily describe cunnilingus from the giving end, fellatio from the receiving, and I’ve even gotten over certain unfortunate childhood experiences enough to describe fellatio from the giving angle. But when the two got into the actual act, I kept to what I knew.
And even though I’m straight, that scene and the emotions it inspired still stands as one of my personal top three most erotic scenes I’ve ever written. With the success “Dancing On Flames” has enjoyed, I feel pretty secure (pun very much intended) and justified in keeping Russell and Ion at the top of that particular list.
If a gay man can write straight erotica, if a straight woman can write lesbian romance, or if a female sub can write about a male dom, AND ALL OF IT SELLS!!!, then it only stands to reason that gender biases as encountered around the Internet with regard to who can and should write what make about as much sense as putting screen windows in a submarine. But, hey, if that’s your particular bias, don’t let me kick over your tea wagon. Just don’t be surprised when I keep it coming, day after week after month after year, while the naysayers chant all the ways I’m breaking Da Rules.
After all, according to the laws of aerodynamics, bumblebees should be incapable of flight. Feel free to try to explain it to them, if you wish. Be sure to show them the books. Don’t come bitching to me when you get stung, though.
Bumblebees don’t care that they’re defying the laws of physics as we understand them. They do it anyway.
Conventional wisdom holds that I shouldn’t be writing romance, especially not LGBTQ romance. I do it anyway.
But if you want to keep on thinking the Earth is flat, hey. It’s your party.
Thanks to HC for having me here today! Can’t wait to see all the comments this should generate . . .
Until next time,
More information : http://jswayne.wordpress.com
In the aftermath of a raid on a band of child slavers, Russell and Ion of the Chosen of Fenrir find themselves baring their hearts and souls—and their bodies—to one another. In doing so, they violate one of their clan's most sacred laws: Look not to your own kind for love.
Now, one will lay his life on the line on the Path of the Flame Dance, where the Earth Mother will judge whether the love they have is worthy—or a betrayal of their own blood. The other must watch as his lover walks the fire, or perishes in the attempt.
Stand or fall, the two warriors will never be the same . . . .
"Is that enough?" he asked. "There are still so many things that could go wrong between here and the nearest town. What if we lose one? Or all of them?"
Ion nodded heavily. "Remember what I told you earlier, about how I hoped you'd never understand how I feel?"
"This is how it starts. You care about someone enough to be afraid of losing them." Ion felt a memory surfacing, and spoke quickly to quash it before it could take over, as it usually did. "You do your best, but it's not always enough. That's when you have to remember, you can't control everything."
Russell's voice was low and cold. "I will not let anything happen to these kids. They've already been through something horrible." His hand clenched Ion's as if trying to draw Ion's strength into him. Ion felt his heart stutter and skip at the gesture of trust. "Those kids will make it home."