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Does an Author Have to Live It to Write It?

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This is the third in a three part series of what part the author plays in the marketing of a book. In the beginning of Crystal Hubbard’s book, Mr. Fix It, Hubbard’s heroine suffers a crisis of confidence. She is a romance writer but has stopped believing in love, let alone romance. Because of this, she doesn’t know that she can be a writer of romance books anymore. She feels that she is a fraud, writing about love and togetherness and happy ever after when she doesn’t believe in those concepts anymore.

The question is a great one. Does an author have to be in love to write romance? Extrapolating this a little further, does an author who writes from a male point of view be a man to have an authentic voice; does an author have to be gay to write the m/m books for the stories to be authentically homosexual; does an author have to be married, wildly in love and a parent in order to write romance; does an author have to experience the out of the mainstream lifestyle in order to be able to write about those out of the mainstream activities (I.e., BDSM, threesomes, etc.)   How much of a writer’s real life have to mirror the story in order for the reader to buy it?

First, my own biases. I rarely read books written by men, regardless of genre designation. I’d rather read a female author’s voice whether it is mother/daughter writing team, PJ Tracy, Julia Spencer-Fleming, and JD Robb in the police procedure sub genre or YA or it’s romance. I’ve read men before: Jeffrey Deaver, John Sanford, Thomas Harris, Brett Easton Ellis (I still have nightmares from reading American Psycho), George RR Martin, and a few authors.   But it’s very few.   As an aside, the creepiest books I’ve ever read were by men writing about characters doing horrible things about women.   I stopped reading Deaver after A Maiden’s Grave and the milk/snake/deaf girl scene!   

More importantly, though, I have a bias in that I don’t believe that a man can know, intimately, the female path to self actualization and thus articulate it in an authentic manner even in fiction. I think I can acknowledge from an objective viewpoint that it doesn’t really matter who the writer is as long as the writer is good, but I believe that is why I reject the male author. I believe that they can’t speak to me in a way that another woman can.   I suppose that is how men feel about female authors.   According to John Howell of Waterstone, “Subconsciously, I think men stick to male writers. They think that what women write doesn’t appeal to them.”

This particular study suggests  (word doc) that male readers are more likely to dismiss an author based on gender than women.   (read the quotes, it’s an article in and of itself).   “While 40% of women surveyed said they would read books they believed appealed mainly to men, only 25% of men said they would consider a book they felt was for women.”   In the romance genre, I’m guessing the percentage of women that would pass over an author based on gender would increase otherwise there wouldn’t be a need for the female pen name for male romance authors. Conversely, there are female authors such as Devon Monk and Rob Thurman  or PJ Tracy and JD Robb whose gender seems to be disguised by their pen names to attract a broader male readership.   

There was the discussion on the review by Jayne of Dangerous Ground by Josh Lanyon  as to whether Laanyon was a gay male or whether she was a female author who has created a gay male persona to help sell books. Teddy Pig noted that  

  

I think most people know I am a very nitpicky hardass reviewer who not only reads but likes Gay Romance which is written mostly by women but I also have some experience in the area of Gay Sex and being Gay and I must admit I am far harder in my reading of Gay male writers because I for one expect a Gay writer to have the total experience of being Gay and I guess I expect he probably should be able to riff on all that in unique but realistic ways even in a fictional story.

  

I for one would never say women cannot not write Gay men or even Gay sex well. They probably have to make more of an effort in framing the story and characters to get that authenticity and maybe they should get a little more respect for that when they do it well.

I think what TP said “I expect he should be able to riff on all that in unique but realistic ways” points out what I think is the difference in the authenticity of a story.   Maybe it’s that a female writer writing about love and relationships from a female point of view can be less perfect, less articulate and still evoke a positive response. Maybe it is easier to write at a deeper level if the author has actually experienced what she is writing about and that translates into a reader (like me) thinking hey, this author person really knows what she is talking about even before the book is cracked open.

However, even as I say that I think of Kathleen Gilles Seidel, an author who has made me believe that she must have been an Olympic figure skater (Summer’s End), a soap writer (Again), a famous rock and roll band groupie (Till the Stars Fall), a well connected player in the film industry (More Than You Dreamed), and a former beauty queen (Don’t Forget to Smile) even though her biography states that she has a Ph.D. in literature.   Part of Seidel’s gift is in her details. In Don’t Forget to Smile, the female protagonist thinks to herself how a young beauty queen in the making has to learn to do makeup for black and white stills and how beauty queens are rarely blonde.   In Till the Stars Fall, Seidel includes excerpts from a biography of a rock and roll groupie that sound so authentic that you might as well be reading Rolling Stone.   Summer’s End  has the hero noting that the heroine’s training as a figure skater made her more athletic with better endurance, despite her small stature, than any other adult in the group.   In reflecting on Seidel’s work, I can acknowledge that an author’s background has very little to do with her ability to make a story authentic, yet I am beset with certain prejudices.

The author bio and the author picture all feed into certain bias held by readers.   They are designed to make the book more attractive and appeal to a reader’s desire for purchase.   The author bio might sell to readers that the author is fully in love with her own white knight (you read alot of this in the dedications) and thus her true love story is really from the heart or that she or he has some degree on the subject matter in which she is writing to lend instant authority to the topic (even if there is a better written book by a less credentialed author).   The ironic thing is that the more that an author’s life parallels her book, the less likely I am interested in reading it.   Memoirs make me uncomfortable, I guess.   (Although I love the “Based on a True Story” Disney movies – clearly I am a mass of contradictions).   Generally, when an author’s biography closely tracks that of the storyline, particularly in terms of looks, I’m thinking that the author is inserting herself into the book and I’m reading some strange fantasy.   I guess that is a bit how Robert Pattison feels about Stephenie Meyer’s books.

It’s hard to shake off those biases.   It may be that these bias are inescapable. Over time, they become ingrained beliefs rather than loosely held opinions.    The question might be how much those learned beliefs turn into expectations that effect the reading of the story.   Obviously, my own feelings are conflicted.   I want to not be biased and recognize that I should not be biased but somehow I can’t shake loose of at least the author gender bias (although it doesn’t apply for me in regards to m/m fiction).   

Does it really matter, though?   Should we, as readers, look at the book and solely the book without regard for the author in anyway?   Isn’t that the true reading experience?   To what extent does the author and the author’s experience affect your view of the book?   Does it matter when you find out about an author’s background (either before reading or after reading the book)? What affects you, if anything, the most?   I.e, gender of author, background of author, author looks, author bio?   I’m interested in seeing whether we, as a readership, believe like Crystal Hubbard’s heroine did and that is the author must live it to write it.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

327 Comments

  1. Ann Somerville
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 04:30:44

    Interesting you should mention Lanyon, because I and gay friends of mine are convinced he’s female (despite protestations to the contrary.) I find ‘his’ sensibility in writing m/m identical to other female authors (though this is undoubtedly a talented writer), and very different from gay authors writing gay lit, like Timothy James Beck and Steve Kluger. I see nothing in his writing, no special focus, over what decent female m/m authors have, and moreover, his writing lacks the focus on physical and emotional matters that I see in gay writers. Over and over I’ve read a ‘male’ author and bet myself they’re female (at least chromosomally) and been proved right every time. So either Lanyon’s a woman, or ‘he’ has decided to imitate the female style of gay romance to sell to the primarily female audience.

    Please note – this is not intended to insult Lanyon, though it’s not a practice I care for.

    I don’t believe straight women can write gay lit per se. I believe they write perfectly credible relationship stories, and romance being mostly a fantasy on relationships, being gay isn’t really necessary to make a story appealing. However not many female m/m authors cross over to appeal to gay men – gay friends of mine complain the sex is unrealistic and boring, the guys unlike any gay men they know and so on. Some do cross over, certainly, but m/m isn’t primarily aimed at gay men, so it doesn’t matter that much if it’s not terribly authentic. So long as an author doesn’t delude themselves they’re the genuine voice of gay existence, then no harm is done.

    Interestingly, I believe it’s possible to spot female voices in other genres. When I learned it was highly likely that Dick Francis’s wife had written most of his novels, it suddenly made sense of something I hadn’t understood – why his ‘male’ voice was so very different from the Trevanians, the Alastair MacLeans, Jack Higgins and so on I’d hoovered up. Reading Francis’s novels now, you can see how the most intense relationships and characterisations are of men – they’re tremendously slashy in fact :) I could be talking out my backside, but I do believe they’re written by a woman.

    I don’t expect an author to have a professional background in the subject they’re writing about. I don’t have a gender bias in what I read, though I mainly read female authors now simply because we dominate m/m writing. In science fiction, the gender of the author is the last thing I notice.

    I think the key for any author is extrapolation. I’ve never had a child or lost one – but I’ve lost relatives and friends, so I can build on those emotions. If I had never suffered grief, I don’t know if I could write it credibly. Same as I doubt I could write about being in love if I’d never experienced because it’s such a unique, overwhelming insanity. I’ve never read convincing erotica written by confessed vrigins, though I’m told over and over it exists (the examples I’m then shown are usually horrible.) But I don’t need to be abducted by a desert prince to imagine what that might be like :) I tend not to write detailed child characters because I don’t know any children and have never been close to any after I became an adult, but that’s more because children in m/m stories tend to lead to sappiness.

    This also brings us back to the concept of whether people lacking empathy, who are sociopaths or psychopaths can write convincing romance. In my personal experience of these people, yes they can. They’re extremely good mimics and fakers. There’s no reason why someone who is not pathological couldn’t learn to do the same thing – and as many a man has done in writing romance, they do.

    You can drag the lower right hand corner of the comment box to expand its size.

    Not in Firefox 3 on a Mac you can’t :(

  2. Mrs Giggles
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 06:56:36

    Romance isn’t the most realistic depiction of love and marriage, so I’d say that the success of a good romance doesn’t lie in how real the depiction of the idealized love is as much as it depends greatly on how well the author sells the fantasy to the reader. Whether this is through good comedy, well-done tearjerker melodrama, or both, I doubt the author’s real life knowledge of HEA has anything to do with it.

    Sex scenes are a different matter – not that I am saying authors have to experience the whole nine yards to write about them, but when the authors get simple things like the location of the clitoris wrong, that’s when we have a problem.

    I don’t care about the background of the author. She can be a multiple divorcee but it won’t have me thinking that she can’t write a good romance because of her divorces. It’s not as if she’s selling me motivation books on how to make a marriage work, after all. Romance is fiction.

    About women writing MM romances, I am not too concerned about the authenticity of sex scenes at the moment as much as I wish more of these authors will STOP making their male characters come off like women. I wish authors who excel in writing male voice, such as Rachel Gibson, would give these MM authors a class or two. At the moment, so many “guys” are running around psychoanalyzing their feelings like guests on Oprah.

  3. Jayne
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 07:53:18

    This comment might veer slightly off topic.

    As an aside, the creepiest books I've ever read were by men writing about characters doing horrible things about women. I stopped reading Deaver after A Maiden's Grave and the milk/snake/deaf girl scene!

    Recently I got an suspense arc written by a male author that looked interesting. I started flipping through the first chapter and quickly saw that this was part of a series and that in previous books the hero’s former wife had been brutally murdered while his current lover/girlfriend had been savagely attacked and nearly killed. It was at this point that I said, “screw this. I don’t want to read any more books in which most of the female characters are raped, attacked, savaged, killed, etc. ” Why do male authors feel the need to treat their female characters this way?

  4. Moth
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 08:02:42

    As far as women liking male authors, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett are two of my most favorite authors. But they’re not exactly writing romance novels. They’re not even writing “man books” per se. I think I would be disdainful of a man writing a romance novel. The same way my boyfriend doesn’t really understand the romance novel.

    I don’t know that most men can “get” what love and marriage really mean from a woman’s perspective. The same way I’m not sure women always understand a male perspective of the same. Even as I say this I am fairly certain there are exceptions. I know I think Bujold writes damn good men and their points of view seem believeable to me. But then I don’t have a penis and I haven’t gotten the boyfriend to read one of her books yet.

    As far as an author bio turning me off to the book I also dislike it when the author bio too closely mirrors what is being billed as a novel (as opposed to oh, a memoir). I mean, as an aspiring author myself I have to say there is usually a little bit of self-insertion but only small stuff, little details like Crusie using her real-life pets for inspiration. Or taking the experiences of a bad break-up and fictionalizing that for your novel.

    Stuff like that’s fine and adds to the book, I feel (as long as you do NOT make the fictional boyfriend the carbon copy of the real life ex). But if you’re a thirty year old divorcee with two small children, a heart-shaped face and wavy brown hair I’d rather your heroine not be a twenty-nine year old divorcee with a small child, a heart-shaped face and straight brown hair. D’you see? It comes off as, dare I say it, a little pathetic? And, further, it squicks me out to read love scenes when I’m picturing the author as the heroine. I also think you can usually tell when this is occurring, even without the bio or the picture to clue you in. Might be wrong, though.

  5. Moth
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 08:04:41

    Did my comment get eaten?

  6. Nora Roberts
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 08:09:23

    I think writer is a word without gender, and a good writer observes, absorbs, hopefully empathizes then translates that into character and story.

    You don’t have to do or be or have experienced, traveled to, but you have to imagine all of that, very well–and believe it completely during the bubble of the work.

  7. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 08:27:08

    That’s a really interesting question. There definitely seems to be the idea out there that all writers should be qualified for what they write about.

    In general, I’m with those who’d say ‘write what you know’, but one certainly wouldn’t expect a mystery writer to go out and kill a few people so they can write convincingly from inside the head of a killer. Consequently, expecting a romance writer to be happily married/in a relationship seems really weird to me.

    I believe with good research one can write about things one hasn’t experienced, be it police procedurals, relationships, far future societies, historical lives.

    Most erotic romance writers I know personally have said that no, they have not done all the things their characters do and how incredibly annoying it is that many readers equate their lives with their characters’.

    Some authors are more successful at writing about things they haven’t personally experienced than others and some things I may not recognize as inauthentic as a reader because I lack familiarity (kids for example, since I don’t have any, although I occasionally notice kids that seem *very* precocious).

    I read almost exclusively female authors and I think that in at least one case I didn’t enjoy romances as much because the author was male which I found out only after complaining that there was something just not quite right in these books.

    I definitely am harder on an author who has qualifications and still gets things wrong (Eloisa James with a PhD, who seems to be thanking (blaming really?) her research assistant in her acknowledgments); I have to say there’s something really wrong about a historical romance writer with a PhD in English literature who can’t be bothered to do her own research!

    On the authenticity of males written by women, I’m leaning towards the fantasy element. I really don’t want ‘real’ males who don’t ever talk about their feelings; I like to cling to the idea that there are guys out there who are willing to share what’s going on inside them, so I have never had issues with guys who come across as ‘females with penises’ to others.

    I’ve seen this accusation leveled at some of my favorite SF and romance authors and I’ve always kind of gone, ‘huh, really? I didn’t see that.’ Maybe I’m just too naive.

    Overall, how successful a writer is for me depends on the amount of work they put into their details and how much I as reader know about the environment, professions, emotions, and relationships described.

  8. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 08:31:49

    Hmm, my comment got eaten, too! :(

  9. Jennifer Estep
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 08:35:22

    I agree with Nora about what a good writer does.

    Male, female, gay, straight, an alien from another planet — I don’t care who they are. If they can tell a good story, then they’ll get my money and reading time. I read tons of male authors — Robert Parker, Donald Westlake/Richard Stark, Ian Fleming, David Eddings, Terry Brooks, etc. — not because they are or aren’t writing about women but because I like the stories they tell.

    As for whether you have to be married, etc. to write romance, I don’t think so. The main thing is to have a great imagination and be able to translate what’s in your head into book format. I also think you have to be empathetic too — you really have to be able to put yourself in another person’s head and imagine what their life/thoughts/feelings are like. But this goes for any book/character an author would write.

    In the end, though, it really comes down to the author and what story he/she wants to tell. It may sound cliche, but the more excited/interested/invested an author is in a story, then the better it will be because they have a passion/enthusiasm for it. And that’s what I’m ultimately interested in — reading (and hopefully writing) good stories.

  10. Jane O
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 08:37:54

    I don’t think an author must have personal experience of the subject matter -‘ in fact, it may be preferable that an author not have such experience. Think of all those dreadful semi-autobiographical first novels out there. What an author needs is the imagination and empathy to make the characters, setting and story convincing.

    That said, I suspect there are limits to what empathy can achieve. Didn’t Jane Austen say something to the effect that she never had scenes in which men conversed with no women present because she didn’t know how men talked when there were no women present?

    Also, I have found that my husband and I tend to find different things problematic. He is apt to find male characters created by female authors unconvincing, and I am apt to find female characters created by male authors unconvincing.

    Of course, there is the enormous popularity of books about vampires, shape-shifters, etc. Ought one to be nervous about attending gatherings of authors?

  11. Selene
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 08:39:42

    Interesting subject. I think that, in general, readers are very quick to assume things about authors based on their characters. Too quick, perhaps. (Or, as a writer friend of mine once put it: whichever character you would least like to be identified with, that’s the one readers will assume is your alter ego.)

    I don’t think you need to have personal knowledge of something to write it. The basis of writing is emotion. If you have at some point felt hate or love or disappointment or what have you, you have all the foundation you need. The rest is research, imagination, and, most of all, a willingness to step into someone else’s shoes. (And of course, skill enough to bring the whole thing alive on the page. :))

    Some characters will always be more difficult to write than others. I’d personally have a hard time pulling off a deeply religious character, for example, and I know it would take a lot of work on my part to put myself into the proper mindset to write such a character with honesty. (Another key ingredient to good characterizations.) I think, overall, it’s too easy to bunch writers together by gender. I’d say a modern American man has far more in common with a modern American woman than he would have, say, with an English farmer from 1750.

    As to the authors behind the books I read, I prefer not to know anything about them. Sure, when I love a book I’ll sometimes look the author up to find out more. This tends to backfire more often than not–I’d rather not know the author of an uplifting tale I just read committed suicide last year, for example. Or that the author is really arrogant. Or that he or she has some political agenda I totally do not agree with.

    In other words, I’d rather have separation of artist and art, and the best way to achieve that is not knowing too much about the former.

    Selene

  12. Joyce Ellen Armond
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 09:04:43

    Thomas Harris wrote Clarise Starling, one of my favorite characters. He captured the tension between trying to fit in professionally in a male-dominated situation and the need to express feminine facets of personality.

    And Bujold, as mentioned, wrote some of my favorite heros in The Curse of Challion and The Hallowed Hunt.

    I had a friend ask me if a female author could have written at the ending of the novel Hannibal. I said of course. What happened to Starling was consistent with her character and internal needs. But my friend insisted that the ending betrayed women as heroines, and few female writers would do that. I still think she’s completely wrong.

  13. Keishon
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 09:12:46

    I don’t think I have biases but I do have some expectations. Historical fiction novelists I _expect_ to have degrees in history because that’s a genre I think requires it, quite frankly.

    I gravitate towards men and women in mystery but in romance, I prefer a female voice. I thought David Payne, a southern writer of one of my favorite southern romances, EARLY FROM THE DANCE, did an excellent job of writing with a female voice.

  14. Teddypig
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 09:34:06

    review by Jayne of Dangerous Ground by JL Langley

    Dangerous Ground is written by Josh Lanyon not J.L. Langley.

    J.L. Langley is definitely a woman and straight and a very good writer of M/M Romance and also a friend of mine.

  15. Lori
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 09:40:58

    How many teachers have started off their students writing by saying “Write what you know.”

    Obviously there are some writers who can write 8 foot insects on the planet MRRGH! and make them sympathetic and fascinating characters. But let a writer write something you, the reader, have experienced first hand and not write it to your experience and see that book make a dent in your wall.

    I love when Jayne Ann Krentz has written books based in Seattle; she knows the city and catches the ambiance of it and I live here and know of what she writes. But a writer who has never been here and just writes about the constant rain, I question that they’ve seen the glorious evergreen part of the state that exists because of that rain.

    And that can echo in certain emotional sentiments too. Authors who write children as angels forgetting the tantrumming side, men written as women with a penis…

    I don’t believe an author has to live it to write it but I actually do think sometimes it makes for better writing. JMO

  16. Jane
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 09:42:43

    @Jayne: I wonder if it is the genre. Karin Slaughter does horrible things to her female characters. Perhaps it is just easier to victimize women to generate horror or dismay or some other strong emotion.

    @Nora Roberts: The concept of writer being genderless is a great one, but one that is apparently hard to overcome. I think that there is something ironic in the separation of the author and the book when it comes to genre fiction. What I mean by that is when I studied literature and art in college (and philosophy as well), we always studied the time period, the political and social influences of the day, and the personal life of the author/artist. We were asked to contemplate, in a way that I think would be viewed as totally inappropriate, about the author/artist’s personal life, relationships, influences on world view.

    @Jane O: The Jane Austen antidote is pretty fascinating. I think I remember reading an article about Jane Austen on the speculation of her love life and how there is a romanticization of her relationships with some men as a way to explain her writings.

    @Ann Somerville: I think I am understanding you to say that at least for m/m fiction that a straight woman can’t write an authentic experience, that she can only mimic? I suppose that is what non transgendered women are doing when they are writing from a male POV – a sort of mimic?

    @Mrs Giggles: I think it was Dr. Vivivanco who noted in one of the previous conversations how many times female writers get the placement of the hymen incorrect. It’s like one of those urban myths read in one romance story and then retold in a thousand more until it becomes a truth unto itself.

    As to your point about Romance being unrealistic, that’s true, to some extent. But I think romance, at least the core of it, is about the retelling of a universal experience of falling in love.

    @Moth: I’m totally squicked out if I think that I am reading some author’s fantasies (particularly if I’ve met them before – even worse). The idea of an erotic memoir I find even more distasteful. It’s too invasive, I think. I don’t know exactly.

    @GrowlyCub: I do think it is odd that James doesn’t do research for her own books! Does she just have the RA fact check perhaps?

    @Selene: We readers probably do assume things. Perhaps its because we’ve heard of the mantra, “write what you know” so the more authentic the voice sounds in a particular area, the quicker we are to assume that the author has personal experience in that regard?

    @Joyce Ellen Armond: You are right re: Harris’ rendition of Clarice Starling and her struggle for acceptance within a male dominated sub culture. Having not read Hannibal, I can’t comment on whether his ending was a disservice to females. Harris is one author who spreads his violence fairly amongst genders.

    @Keishon: I’ve never read Payne. Did you do a review on it and I totally whiffed?

  17. Ann Bruce
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 09:55:52

    It’s called fiction, right? I don’t need to actually kill someone to write about it.

  18. Laura Vivanco
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 09:58:11

    I think it was Dr. Vivivanco who noted in one of the previous conversations how many times female writers get the placement of the hymen incorrect. It's like one of those urban myths read in one romance story and then retold in a thousand more until it becomes a truth unto itself.

    I did discuss it in passing at Teach Me Tonight. I quoted from Kalen Hughes, who’d written about the issue at the History Hoydens’. I may have mentioned it in conversations here, but I can’t remember.

  19. Jane
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:01:58

    @Ann Bruce: There was a Tiffany White category, or maybe Elise Title, which featured a mystery writer heroine who was at a bar trying out various methods of killing people like dropping a drug in someone’s glass. The hero is watching her and tries to stop the drink from being consumed by her “victim”.

  20. Alyssa Day
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:03:14

    >>Does an author have to be in love to write romance? <<

    This is interesting – I had a romance writer friend whose marriage was disintegrating in a bitter way and she became totally unable to write. She didn’t believe in happy-ever-after any more and so she couldn’t write it in a believable way. Her characters became more and more bitter and she eventually dropped out of writing romance altogether.

    Imagination and careful research can fill in details – I’ve actually had people ask me for help getting into the television industry after reading American Idle; they thought I must have insider knowledge. But basic worldview and belief in love and happy endings? Maybe that *is* a necessary ingredient.

  21. Selene
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:04:27

    Jane–

    “Write what you know”–gah, I hate that phrase! I think it is often misinterpreted, and causes beginning writers to think they must write a novel about a timid housewife and her daily life (or whatever), just because that happens to be what they know best.

    I think it would be better to say not “write what you know” but “know what you write”. Ergo, if you need to do research, get moving, but write what you are passionate about and what moves you, not what you happen to know a lot about already.

    Selene

  22. Moth
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:06:02

    I can’t get my head around someone not doing their own research! How then do you stumble across those little nuggets of detail that spark inspiration? I love finding stuff like that, I can’t imagine leaving it to someone else.

    Also, if you’re not fascinated enough by the subject to do your own research on it maybe you shouldn’t write a book about it? I suppose she might be too busy to do it herself but really…wow. Just wow.

    (Glad to see my first comment ended up not-eaten after all :D)

  23. Laura Baumbach
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:09:57

    I recently attended a booksigning for a fellow author in San Francisco at one of the popular leading gay bookstores in the country, A Different Light. The book buyers there are overwhelmingly gay men.

    While discussing the books carried in the store with the manager he informed me that his top 10 best selling authors in the entire story, in any genre, were women authors. His top three sellers were female authors of M/M erotic romance.

    Book sales speak to the facts. Skilled female authors writing M/M works just find for a lot of gay men.

  24. Moth
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:12:56

    “Write what you know”-gah, I hate that phrase!

    I concur. There’s a great quote from Ursula LeGuin:

    “As for ‘write what you know,’ I was regularly told this as a beginner. I think it’s a very good rule and have always obeyed it. I write about imaginary countries, alien societies on other planets, dragons, wizards, the Napa Valley in 22002. I know these things. I know them better than anybody else possibly could, so it’s my duty to testify about them. I got my knowledge of them, as I got whatever knowledge I have of the hearts and minds of human beings, through imagination working on observation. Like any other novelist. All this rule needs is a good definition of ‘know.'”

    I agree with the person who said it’s about writing with honesty- whatever you write. If you can have something come from an honest, legitimate, imaginative place then you can write anything.

  25. Kathryn Smith
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:24:55

    I don’t think you have to live it to write it, but you have to believe it. You have to be able to imagine it. In that respect I can see how someone who is going through a bitter divorce might not be able to find it within herself to write romance in such circumstances.

    As for male or female preference in authors, I’ll read both. But I’m also biased in that I prefer romance to be written by a female author. I also prefer YA by female authors. Mystery and horror I can go either way, the same for sci fi and fantasy. My husband and I listen to Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman audio books when we’re driving — it’s great to share the stories.

  26. Anne Douglas
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:31:17

    I’ve taken the ‘write what you know’ adage to mean that I should use my experiences – be they everyday or extraordinary – to colour my work by giving it depth. Show, not tell, I guess. The little things, like say my protags walk into an old church and they are admiring the stained glass windows and one of them notes how the glass has run/rippled and is showing its age (because glass is not solid, as you might think – it just moves very, very slowly). Or maybe he is bemoaning the bugs invading his lawn, or she does something quirky like makes her own sausages.

    Okay, they all sound like bizarre little points all by themselves, but put them in context and its these little things that can really make the experience for the reader.

    So no, I might not write a heroine in the process of procrastination as I always seem to be, but I do write in little things… such as those above.

    (yes, we make our own sausages, and they taste damn good, too!)

  27. Marianne McA
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:32:18

    I read more female writers than male writers – but I think that’s because I read more books from genres dominated by female writers.
    But at least half of my favourite writers are male. While on occasion I’ve felt that disconnect with a male writer – especially with bad action adventure, where the women tend to be beautiful and easy, and then die – it’s no more than the disconnect you get with bad romance, where the men tend to be beautiful and articulate, and then marry.

  28. Ann Bruce
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:33:30

    There was a Tiffany White category, or maybe Elise Title, which featured a mystery writer heroine who was at a bar trying out various methods of killing people like dropping a drug in someone's glass.

    Ugh.

    It always bothers me for writers to feature writer heroines or heroes. I can’t help but wonder if they’re writing about themselves. As for the above, that’s a little disturbing and not the norm. Writers, despite what we tell you about the voices in our heads, are generally sane.

    Personally, if I want first-hand accounts of things outside of my experiences, I just corner friends and friends of friends, like retired undercover DEA agents, and pick their brains.

    As for “write what you know”? Blah. Never underestimate the power of research. I had a woman tell me after reading one of my scenes that she had to simply get in her car and drive to the beach because the setting, the sights, the sounds, the scents were exactly like I’d described. She lived in a part of Canada I’ve never stepped foot on.

  29. Nora Roberts
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:34:38

    I’m baffled by the ‘write what you know’ business, and have always found it limiting. I’m more a write what you what to find out sort.

    Jane, for me the genderless writer is more in the process than in reader bias or expectation. I don’t think hey, I’m a girl so I write this when I’m working. I just think about the character–whoever they are. For me, it’s all about getting to know the character–whoever they are–to understand them, care about them (even the bad guys). Then, it just doesn’t matter if I’m writing from a male or female POV.

    Absolutely nothing I can do about what the reader brings with him or her into the story. Once the reader opens the book, the book is his or hers.

  30. MS Jones
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:43:09

    Hmm – not sure what to think – some of the best stuff I’ve ever read was written by people who didn’t live the life. Jane Austen never experienced an HEA. Annie Proulx never had a m/m relationship. Shakespeare was never a king.

    Then there’s people who have experienced all the above but can’t write worth beans.

    Mostly it doesn’t matter to me, although some authorial history can color my reading of the text – like the whole Alice/Lewis Carroll thing putting a different spin on the rabbit down the hole imagery, not to mention the slithy toves gyring and gimbling in the wabe.

    I don't want to read any more books in which most of the female characters are raped, attacked, savaged, killed, etc. Why do male authors feel the need to treat their female characters this way?

    It isn’t just the male authors; it’s all over romantic suspense, too. I really like Brockmann, but Into the Storm had a serial killer who had offed 20 or so women in the most horrible way.

    Maybe the Ja(y)nes could do a post about upping the romantic suspense body-count ante. I’d rather read 20 gratuitous sex scenes than read about 20 gratuitous murders.

    What is it about the public that people are more grossed out by graphic sex than by graphic violence?

  31. Anne Douglas
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:45:35

    I just had a thought:

    You know nothing about everything…until you research it, and then you can write what you now know.

  32. Jenre
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:50:02

    I read a mix of male and female authors. Most of the romance I read comes from female authors because, as was said previously, the genre is dominated by them.

    I’d like to read a historical romance written by a man, just to see if there is a great difference in the way that the characters are portrayed. Much of the historical fiction I read by male authors such as Bernard Cornwell tend to be focused on action or battles and the relationships are relegated to ‘evil women spies’ or are used to provide sexual relief for the male protagonist.

  33. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 10:51:45

    by Laura Vivanco November 18th, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I think it was Dr. Vivivanco who noted in one of the previous conversations how many times female writers get the placement of the hymen incorrect. It's like one of those urban myths read in one romance story and then retold in a thousand more until it becomes a truth unto itself.

    I did discuss it in passing at Teach Me Tonight. I quoted from Kalen Hughes, who'd written about the issue at the History Hoydens'. I may have mentioned it in conversations here, but I can't remember.

    My pet peeve . . . my new one is women writing about uncircumcised men when they’ve clearly never encountered one. HINT: The foreskin doesn’t peel back from an engorged penis like the plastic wrap on an English cucumber. I have serious trouble with some of the historical erotic romance out there because the authors just don't grasp Anatomy 101.

    And don't get me started on the lack of understanding of how the clothing went on and off, how hoops work, how corsets open and close, etc.

  34. Teddypig
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 11:10:52

    The 3 Simple Top Reasons Teddypig likes Josh Lanyon…

    * No Chicks With Dicks or Stupid Stereotypes as characters.

    In Josh’s supreme series The Adrien English Mysteries the two romantic heroes are…

    Adrien English, short, scrawny, even physically fragile and relies heavily on his intelligence rather than physical abilities and seems to have no real solid connections to the surrounding Gay community in LA and I think he has serious relationship issues.
    BUT! He is not effeminate, swishy, affected, or constantly in some weak damsel in distress mode.

    Jake Riordan on the other hand is big, strong, alpha, straight acting in extreme and seems to have a lot of friends and sexual contacts in the Gay community and let’s face it folks he is a cop and let’s just say from having run into a few in my life Gay Cops are a little um shell shocked up there if you get my drift.
    BUT! He is also homophobic, dark, hard drinking, self denial queen supreme, who is also physically violent and a lying sack of shit who not only dates but then marries a woman.

    Now if you as a man or a woman were writing an easy formula Gay Romance would you or anyone else even go near these characters as your Romantic Heroes? Probably not. That is the genius to The Adrien English Mysteries because it is a Gay Mystery series with strong Romantic Elements.

    * This is not a OK Homo World.

    Even though it is fiction The Adrien English Mysteries are not set in an OK Homo World where all the characters presented are either Gay or Gay Accepting. In fact the main obstacle in Jake and Adrien’s relationship is Jake would rather not be Gay. In fact he does everything in the series to undermine any chance of a HEA Gay Relationship because inside he has to reject who he is to be a real man.

    * Gay is a spice of life not the whole enchilada.

    At no time in Josh’s narrative are we forced into paragraph upon drawn out paragraph of “WHAT IT MEANS TO BE GAY”. You want my biggest harshest criticism of Gay Romance? Gay people do not sit around defining themselves this way even in thought. They live their fucking life and happen to be Gay. This does not mean we do not have battle scars. Jake and Adrien obviously do. We just do not sit around contemplating our navels questioning what it means to be who we are. Do you sit around defining what it means to be a woman? Or do you just live your life as best you can?

    As far as the whole line of questions, is Josh Lanyon a woman?

    As with the whole Prop 8 stuff… Why does it fucking matter to you so much? Who does it hurt if he is? Why is this such an important issue?

    Review the writing not the writer.

  35. Jane
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 11:19:17

    @Teddypig: What does Prop 8 have to do with this discussion in any way at all? I know that is an important issue to you but it seems a total non sequitur. As for why it “fucking” matters, I don’t know if it does but apparently, if Lanyon is a woman, then it matters enough to create a faux persona in order to gain authenticity through the personality which I find to be an interesting concept. It’s no different to me than a man writing romance under a female persona (which is different, in my opinion, than a pen name).

  36. Victoria Dahl
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 11:39:31

    I am not a romantic person in the traditional sense. My husband and I forgot our anniversary two years in a row. We were very proud that we remembered it this year, as it was the big 10-year-anniversary (according to him, anyway. I can’t keep track of these things.) But then we had to get out our marriage license to check the date. I said it was the 21st and he said it was the 20th. It was the 22nd. D’oh!

    But I do name my husband as my Prince Charming in my bio, even if that is totally cheesy romantic crud. Because for me love and happily-ever-after is not about flowers and hearts… It’s about true respect and regard. That’s not something I could have written about (credibly) in my younger years. So in that respect, I do think I have some sort of authority in my own writing. BUT (and that’s a big but) it doesn’t really have to do with being in a healthy relationship right at this moment. It has to do with knowing who I am. Even if I went through an ugly divorce, I’d still know what love is for me.

    Not sure this makes any sense, but I’m gonna post it anyway. Booyah.

  37. Teddypig
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 11:43:18

    What does Prop 8 have to do with this discussion in any way at all? I know that is an important issue to you but it seems a total non sequitur. As for why it “fucking” matters, I don't know if it does but apparently, if Lanyon is a woman, then it matters enough to create a faux persona in order to gain authenticity through the personality which I find to be an interesting concept. It's no different to me than a man writing romance under a female persona (which is different, in my opinion, than a pen name).

    Because as a Gay man to me the underlying argument is about equality.
    Because I do think in some ways there is a line being crossed here.
    There is a public accusation being made about Josh Lanyon without grounds for doing so.

    To me wondering if a woman could ever write as well as a man in any genre is as silly as wondering if a straight person could ever play a gay character in a movie.

    Not only has it been done already but there have been major mainstream awards given out for it.

    Review the writing not the writer.

  38. Lori
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 11:48:08

    Even writing what you know is still going to be filtered through your own personal perception. So if you’re a deep sea diver writing about deep sea diving, there’s still the aspects of the experience that work for you or are difficult that will probably be what your character experiences also.

    I see nothing wrong with Write What You Know because it doesn’t have to be taken so literally. But it does suggest that sometimes the best thing a writer can do is pull from themselves.

  39. Jane
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 11:50:10

    @Teddypig:

    How is this about equality? Not everything is a slur against gay people and certainly not this post, although you are free to take it as such which totally derails any honest discussion as to why subterfuge is necessary in order to be taken as an authentic voice in any experience. Authorial identity is not the sole province of m/m fiction. Many people have speculated as to the gender of Lisa Marie Rice.

  40. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 11:56:33

    I think Mrs. Giggles’ comment:

    I'd say that the success of a good romance doesn't lie in how real the depiction of the idealized love is as much as it depends greatly on how well the author sells the fantasy to the reader.

    and NR’s comment:

    I think writer is a word without gender, and a good writer observes, absorbs, hopefully empathizes then translates that into character and story.

    Pretty much sums up my feelings on this topic. I don’t need to indulge in a menage relationship to write about one, nor do I need to go out and kill a person to write about a murder taking place. It takes an imagination, observation skills, etc.

    I don’t really want to be able to ‘connect’ with the author as I read. I want to be able to connect with the characters.

  41. Sarah Frantz
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 12:09:09

    Sigh. Jane Austen. Okay, yes, there is a rumor that Jane Austen never wrote any scenes without any women present. Not true. Mostly true, TBH, but not all true. There’s a scene in Mansfield Park in which Edmund, his father, and his brother discuss the play staged at MP after Sir Thomas (the father) comes home from Antigua. There’s one other somewhere, but that’s the one I can remember.

    As for her having been in love in order to be able to write about it. Personally, I think she does a fabulous job of writing about relationships, but not so hot with the actual process of falling in love. Anathema to say so, I know, but think about it….there’s always been speculation about Elizabeth’s feelings for Darcy and when and why she fell in love. Anne and Wentworth in Persuasion are the best, IMO, and that letter is one of the most romantic things ever written, but up until then, she hadn’t really shown true, lasting, believable love.

    And whether the current crop of films about her live tell us anything about her? Remember, they’re ALL FICTION. Totally made up. Pure speculation. Very little to do with reality.

  42. Jill Myles
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 12:29:08

    @Kalen Hughes:

    My pet peeve . . . my new one is women writing about uncircumcised men when they've clearly never encountered one. HINT: The foreskin doesn't peel back from an engorged penis like the plastic wrap on an English cucumber. I have serious trouble with some of the historical erotic romance out there because the authors just don't grasp Anatomy 101.

    Ha! This also brings to mind the whole ‘Virginity’ myth that is constantly perpetuated — that it’s some sort of plastic-wrap like membrane INSIDE your vajayjay that only a mighty peen can bust open (after butting against it, of course).

    Which makes me wonder. All of us were virgins once and the vast majority of romance authors are female, and yet this is portrayed incorrectly 9 times out of 10. We lived it, we wrote it, but we’re…writing it wrong? How terrible is it that we don’t even write our own anatomy properly?

  43. Teddypig
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 12:30:34

    honest discussion? Gossiping about Josh Lanyon’s private life is honest discussion?

    *headdesk*

  44. Jaci Burton
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 12:30:52

    I never think about the gender of the author when I’m reading–unless they screw it up. Then it takes me out of the story. If a female author can’t write a male POV, or vice versa, then epic fail.

    Really, as a writer, it’s all about living in your imagination, when your fingertips (or pen) becomes the characters, the scene, the storyline. We can’t possibly write entirely what we know or the books would be boring (at least mine would). We write what we imagine, what we research, and also to the extent of where we’re able to go.

  45. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 12:31:56

    Okay, wait: Eloisa James has a research assistant?! Seriously?

    There’s a version of this inquiry that occurs in literary studies,
    especially around figures like Emily Dickinson — that is, the
    persistent need to make them lonely spinsters who never knew a man’s
    (or woman’s) erotic touch. With Dickinson, it’s becoming clear that
    such a thesis has resulted in the ignoring and suppression of
    some good evidence that she was no stranger to love or passion.
    So these questions — what gender is the writer in RL, what is their
    experience, etc.– are not limited to Romance by any means. Although
    what happens with the inquiries might vary from genre to genre. And
    what we’re looking for when we ask them is of real importance, IMO.

    And am I the only one who has to hard return now because
    when I type my response runs off into the space where I cannot see it,
    even if I try to forward space over the invisible text?

  46. Jane
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 12:33:20

    @Teddypig: I had no idea that discussing gender of an author was considered gossiping about someone’s private life. I think it is also interesting that you refuse to address the issue of whether the creation of a faux persona is required to be taken seriously within the m/m fiction circles.

  47. Laura Baumbach
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 12:41:55

    I believe, that all that is required to be taken seriously within the m/m fiction circles is to be a good author.

    I write, promote and publish within this circle and an aware of what is needed to succeed. Good authors writing great stories with memorable characters–just like any other genre. And if we’re talking M/M erotic romance — kick-ass, hot sex scenes help. In my humble opinion.

  48. Moth
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 12:43:09

    honest discussion? Gossiping about Josh Lanyon's private life is honest discussion?

    *headdesk*

    You’re rather missing the point of this discussion aren’t you?

    Speculation about whether an author is male or female cannot rightly be termed “gossip” to me. Especially because we are in the midst of an (i think) intelligent discussion about how reader expectations of the author’s life affects they’re interpretation of the material.

    I’m curious what seemed so offensive and gossipy to you about any of these comments?

  49. Gennita Low
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 12:48:28

    @Kalen Hughes:

    HINT: The foreskin doesn't peel back from an engorged penis like the plastic wrap on an English cucumber.

    Bwah! Spew moment ;-).

    ****

    I am in awe of writers who can think of so many innovative and violent ways to kill and then write those scenes with such cold efficiency. However, I certainly don’t stop to think that maybe they’d killed before to be able to do that.

    Sometimes, though, a writer’s ignorance does seep through, as in Kalen’s example above or if a writer is using an ethnic character, like, say, an Asian (Being one myself, I enjoy picking up books with Asian characters). Research can only help so much. Sometimes, certain topics just betray the lack of “real” knowledge. But this might be just small nuggets that most unfamiliar with the subject wouldn’t notice or it might be big smackeroos of stupendous stupidity like the wandering hymen.

  50. Tessa Dare
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 13:00:40

    It always fascinates me that every author was (ostensibly) once a child–but I then I come across plenty of precocious fictional children who don’t act or speak like any child I’ve ever met.

    So I agree with what many above have said: Living through an experience doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll write it convincingly, and if authors can only write about experiences they’ve lived through…I had better find a time machine, or I’ll have to switch subgenres!

    I think every author’s life experience informs her writing process, and sets up a unique set of advantages and challenges. I mean, if you’ve been in a committed relationship for years and years–sure, maybe it’s easier to believe in HEA. But it may also be harder to remember just how it felt to be in that first giddy rush of attraction. Or what it was like to stay up all night canoodling and talking, instead of dosing your feverish toddler with Motrin.

  51. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 13:02:20

    If an author is going to great lengths to *pretend* a gender for the sake of perceived authenticity in his or her writing, IMO that’s not gossip, that’s *about* the writing, or at least about its marketing, about what and should sell, and about that sticky “authorization” problem I was talking about in Jane’s first post on this issue. If you want to throw the “why doesn’t only the writing matter” to readers who are curious about a writer’s gender, then why not throw that same inquiry to the writer who pretends a different gender? Because if you’re going to those lengths to create someone else as your public persona, then you can’t really think it’s only the writing that matters, either, can you?

  52. Amanda
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 13:04:19

    Most academics (like Eloisa James) have research assistants who run to the library and pick up books and articles for them or look things up. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t do her own research. Or, it means that research doesn’t mean working in a solitary state poring over old tomes. And how different is is for an author to ask a research question on an email loop like The Beaumonde, than to ask an assistant or a librarian to help her find something? I don’t really think there’s much difference at all. But I’m a librarian so I think all research is collaborative. Almost ALL authors of scholarly books thank their research assistants–and if they don’t they should.

    As far as women writing as men and vice versa, I read an erotic romance recently that I am convinced was written by a man. There was talk of farts. And to paraphrase Tom Hanks in A League of their Own: There’s no farting in Romance! Also the author bio states that this authoress does not exist until the computer is turned on. If that’s not a tell, I don’t know what is.

  53. Dana
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 13:05:26

    I definitely was biased towards female authors when it came to romance/mysteries, but didn’t care what the gender was when it came to other genres such as horror and fantasy. As far as writing what you know (and I hate that term too), I’ve found through painful personal experience that sticking to close to the facts, ma’am, make for more unbelievable characters and dialogue than creating them from my imagination. As a reader, it always makes me uncomfortable if I think I’m reading someone’s Mary Sue adventure.

    Great topic, btw!

  54. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 13:11:07

    Amanda, I’m an academic, so I understand the RA concept reasonably well. But even RA’s don’t (or shouldn’t) be doing a scholar’s *research* per se. Not that I’m suggesting James’s RA is doing her research. I’m just startled, that’s all. REALLY startled. Okay, and unsettled, too.

  55. DS
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 13:12:28

    Don’t have time to read past Ann’s reponse, but I do remember having a discussion in the mid 70’s with a bisexual man about whether Mary Renault was female or male. The Persian Boy had just come out. As a fan of Renault’s– I had read most of her British contemporaries by that time– I knew she was female but I couldn’t convince him at all.

    I’ve recently bought a book by Lanyon so i think I need to take a look at it and add my own guess to the mix.

  56. Lissa
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 13:17:54

    Over the years I have moved from reading exclusively female authors, to reading exclusively male authors and have since settled into a happy medium of both. There is a distinct “gender voice” in books for me – an obvious tell, if the book is written by a man or a woman. I think it has less to do with the subject of the book, as with the life experience of the author.

    It would be hard for a male to write a romance from a female point of view, since the male is obviously not female, and vice-versa. I don’t think you need to only “write what you know”, so much as you need to research, research, research!

    There are several male autors that I adore – but their work is from a very male perspective. I don’t think the same, exact story, written by a woman, would work or feel the same. I find that in some instances I like the male perspective, the less emotional aspects of a good story, the sharper tone and pace of a male-written book. Books written by females, whether romance or some other genre just seem to be softer, more emotional to me.

    As for an author projecting themselves into the book – for me, please don’t. I don’t want to know about your personal life, I don’t want to know about your fantasies, your dogs, your children, etc. If you must include a picture and a bio – make it as generic as possible. Tell me your history as an author; your other works, your awards, your educational background – and leave it at that. For me, you are just the vehicle by which the story is told. Knowing about you inserts your preferences into the book and I want to be able to insert my own preferences there. If I want to know more about you as a person, I will track down your website and find out, otherwise in this instance, less is definately more.

    By the by – just as a curious aside, where exactly is the hymen located? I have to admit that I have never given it any thought outside the romance genre, and having read literally hundreds of books that include “deflowering”, I have taken it on face value, that the placement of the hymen is as indicated there. I guess it is time for me to do some research of my own.

  57. MD
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 13:19:52

    As far as the whole line of questions, is Josh Lanyon a woman?

    As with the whole Prop 8 stuff… Why does it fucking matter to you so much? Who does it hurt if he is? Why is this such an important issue?

    I get the impression you either A. know something we don’t know =D or B. you’d personally prefer not to find out whether the author is male or female. Do you think finding out that Lanyon is a woman will color your view of that author’s work from now on or “ruin” it for you? If you don’t care whether Lanyon is male or female, then why is it such an important issue to you that we don’t talk about it? It just seems you’re taking it incredibly personally.

    As far as pseudonyms go, a lot of female authors are given a hard time about using a male pseudonym, which isn’t always fair. I know of at least one pro author, traditionally published, who was pressed by her editor to use a male name. It isn’t always the author’s idea. Apparently there are publishers who do feel, as Jane says, that a faux persona is necessary to be taken seriously by some readers.

  58. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 13:27:45

    I definitely am harder on an author who has qualifications and still gets things wrong (Eloisa James with a PhD, who seems to be thanking (blaming really?) her research assistant in her acknowledgments); I have to say there's something really wrong about a historical romance writer with a PhD in English literature who can't be bothered to do her own research!

    I’d want to know the wording of the acknowledgment… does it thank an assistant? Or specifically a research assistant?

    A lot of writers have assistants. I yearn for the day when I have one…somebody to make the post office runs, get my promo mess organized, reorder books, etc.

  59. Noelle
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 13:28:01

    Here is my take having not read through all the comments before hand. (Commenting on my lunch hour, sorry).

    In my personal experience romance writers fall into two categories. Those that write romance from a place of personal experience and those that write from a place of personal longing and maybe some do write from both places. And I’ve seen both good and bad writing from those that know and those that want.

    I might not have done all the things my characters do but that doesn’t mean a hell of a lot of research hasn’t been done. If you are writing D/s, BDSM, multiples etc and you don’t have personal experience then I do believe you need to do your research, meaning seeking out NON-FICTION sources.
    I think some writers just buy a big stack of other romance/fiction on the same subject and then try to write from there and who's to say which of those writers did their homework. I'm not saying that's not a market savvy thing to do, just that it shouldn't be all you do.

    On another point as an historical writer I feel a lot of pressure to set things in England. I am I huge Anglophile but I’ve never quite gotten there. Anytime I try to set a story there it’ stalls because I am not comfortable with my lack of knowledge to be able have a livid and believable setting. Has this hurt me? Oh you bet. But I'm committed to trying to be an advocate for non England/Scotland/western historicals.

  60. Married to one of those
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 13:42:46

    My pet peeve . . . my new one is women writing about uncircumcised men when they've clearly never encountered one. HINT: The foreskin doesn't peel back from an engorged penis like the plastic wrap on an English cucumber. I have serious trouble with some of the historical erotic romance out there because the authors just don't grasp Anatomy 101.

    Wait I’m married to one of those. And I think it’s all about perception. I have 20 years experience and I can see what someone means describing it that way. No it doesn’t come off or have a split in it but I can totally see what they mean. But I do agree that people should at least ask someone about it if they have never seen one. We’ve actually had someone ask to see it once because she never had.

  61. Amanda
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:01:51

    Amanda, I'm an academic, so I understand the RA concept reasonably well. But even RA's don't (or shouldn't) be doing a scholar's *research* per se. Not that I'm suggesting James's RA is doing her research. I'm just startled, that's all. REALLY startled. Okay, and unsettled, too.

    Okay, I’m home sick today and my brain hurts so I may not be making myself clear. All I’m saying is that her acknowledgment of the RA doesn’t imply that James, herself, doesn’t do her own research. It implies to me that she has an assistant who helps her with her research, which technically is what everybody who has ever asked a reference question would have to say. James just asks the same person every time. And thanks her in the acknowledgement, which is to me a way of acknowledging that she didn’t do all the work herself, or get to THE END alone. I’m reading a Karen Rose book right now and she thanks three pages of people for their help on this book. And lots of the thanks seem to be for research help.

    Off to rest my head.

  62. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:15:49

    Most academics (like Eloisa James) have research assistants who run to the library and pick up books and articles for them or look things up. It doesn't mean she doesn't do her own research. Or, it means that research doesn't mean working in a solitary state poring over old tomes. And how different is is for an author to ask a research question on an email loop like The Beaumonde, than to ask an assistant or a librarian to help her find something? I don't really think there's much difference at all. But I'm a librarian so I think all research is collaborative. Almost ALL authors of scholarly books thank their research assistants-and if they don't they should.

    I was my godmother’s research assistant for awhile (yeah, she's a historical fiction author too). All this meant was that she'd say: I need a list of newspaper articles and headlines about blahblahblah from Dec 1890 . . . and I'd go find ‘em. She still had to read ‘em and decide how to incorporate them into her book.

  63. Jane
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:17:08

    @Kalen Hughes: Didn’t James suggest that her original errors in the pleasure series were the result of a RA?

  64. Nora Roberts
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:18:20

    ~In my personal experience romance writers fall into two categories. Those that write romance from a place of personal experience and those that write from a place of personal longing ~

    I honestly don’t feel I fall into either of those categories. I write from my chair, and about characters who have certain experiences and longings. I’m not writing from my experiences or toward my longings, but from and to theirs. When I write Mystery, it’s not because I have personal experiences with solving crime, or any longing to do so.

    I often feel people put too much ‘other’ into writers of Romance than they do with writers of any other genre. Because we write about love and an emotional journey, it seems to strike some as a personal statement or need, rather than the work.

  65. Amanda
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:19:59

    Thanks, Kalen! That’s exactly what I meant.

  66. Jessa Slade
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:20:42

    I like the idea of ‘write what you know’ when what you know is YOUR story, in YOUR head, so of course you know it. Otherwise, whatever with WWYK.

    I guess this is ultimately a diamond vs cubic zirconium moment. If it sparkles enough, does it really matter if it’s “real”?

  67. Jane
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:24:07

    @Jessa Slade: If you take the cz/diamond analogy farther, though, you could say that some authors (say male authors writing a female POV) can provide the same superficial emotional overtones, but can’t get the depth and hue of a female author.

  68. Noelle
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:37:04

    @Ms. Roberts.

    I think there were a few authors in particular that I was thinking of when I made that statement. And maybe I wasn’t looking at a big enough picture. I apologize.

    And I think that when you have a talent like yours you can write from an outside place that lets the characters’ emotions and needs guide the work but I have read lesser works that clearly felt like the writer’s personal longing or questioning.

  69. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:39:36

    @Kalen Hughes: Didn't James suggest that her original errors in the pleasure series were the result of a RA?

    I've never heard her blame her RA. My understanding from hearing her speak of the experience, is that she honestly didn’t think as a first time romance author that the historical stuff was all that important (and Regency England wasn't her specialty, she's a Shakespearian scholar). When she got crucified by readers, she BEGGED her publisher to let her go back and fix the book for the mass-market edition.

  70. Ann Somerville
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:40:25

    I believe, that all that is required to be taken seriously within the m/m fiction circles is to be a good author.

    Agreed. Which begs the question as to why so many in the genre decide to use male pen names, and in a few cases, concoct an elaborate persona as a gay man. I don’t know or care if Lanyon has done this, but there are others who have. They seem to believe what I stated, that women can’t write gay lit, forgetting that’s not what they’re attempting to do.

    Teddy, I don’t want to pry into Lanyon’s private life. I have no interest in it. All I’m saying is that his gay sensibility, compared to other gay writers, is nonexistent. All you mention about the non-feminised heros, the non-OK homo world building, the non-centralism of the gay existence etc, I’ve read in other, female authors. A lot depends on how sound the author is as a writer, and also how knowledgeable they are about gay politics and gay men.

    Let me give you an example of what I mean. Women writers in m/m focus on certain physical attributes appealing to women – hair, eyes, hands, the face. Gay men will focus on physique, the butt, the cock, different areas – by that, I mean they draw attention to what a gay *man* will find appealing, or pay notice to. Lanyon does the former. His sex scenes, while well written, follow the tropes of female writers, not gay writers. This is why I say I believe he’s either female, or imitating female writing. It could easily be the latter since his work has been successful for its appeal to women. But this different focus, the different approach, is what I mean about the different sensibility.

    I do beg your forgiveness for causing offence. I didn’t intend to, and if I have out of ignorance, I’m very sorry. I’m only expressing out loud discussions I’ve had with gay friends about Lanyon and other writers in this genre. I’m absolutely not saying a gay man can’t write in a way which appeals to women, because the success of gay male writers with women readers contradicts that firmly.

    I write, promote and publish within this circle and an aware of what is needed to succeed. Good authors writing great stories with memorable characters-just like any other genre. And if we're talking M/M erotic romance -‘ kick-ass, hot sex scenes help. In my humble opinion.

    Ironic then that so much m/m erotica is downright laughable and not erotic at all.

    Book sales speak to the facts. Skilled female authors writing M/M works just find for a lot of gay men.

    And a lot of gay men find m/m dull, sentimental and not speaking to their experiences too. Here in Queensland (which is the land of free-ranging homophobia) Borders is the only major chain of bookstores with a gay fiction section. In the men’s section, there are no female authors at all. I presume Borders is stocking what they think will sell, or they’ve been requested to stock – and they don’t think women writers appeal to gay men.

  71. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:44:13

    Okay, here’s a comment from James from a Risky Regencies 2006 interview (emphasis mine):

    5. How do you do your research?

    Well, a great deal of it comes to me through my scholarship in the early modern period. For example, Desperate Duchesses features a series of chess games – the idea for that came through scholarship that’s being done on the chess game in Shakespeare’s Tempest. Once I have a vague idea of the areas I’d like to know more about (say, chess in the Georgian period), I ask my research assistant to start scaring up some material for me. One of the consequences of being a full-time professor and director of the graduate program in English is that I don’t have time for much research myself; instead I hire brilliant people to find out interesting facts for me.

  72. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:48:59

    My understanding from hearing her speak of the experience, is that she honestly didn't think as a first time romance author that the historical stuff was all that important (and Regency England wasn't her specialty, she's a Shakespearian scholar).

    You know, I just don’t get this attitude, *especially* from a scholar. I am way too much of a control freak to let someone else determine my research direction in the first place (and you learn so much about your own ideas when you do your own research), but I hate the idea that someone who studies history for a living might think of the history in historical Romance as not much more than a collection of “interesting facts.” That someone else looks up.

  73. Ann Somerville
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 14:50:39

    The foreskin doesn't peel back from an engorged penis like the plastic wrap on an English cucumber.

    I have this insane urge to wake my husband up and remind myself exactly what it does look like :)

    @Jayne:
    Violence, especially rape, towards male characters is incredibly common in fanfiction, actually. I’ve, cough, written fan and original fiction like it myself, though I’m kinda done with that now. It doesn’t squick me half as much as the idea of a man writing violence against women, because the chances of a man doing that to a female is a lot higher than a woman doing it to a man. The reason for it is catharsis, I guess, as well as a feeble excuse for h/c. Why men write this stuff, I don’t know, but if all a male author’s strong female characters end up pummeled into the grown, I would say he has Issues.

  74. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 15:11:47

    she honestly didn't think as a first time romance author that the historical stuff was all that important

    If that’s indeed what she said, then that’s probably the most insulting attitude I’ve seen by an author towards her readers in a while. [And it shows that editors are not doing their jobs any longer.]

    She didn’t think it was important? Hello? She’s a literature PhD? She thinks details aren’t important? I wonder if she’s as sloppy in her own field. Admittedly she not a history scholar but a English lit one, but still!

    Shiloh, here’s one of the acknowledgments:

    “With profound thanks to my research assistant, Franzeca Drouin, who labored far beyond the call of duty on this book. … Further thanks to the large circle of researchers whom she consulted about various issues…”

    I was the one speculating that she’s covering her ass by ‘thanking’ her RA in the acknowledgments in case something else is as egregiously off as it was in her first book. I don’t know that she blamed her RA for the mistakes in that first book, but the cynical side of me could not help but notice that the RA would make a nice fall-gal if some other serious error popped up.

    I have a handful of her books; fortunately all used, because after what Robin posted above, hell will freeze over before I give her a penny. She’s so important she doesn’t have time to worry about the quality of her books? Ehm, yeah, well, whatever! I’ll take my historical romance from people who can be bothered!

    I was already squicked out by the whininess of her author bio. I’m sure it’s supposed to be funny, but it shows me a person who takes herself way too seriously and it ties in nicely with the ‘I don’t have time to do my own research’.

    “Author of twelve award-winning romances, ELOISA JAMES is a professor of English literature who lives with her family in New Jersey. All her books must have been written in her sleep, because her days are taken up by caring for two children with advanced degrees in whining, a demanding guinea pig, a smelly frog, and a tumbledown house. Letters from readers provide a great escape!”

    Now I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t the RA who’s really writing the books, because it seems the professor is just too busy, between her career and her whiny kids.

  75. RfP
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 15:18:45

    I don't have time for much research myself; instead I hire brilliant people to find out interesting facts for me.

    Some supervisors call the literary legwork (hitting the library) “research”. Some call lab work or conducting interviews “research”. Some think “research” is the creative process of formulating ideas. Some use the word “research” to mean “everything done to support research and not for course credit”.

    I just don't get this attitude, *especially* from a scholar.

    I don’t think it’s that unusual. A scholar can be a demon for detail in her field, but dismissive of the complexities of other fields. Usually out of ignorance. “Being a scholar” isn’t a magical pass out of making assumptions or presuming too much.

    This kind of attitude happens all the time when people try to cross disciplinary boundaries: they write papers full of nuance and detail and thoughtful exposition in their core area, accompanied by a shallow gloss on the other field. Usually specialists in the second field go to town on the author, and often she adapts accordingly.

  76. Nora Roberts
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 15:19:49

    ~I apologize.~

    Oh, please don’t apologize! I might disagree with your opinion on this, but that doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to the opinion.

  77. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 15:33:45

    I don't think it's that unusual. A scholar can be a demon for detail in her field, but dismissive of the complexities of other fields. Usually out of ignorance. “Being a scholar” isn't a magical pass out of making assumptions or presuming too much.

    But to me, this *is* her field, even though the historical period is different. Because I share the field (literary studies), it’s even harder for me to understand, which probably makes me more critical than others might be.

  78. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 15:37:23

    she honestly didn't think as a first time romance author that the historical stuff was all that important

    If that's indeed what she said, then that's probably the most insulting attitude I've seen by an author towards her readers in a while. [And it shows that editors are not doing their jobs any longer.]

    She didn't think it was important? Hello? She's a literature PhD? She thinks details aren't important? I wonder if she's as sloppy in her own field. Admittedly she not a history scholar but a English lit one, but still!

    To be honest, I put the blame more on her agent and editor. She was new (we're talking about her first book), they should have known better. She got ripped a new one and learned a lesson. I don’t think she was being insulting. I think she JUST DIDN’T KNOW (clearly she was new to the genre as well, or she’d have known already). She wrote a romance on a lark and it got published. I think she's earned a little forgiveness for surviving a trial by fire that I don't think most of us could have withstood.

    To this day I see some amazing errors in published books. Stuff that leaves me truly speechless (and not just historical errors, stuff as basic as the fact that “colt”, “filly”, and “foal” are not interchangeable words). Stuff that writers of historical fiction (and editors and agents of same) really should know. But since those books sell like DAMN WOW WIZBANG, clearly Eloisa was mostly correct. This stuff really DOESN'T matter to the vast majority of readers. If it did, I could name you a double handful of bestselling authors who shouldn't have careers.

  79. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 15:54:28

    This stuff really DOESN'T matter to the vast majority of readers.

    I have come to the conclusion that if an author believes she doesn’t have to do the research because it doesn’t matter to readers, nothing is going to change her mind. What I would prefer, of course, is that it mattered *to authors* simply out of a sense of pride in one’s work (and yeah, I’m, probably going to hold people who make their living in knowledge-centered fields to a higher standard, fair or not). I know we *all* make errors, and perfection is not achievable nor perhaps even desirable. But it does disappoint me to see authors justifying superficial researching on the basis of reader knowledge or tolerance. That may not be a realistic view, but it’s one to which I am deeply attached and not likely to shake off, either.

  80. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 15:58:31

    Kalen,

    we have a saying in German that goes something like this:

    ‘Not knowing that you are breaking the law, does not protect you from the proper punishment.’

    If I think about the many fabulous writers who cannot get published at all/any longer/or had a heck of a time finding a new publisher for their well researched historical romance (Gellis, anyone?), I get hives to think that this woman who cannot be bothered not only found an editor but is ‘award-winning’ and keeps being published.

    If you read agent/editor blogs you see how many folks are turned down, and how these agents and editors stress how important it is to do things right, to do your research, to deliver an error-free product and then we get somebody published who’s too busy with her career and her family to be bothered?

    Sorry, I don’t mean to whale on you, Kalen, but there’s nothing anybody can say that excuses her attitude in this reader’s mind. Nothing! The good news is, I didn’t think her stuff was that great to start with so I’m not losing much by giving her a pass.

    Rofl, on the foreskin. :) I had no clue that most guys in this country are circumcised until I moved here at the ripe old age of 27. I’d say a fully erect penis doesn’t look all that different on an uncircumcised male vs. a circumcised one. Now, when it’s not erect, the differences are rather obvious. :) There are other differences, for example it took me a while to figure out why lubrication was so prominently mentioned in erotic romance in connection with hand jobs…

    I’ll readily admit to my total ignorance on the location of the hymen. Where exactly is it located? I just know I had one and then I didn’t and when it went the situation came with all the usually described circumstances of bodily fluids and such. Guess that’s another good reason for saying that just because you’ve lived through it doesn’t qualify you to write about it. :)

  81. RfP
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 16:12:05

    But to me, this *is* her field, even though the historical period is different. Because I share the field (literary studies), it's even harder for me to understand, which probably makes me more critical than others might be.

    it does disappoint me to see authors justifying superficial researching on the basis of reader knowledge or tolerance.

    But is that what happened here? From what others posted above, it’s quite possible but perhaps not fully supported. In both your statements above, it’s possible you’re ascribing motivations that she didn’t share. You see scholarship and authorship as falling within the same field, but perhaps she doesn’t–or didn’t at the time.

    To clarify…. Perhaps she did write cynically to meet minimal reader expectations. OTOH, perhaps she thought it “didn’t matter” because she thought of fiction as entirely fiction, and the setting as not necessarily Representing History but a piquant backdrop to a story. On that basis, I can imagine a scholar writing a romance and feeling pleased at getting to use pieces of her research without getting too serious about deep authenticity. I’ve seen authors say things along those lines–that it was fun getting to use their special expertise in [Ginsu knives, herb gardening, whatever], but without getting madly into the world of knifery or herbery.

    Perhaps I should add: I don’t read her books, so no personal interest in defending her. However, I’m fairly accepting of a variety of attitudes toward history in fiction.

  82. theo
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 16:13:12

    We've actually had someone ask to see it once because she never had.

    Totally OT here…

    Okay, I’m sorry, I realize curiosity killed the cat as the old saying goes, but I gotta ask:

    Did you? Show her?

  83. kirsten saell
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 16:18:28

    Curiosity not only killed the cat but grabbed it by the tail and hurled it off a cliff.

    That said, yeah–did you?

  84. Paul Bens
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 16:25:55

    Hmmm…my long, rambling comment on the subject seems to have vanished into the netherworld. Perhaps I’ll try to recreate it later.

  85. Paul Bens
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 16:29:47

    Thank goodness for internet cache…

    For me “write what you know,” I think has always meant something different than how most “teachers” mean it when they pound it into their student’s heads. For me it has always been about what you know to be the truth of people and how they would react in a given situation, the emotional realism. For me that is what leads to good writing. Sure, there are the specifics you have to know about when writing a place or a time you’ve never experienced. If you are going to write gay regency, you damn well better know the historical period and how gay men and women would have acted and been reacted to in that time period. If you don’t you’re going to get grilled for it..and probably deservedly so.

    I think many people take the “write what you know” too literally. If you aren’t “A” you can’t write about “A.” Hell, I’ve written about suicide, murder, incest, being a straight woman, being a foot fetishist in the extreme, being raped, being a musician and–at least to my knowledge–I am none of those things. As a writer, I hope, though, I’ve hit the emotional truth of all those people, the honest human reaction one would have in those circumstances.

    Can people write what they don’t know? Yes. Should they? Hell yes, else we’d have no one writing the great sci-fi or fantasy stuff, and, yes, contemporary stuff that’s out there.

    As to the is he or isn’t he a gay male question in m/m romance–or any other–arena. Can non-gay male writers write convincing gay male characters? Absolutely, as long as the truth is in there. Poppy Brite (who was a horror writer who moved into foodie lit) has written some of the best gay male characters I’ve ever read and while she has been forthright about her life-long gender dysphoria, she does not pretend to be a gay male. In the male/male romance arena out of all the material I’ve read (and by no means have I read the totality of what’s out there), I’ve discovered only a handful of non-gay males who write the breadth of the gay male perspective well and those are the writers I return to. When I read m/m romance, I can almost immediately tell when a gender neutral pen name belongs to a woman. There are tell-tale signs. Does it matter to me if the story is well told and the characters rich and full. Nope.

    What bothers me most about the m/m romance/erotica area is that 85% of the stuff I’ve read is absolute crap from a story-telling and character side of things whether the writer is female (venturing to say 90% of the time) or male. If I ready one more mooney innocent bottom or one more macho top who have only an interest in sticking their parts into one another, I think I will vomit. If I read one more piece where the author has their characters say “I am the alpha in this relationship,” I think I’ll be sick. I just read a 55 page novella by someone who I’m guessing is quite popular (given what I’ve since discovered on the web). Out of those 55 pages, 40 were devoted to long, laughable sex. The plot was an after thought. The characters were non-existent. Is this because the writers don’t know about what they are writing. In some respects, 100%. But most of the time it is shared equally with the fact that these writers don’t know how to write.

    As a gay man, I cringe a lot of the time when I read m/m romance/erotica. Granted, the genre generally demands more sex than plot, but it does not demand characters which a little more than stereotypes that we’ve been fighting for years. Yet, that is what alot of it becomes even though the writers themselves are pro-gay people.

    And I’ve wandered so far off the point…never comment when you’re on muscle relaxers.

    As far as going to excessive pretending to be something you’re not in order to increase your sales. I simply have a problem with that from an honesty level. In most businesses that’s fraud (and, no, I am not talking about creating a pseudonym and writing under that…writing under a pseud is vastly different that going to elaborate length to create an entire persona.) The masters behind JT LeRoy did it just to get published and increase their sales and I personally know many authors who have written books and actually lived the life “JT” pretended to who cannot get published because of it. Because the publishers got duped in the whole LeRoy mess and refused to pick up anything remotely similar (even stuff that is clearly fiction!). Now, that is an extreme case, but it does have repercussions.

    The other thing that bothers me about authors who create elaborate ruses comes more from the people who react to any discussion of the subject. It does matter to people, but when it is brought up, some people over react with “how dare you” and “by golly, you’re talking outta you ass.” They take it as a personal affront to themselves as readers and lovers of that author. They take it that any discussion of the question is sacrilege or a forbidden topic. It isn’t if it is a question readers have. And throwing in equations to homophobia is the ultimate in non-sequitur and frankly tends to come off as a diversionary tactic that doesn’t behoove the author. Questioning an author’s persona does not take away from any reader’s enjoyment of that writer’s work. It doesn’t take away from the writer’s talent. And, honestly, what bothers me a lot when some fans over react to the questioning of an author’s persona is that it intones that the absoulte worst thing you can be is a woman writer who convincingly writes gay male characters. It isn’t. And I’m not sure why some need to react as if it were.

    Some of my favorite female writers write gay characters like I wish I could. And if some female writers feel compelled to create an elaborate gay male persona, that is up to them. But that does not mean that we do not have the write to question it if we as readers sense something different than that presentation.

    OK…I’m on muscle relaxers and I have gone so far off point it isn’t funny.

  86. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 16:37:30

    perhaps she thought it “didn't matter” because she thought of fiction as entirely fiction, and the setting as not necessarily Representing History but a piquant backdrop to a story. On that basis, I can imagine a scholar writing a romance and feeling pleased at getting to use pieces of her research without getting too serious about deep authenticity.

    This is my take on what happened, and is what many authors will tell you when you ask them about some historical impossibility in their story.

    I have come to the conclusion that if an author believes she doesn't have to do the research because it doesn't matter to readers, nothing is going to change her mind. What I would prefer, of course, is that it mattered *to authors* simply out of a sense of pride in one's work

    Me too. As a reader this stuff matters tremendously to me, so when I started writing my own books, that history-wonkishness came with me (and I still make errors *sigh*).

  87. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 16:38:09

    But is that what happened here?

    I don’t know. I’ve tried to be careful to use the comments I’ve seen from James and others in this thread to craft general responses about authors who . . .

    You see scholarship and authorship as falling within the same field, but perhaps she doesn't-or didn't at the time.

    If that’s the case, then why market yourself based on your academic qualifications? This goes back to that whole “authorizing” issue, IMO. I’m going to be hard to convince that the academic angle doesn’t make readers feel more confident in the historical world building of a HR author.

  88. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 16:46:13

    @Paul Bens: I don’t think your comment was off-topic at all; in fact, I think you’re getting at the relationship between *authenticity* and *authorship* in all of its tortured iterations.

    First there is the “write what you know” admonition, which, as you point out, can range from a sense of emotional authenticity to one of actual personal experience.

    Then there is the issue of how a work is authorized as authentic, and that’s where we get into these questions of authorial persona.

    Despite the drugs, your points were very clear, IMO, and very relevant, too.

  89. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 16:51:44

    GrowlyCub, you're slaying me, LOL!

    we have a saying in German that goes something like this:
    ‘Not knowing that you are breaking the law, does not protect you from the proper punishment.'

    We have that here too (Ignorance of the law is no excuse).

    Sorry, I don't mean to whale on you, Kalen, but there's nothing anybody can say that excuses her attitude in this reader's mind. Nothing! The good news is, I didn't think her stuff was that great to start with so I'm not losing much by giving her a pass.

    No worries. I totally *get* what you're saying, and as a reader, I'm marching right along with you. As a writer though, I really try not to beat up my peers (at least not when they've been called out by name, it's poor form).

    Rofl, on the foreskin. :) I had no clue that most guys in this country are circumcised until I moved here at the ripe old age of 27 . . . it took me a while to figure out why lubrication was so prominently mentioned in erotic romance in connection with hand jobs…

    *snort* I'm right there with you, hippie commune child that I am. First time I encountered a guy who was circumcised I ruined it all by stopping to ask what was wrong with him. Not what a guy wants to hear, LOL!

    I'll readily admit to my total ignorance on the location of the hymen. Where exactly is it located?

    Most novels describe it as being INSIDE the vagina (frequently in deflowering scenes he's already part way in when he realizes she is/was a virgin; this is IMPOSSIBLE). If a woman still has one (most don't by the time they're in their teens) it's literally on the very outside of the body (it's just a bit of web-like leftover skin that didn't finish dividing as the fetus/girl/woman grew).

    You can read the full post and all the crazy comments HERE. I really should do Anatomy 102: The Penis, but I just haven’t been able to bring myself to post that . . .

  90. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 16:52:56

    It ate my post again! I think it doens’t like naughty words (like P E N I S).

  91. Paul Bens
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 16:54:13

    Despite the drugs, your points were very clear, IMO, and very relevant, too.

    @Robin: Thanks. I’d hoped it made sense, but the haze was fogging my vision. =-)

  92. Paul Bens
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 16:58:39

    Most novels describe it as being INSIDE the vagina (frequently in deflowering scenes he's already part way in when he realizes she is/was a virgin; this is IMPOSSIBLE). If a woman still has one (most don't by the time they're in their teens) it's literally on the very outside of the body (it's just a bit of web-like leftover skin that didn't finish dividing as the fetus/girl/woman grew).

    @Kalen: This is exactly why I don’t write male/female (or female/female for that matter) sex scenes. I haven’t been down there is 20 some-odd years. I wouldn’t know my way around with a map.

  93. Janice
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:02:38

    Eloisa James is not the only writer who uses a research assistant. So do J. R. Ward and Iris Johansen. I'm sure there are others that I'm unaware of. Having an assistant locate sources or find answers to particular questions is a common practice among writers in various fields. James frequently refers to her research reading as part of her preparation for writing her novels. I think it is a gross misrepresentation of her process to suggest that she is indifferent, unethical, or lazy because she makes use of an expert in research to find information she needs.

    In writing her first book, she did what many writers have done. She wrote a book in a genre she had loved as a reader, but she knew little about the industry. She admits in her essay “My First Year as a Published Author” that she had no idea historical accuracy in details such as pajamas and a Hookers Ball mattered to many readers. But when she was made aware of just how much such accuracy did matter, she corrected what she could, learned from the outraged readers, and worked diligently to ensure historical accuracy in her other books. In fact, the desire for historical accuracy motivated the hiring of a research assistant.

    As for an acknowledgement to a hardworking research assistant being a way of avoiding responsibility for errors, I think James's Mea Culpa section on her website shows that she accepts responsibility for errors she makes. She does make them sometimes. If any of you can recommend any perfect books, I'd love to take a look at them.

  94. K. Z. Snow
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:05:48

    Yikes, so many intertwined threads here!

    “Write what you know,” as far as I’m concerned, should not mean “lift all your stories from your own life and/or world.” To me that’s indicative of a severely limited imagination. Borrowing or spinning off of little bits and bobs drawn from one’s experience is to be expected — how, after all, can we avoid it? — but if an author is heavily dependent on his or her own life for material, that author is veering from fiction into memoir territory.

    Male versus female writers? Not an issue for me and never has been. It’s the quality of the writing that counts. I do fully agree, however, that male writers who take grisly delight in female objectification, domination, and/or mutilation are odious. I can’t, don’t, won’t read that kind of shit.

    M/M fiction? Love it, love it, love it. That subgenre is absolutely packed with talent. It’s truly humbling for me to write m/m stories. As a reader, I don’t give a rip about the author’s gender. Again, it’s quality that counts. BUT . . . any writer who intentionally engages in gender deception simply for the sake of lending an aura of legitimacy to his or her work will rocket to the top of my shit list. I’d be so freakin’ put off that degree of manipulative dishonesty, I’d rant about it all over the ‘Net. My hand to god, it would be boycott time. I don’t like being played.

  95. theo
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:12:04

    @Kalen,

    Absolutely not to say anything offensive here! But having worked in the medical field for a looooooooong time (I’m old! Can’t help it, happens to everyone sooner or later) I can say that assisting with gyn exams, not all hymens are directly on the outside of the vagina. It does depend on the woman’s personal configuration, size of labia, etc. But that’s through my own ‘experience’ in assisting.

    I have no idea where my was. I was date raped and never really had a chance to have a loving ‘deflowering’ of any kind. *sigh*

  96. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:18:09

    @Kalen: This is exactly why I don't write male/female (or female/female for that matter) sex scenes. I haven't been down there is 20 some-odd years. I wouldn't know my way around with a map.

    *snort* Paul owes me a new keyboard!

    @ Janice: Did you read the whole thread? Quite a few of us defended James and using a RA.

    For the record, James is one of the few I know who is very upfront about admitting to errors and I applaud her for it! When I started History Hoydens, I used to ask every author I interviewed if they had any mea culpas to confess to . . . only two of them every did. All of the others blew off the question with replies along the lines of Oh, no. I research very carefully and am careful not to make mistakes. I didn't respond by pointing out the errors I'd spotted by casually reading their book (cause that's rude, coming from another author), but in pretty much every case, I so could have (and yes, as I’ve said before, I’ve got errors in my books too!).

  97. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:21:17

    Absolutely not to say anything offensive here! But having worked in the medical field for a looooooooong time (I'm old! Can't help it, happens to everyone sooner or later) I can say that assisting with gyn exams, not all hymens are directly on the outside of the vagina. It does depend on the woman's personal configuration, size of labia, etc. But that's through my own ‘experience' in assisting.

    Since it’s formed by the body dividing, and it’s skin, it certainly can’t be an inch or more up inside the magic whoha (which is where many/most romance authors seem to believe it is).

  98. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:25:47

    Thanks, Kalen! That was most informative. I had no idea! :)

    And I concur it’s time for a workshop at RWA; it seems highly necessary for both female and male parts. Maybe send a ‘fact-sheet’ to all editors of romance too? :)

    Paul, thanks for your informative post. I’d love to read some m/m romance written by men. Do you have any recommendations?

  99. Married to one of those
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:27:17

    Totally OT here…

    Okay, I'm sorry, I realize curiosity killed the cat as the old saying goes, but I gotta ask:

    Did you? Show her?

    LOL it’s such a long and funny story I wish I had the time and patience to type the whole thing and that it wasn’t so OT to the thread. But the Answer is Yes he did. ( I got the play by play after the fact)

    But to make everyone more comfortable and for a for a side by side comparison I suppose her husband dropped his pants too. According to him he moved the skin up and down a couple of times and then everyone put their stuff away and vowed to tell no one else but me. Her only comment was about how big his jewels were not the extra bit of skin. I think the word “bull” was used in comparison.

    The next morning she and her family were leaving for a beach trip together and when he went back over the next morning to pick up a tool (ha ha) he’d left, her sister and two of her cousins all had something to say about it. Oh and she told a big group of our childhood friends that had all gathered at a bar after a funeral a couple of weeks later.

    What are you going to do, it’s the south we’re all a bit curious and crazy.

  100. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:28:28

    Kalen: I agree with you about the virtue of authors being willing to admit their mistakes.

    Also, I think Romance authors re-positioned the hymen as a way to create all those scenes of “almost” intercourse — the ‘whoops I did it again’ defense of partial penetration:

    “Oh, please, Brick, take me, take me!”

    “No, no, my fragile flower petal, your chastity and purity must be preserved, despite this little scene, and now that I have proved my virility and nobility, in a few chapters we will be able to do this properly!”

  101. Lori Borrill
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:35:02

    I don’t think an author living what they write automatically brings authenticity to their work. After all, authenticity is in the eye of the reader.

    In my short experience as a writer, one of the things I’ve found interesting is what readers deem plausible in terms of plots or experiences. Sometimes, what a reader has cited as implausible did indeed come from my imagination and might have been a stretch for the sake of story. But other times, it came straight from my real life as I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I either lived it, or was given the account from someone else who had lived it. Yet, if a reader believes differently, the immediate assumption is that the plot must be implausible or the writer didn’t research.

    I think the question to analyze isn’t only an author’s ability to write believably, but the reader’s assumptions of what reality is. The more I write, the more I learn that often readers expect a story that has more logic in it than actually exists in the real world. Characters are expected to act based on understandable motivations, or follow logical rules, when sometimes, normal people do things for no reason at all and smart people do stupid things.

    That is a part of the craft of writing I wrangle with the most. Not writing authentically, but shaping reality in such a way that a) I have a plot, and b) that readers will empathize with my characters and be entertained by them. It’s not as simple as writing what you know or being able to back up your writing with signed statements from people who will attest that what you’ve written is factually based. It’s part of the craft that is often difficult, particularly when an author chooses to take risks or stretch outside his/her comfort zone.

    I remember reading a review of one of my books where the reviewer mentioned my heroine acting too over-the-top in one particular scene. Then the reviewer went on to say that she reconsidered her initial reaction to that after remembering acting that way herself back in the days when she was young and in love. I very much appreciated that! But my point is, I don’t believe it’s straight authenticity readers want. They want that authenticity siphoned through a filter of rationality that coincides with their own personal beliefs about how things work.

  102. Anthea Lawson
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:42:37

    A good author, as many have pointed out above, can imagine in such detail that the experience feels authentic to the reader. It’s in the ability to dream that vivid dream, whether it be M/M sex, a botanical expedition to Tunisia in 1847, or flying a space-ship–and then having the craft to communicate that dream through words on a page.

    On gender: My husband and I co-author Victorian-set romance and I know our books are stronger for having some of that ‘guy’ input. Especially in the scenes written from the hero’s POV. On the other hand, we both contribute equally, so he’s probably written as much of the heroine as I have the hero. The one thing he leaves almost entirely in my court is the love scenes… And he is a little uncomfortable about the fact that we’re now published in romance, with a PINK cover showing a tasteful but expansive amount of nudity. I’m just lucky to have a guy with enough sense of himself that he can go into Romancelandia with me and escape (basically) unscathed. :)

    Want to know more about being a husband-wife writing team? Visit our website (I think you can click through Anthea Lawson above). Oh, and our pen name is both of our first names together. Awww

    -Anthea

  103. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:45:12

    <

    And I concur it's time for a workshop at RWA; it seems highly necessary for both female and male parts. Maybe send a ‘fact-sheet' to all editors of romance too? :)

    I’m WAY too afraid to teach that. You should have seen the flutter in the dove cot when I explained autoerotic asphyxiation in my historical underwear workshop, LOL! Besides, I think this falls under the “I know that stuff, I don't need a workshop about it” rule.

    Also, I think Romance authors re-positioned the hymen as a way to create all those scenes of “almost” intercourse -‘ the ‘whoops I did it again' defense of partial penetration:

    You're giving them way more credit than I'm willing to do. I think someone who didn't know, or couldn't remember, repositioned it in a way that made sense to them and it simply took on a life of its own. Heck, lots of writers I know were baffled when I explained it on my blog, and these are modern, educated, sexually aware women! Clearly their mothers didn't buy them a copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves for their tenth birthday.

  104. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:49:36

    Janice,

    I’m still waiting for that perfect book. :) I applaud James for her willingness to admit her errors, but I nevertheless do not like the fact that she was showing disrespect to her readers by assuming details didn’t matter. She would not have done the same in her career field in the works she expected her fellow scholars to read and I just really have an issue with a writer who does have other people do his/her legwork.

    I admit I’m curious about what kind of research Ward’s RA is doing. :)

    In all that excitement, my main point kind of got lost, as it relates to
    author authority with regard to authenticity in their writing.

    I, as a reader, feel it’s not necessary that a writer have experience in all that they write about, but I am more critical when an author who is an expert in the field s/he writes about makes egregious mistakes. When these errors happen because the author thinks his/her audience is too dumb to notice, or that the readers do not care, I, as reader, do not buy their books, because I feel disrespected.

    I have a long list of authors whose books I loved who went on the never-to-be-bought-again list when I felt their behavior or utterances displayed disrespect or condescension towards their readers. And James is just the newest addition to that list.

  105. theo
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 17:52:08

    @Kalen,
    Agreed! Can be a bit more than an inch actually, but you’re right. I didn’t mean to question you. Just…when you work with a gyn, you get to see lots of…things. :-P

    @Married to one of those: Hysterical! Reminded me of all the little boys lined up outside in the snow, trying to write their names. And thank you for answering. You didn’t have to :)

    Anyway, I think that to WWYK for me would only be rape scenes because of my personal experience and since I personally feel those have no place in romance (and even if it’s the antagonist that does it, I still question the validity of it) so for me, it’s a matter of writing what I *wish* I’d had, not what I got.

    And boy, do I have a headache today so if you can make sense of that, I have a bridge…

  106. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 18:02:02

    Anthea,

    very interesting. So, what was his reason for not wanting to collaborate in writing the love scenes? And did he give input/edit/suggest changes after you wrote them to make them more appealing/authentic to male sensibilities?

    I find husband/wife writing teams really intriguing and always want to hear how they divide the work. I attended a fascinating panel on this topic at Denvention (World SF Con) in August with several couples who all had different approaches.

  107. WTF? Review The Writing Not The Writer | The Naughty Bits
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 18:06:16

    […] off this is in reference to this rather strange discussion brought up over at Dear Author by Jane. Who goes on about having a bias against reading books […]

  108. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 18:07:12

    Can be a bit more than an inch actually, but you're right. I didn't mean to question you. Just…when you work with a gyn, you get to see lots of…things. :-P

    Now I’m curious . . . Maybe we're not thinking of “inside” and “external” the same way. I’ve actually researched this quite a bit, as have friends in the medical fields, and what you’re saying seems biologically impossible to me. For the hymen to be up INSIDE the vagina, there would have to be some kind of major physical abnormality. But the location IS inside the folds of the labia. Are we saying the same thing and confusing each other?

    Not that Wikipedia is a perfect resource, but their page on the topic of hymens seems to cover it pretty thoroughly IMO. Grey's Anatomy certainly does, and Grey's makes the location pretty clear.

    From Wikipedia:
    During the early stages of fetal development there is no opening into the vagina at all. The thin layer of tissue that covers the vagina at this time usually divides to a certain extent prior to birth, forming the hymen. That layer was the Müllerian eminence before, and thus, the hymen is a remnant of that structure.

  109. Anthea Lawson
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 18:11:50

    @ GrowlyCub

    He feels strongly that since the love scenes are at the core of Romance, those scenes need to be filtered through a female perspective. Men don’t experience sex the same way–and that may be a generalization, but it’s also a biological truth. Plus, he’s shy and I’m not. LOL!

    After they’re written, he gets to put on the editorial hat. But I have to say, either I am a total ACE at writing hot and emotional sex, or he holds back a little. Ok, probably some of both. ;) And since our target readership is generally not men, we don’t try to slant the writing toward male sensibilities.

    Great questions! Drop me a line if you’d like to hear more about our writing process. :) anthea(at)anthealawson(dot)com

    And on hymens… since I never had that ‘de-flowering’ experience, blood, bursting, what-have-you, the heroines I write don’t either. Regardless that it’s de-rigeur in Historicals. As if Maidenheads were as prevalent and required as corsets and sidesaddles… In this case I write what I know.

    -Anthea

  110. Elyssa
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 18:27:24

    GrowlyCub, I think it’s a big leap to say James is “showing disrespect to her readers by assuming details didn't matter.” It seems you’re overstretching here to assume it’s “disrespect” when honestly, she wrote her first book in a genre she’s always loved and read. James thought people would enjoy and read it; obviously, her agent and publisher agreed. But the readers noticed inaccuracies, and she corrected the mistakes she could. Now, I don’t know if you’ve read anything of hers recently (and from your comments, it seems like she’s not your cup of tea and your opinion won’t be changed regardless), but there are lots of details in her books regarding Regency or Georgian times. Sure, there are mistakes (and nothing I would have picked up without her mea culpas) but no book is perfect. I think it’s unfair to make such judgments about an author when you know nothing about him or her. But that’s just my two cents.

  111. theo
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 18:37:27

    @Kalen,

    Perhaps we are. I grabbed my copy of Grey’s which has a hand-drawn (of course) picture and an explanation.

    You have the labia majora and labia minora and it’s behind that labia minora where the opening to the vagina is and consequently, the hymen. Per Grey’s:

    The hymen varies much in shape. Its commonest form is that of a ring, generally broadest posteriorly; sometimes it is represented by a semilunar fold, with is concave margin turned toward the pubes. A complete septum stretched across the lower part of the vaginal orifice is called “imperforate hymen.” Occasionally, it is cribriform, or its free margin forms a membranous fringe, or it may be entirely absent. It may persist after copulation, so that it cannot be considered as a test of virginity. After parturition the small rounded elevations known as the carunculae myrtiformes are found as the remains of the hymen.

    Unfortunately, in the drawing, it shows a parturitioned vagina. However, like I said, after seeing several working with the gyn, all I can say is, I’ve seen them cover almost the entire area, including enclosing the labia minora, to being buried quite far inside, causing unfortunate menstrual problems.

    That’s all I can go by.

    And now, back to the regularly scheduled discussion…

    Sorry, Jane> *sheepishgrin*

  112. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 18:40:17

    @theo: Yep, we’re saying the same thing, just round-about and in circles, LOL!

  113. kirsten saell
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 18:43:25

    Honestly, there are all sorts of inaccuracies that authors don’t get called on, like how during many historical periods the H/h would quite possibly have had lice, and the h’s hair might go weeks or even months between washings. Oh, and you almostnever see a hero admiring the thickness and lustre of her armpit hair, either, do you?

    *one exception to this hygenification of history has been Diana Gabaldon, who has her men hawking loogies into the fireplace and her hero lamenting the waxing of his lady’s pits and legs. Ickily refreshing…

  114. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 18:46:13

    Elyssa,

    I have quoted her own bio and acknowledgments and other posters in this thread have posted relevant quotes on her ‘research process’ namely letting somebody else do the work because she’s too busy being an academic and mom. I don’t need to know her personally or have talked to her to take her comments on her writing process and form an opinion about whether or not I like what an author does.

    Any author who would write a book just because they feel like it and not worry about whether their readers will be upset about the writer not giving it their all, because ‘most readers don’t care’ is not deserving of my book dollars. It’s a hot topic button for me, obviously, and I’m sure many other people disagree.

    I have read the last 3 she wrote and yes, there’s a lot of period detail, but the detail and even the accuracy or lack thereof are not the point I’m making here.

    It’s the fact that I have the impression that the author does not care enough about her writing and with it her readers to do the actual preparatory work that’s necessary to produce a historically sound romance. That’s what I’m objecting to and that’s what I consider disrespect.

  115. theo
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 18:47:26

    @Kalen…I’m really good at circles! LOL

    On an aside: did you (general ‘you’ not you personally) know that they are now performing plastic surgery to replace the hymen for those men who want a virginal experience?

    @Kirsten, Ickily refreshing is the perfect description. But then, maybe that’s why she has fans that wait two years for another book. She’s more ‘realistic’ in much of her portrayal than most.

  116. kirsten saell
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 18:56:26

    On an aside: did you (general ‘you' not you personally) know that they are now performing plastic surgery to replace the hymen for those men who want a virginal experience?

    Not just for men, but for women who think a little surgery can make them virgins again. WTF? Almost as messed up as having plastic surgery to make your vulva prettier…

  117. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 19:00:27

    they are now performing plastic surgery to replace the hymen

    This is one of those really scary cultural developments and I cannot see any good coming out of it for future generations of women. What does it say about the self-respect of women who count on a piece of reattached/reconstructed skin to make them feel like worthwhile beings filtered through the eyes of men…

  118. Elyssa
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 19:02:53

    GrowlyCub, her bio is meant to be tongue-in-cheek. But we’re at cross purposes here, I see an author who respects and loves her readers, as is exemplified on her Bulletin Board and you see someone who is disrespectful.

  119. theo
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 19:09:16

    @kirsten and GC; Yup, that’s one of those s*** for brains things people with waaaay too much time and money decide to do. And yes, the cosmetic plastic surgery there is…I don’t know, but it makes me think they’re going to hand their partner a flashlight every time so it can be admired. Ugh!

    Sorry! I keep dragging this off-track and I don’t mean to.

    It’s the migraine drugs. Honest.

  120. Elyssa
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 19:16:57

    Sorry, I couldn’t leave these topics untouched:

    I don't need to know her personally or have talked to her to take her comments on her writing process and form an opinion about whether or not I like what an author does.

    No, you don’t have to know her personally to form an opinion. But when you make ignorant comments, then you’re not the one doing your research.

    Any author who would write a book just because they feel like it and not worry about whether their readers will be upset about the writer not giving it their all, because ‘most readers don't care' is not deserving of my book dollars. It's a hot topic button for me, obviously, and I'm sure many other people disagree
    is untouched:

    First of all, this is a gross overstatement. And utterly wrong to say. You don’t know Eloisa James, and it seems like you’re grasping at thin straws to suit your purposes and beliefs of her. As a writer, you give it your all every single time. Eloisa does this in her books and she gives so much back to her readers and the romance community. She is refreshingly honest and kind.

    And as to her research assistant, it’s an assistant . . . someone who fact checks and/or brings files to an attention she might otherwise not find. It’s not being too much of an academic or mom that she can’t be “bothered” to do it. A lot of authors use research assitants. A lot. I think you would be surprised by how many. I know you said this wasn’t the point, but then how can you make the leaps that you have about her? It is your opinion, but I don’t think you’re being fair to James.

  121. K. Z. Snow
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 19:18:13

    Honestly, there are all sorts of inaccuracies that authors don't get called on, like how during many historical periods the H/h would quite possibly have had lice, and the h's hair might go weeks or even months between washings. Oh, and you almostnever see a hero admiring the thickness and lustre of her armpit hair, either, do you?

    How true! I’ve given this a lot of thought while reading (and, in a much more limited way, writing) historical romance. For most of human history, people were reeking scumbags. Emphasis on personal hygiene is a fairly modern development.

    But, hey, we want romance. Romance by our standards. So the fudging is understandable. (I doubt a book would sell if it contained a line like, “When Aram pulled his hand out of Ellisandra’s nest of nether-hair, his nose wrinkled at the smell while he blew a host of tiny, six-legged residents off his fingers.” And how many readers want to hear about smegma, body odor, and ass-matter?) Historical and cultural accuracy, let’s face it, has its limits in today’s society.

    Know what I mean? (Damn, I managed to disgust myself with that post!)

  122. Victoria Dahl
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 19:35:43

    In defense of “one inch inside” hymens… Whenever this topic is revisited, it occurs to me that, assuming it’s an incomplete hymen or one that has been stretched by exercise or riding, etc., I think it could very easily SEEM one inch inside. The man isn’t really breaking through the membrane. It’s more like he’s stretching the ring until it pops or tears, isn’t it? (Nice visual. Mmm. Sexy.) The tip of the penis is usually the narrowest part. (I say usually, because I know some guys have big fat heads and narrow shafts.) One would assume that it might slip in quite easily until it broadened out at the base of the glans, or perhaps even broader at the shaft. Hence, a resistance felt about one inch inside. I don’t have any problem with this description!

    Whew. So glad I finally got that off my chest.

  123. Franzeca
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 19:49:10

    I have never been discussed in such energetic terms since my mother-in-law found out I was going to marry her son. I have always kept my head down, thinking I could fade into the background, but do feel compelled to explain my (still tiny) role in Eloisa James’s books.
    I had nothing to do with EJ’s first two books, made some suggestions for the paperback edition of her third book, and copy edited her fourth book. She hired me to help her as a research assistant with her fifth book, Fool for Love. It has been a learning process for both of us, and I hope I am still learning to provide better assistance. “Amanda” has it entirely correct. (full disclosure: I recently retired from many years work in a public library; not an MLS, but I worked for years on the reference desk, answering questions from the public that frequently resembled the type of questions EJ asks me.) For example, EJ’s forthcoming book has a hero who has been gone exploring for many years. I suggested a possible historical figure, she liked the idea, and I pointed her toward a biography of the explorer, and his own writings. She read them all; I didn’t. I suggested a possibility; she did the research. And I can attest that we both make considerable efforts to Get Things Right. Details of food, clothing, language, politics, travel–all are scrutinized for each book.
    Despite my best efforts, I have made my share of errors, and, alas, EJ has had to take the hit for them. But the fact that she has brought me into the process is an indication of how seriously she pursues accuracy. You can’t really smack her from both directions, both that her first book contained a number of errors, and for her having obtained some help to improve the factual accuracy of her writing.
    I chose not to go into more detail, as I think a writer has a right to much privacy in her practice, and the small part I play in the process is not worth the virtual ink that is being spilled here.

  124. Sherry Thomas
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 19:54:28

    I made it a point not to use anything from my real life. Case in point–my first three books are all reunited-lover stories. In real life, I’ve never taken back a boyfriend, ever, no matter how much they begged. :-) I figure people break up for a reason, and if the old doesn’t go, the new doesn’t come.

    But in fiction, it’s a whole different ball of wax. :-)

  125. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 20:06:34

    Case in point-my first three books

    Three? When is 3 coming out? Tell me more! :) I loved PA and have Delicious on my TBR pile.

    I’d never take an old lover back either, but I love reading those kind of stories, go figure (Paula Detmer Riggs is fabulous at writing them).

  126. Jane
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 20:54:57

    @Elyssa: I guess I view James’ attitude toward romance as one of disrespect initially. I can’t really say how she views it now. You’ll never convince me that if James had written a book for any other genre, i.e., mystery like Lyndsey Davis or a historical lit fic ala Phillipa Gregory that the book wouldn’t have been subject to rigorous fact check. The mere fact that she assumed that historical accuracy wouldn’t be of import to “romance” readers does suggest a certain disregard for their taste and intellect.

  127. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 21:01:03

    It's the fact that I have the impression that the author does not care enough about her writing and with it her readers to do the actual preparatory work that's necessary to produce a historically sound romance. That's what I'm objecting to and that's what I consider disrespect.

    Growlycub, you’re entitled to your opinion and I think you know me well enough to know I truly believe that.

    However, I don’t really think you’re being entirely fair, either. Yes, you’re making your opinion based on stuff you read on her site and other commentary and I can see where you might be basing these opinions.

    But I’ve had some interaction with Eloisa James and I’d have to say I very definitely disagree with the opinion you’ve formed of her. She came off to me as very devoted to her craft and I’d say she cares about her writing and her readers.

    All this, of course, is my opinion, others may vary, etc…

    But I gotta say, sometimes it feels like authors are expected to walk a very fine line-it’s almost like you slip up, make a mistake or just get misunderstood and people start shooting you down. We’re people…we’re not perfect.

  128. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 21:05:51

    On the issue of surgically regenerated hymens, I would like to offer another perspective to that of the vain, insecure woman trying to recapture the past. How about a young woman who was serially raped as a child and who would like to symbolically recapture her sexual innocence with a man she loves. Or how about a woman from a very conservative religion who has, for reasons not at her fault or on account of her actions, wants to be “presentable” upon examination for a prospective husband — you know, in cultures/religions where such things can mean the difference between a decent marriage and ostracism. Some of these values may seem barbaric to the more progressive among us, but I don’t believe every woman born into societies around the world should have to escape those societies to be afforded the best life possible within those cultural constraints. In other words, not all young girls around the world are going to even *see* the constraints as bad, let alone find the courage or the opportunity to escape them.

    As for the historical purification of Romance in the ways of body odor, lice, etc., I have never found this a convincing reason to advocate a free for all in historical Romance. For one thing, people *within* a society smell much different to one another than they do to an outsider from a different century, so it’s not really a fair comparison (would they even register some of those smells?). Also, I remember Mary Reed McCall talking about how important bathing was during the Middle Ages. I think we sometimes have a minimized idea of how *much* people bathed in the past, because of a tendency to see people outside our current time as backwards, uncivilized, etc. That certain details may be expunged from Romance does not, IMO, make it okay to make everything optional. That said, I would love a bit more gritty realism in historical Romance — sometimes it can engender tenderness or identification among readers, IMO (I’m thinking of some of the less romantic details in Pam Rosenthal’s The Slightest Provocation, for example).

    Now, as for the research question, from a pure PR perspective, I wonder if it might come across better to say something like: “My respect for historical authenticity is so profound that I employ a historical research expert to help me make sure everything is as accurate as I can get it.” As opposed to: “I’m just so damn busy I can’t afford the extra time it takes to research these freakin’ books.”

  129. Ann Somerville
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 21:09:00

    @Jane:

    I think I am understanding you to say that at least for m/m fiction that a straight woman can't write an authentic experience, that she can only mimic? I suppose that is what non transgendered women are doing when they are writing from a male POV – a sort of mimic?

    Depends on the experience. Women know about love and grief and all the common human emotions. A lot even know about common gay sex acts like fellatio and anal sex. Where I think the ‘authenticity’ comes in – why claiming you’re walking the walk is or isn’t important – comes from stuff like experiencing prejudice, the gay sexual scene and so on. Even BDSM in the gay context is very different – very much rougher often – than it is for m/f. So either the woman had to extrapolate, use imagination, or do a hell of a lot of research. But she can’t really internalise every issue, just the same as a man can’t. The degree to which that’s important, depends on the story they want to tell.

    Teddy’s upset by OKHomo stories – but most of mine are because they’re set in the future or alternate universes, where I have made a deliberate choice to make gay marriage, relationships, existence, absolutely ordinary and accepted. It’s my way of saying to my readers ‘this stuff shouldn’t scare you’. Writing OKHomo stuff in the real world – particularly real America, except in extremely small enclaves – is simply ridiculous. That’s a mistake a real gay person would not make.

  130. Jane
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 21:15:54

    @Ann Somerville: It’s ironic that you and TP would say that OKHomo stuff doesn’t exist in the real world. Maybe that’s true. I just went and saw “The Little Dog Laughed” – a play written by Douglas Carter Beane. In it, the movie star hero believes he suffers from “homosexual” experiences and the rent boy who falls in love with him says he’s not “gay” but he might have feelings for the actor.

    While not wholly OKHomo, it certainly addresses those topics. (The play was a Tony nominated one).

  131. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 21:27:24

    how about a woman from a very conservative religion who has, for reasons not at her fault or on account of her actions, wants to be “presentable” upon examination for a prospective husband

    Most definitely that may be a valid reason, but in reality I don’t think those are the women to whom this surgery is available. From what I’ve read about this topic recently, it’s really only available in the Western world and those women/girls in societies where this reconstructive surgery might prevent a death or social ostracism do not have access nor the financial means to get this surgery done.

    My gut instinct is to say that we need to change those societies so women aren’t subjected to this useless and objectifying practice (easily said, impossible to do from the outside and seriously colonial in outlook) and that the fact that the surgery here in the U.S. and in other developed countries is marketed at making women ‘feel pure’ again and wiping out their pasts is a serious step back for women’s rights. It ties in with general trends in evangelical fundamentalism and other ugly things I try not to think about too much because they scare the dickens out of me.

  132. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 22:05:47

    the surgery here in the U.S. and in other developed countries is marketed at making women ‘feel pure' again and wiping out their pasts is a serious step back for women's rights. It ties in with general trends in evangelical fundamentalism and other ugly things I try not to think about too much because they scare the dickens out of me.

    IMO it’s not just religion or patriarchy — it’s also women who judge other women by their sexual experience. I don’t think the way to make women accept and feel comfortable with their sexuality is by doing away with these kinds of surgeries, although in my ideal world no woman would be made to feel pain, shame, or punishment for her gender or sexuality.

    As Romance readers, we have so much to offer to this issue, IMO, at the very least by offering more generosity to heroines for having healthy sex drives and robust sex lives. Or by not relying on labyrinthine plot twists to create virgin widows and the like. To no longer equate virginity with virtue, or to demand our heroines be purer than their male counterparts.

    That’s one of the reasons I’m so insistent on paying critical attention to tropes in Romance novels. Books may not have one to one impact with RL, but they certainly reflect many attitudes that are so ingrained in our society that we take them for granted and don’t even *see* them when they’re presented to us.

    IMO, as attitudes change, so will all those things we may see as assisting certain aspects of self-negation. But I think you have to treat from the inside rather than eradicating the symptoms.

  133. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 22:26:37

    “IMO it's not just religion or patriarchy -‘ it's also women who judge other women by their sexual experience.”

    Absolutely agreed, the worst offenders in the overturning of women’s rights seem to be other women, but couldn’t it be argued that women judging other women is an outgrowth of patriarchal societies that are fueled by many different but patriarchal religions?  In other words, the judging women are so indoctrinated they are happy to condemn their fellow women (or maybe secretly jealous?) or propagating the status quo out of a certain deep-seated feeling of if it happened to me why shouldn’t it happen to them.

    I also agree with you about the underlying societal mores and cultural values that while they may not necessarily influence readers on a conscious level, are most certainly absorbed subconsciously and reflected back into society by readers.

    Which seems to tie in with the OKHomo concern (although I’m not entirely sure I’m correctly grasping the meaning of this term). 

    It could be argued that stories that depict a current society where homosexual love, marriage and child rearing are not the issue we experience in our daily life in the U.S. might work as a subconscious ‘inoculation’ to readers to consider it a normal part of their society.   The argument kind of breaks down when we consider that the people who need the most ‘inoculation’ are the ones who’d never in a million years read a gay love story to start with, but if more neutral people could be subconsciously ‘converted’ to consider it normal…

    The ‘virgin widow’ trope has never bothered me that much beyond some eye-rolling, but coming at it from this angle, I can see why it would be a really, really good idea to do away with it.

  134. Elyssa
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 22:36:21

    @ Jane, is this the same Phillippa Gregory who plays fast and loose with historical accuracy in her novels? 

  135. Ann Somerville’s Journal » Blog Archive » Wearing medals you haven’t earned.
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 22:41:32

    […] here about these discussions: at DA and at Teddy […]

  136. Ann Somerville
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 22:44:52

    “is this the same Phillippa Gregory who plays fast and loose with historical accuracy in her novels?”

    Why is it okay to criticise Gregory and not Eloise James? There’s a lot of ‘don’t touch <i>my</i> author’ going on here and in related posts.

  137. Jane
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 22:48:17

    @Elyssa – Perhaps both Gregory and James have no respect for their readership.  I would think that a scholar should respect the accuracy of history no matter what form the writing takes.  Further, I think that the default position for an author should be respect of her readership rather than the assumption that pesky historical details are of no import.  I also think that, in publishing, the burden is on the publishers and authors to care about things like historical accuracy and whether historical accuracy is included SHOULD NOT BE dependent on whether it is perceived to matter to readers.

  138. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:02:20

    but couldn't it be argued that women judging other women is an outgrowth of patriarchal societies that are fueled by many different but patriarchal religions?

    My question is how long can we not be held accountable for things we claim we want to be free of?  IMO it’s up to us women to break the pattern, because we have the ability, having gained the right as part of our ongoing equal rights movement.  While I believe, absolutely, that we still labor under many vestiges of patriarchy, our attitudes are something we each have the absolute power to recognize and change.  Then we can work on some of our institutions . . .

  139. theo
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:11:03

    Sorry, Robin. I can appreciate your thoughts, but until you can rid the ‘free world’ of self-indulgent, vein, misguided women who bend to the whim of society’s current idea of perfection, you’re barking up a leafless tree.

    And the people who utilize and ‘benefit’ most by this plastic surgery are those self-indulgent, vein, misguided women with more money than brains.

  140. Jane
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:12:54

    @theo: Wait, plastic surgery is wrong? Because when I get older and if I have the money, I’m not seeing anything wrong with a little nip and tuck.

  141. theo
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:21:27

    @Jane

    LOL! No! Are you kidding? I stand in front of the mirror every morning and wish for a tummy tuck and an eye lift but when I open those tired eyes, nothing’s changed.

    No, I see nothing wrong with it, I was just making an observation because to me, there’s a huge difference between a tummy tuck and wanting to ‘reclaim’ you’re virginity.

    Let’s face it, you can’t erase your first time, just like you can’t stop time. You might be able to make the time look a little better, but that first time will never go away so why spend $10K on something like that? There are women out there who do it though. Every day. Just for the one time sensation. That’s what I’m talking about with S*** for brains and more money than they know what to do with.

    Nope, I might nip and tuck here and there, but I don’t ever want the memory of my first time to resurface. I’ve spent a lot of years getting past it. I want to leave it there.

  142. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:23:40

    Sorry, Robin. I can appreciate your thoughts, but until you can rid the ‘free world' of self-indulgent, vein, misguided women who bend to the whim of society's current idea of perfection, you're barking up a leafless tree.

    But why? I feel like we can’t get rid of one judgment without relying on another prejudiced perception. I’d be too scared to let anyone operate on my face, but I don’t begrudge women who do it. What may look like vanity where I sit might be something else entirely to the woman having the surgery. I don’t think any amount of liberation is going to rid us of our individual insecurities, and until we alter our ageist prejudices, I don’t think we can expect people to be suddenly enlightened. Bad habits are much harder to break than good ones, IMO.

  143. Robin
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:28:19

    Nope, I might nip and tuck here and there, but I don't ever want the memory of my first time to resurface. I've spent a lot of years getting past it. I want to leave it there.

    I used to rail against virgins in historical Romance until an author (Sabrina Jeffries, I think?) commented that the virgin heroine can serve as a revisionist experience for women who did not have a great first time, for whatever reason. I remember the author in question talking about what I think was her own life experience as the daughter of religious missionaries who did not enjoy a wonderful first time experience, and writing about that ecstatic first time gives her a chance to change that in her mind each time. While it’s not my particular fantasy, I don’t think it’s an invalid one, and it helped me feel less inherently resistant to virgin heroines. Now STOOPID virgin heroines, or heroines whose virginity is equal to their virtue — that stuff pisses me off. But if I want people to accept my desire for sexually liberated heroines, don’t I have to accept someone else’s fantasy of a wondrous first time?

  144. theo
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:28:51

    @Robin, you missed the operative phrase in my comment; women who bend to the whim of society's current idea of perfection, you're barking up a leafless tree.

    But I’m not here to split hairs. I was just making that, an observation and comment.

  145. theo
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:32:42

    @ Robin, your comment #143, Why are you questioning me? If you look back to my post at #105 (I think) you’d see what my personal feelings are on virgin heroines:

    Anyway, I think that to WWYK for me would only be rape scenes because of my personal experience and since I personally feel those have no place in romance (and even if it's the antagonist that does it, I still question the validity of it) so for me, it's a matter of writing what I *wish* I'd had, not what I got.

  146. Ann Somerville
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:33:36

    I think condemning women for plastic surgery comes perilously close to the anti-abortionist stance of telling women they don’t have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies and lives.

    Being a feminist means accepting a woman has absolute dominion over her own health and her own body. Therefore if a woman wants to spend her money – or her husbands or lover’s – on tightening up their vagina, reconstructing their hymen, or for that matter, turning their face into a replica of Cruella deVille’s, it’s her choice and no one, but no one should tell her it’s evil.

    It might be bad for her health, in which case it’s a decision for her and her physician. It might make her look weird – her decision. But god almighty, who the hell does it hurt other than herself, if at all?

    It’s right to examine where the pressure to be an eternal virgin comes from. It’s quite wrong to condemn any woman for wanting to recreate the illusory virginal state for herself, for whatever reason.

  147. Evangeline
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:35:39

    @ Growlycub:

    she was showing disrespect to her readers by assuming details didn't matter

    Isn’t it pretty common for the “average” reader of historical romance to stress their lack of care of “historical accuracy”? That they don’t want to read a “history tome”?

    IMO, if James’s debut book was set in any setting outside of Regency England, I’d bet the furor would have been close to nil–most of the scandal was born from plain old jealousy of a debut author receiving a huge advance, a HC deal and reviews from People Magazine. But I digress.

    I nearly threw my hands up in defeat two years ago when I realized that based on the growing number of “wallpaper” historicals flooding the market, neither publishers nor readers greatly care about historical romance. Romance is expected to come first, preferably with beloved tropes, and historical background (McRegency England, McScotland or McMedievals, please)is sketched in enough to give the story some color.

    I believe the long-lost Maili ranted about the horrid inaccuracies seen in Scottish-set historicals, but those inaccuracies continue to be prevalent in historical romance and no one cares enough to rectify a thing. That leaves us with a readership, throughout the years, who has been convinced that “historical accuracy” equals boring, thereby lowering the bar for historical romance. Despite my determination not to insult my readership with “wallpaper” historicals, based on the presumption that becoming published is a near-impossible wall to climb, it’s easier for that new writer, or even the discouraged writer, to rely on creating the sort of characters and plot situations that are currently popular simply to sell and have a shot at success rather than risk remaining unpublished because you write “dry, boring history tomes.”

  148. theo
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:42:12

    @Ann, you know I agree with you more often than not. I’m not ‘condemning’ anyone. You’re absolutely right, we all can make our own choices. But making the choice based on society’s perception of perfection is about as far from feminism as you can get. At least, as far as the definition of feminism that I know, is concerned.

    Adding to that just for kicks and grins, I might believe in equal pay for equal jobs, but by god, I’m female, feminine and all woman and I have no intention of giving that up or the perks that go with it.

    And with that, I have nothing else to say, I guess.

    Sorry. I think I’m the one who started this.

  149. Ann Somerville
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:46:56

    making the choice based on society's perception of perfection is about as far from feminism as you can get

    Well I disagree, because the *reason* for the choice is less important than that the woman should have the freedom to choose – even unwisely – because women are always being told what’s best for them, as if they’re children.

    But I completely agree that there’s something needing fixing about the expectations of perfection in both men and women’s minds. The freedom to choose and arguing against crushing ideals, are not inconsistent ideas.

    have no intention of giving that up or the perks that go with it.

    There are perks? All I got was this lousy menstrual cycle. There could at least have been a toaster :)

  150. theo
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:51:48

    @Ann…um…sorry? I don’t have one of those anymore…but I have a toaster!! I’ll gladly lend it to you. :)

  151. Ann Somerville
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:55:05

    @theo:

    You got a toaster. I didn’t get a toaster.

    ::sulks::

    You can have my menstrual cycle if you want. I’ve proved my feminity enough now :)

  152. GrowlyCub
    Nov 18, 2008 @ 23:59:17

    Ann,

    my personal concern about this surgery comes from the effect this may have on the rest of us and our female offspring, who are not interested in reliving their first time, are not interested in ‘becoming pure’ again, if this procedure becomes more socially desirable over the next, say, 50 to 100 years. Couple that sentiment to ‘wash away your sins’ (notice how men don’t need to wash anything away or become pure again) with the rising religious fundamentalism all over the world and all of a sudden it may no longer be an optional surgery but a required one. Or if not the surgery, a resurgence of virginity=virtue, women being deprived of their freedoms so they are guaranteed ‘pure’ when they get married, or female circumcision as a means to keep women even purer instead of re-virginizing them.

    I don’t want to live in a society that demonizes female sexuality even more than the one we currently live in and I associate the marketing for this surgery I’ve seen here in the U.S. with an underlying demonizing of female sexuality and an effort to take away female empowerment by indoctrinating women that they are only worthy of their mates if they come to them with a piece of skin re-attached whose ensuing removal by the male will potentially cause them pain and physical injury.

    If I believed for one second that this were a completely impossible development I wouldn’t feel this strongly about it, but I believe the political, religious and societal climate world-wide combined with birth rates is such that we could see such developments in our lifetime back to where women are a man’s possession with no rights and no way out.

  153. Ann Somerville
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 00:04:15

    @GrowlyCub:

    Your concerns about the prevalence of this surgery, and the motivations, I agree with. It’s a very disturbing development.

    I would like people to stop short of criticising the woman herself for choosing as she wishes, that’s all. If we assume women are adults and can make their own choices, we have to allow them to make choices we don’t agree with. I wouldn’t have this kind of surgery, and wish no one felt the need for it. But I’m not in a situation where it makes any kind of sense anyway.

  154. Mrs Giggles
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 00:30:27

    That leaves us with a readership, throughout the years, who has been convinced that “historical accuracy” equals boring, thereby lowering the bar for historical romance. Despite my determination not to insult my readership with “wallpaper” historicals, based on the presumption that becoming published is a near-impossible wall to climb, it's easier for that new writer, or even the discouraged writer, to rely on creating the sort of characters and plot situations that are currently popular simply to sell and have a shot at success rather than risk remaining unpublished because you write “dry, boring history tomes.”

    My belief is this: many people read romance novels because they are fun. “Fun” in this case equals a high degree of predictability in their fiction, i.e. readers like knowing what they will get in a story. It’s like… I don’t know, why blockbuster movies every year tend to be formulaic and predictable compared to your less successful, more edgy movies that exist in the fringes of mainstream cinema. The problem here is that romance is seen as a moneymaking genre rather than a “literary” genre, so publishers tend to emphasize the bottom line in the genre and as a result, there is less room for authors to be experimental with their stories. The genre is focused on meeting the needs of the majority of readers who want lightweight stories.

    I can’t blame the readers in this case. People read for fun, so if they like taking a few hours to escape into a familiar romantic fantasy, I can’t condemn them for wanting to try something “deeper”.

    The only solution I can think, one that I have held for years, is that some generous sponsor within the publishing industry setting up a line/imprint that allows authors to be experimental even if their books don’t sell as well as your Nora Roberts or Jayne Ann Krentz novel. I used to believe that epublishing may be the answer to this, but as of recently, I have to revise my opinion, sigh.

    Warning, off-topic rant ahead:

    Perhaps a case for less wallpaper historical romances could be made more gracefully as well. This is not directed to you, Evangeline, by the way, but for me, I’ve received enough snobby and pretentious “If you are not enjoying Laura Kinsale/Mary Balogh/traditional Regency/Georgette Heyer/Roberta Gellis, there is clearly something defective with your intellect” accusation from enough readers to the point that I get an instinctive “Eeeuw, no!” reaction whenever someone tells me to pick up a “real” historical romance. I find the books by Roberta Gellis, especially, and Laura Kinsale when she believes she should write in medieval English, so hard to read at times that it’s like trying to decipher an obscure text for academic purposes rather than reading for fun. It’s not fun, seriously.

    And to be told that I’m a flawed reader, or not a “true romance reader”, because of this is annoying. As much as I enjoy academic dissections of romance novels, I get irritated when such treatment of romance novels is used to demonstrate how a select group of readers is intellectually superior over other readers. (In the same way, I get annoyed when a group of readers condemn readers of erotic romance for the subject matter of their preferred reading material, because this is the same situation, only substitute intellectual superiority for moral superiority.)

  155. Robin
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 00:36:18

    theo, now I’m confused. I was simply questioning what I thought was a prejudice on your part about plastic surgery by sharing a prejudice on my part concerning the virgin heroine. Although I forgot it was you who made that comment at 105, it was that comment, among others, that made me remember the incident on AAR in which I was forced to begin re-examining the virgin heroine. Although I think Ann said what I was trying to get in the plastic surgery issue at more clearly and succinctly in comment 153.

  156. Ann Somerville
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 00:42:17

    I get irritated when such treatment of romance novels is used to demonstrate how a select group of readers is intellectually superior over other readers.

    Maybe these authors need to have an IQ test as a requirement to buy the books, or a flash intro page warning, “you have to be this smart to ride this train” :)

  157. GrowlyCub
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 00:58:05

    get irritated when such treatment of romance novels is used to demonstrate how a select group of readers is intellectually superior over other readers.

    See and I get irritated when readers who do not have an issue with 13th century English pet raccoons and potato stew are held up as an example of the uncaring masses and why I should not require accuracy from the perpetrators of wallpaper historical romance and why it’s ‘unfair’ of me to expect historical accuracy from authors with an academic background.

    I easily give you Kinsale and her weird medieval speak, but Gellis? Nope, can’t have her as an example of unreadability due to language, grin. Are her books full of historical details and political events, sure, but the language really is very everyday.

    As to the other examples: I started reading Heyer at age 10-12, I don’t remember exactly, but I hadn’t touched a Balogh or Kinsale till this year and I’m not sure I’d hold them up as examples of ‘real’ historical romance.

    I’m curious when you started reading romance, Mrs. Giggles?

    I’ve noticed that a lot of people who started out in the 90s seem to be really defensive about liking the wallpaper historical romances that exploded onto the scene at that time and really hostile to the readers who came before them who prefer historical accuracy in their romance novels.

  158. Anthea Lawson
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 01:17:13

    The problem here is that romance is seen as a moneymaking genre rather than a “literary” genre, so publishers tend to emphasize the bottom line in the genre and as a result, there is less room for authors to be experimental with their stories. The genre is focused on meeting the needs of the majority of readers who want lightweight stories.

    Mrs. Giggles is absolutely correct here. Publishing houses are the ones marketing these books, and determining the market to some extent. For example, even though our second novel (due out next November) is half set on the Isle of Crete, there is no mention of exotic location in the marketing blurb and back-cover copy our editor put together. Specifically because books with ‘different’ locales are that much harder to place in the ‘big box’ stores. I think this decision was made because our first historical, partially set in Tunisia, was passed on by these stores, and that’s a revenue source the publishers don’t get as a result.

    It’s a self-fulfilling marketing prophecy…

    PS. Yes, there are reference resources about Tunisia in the 1840’s… go ahead, ask me about them!

  159. kirsten saell
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 01:33:01

    See, now, and I would go out of my way to read a historical romance set in Tunisia or Crete. I have to settle for David Gemmell or Guy Gavriel Kay if I want to read that kind of stuff–although their books are so awesome it’s hardly settling, lol!

  160. Persephone Green
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 01:37:41

    Ann said:

    I would like people to stop short of criticising the woman herself for choosing as she wishes, that's all. If we assume women are adults and can make their own choices, we have to allow them to make choices we don't agree with.

    Exactly.

    My question is how long can we not be held accountable for things we claim we want to be free of? IMO it's up to us women to break the pattern, because we have the ability, having gained the right as part of our ongoing equal rights movement. While I believe, absolutely, that we still labor under many vestiges of patriarchy,

    No. No. NO.

    I cannot say this strongly enough, Robin. I really hope you don’t take this personally, because you have some valid points above to argue, but I have to say that this is a classic trap that most of us fall into in our thinking from time to time, and it’s important to recognize it and refute it when we see it.

    It is not all on *our* shoulders to throw off the burdens of sexism and misogyny when society has imprinted them into our brains from day one. There are no ‘vestiges’ of patriarchy today. Patriarchy is still IN FULL EFFECT. We still have laws that make it expected for a newly married woman to give up her name and almost impossible for a newly married man to give up his. We still have countries like the U.S. where groups consisting of mostly rich, W.A.S.P., cisgendered, straight men sit around in rooms: legislating what happens to women after they become pregnant, ruling on whether women can sue for pay discrimination after six months from the start of the problem, even if they don’t know they’re being discriminated against (they can’t, as of this year), and taking about the ‘health’ of the mother in quotes like that as if future people who may be alive someday are more important than those who are already alive. We still have a majority of companies able to legally discriminate in hiring pregnant women, mothers, or women who might soon become mothers and that don’t have to provide reasonable health care, maternity leave, or childcare for employees.

    We have states in this country that say that you have to be *unconscious* (read: choking on your own vomit) when you’re inebriated for the act of a man having sex with you when you’re unable to stand “rape.” I live in one of those, and I just found that out the hard way.

    Patriarchy is alive and well. It is not dead or dormant. It is not even dying. It is making a comeback in a big way and has been ever since Reagan, or if one prefers, Roe v. Wade.

    It’s kind of like women writing those articles that pop up in college newspapers about once every year or so reminding the rest of us that “we’re all in this together, but we have to behave responsibly, or we’re inviting men to rape us.”

    [To delve briefly into another -ism, which I know is like comparing apples to oranges, but it faces similar problems so bear with me: Bill Cosby once publicly scolded other African-American men, mostly those from a different economic background than he (which is classism, but that’s the smaller problem), and told them to clean up their acts and get good jobs and stop selling drugs and abandoning their families. That’s all well and good advice, but the reasons that many poorer black men in the U.S.A. are drawn into a cycle of poverty and crime has a lot to to with our failing education systems, the unreasonably harsh prison sentences for drug possession for the kind of cocaine more often found in urban PoC areas, the reverse redlining of districts to concentrate PoC in destitute areas, the denials of loans to PoC and other discriminatory hiring practices…etc. It’s hard to get people to find better jobs when there’s inadequate access to higher education that would qualify them for those jobs. Those factors are society’s fault for refusing to let colonialism’s offspring die quick deaths. ‘Personal responsibility’ and ‘bootstraps’ are straw man arguments that both assume we start from the same starting line and fail to address the real perpetrators who make these problems exist in the first place.]

    The onus of responsibility should never fall upon the victims of prejudice and violence to anticipate their attackers’ actions and shape their behavior out of fear or resignation.

    our attitudes are something we each have the absolute power to recognize and change. Then we can work on some of our institutions . . .

    Yes, many women’s attitudes need to change. The problem is that if we leave the task of changing our institutions and society at large and men’s attitudes for last, it will be for nothing, because our environment will continue to poison us and harm us at will.

    If we want women to stop having hymenal restoration surgeries, we need men to stop treating unmarried non-virgins as if they’ve lost a commodity. We need preists and pastors to stop thinking about virginity as a thing that you lose and start thinking of sex as an act you share with someone else (usually), a performance that doesn’t affect some kind of ‘moral resale value.’

    What women choose to do with their bodies is between them and if they so choose, their doctors and their deity or deities.

  161. Persephone Green
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 01:53:11

    My gut instinct is to say that we need to change those societies so women aren't subjected to this useless and objectifying practice (easily said, impossible to do from the outside and seriously colonial in outlook) and that the fact that the surgery here in the U.S. and in other developed countries is marketed at making women ‘feel pure' again and wiping out their pasts is a serious step back for women's rights.

    I agree, GrowlyCub.

    What may look like vanity where I sit might be something else entirely to the woman having the surgery.

    Exactly.

    I used to rail against virgins in historical Romance until an author (Sabrina Jeffries, I think?) commented that the virgin heroine can serve as a revisionist experience for women who did not have a great first time, for whatever reason. […] writing about that ecstatic first time gives her a chance to change that in her mind each time. While it's not my particular fantasy, I don't think it's an invalid one, and it helped me feel less inherently resistant to virgin heroines. Now STOOPID virgin heroines, or heroines whose virginity is equal to their virtue -‘ that stuff pisses me off. But if I want people to accept my desire for sexually liberated heroines, don't I have to accept someone else's fantasy of a wondrous first time?

    YES. Thank you, Robin. This is why tropes can and should be done well. If ‘surprise baby’ works for some people, that’s fine. I don’t have to read it, but I certainly won’t begrudge someone else their fantasies.

  162. Ann Somerville
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 01:57:10

    @Anne Douglas:

    Something I really need to comment on

    one of them notes how the glass has run/rippled and is showing its age (because glass is not solid, as you might think – it just moves very, very slowly)

    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/Glass/glass.html

    Old glass is rippled because of the way it’s made, and not because of glass being a liquid. This one is trotted out as often as the ‘we only use 10% of our brain’ thing, which is equally erroneous.

  163. Robin
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 02:08:49

    It's kind of like women writing those articles that pop up in college newspapers about once every year or so reminding the rest of us that “we're all in this together, but we have to behave responsibly, or we're inviting men to rape us.”

    No. No. No

    There is a difference between being a victim and abdicating agency. That women remain victimized by institutional patterns of patriarchy or by incidents of male-initiated violence does not mean we are without agency as women to understand and change our own patterns of cooperation with patriarchal values and institutional structures. As individuals, in what we believe about ourselves and each other, we have agency. To deny this is, IMO, to re-victimize ourselves, not by inviting rape, which is a ridiculous assertion, but by denying our ability to change our own minds about who we are.

    Those who have the lion’s share of power will never, IMO, voluntarily relinquish it, whether that be out of fear or aggression or whatever. So whether it is “right” that those who have been historically oppressed should have to fight for their full independence, it is, IMO, necessary if it is ever to be achieved. We tend to see the word “responsibility” only as conferring a burden, but it also breaks down to something very different, IMO: the ability to respond.

  164. Robin
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 02:21:23

    If we want women to stop having hymenal restoration surgeries, we need men to stop treating unmarried non-virgins as if they've lost a commodity. We need preists and pastors to stop thinking about virginity as a thing that you lose and start thinking of sex as an act you share with someone else (usually), a performance that doesn't affect some kind of ‘moral resale value.'

    But how can those things happen if we, as women, don’t have the beliefs we want men to have? How can we expect them to believe about us — and about themselves — what we don’t?

  165. kirsten saell
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 03:07:36

    The onus of responsibility should never fall upon the victims of prejudice and violence to anticipate their attackers' actions and shape their behavior out of fear or resignation.

    That may well be, but I would no more walk at 1 AM in an urban area without a heavy object to hand and shoes I can run in than I would walk in the woods without a knife and a can of bear spray. There is a world of “should never”s out there, but in real life, I’d rather be safe than unsafe, let alone sorry.

    And I agree, it’s not right to criticize individual women for choosing what they want for their bodies. But in the larger context of the culture, I see nothing wrong with encouraging women in general to ask themselves why they would choose such a procedure, and what that says about them, in themselves and within their society.

    But how can those things happen if we, as women, don't have the beliefs we want men to have? How can we expect them to believe about us -‘ and about themselves -‘ what we don't?

    Agreed. It’s useless to argue about whose attitude should have to change first. Those in power are typically pleased with the status quo. The ones who want change nearly always have to fight to bring it about. And all in all, I would rather have a bunch of incredulous women staring at me and asking “WTF are you thinking having your hymen restored, what are you, an idjit?” than have a bunch of smarmy, condescending men patting me on the head and telling me the opposite. I’d rather have women try to assert what ideals women should aspire to, than men.

    But I have to ask, how did a discussion on Writing What You Know turn into a debate on the personal and societal implications of hymen restoration, lol?

  166. Janine
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 03:36:55

    I believe the long-lost Maili ranted about the horrid inaccuracies seen in Scottish-set historicals

    I know this is OT, but I have to say I really miss that long-lost Maili…

  167. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 05:40:57

    Being a feminist means accepting a woman has absolute dominion over her own health and her own body. Therefore if a woman wants to spend her money – or her husbands or lover's – on tightening up their vagina, reconstructing their hymen, or for that matter, turning their face into a replica of Cruella deVille's, it's her choice and no one, but no one should tell her it's evil.

    Man, I think the earth is going to tremble here, but Ann, I agree completely.

    If the woman is doing it to please others, then I’d see a problem.

    But if she’s doing it to please herself, I see no problem. And while I have no desire for boob jobs or reconstructing this or that…if I ever have the money to zap some fat cells and sculpt the areas my work out aren’t touching…I’d be very interested.

  168. Anne Douglas
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 07:14:10

    Something I really need to comment on

    one of them notes how the glass has run/rippled and is showing its age (because glass is not solid, as you might think – it just moves very, very slowly)

    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/General/Glass/glass.html

    Old glass is rippled because of the way it's made, and not because of glass being a liquid. This one is trotted out as often as the ‘we only use 10% of our brain' thing, which is equally erroneous.

    Huh. Obviously the glass guys that taught me to make leadlight windows weren’t physics majors. I stand corrected.

    I guess this shows, then – you can do the research… doesn’t necessarily mean what your research tells you is right.

  169. Anne Douglas
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 07:21:40

    hmmm… quote within a quote. Well that was pretty dumb of me..

  170. Erastes
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 07:25:54

    No, of course a writer doesn’t have to be experienced in what they write to be able to write it. Whether they can convince is another matter. Heinlein didn’t have to have been to Europa or Ganymede but I was totally convinced in his stories. Anna Sewell didn’t have to be a horse, but millions of people have been won over by Black Beauty’s first person experience without saying “a horse wouldn’t think like that, behave like that and how the hell did he manage to write this without thumbs anyway?” So no. You don’t have to be in love, or even to have experienced love to be able to write it convincingly – that’s not to say that everyone who writes it CAN convince.

    Granted there are a lot of m/m characters who behave like women, but often the writers are male. I point the detractors of women writing m/m romance to the works of Vincent Virga and Max Pierce whose heroes are every bit as girlie as anything I’ve found in some female m/m.

    Also – most m/m authors – not all – will admit that they are writing FOR women. I don’t – but that’s my choice. So if they are writing for women, (and the kind of women who like more emotional men) then people who don’t like that type of man are obviously not going to like them. That being said – I also dislike the ball – scratching farting males that female m/m authors write – perhaps to try and instil a sense of masculinity – because that’s not my experience of men in general. It all goes to show that there are different sorts of people everywhere and something for everyone.

    I would never be influenced as to whether an author was a male or a female when choosing a book – romance or otherwise.

    As to pennames. It’s a matter of public record that I attempted to keep my gender under wraps because I wanted “Erastes” to be gender neutral. Part of the reason for choosing that penname. I didn’t think it was any import whether I was a male or a female. In the days before invasive internet processes you’d get a book – an author blurb and perhaps a photo and you’d accept that information was real. I don’t know or care – for example – what sex P L Travers is. So I hoped that I could create a fictional persona of “Erastes” and leave my own persona hidden behind it – but when people started to make it important I had to come out and say that although in my head, Erastes was a male character – I was a female writer. (It works perfectly well for James Lear/Rupert Smith, but he has the luxury of actually being male, so the persona gels). Whatever Lanyon’s sex is I think that’s his/her business and I find it gobsmacking that people would make such a big deal about such a thing. To me, its as much witchhunting as demanding to know what sexual preference you have – which is designating as illegal and bullying – in the UK at least.

  171. Ann Somerville
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 07:40:59

    To me, its as much witchhunting as demanding to know what sexual preference you have

    Oh bull.

    Why is it wrong for readers to ask why an author needs to maintain an elaborate fake persona, and not wrong for the author to deceive the readers? Over and over today, people have declared they don’t care what sex the writer is – so why is it such a big secret with certain authors to hide it? This is so much like the Cassie Edwards thing, I can’t believe it. Sure, let’s shoot people for asking natural questions, but no one better question our pet authors.

    I call shenanigans. Nora Roberts doesn’t pretend to be a bloke behind her neutral J D Robb pen name. Jordan Castillo Price doesn’t pretend to be one either. I can only think of a handful of authors who hem and haw about what gender they are when asked – and Lanyon’s one of them. Why? Why jump down a reader’s throat because they assumed ‘he’ was female, and now make a huge song and dance about not revealing what gender he is?

    The only people making this an issue are the people maintaining the pretence when challenged or asked. Readers don’t care about it – but they don’t like being lied to. Writing frauds are unfortunately common – doesn’t mean we have to accept it any more than we have to accept mealy mouthed explanations of plagiarism.

    For the record, I’d respect you and Lanyon a lot more if you just came out and said you thought your books would sell better if people thought you were blokes. That was what the Torquere Press crowd did it for originally, but they’ve since realised it’s not necessary. All this crap about ‘Erastes is a male character’ and the other self-justifications I’ve read today, is nonsense.

  172. Gin
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 07:51:48

    While I hate to go off on yet another tangent I have to just comment again on this:

    HINT: The foreskin doesn't peel back from an engorged penis like the plastic wrap on an English cucumber.

    As a Brit I'm fine with knowing how to handle an uncircumcised penis – but what the heck is an English cucumber?! Or rather, what is an un-English one like?!

    Because it took me a moment to remember that if you buy a cucumber here from a supermarket, yep, it's wrapped in plastic – but on the whole mine come in only their own knobbly, almost plastic-like green skin – and I remove that “wrapping” with a potato peeler.

    So the thought of peeling back any foreskin in that way made mind boggle in a way it has yet to recover from!

    Sorry

  173. Keishon
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 08:38:03

    Re: Roberta Gellis rant from Mrs Giggles and OT:

    Nope, can't have her as an example of unreadability due to language, grin. Are her books full of historical details and political events, sure, but the language really is very everyday.

    I agree with that statement. Ms Gellis is not unreadable and I agree with you Mrs Giggles that reading _should_ be fun. The great thing about romance is that there is something for everybody. If you like stereotypes, wall paper historicals, accurate historicals, Nascar stories, secret baby stories, simple stories, complex stories, etc, you know where to find them.

    As for people saying you’re not a real romance reader for not enjoying Laura Kinsale and Mary Balogh (the latter I quit reading years ago), I wouldn’t give these people a second thought. It’s a ridiculous claim/argument. What in the hell is a real romance reader, pray tell?

  174. Steve Berman
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 09:24:21

    It’s an intersting argument. Certainly there have been women who have written some of the finer gay (male) themed books. I can think of Swordspoint. Of course, Ellen Kushner is gay.

    I know that many gay male writers and readers have discussed the matter with me and the talk has mentioned that they feel the characters written in several of these stories do not resemble any gay male they have ever met. I’m not stating I agree with this. But I have heard the argument countless time.

    As for ADL’s best-selling authors being women, I find that hard to believe across ALL genres. Mystery and Thriller? Wouldn’t more of Christopher Rice’s work have sold? Or Greg Herren’s? Maybe with spec fic, but that genre has always had more female authors. I just imagine Ethan Mordden sells more than Lanyon. And if not, well, it’s very odd (and actually I think sad because Mordden deserves to be read and I think his writing will outlast most romance).

    Certainly at Giovanni’s Room in Philly, the m/m romance titles don’t sell as well as other books.

    Anyway, I want to end with one thing that Teddypig stated: he wanted to read in the work of gay male authors the “the total experience of being Gay.” Now this has to be the biggest crock I have ever heard. Since when is being gay a universal condition. First off, ‘gay’ is a label. People are not born gay. They may be born with an attraction to the same gender but they adopt the label of gay at some point (or maybe not – plenty of men have homosexual relations but never consider themselves gay). And no two gay men have the same experience. Should a ‘gay’ man in his 60s in downtown NYC have the same ‘total experience’ as a teen growing up in the Midwest? Or in the Middle East. I hate that peopel think of homosexual identities as this catch-all. Some of the finest gay male authors tell very different stories. Is Dark Reflections any less literature because the protagonist is fearful of sex?

    I think people should just an author by their work. Will gay men do so? Doubtful. Not when they are so busy being judgemental of everyone else.

  175. Teddypig
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 10:05:35

    Anyway, I want to end with one thing that Teddypig stated: he wanted to read in the work of gay male authors the “the total experience of being Gay.” Now this has to be the biggest crock I have ever heard.

    Quick Steve, you radical you. Call the National Coming Out Day people and tell them they are full of it. That we can never share that experience as a community because you think the world is so much more enlightened now.

  176. Steve Berman
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 10:07:12

    Well, Teddy, you have yet to explain what the total experience of being Gay is. Unless it’s being snarky.

  177. passer
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 10:11:06

    @Ann Somerville: You talk as if you know for a fact that Lanyon is a female. Do you have any tangible proof besides rumors (possibly started by you) and assumptions? Either You are insane or you are doing this deliberately.

  178. Teddypig
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 10:35:52

    Steve,

    “no two gay men have the same experience.”

    I was a Gay Man in the US Military Steve. That is a lot of shared experience you are discrediting there. Sweeping generalized statements tend to do that.

    I am not going to argue with you over your assertion. All I can say is there would be no reasons for Gay Communities or National Coming Out Days or Gay Pride Events or even The Stonewall Riots unless there was a common thread, a common cause.

    Suggested reading list…

    My Country, My Right To Serve
    Mary Ann Humphrey

    Farm Boys
    William D. Fellows

    Gay New York
    George Chauncey

  179. Kalen Hughes
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 11:13:54

    As a Brit I'm fine with knowing how to handle an uncircumcised penis – but what the heck is an English cucumber?! Or rather, what is an un-English one like?!

    Because it took me a moment to remember that if you buy a cucumber here from a supermarket, yep, it's wrapped in plastic – but on the whole mine come in only their own knobbly, almost plastic-like green skin – and I remove that “wrapping” with a potato peeler.

    So the thought of peeling back any foreskin in that way made mind boggle in a way it has yet to recover from!

    Sorry if the image damaged you, LOL. But I read a book not so long ago (an “erotic” historical romance; I use quotes because the book couldn’t have been less erotic IMO) that contains a LOOOOONG description of an uncircumcised penis, fully erect, and the heroine peeling back the foreskin to revel it. I’d had problems with the book before, but that was a total WTF moment. I just couldn't stop thinking Jeebus, if you don't know, please skip over the “erotic” detail and move on to something you DO know. But then after reading about half the book (total DNF), I'm not quite sure what the author in question does know (cause she's clueless about history [on pretty much every level], sex, and anatomy).

  180. Robin
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 11:50:43

    What in the hell is a real romance reader, pray tell?

    I was always under the impression that a “real Romance reader” was the reader RWA surveyed and who found “muscles” to be the most desired hero trait (I think this was from the 2004 survey, lol). The readers who won’t touch anything but an Avon historical and would never read a book without a virgin heroine.

    I don’t know; I’ve read some pretty smart Romance that isn’t so detail heavy on the history. OTOH, I don’t like feeling that Romance isn’t *important* enough to have the history be richly detailed. So for me it’s not about intelligence, it’s about respect. The whole idea of writing a book to the market is not very attractive to me; I want to believe that an author has the utmost respect for her work regardless of whether she wants to write a history-heavy book or a history-lite book — that in either case she plans it carefully and has a vision for her work that is true to all the the elements she has chosen to use, from the time the book is set to the place it’s set to the characters who fill its pages, whether it’s history-heavy or history-lite.

  181. MD
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 12:10:25

    For the record, I'd respect you and Lanyon a lot more if you just came out and said you thought your books would sell better if people thought you were blokes.

    I agree.

    And reading these posts, I can see how all the secretiveness backfires on the author. Readers assume the reason you’re being secretive is because you are a woman pretending to be a gay man. So all you end up doing is alienating the people who’ve enjoyed your work. And if people are enjoying your work, why keep prevaricating, anyway? If they like the end result, they’re not going to stop reading, no matter the sex of the author.

    I’m kind of surprised Lanyon himself (herself?) doesn’t want to clear it up once and for all. If I were an author being so questioned, I think I’d want to.

  182. katiebabs
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 12:26:54

    I, for one, try not to care who the author is, or where they are from or their background. If they can write a believable story that I have enjoyed, that is all that matters. I am with TP, reviewing the writing, not the writer.
    I have met Lisa Marie Rice, and she is not a man.

  183. Robin
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 12:38:56

    I’m always fascinated by these taboo subjects, because they so often make no real sense to me as prohibitions.

    I know the point has already been made, but taking a pen name is not the same as inventing a persona that seems to fit with or authorize the work in question. And reader speculation does not amount to hiring a private investigator to track down an author. Nor, IMO, does it mean one is not “reviewing the work.” Otherwise, any reader who frequents author blogs or attends author readings or drives hundreds of miles to meet their favorite authors would be ineligible to review.

    As for why someone would invent a persona, I am cynical enough to believe it’s sometimes about creating mystique for the author and drawing more attention. That’s a generalization inapplicable across the board, of course, but the mystery certainly can engender more attention and curiosity *about* an author’s and his/her work.

  184. MoJo
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 12:44:42

    I read completely different things by male writers than I do female, although that’s not on purpose.

    Almost all the women I read write romance. The men I read write some strange concepts (oddly, most of the male-written books have either little sex or no sex at all and nothing of the romantic sort).

    I’ll admit, however, that I’m far more choosy about the men I read than the women. I don’t know why; haven’t stopped to analyze it and I don’t think I care enough to put effort into it.

  185. Lori
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 12:52:13

    If identity is so important then why not strip off your pen names too?
    No more nom-de-plumes, let’s have full names, birthdays, marital status and while we’re at it, a brief description of where you think the hymen is located (mine was located on the couch of the living room one sweaty evening but it disappeared and was never heard from again)…

  186. GrowlyCub
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 13:03:23

    http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1859937,00.html

    Since we were speaking of re-virginizing and related issues, what a coincidence that the first thing I see this morning on CNN was ‘plastic surgery below the belt’.

    “After all, one of the most common reasons women cite in seeking the surgery, some doctors say, is a negative comment from a disgruntled sexual partner.”

    Scary. Sad.

  187. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 13:03:30

    I think it’s okay for an author to keep her name, gender, or any other personal information private. Should we start insisting that all authors write under their real names, for the sake of “honesty”?

    As far as male authors writing under female names–I probably wouldn’t buy the book if I knew. But I’d only feel “cheated” if the writing was bad.

  188. kirsten saell
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 13:37:34

    “After all, one of the most common reasons women cite in seeking the surgery, some doctors say, is a negative comment from a disgruntled sexual partner.”

    WTF? If my boyfriend or husband made some negative comment about the appearance of my vulva, he wouldn’t be seeing it for a while, if ever. See if he thinks his right hand is prettier.

  189. Moth
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 13:40:43

    For the record, I'd respect you and Lanyon a lot more if you just came out and said you thought your books would sell better if people thought you were blokes.

    Ditto. The only reason I can see for playing coy about your gender is to build a mystique. Asking whether you’re a man or a woman is NOT on par with asking your sexual orientation or marital status. To me. Readers who like your stuff are naturally curious. (without being familiar with Lanyon’s work) it seems to me that, in general, the only reason you wouldn’t come out and confirm you were a male author would be if you weren’t one and you didn’t want people to know.

    And boy this thread is all over the place…

  190. Kathryn Smith
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 13:45:06

    An obvious reason for have a pen name is if you write one kind of books under one name and are about to write something totally different. Sometimes if an author hasn’t done well, they will decide to write under a different name in the hopes of ‘fresh slate’ syndrome taking over.

    As for the sexuality issue, who cares? I don’t care if you’re male or female if I like your work. I don’t care you sleep with. I don’t mean any disrespect, but I’ve never figured out what the big deal about coming out is. I’ve never felt the need to sit anyone down and tell them I’m straight. I don’t feel we need to justify who we love to anyone.

  191. Tasha
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 14:14:27

    does an author have to be gay to write the m/m books for the stories to be authentically homosexual

    As far as I know, many of the authors of m/m books are not trying to create works that are authentically homosexual–after all, the audience for many of these works is straight women. So if that’s the case, if the author isn’t trying to claim that their stories are authentically homosexual, who cares if the author is gay, straight, male, female, or other?

    Many (authentically homosexual) writers of lesbian literature choose pseudonyms that are gender-ambiguous. Does the perception by mainstream readers that these books are written by straight men constitute some kind of mischief on the part of the authors, given that such gender-ambiguous names are an integral part of lesbian fiction, where you will see ten female characters named Ryan for every Ashleigh?

    @Kathryn: To link your two topics, another obvious reason for a pen name is that people DO care about the sexuality issue. Wasn’t it just a week ago that the story appeared about a couple who was denied permission to buy a home because the community considered m/m erotica to be gay porn and thus the couple undesireable as neighbors? Like it or not, people do have to hide their sexuality to protect their jobs and for other reasons–which is why being able to come out and be open about sexuality is such a big deal. It’s not a big deal to tell people you’re straight because that’s the societal and cultural norm; it’s a much bigger deal for people outside of that norm.

  192. theo
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 14:18:47

    @kirsten

    WTF? If my boyfriend or husband made some negative comment about the appearance of my vulva, he wouldn't be seeing it for a while, if ever. See if he thinks his right hand is prettier.

    ROFLMAO!!! That’s the best comment I’ve read on this thread!

    Sorry, I know I started that whole misguided discussion with my innocently asked question, but that was a great answer.

  193. Jane
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 15:13:17

    For the record, I do not care about the gender of an author when it comes to m/m fiction because I have no experience in the m/m (or lesbian) lifestyle so I wouldn’t know an inauthentic moment if it came up and hit me in the face. But I do think that there is a furor over the gender of an author within that market that makes the point of the article – to some, gender must matter significantly enough that some authors feel the need to adopt a different gender for the purpose of selling their books.

    To not speak about the issue and the problems that these biases create will never solve the problem or make the marketing atmosphere more gender neutral.

    Having said that, if an author trades on something to authenticate their voice for the story, then it is a fair topic for discussion amongst readers. I.e., if an author says that because he is a gay man he can more accurately speak (or better riff of off) a gay male experience, then I think it is fair to discuss whether the author is a gay man. I don’t think that is the same as trying to rip away one’s pen name.

    If an author says she is a former soap writer which makes her book about soapwriters more authentic and it turns out that the only soap experience an author has had in the bathtub, then her fables are fair discussion topics.

    It’s not a personal attack on an author, in my opinion, to examine marketing motives and marketing responses to reader buying habits. When an author sells some part of himself or herself as a reason to buy the books, it’s natural for a reader to discuss it.

  194. Emma
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 15:13:36

    Unless we write under our real names, we are *all* fakers. I’m a faker, absolutely, because I can assure you it doesn’t say “Emma Collingwood” in my passport. That name is my overall which I put on to do my job, just like my ratty old sweater that I wear when I do some painting or decorating. I feel comfortable with it (and in it), it gives me the confidence to write.

    I couldn’t care less what an author’s gender is or what name s/he uses. As long as a story is well-written and I can enjoy it, I’m perfectly fine if the author is a life-form with twelve tentacles from Pluto.

    We’re free to make our own choices, and if an author feels more comfortable writing under a male name though she’s a woman, how does that change the quality of the writing in any way? A book is a book is a book, either a good one or a waste of money. The real or assumed gender of the author has nothing to do with it.

    And seriously, if anybody here would enjoy a story *less* just because the gender of the author is not to their liking, I’d say it’s not the author who has some issues.

  195. Jane
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 15:20:42

    @Emma: Is there something about your pen name that adds extra authenticity for your work? Let’s assume that I decide to write lit fic and I create a persona for myself that I am a direct descendant of Mark Twain. I am Michael Twain. My great, great grandfather is Mark Twain. I am privvy to some of his works that are unpublished and my writing is humorous, satirical, and pithy in the matter of Mark Twain.

    Would you wonder, and would it be fair to wonder, whether that persona is true. Would it matter that I falsely traded on the Twain celebrity even if my writing was Mark Twain-ish? In some ways, creating a false persona is very James Frey-ish to me.

    As for gender of an author, it does matter to me reading romance fiction. I know myself enough to admit that I would prefer to always read a female author of romance fiction. It is possible that I am missing out because of it, but I admit to not being gender neutral in that regard. Thus, it makes sense for male authors to adopt a female persona. However, because I do prefer to read female authors, if I heard that an author was male pretending to be female, I would probably want to know more. I understand that my gender bias is problematic and the only way to rid myself of the bias is to read a plethora of romance books by males so I could be convinced there is no reason for gender preference.

  196. Ann Somerville
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 15:22:31

    Either You are insane or you are doing this deliberately.

    Man, why does it have to be a choice?

    Can’t I be mad and bad?

    I said all I wanted to say about Lanyon’s gender in my first comment on this thread. Helpfully, it’s the first comment.

    Lanyon’s kicking and squealing and generally tanty throwing instead of a simple “Look, I’m a gay man so you can just go f*ck yourself”, tends to confirm my surmise based on the writing.

    The only ones making this an issue are Lanyon, Teddy and the minions. Teddy wants to fight for the right for straight women to pretend to be gay men. Only he knows why that’s important.

  197. Shayne
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 15:26:22

    As soon as I become a vampire, I’ll let everybody know if being one or not is important to the paranormal stuff I write.

  198. Ann Somerville
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 15:40:32

    As soon as I become a vampire

    First step. Go to the premiere of Twilight with a scratched neck and hope Rob Pattinson licks it.

    It might not make you a vampire but it will certainly set you down the path of disturbed and stalkery. Who knows, sparkles can’t be far behind?

  199. Emma
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 15:45:57

    @ Jane:

    Is there something about your pen name that adds extra authenticity for your work?

    But of course. It’s English (my real name is not), it has an Age of Sail connotation, and I don’t feel bad in the least about using a pen name. The name fits the writing, but it’s perfectly clear I’m not a descendant of Admiral Collingwood, some famous cricket player or soap actor. Comparing that to your example of the Mark Twain descendant is comparing apples to pears; you’d falsely claim a kinship, there would be legal consequences coming from Twain’s estate.

    I understand that my gender bias is problematic and the only way to rid myself of the bias is to read a plethora of romance books by males so I could be convinced there is no reason for gender preference.

    Well, why should you if you don’t want to? See, I really understand where you’re coming from. You’re not alone, I’ve heard this from many readers. It’s like “only men can write real Age of Sail” or “only women know how to write real romance” – but what is “real”, after all? Real is what we, personally, enjoy the most. But as you say, this is *your* bias. It has less to do with the author and more with your expectations and perceptions. If the authors are happy with your preferences, why not simply let the authors have theirs?

    Maybe we should just assign numbers to authors – neutral in every aspect, with books only to be judged by the content.

  200. Janine
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 15:55:20

    As far as male authors writing under female names-I probably wouldn't buy the book if I knew. But I'd only feel “cheated” if the writing was bad.

    I remember being shocked to learn that romance author Jennifer Wilde was really a man — Tom Huff. I had enjoyed his books Once More, Miranda and The Slipper (though it’s been a long time since I read them, and I don’t know how they would hold up today) and he had done a great job with the female POV. It had never occurred to me when I read his books that the author might be male.

  201. Jane
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 15:58:13

    @Emma: I actually would never have made the connection between Emma Collingwood and the Age of Sail (admittedly don’t even know what the Age of Sail is).

    As for my not letting authors have preferences, where is it that I am not allowing them to have preferences? Authors can say or do whatever they want, but it does not mean that we aren’t allowed to question their choices and how it impacts us, if at all. The mere discussion of a topic does prevent anyone from doing anything.

    I’m kind of curious where you are seeing the prevention of authors to have preferences?

  202. katiebabs
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 15:59:47

    I met Leigh Greenwood at RWA this year and “she” is a “he”. We had a great conversation about his books, and even though he is considered a romance writer , he feels he writes Westerns like Louis L’Amour amour, just with a love story. :D

  203. Emma
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 16:05:34

    @Jane: (Age of Sail = 16th – 19th century – think tall ships, Master & Commander, Napoleonic wars etc. I write gay historical fiction set in the 18th century.)

    Authors can say or do whatever they want, but it does not mean that we aren't allowed to question their choices and how it impacts us, if at all. The mere discussion of a topic does prevent anyone from doing anything.

    I'm kind of curious where you are seeing the prevention of authors to have preferences?

    I absolutely agree with you that they can be discussed. Maybe I got the wrong impression from this specific discussion here, but it seems to me that a female author writing under a male pen name is considered to be “dishonest”. If this impression is correct, I’d be curious to learn where the line should be drawn between preference of the author and dishonesty with the readers.

  204. Jane
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 16:21:31

    @Emma: If you are a straight female and you market yourself as a gay male writing how to books on writing from a gay male POV and having a more authentic voice than other writers within the sub genre because of your gender and sexual orientation then I do think that is dishonest. It’s still the author’s choice and suggesting that you don’t like it as a reader (which I point out I have not done) doesn’t prevent the author from maintaining that persona.

  205. Randi
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 16:53:03

    Wow. There is a LOT going on here, much to my delight.

    Firstly, Kalen: That whole hymen blog was awesome. Who knew? Not me. But I do want to know more about this corset-inducing autoerotic aphysxiation. That sounds verrrry interesting. I once wore a real corset for several hours. I spent the entire time trying not to vomit. It wasn’t fun and I swore to never put one on again. It also made me wonder how women scurried around to and fro in them…

    theo: just curious what sorts of menstral problems arise from hymens.

    KZ Snow: “ass-matter”. OMG, I almost fell out of my chair. LOL. ew. Yeah, there’s a fine line between historical accuracy and fantasy. I’ll take historical accuracy on manners, politics, economics, etc; but let me have my hygiene, please.

    @ Emma: I’m with Jane on this topic. It doesn’t matter what sex one is (and frankly, I’d like to read for male written romances, as I’d like to get a better idea about what men think about when a)they’re just looking for sex and b)when their affections are engaged; and how those differ from female responses to a and b); but rather the elaborate creations of a fake persona, that has nothing to do with the real author. And I think the allegory of Mark Twain is a good one. But if you don’t like that one, then let’s take a real life example: James Frey. James Frey did not have the experiences he said he did. He full out lied about who he was and what had happened to him. You could argue that his lies did not invalidate the message of his book, and in fact, many people did argue that; but at the end of the day, he didn’t have any more real experiences than I did, to bottle his message in a memoir. It was a lie and yes, IMO, does invalidate the message.

    Anyway, Kalen, how about that corset topic?

  206. Shayne
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 17:00:09

    Ann, I have yet to get over sparkly vampires.

    However, I do speak with some authority on the vampire biting sexy vs. not sexy. Having had a IV in my neck that caused considerable pain and tenderness, I can honestly say vampires have to have super duper powers to make any hole in the neck feel good. Therefore, RPatt must prove he has those powers before I’ll let him do anything to my neck. Not to mention all vampires must have that power or the author is bullshitting the reader.

    Believe me, it took months after that IV for me to even began to think a vamp bite might feel good on any level. That’s a no shitter as my SO would say.

    I didn’t say I was completely inexperienced in vampiric matters, did I?

    K, I’m done now and probably should go write to keep my nose out of trouble.

  207. MaryK
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 17:07:23

    @Victoria Dahl:

    I think it could very easily SEEM one inch inside. . . . Whew. So glad I finally got that off my chest.

    Thanks for articulating that. I was thinking something similar involving the stretching ability of the tissue but didn’t feel quite up to a detailed description. Man, if I ever decide to be a romance novelist, I’ll have to have an ultra-secret identity!

  208. Robin
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 17:13:16

    Mark Twain is such a good example for this discussion, because he wrote an autobiography that I and many other Twain scholars have spent countless hours, days, years, decades, etc. studying. One of the beauties of the autobiography is that it is the story of “Mark Twain” who was himself an invention of Samuel Clemens. And the biography is comprised of true and not true anecdotes, told while blurring the boundaries between real and fictional author persona. Now do you think those of us who have spent a lot of time with this work *haven’t* compared it extensively to Twain’s “real” life as we know it? That biographical research is part and parcel of the study of Mark Twain, in his autobiography and beyond (especially since so many of his novels were pseudo-autobiographical). And within a scholarship paradigm, the focus isn’t on whether it was a good or bad thing he wrote under the pseud, but rather *how* his work functioned, where it did and didn’t coincide with incidents from his own life (especially for the autobiography), and in some instances, *why* he altered and even made up incidents he advertised as autobiographical. Those inquiries are ideally carried out without judgment about Clemens as a person, which seems to be part of what people are objecting to with similar discussions about current writers.

    Unlike a lot of other readers, I cynically expect a certain amount of fakery in author marketing, even though ideally it’s not what I’d like. And it wasn’t too long ago that I indicated that I don’t expect full disclosure or truthfulness from bloggers, using fiction writing as a comparison (and just out of curiosity, I’d be interested in how those who disagreed with me on that point feel about the author marketing identity thing). But just as I expect a certain fakery, I expect that any discussion around authentic personalities online or in fiction/non-fiction writing would likely address questions of how various personae are presented and marketed. In other words, authors might present themselves in a certain way to better authenticate their writing, and readers might speculate about the authenticity of the author’s persona. I don’t think those two things are mutually exclusive.

    That doesn’t mean I’m advocating an invasion of a writer’s privacy — although some see it differently, I see that issue as quite separate from this one. To me, wondering about what aspects of an author might be created for marketing purposes is the equivalent of wondering how an author gets ideas for his or her story. Neither inquiry requires an answer from the author, either, IMO.

  209. MaryK
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 17:28:25

    @kirsten saell:

    Honestly, there are all sorts of inaccuracies that authors don't get called on, like how during many historical periods the H/h would quite possibly have had lice, and the h's hair might go weeks or even months between washings.

    Personally, I differentiate between inaccuracies and omissions. Lots of details are omitted in the service of storytelling, but the details that are there should be accurate. I don’t object to the glossing over of the more unappetizing visuals. I would object to false statements of fact.

  210. Teddypig
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 17:46:04

    Lanyon, Teddy and the minions.

    I HAVE MINIONS PEOPLE!

    Followers! The power to rule minds!
    To bend all to my will! Bwahahahaha!

    *no way it could be you and Jane stuck your foot in your mouth in public*

    Nope, too much sense for that to be the case.

  211. Lee Rowan
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 17:51:26

    What an amazing heap of compost! It’s got taters growing in it!

    Some men write convincing women. Some women write convincing men. Most readers have their own notion of what constitutes “convincing,” and I’ll bet if you asked 20 readers to define that, you’d get at least 21 definitions. The notion that there is one sort of ‘convincing’ character of any gender or orientation is just silly. Yes, there are common factors in glbt experience – there are common factors in just about any sub-group of human beings. But each person’s experience is unique and so is his or her reality.

    Since when is a writer’s private life and reason for using a pseudonym anyone else’s business?

    I use a pseudonym because when I sold my first gay romance, Ransom, my wife was working for a religious university and if word got to her administration, she’d have been fired for “morals.” Our circumstances have changed for the better, but I like the name and readers know it, so it stays. If that isn’t a “good enough” explanation for you National Enquirer wannabes, it’s too damned bad.

    Why that name? My real-life name is also gender-neutral and as a bisexual woman married to another woman and conscious of a lot of the nuance that is shared by any non-het person, I don’t think I belong in someone else’s pigeonhole, particularly one defined by a het woman deciding whether a gay character, with whom she cannot identify either by gender or orientation, is ‘convincing.’ My use of a pseudonym hardly seems to be anyone else’s business. I am not a member of the National Enquirer generation and I believe my private life is just that. If someone doesn’t like my attitude, that, also, is too damned bad.

    Almost every letter I’ve received from a gay male reader has addressed me as though I am also a gay male, and none of them has panicked when I explained that sorry, I’m merely a dyke. (Thank you, gentlemen.) I don’t make a secret of my gender but I don’t think it’s got anything to do with the quality of my writing. The women in my m/f romances aren’t fluffy or feisty, either. They’re human beings.

    That’s what it boils down to: I write human beings. Love is the common denominator.

    I’ve got to say I haven’t seen such a silly display of zipper-sniffing since the Clinton-Lewinsky hearings. Which, IMO, was also nobody’s damned business but the 3 parties involved.

    Oh, and Josh Lanyon? My Magic 8-ball says he’s a pair of Siamese twins, boy and girl, joined at the thumbs, and it’s a real treat to watch him at the keyboard.

  212. Persephone Green
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 18:04:09

    No. No. No

    Wait! The last one needs to be in all capitals and italic and bold to mimic me, damnit!

    There is a difference between being a victim and abdicating agency

    Where did this even come from? It’s a completely false dichotomy to equate ‘blame’ and ‘responsibility’ with ‘agency.’ They are not the same.

    How is placing the blame of a crime on the perpetrator abdictating agency? Answer: It isn’t.

    What I don’t agree with is thinking that we have to change every woman’s behavior or attitude first before tackling laws and public opinion (which is supposed to be gender neutral; whether it is or not I leave up to the reader). That is what you said when you said we need to change ourselves before changing the institutions.

    Let’s make this perfectly clear: I believe in survivors, not victims. Period.

    Survivors pick themselves up or grab an arm and haul themselves up. Then they either go on with their lives and take action against sexism and misogyny and rape culture or they don’t.

    The articles I am referring to are ones from conservative women who cloak themselves in neutrality in order to coin false terms like “grey rape.” They place the responsibility on the woman for being in a bad situation when she’s not the one who made the situation bad in the first place.

    Women who say we have to ‘take responsibility and not let ourselves fall into these situations’ are not educating. They are preaching. They are judging. Women come away from those articles with no clear answer on how to exercise the same rights as men and not be abused, and as a result, they change neither their own awareness nor anyone else’s behavior.

    Those women writers are definitely not empowering other women. A lot of sound advice can lose its meaning when given through the wrong overall message.

    I’m going to teach women to stand up for and protect themselves so that it’s less likely that men will have an opportunity to exploit and abuse them, without admonishing those who engage in ‘high-risk behavior’ that men engage in freely all of the time, such as actually –gasp!– drinking at a party or walking home alone. They can do these things and still be aware of the risks, and they have a right to do them without fear. Being prepared and aware of potential hazards is great. Being taught that our actions somehow caused the crime is Not Okay. I’m going to lobby for laws to protect those of us who respect the sanctity of our own bodies and leave the intra-feminist blame game to someone else. What I’m not going to wait for every woman in this world who works against her own interests to change her mind.

  213. Mike Cane
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 18:05:12

    >>>I suppose that is how men feel about female authors.

    So all those sales of Ayn Rand’s novels were primarily to … women?

    Anyway, you’re entitled to your preference/prejudice. I think it’s silly and you miss a lot of good writing. Do you want stories or stories that are “instructionally correct” (“self-actualization” *cough*).

    And here I am waiting yet another year for *any* publisher in the U.S. to pick up Patricia Melo again and translate her into English.

    Oh wait … is it all right for me to read *non*-American authors?

  214. Persephone Green
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 18:13:50

    I call shenanigans. Nora Roberts doesn't pretend to be a bloke behind her neutral J D Robb pen name. Jordan Castillo Price doesn't pretend to be one either. I can only think of a handful of authors who hem and haw about what gender they are when asked – and Lanyon's one of them. Why? Why jump down a reader's throat because they assumed ‘he' was female, and now make a huge song and dance about not revealing what gender he is?

    This. I don’t think false identities are the same as pseudonyms, and I don’t think it’s bigoted to question someone’s gender when they themselves have brought their gender into question by building up an online persona that may or may not be true.

    Oh, and people do make biased reading decisions based on author names, often unconsciously. I try not to be one of them, but I’m sure it’s happened once or twice.

    I know women who write m/m and men who think that those women write better m/m than other talented gay men do. It depends on how much skill you have as a head-hopper, not on who you are outside of your literary work.

  215. Ann Somerville
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 18:18:46

    Since when is a writer's private life and reason for using a pseudonym anyone else's business?

    You know, the obsession over whether someone is using a penname is a classic strawman. No one cares if an author uses a pen name. No one gives a damn about anyone’s private life either.

    Most readers don’t care if a female author chooses a male pen name, especially in writing m/m.

    They *do* care if that author goes a step further and claims to actually be a male – or a gay male.

    If an author claimed to be black, to sell better to a black audience, you think that would be fine and dandy?

    It’s like I said in my blog post – it’s wearing medals you haven’t earned. It’s claiming experiences and solidarity and credibility, when you don’t have them.

    If you can’t see the problem there, then no wonder you think this is all compost. I have a similarly high opinion of those who try and fool readers in this way.

    Teddy, the only one with a foot against their tonsils is you, I’m afraid. A few months ago you were castigating a transsexual author for claiming to be a gay man, and you’ve jumped bogart all over people for hiding behind pen names. Now you’re defending fraudulent behaviour – just because you like certain authors or their writing.

    Your defence of the practice of pretending to have background and experience, simply to fool readers into thinking they’re buying something they’re not, not only bewilders me, but saddens me. You’re seeking to let non-gay people exploit the experiences of those who’ve lived that life for real, and I simply don’t understand your motives.

  216. Persephone Green
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 18:20:31

    I think Jane articulated something above but I can’t find the two quotes I wanted to use. It was about the definition of dishonesty and whether we have a right to invent personas without people questioning them (that’s a misleading sentence anyway, because both groups have a right to do what they want; it’s the consequences that determine our ethical stance on the matter), and she was right: it’s all about whether the persona is selling the brand.

    If a person is marketing their work as coming from a POV that is only possible under this assumed identity, then yes, it is dishonest. That’s what James Frey did.

  217. Czy moje życie osobiste jest ważne? « GGY-Polska
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 18:24:33

    […] Czy moje życie osobiste jest ważne? listopad 19, 2008 Dyskusja na ‘Dear Author', blogu skupiajÄ…cym siÄ™ na romantycznej erotyce, sugeruje, że pisanie pod pseudonimami, ukrywajÄ…cymi żeÅ„skÄ… pÅ‚eć autorek, jest w pewnym […]

  218. Mike Cane
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 18:38:58

    >>>If a person is marketing their work as coming from a POV that is only possible under this assumed identity, then yes, it is dishonest.

    Well, yes, that is outright fraud. But she also mentioned those jaw-droppers about not reading men and wondering if men read women writers.

  219. theo
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 18:47:21

    @Randi

    One or two brief examples, a hymen which is overtly thick and will not stretch to accommodate the passage of clots, a multiperforated hymen which is more sieve like and doesn’t allow for proper flow, a hymen which is located as a deformity over the labia minora impeding flow, and those few examples alone promote infection which often begins vaginally and oh, shoot, what’s the word I’m looking for…crap…ends up moving into the cervix/uterine area. There are several other problems depending on the ‘deformity’ but those are the few I’m willing to comfortably mention. Even I draw the line on occasion ;-) Though it’s rare…

    @Jane, I want to keep hitting the ‘preview’ button instead of the ‘submit’ button for some reason where it’s placed. DUH me!!

  220. Ann Somerville
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 18:54:35

    she also mentioned those jaw-droppers about not reading men and wondering if men read women writers.

    Mike, Jane linked to formal studies about men reading women writers – or not reading them – in her post. She’s not making this up. I can also support this with anecdotal evidence in the m/m field. There are a lot of gay men who will not read female named authors because they think there’s no way they could know what they’re talking about.

    Some gay men and women are also highly resentful of straights muscling in on ‘their’ territory, and particularly, stealing publisher slots supposedly reserved for them. A view with which I have some sympathy, because while good writing is good writing, gay voices need to be heard, and if all the fakers are speaking for them instead, how will they break through that? It’s not a question of who can ‘do’ a male or female voice right, it’s a question of who is genuinely speaking from experience. To young gay people, it matters that they’re getting the real voice, not an imitation.

  221. Jane
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 18:55:54

    @Mike Cane: That’s not what I said. I said that my preference is to choose a female author over a male one in romance fiction but that I had read male authors. I also cited a survey that said that men choose to read male authors over female authors. (A fact that is observed by publishers as well as far as I know).

  222. Mike Cane
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 19:47:34

    Now wait one second there:

    >>>First, my own biases. I rarely read books written by men, regardless of genre designation.

    >>>I suppose that is how men feel about female authors.

    Are you using a special grammar where “I” means someone other than yourself?

    I don’t want to be lawyer-like here, but you didn’t construct those sentences to mean what you now claim.

    If you want to make an additional point that men are unlikely to read Romance, I’ll easily grant you that.

    And if my fellow men are dumb enough to read only men, well that accounts for their gross stupidity.

    I guess I’m a word whore. I even read “Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice.” And I’m not black.

  223. Teddypig
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 19:50:01

    Teddy, the only one with a foot against their tonsils is you, I'm afraid. A few months ago you were castigating a transsexual author for claiming to be a gay man, and you've jumped bogart all over people for hiding behind pen names. Now you're defending fraudulent behaviour – just because you like certain authors or their writing.

    Your defence of the practice of pretending to have background and experience, simply to fool readers into thinking they're buying something they're not, not only bewilders me, but saddens me. You're seeking to let non-gay people exploit the experiences of those who've lived that life for real, and I simply don't understand your motives.

    I was castigating a fucktard for lashing out at Karen and others for not reading their mind about whatever gender identity she/he wanted to be addressed by that week and claiming it was phobic.

    I jumped over the owners of Torquere Press for hiding behind multiple Pen Names even from the very authors and people that work for them and not being obvious they were editing and writing whatever else they were doing to their own ebooks. That information was obviously helpful for people involved to know.

    I do not have to defend the practice of using Pen Names to hide a writers identity be that gender or sexuality or skin color since it is an accepted practice for long before you or I were even born.

    If you have not noticed TeddyPig is not my real name.
    It is Dick and yes I can be a big one.

    As a Gay man I do not see writers male or female using Pen Names to become gender neutral or even gender opposite as an issue or an infringement of my status as a Gay person or some sort of consumer scam. I support that as much as the right of a transsexual to be considered the gender they identify with. I don’t know the particulars of every case but I respect a person’s right to privacy and their wishes.

    Is that common courtesy so hard for you to understand?

    What does piss me off is bad behavior from people I think should have a brain enough to know better and who the the hell are you to say who is real Gay and who is not?

    Who are you?

    Did I get a vote in making you judge and jury for all real Gay people?

  224. Ann Somerville
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 19:58:24

    Actually, you were telling a transssexual they didn’t have the right to be called a gay man. But hey, if you’ve changed your mind about that, well and good.

    Teddy, you’re going to have to have this fight with yourself because there’s nothing in anything I’ve said to justify your vitriol.

    If someone wants to claim to be a gay man, fine. Won’t stop me going ‘huh’ when their writing shows them to be something else. I’m an admirer of gay men’s writing, and an admirer of women writing gay romance. I just expect the label on the box not to mislead me. I’m not the one labelling the box in the first place.

  225. Teddypig
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 20:09:09

    I did not change my mind about people acting badly and then justifying it by yelling phobic or racist or whatever when called on it.

    I am not fighting with myself Ann. You and Jane instigated it.

    Is that clear?

  226. Jane
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 20:10:43

    @Mike Cane: That is my statement but I also clearly stated that I read male authors but my preference is for females. I did not say I do not read male authors. That’s inaccurate.

    As to why I prefer female authors, it probably comes from the fact that I am primarily a genre reader and when I read other genres, such as mystery or fantasy, it is with the hopes that I can find a cross over – something that has romance in it.

    I don’t know why men don’t read women but I do know that within the sci fi circles, women have less stature as authors as men. I don’t know what it is within mystery circles.

    I rarely, for pleasure, read outside of the genre. I read plenty in my real job that is written by a host of genders.

  227. Jane
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 20:12:18

    @Teddypig: Please point out where I a) acted badly and then b) justified it and c) yelled phobic or racist statements.

    Please provide examples because I have no idea what you are talking about.

  228. Ann Somerville
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 20:22:40

    Jane, am I imagining things? Did you quote a certain Mr Teddy Pig saying:

    I must admit I am far harder in my reading of Gay male writers because I for one expect a Gay writer to have the total experience of being Gay and I guess I expect he probably should be able to riff on all that in unique but realistic ways even in a fictional story.

    And yet when a woman says they feel the same way, and therefore they don’t like it when someone pretends to be gay because they’re not getting what they think they’re getting, that’s somehow a slur on gay rights?

    Does being gay inform one’s writing on gay subjects or not? Does a reader have a right to expect someone who says they’re gay, to know whereof they speak – or not?

    Because if being what you say you are isn’t important, I’m gonna tap me some of that hot Middle Eastern mystique stuff and claimed to be an abused Iraqi child bride who’s escaped the tyranny of family and country to find freedom in the West. Shouldn’t matter I was raised a Catholic in Australia, should it?

  229. Teddypig
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 20:26:38

    Jane,

    This is on you.

    Next time you start sighting examples first do some basic research.
    Find out the authors name (Like it was not J.L. Langley) and find out if from their background they actually meet the specifications of the example you are trying to provide or if there is some irrational vendetta going on.

    Maybe even talk to the author involved.

    Is that common courtesy so hard?

  230. Chrissy
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 20:33:15

    I followed this discussion now for two days and it started out with claiming “no offense intended but me and my friends thinks this author is not the gender he claims to be and we are ever so good at hitting this on the head” to accusations of trying to defraud readers and being a faker and taking up the slot that should be reserved for authentic gay writers etc., etc. against the same author. All based on one unproved accusation. If this is not vitriol even slanderous than I don´t know what is. I understand that you, Ms. Somerville, are trying to turn your amateur slash writing into a career on the allegedly successful m/m romance market ( I don´t know any numbers so I can not say if this is in fact a profitable niche or not) . But I must say I find it rather pathetic that you feel you have to drag somebody else down who is – I can only presume – more successful than you are, because this is the impression I am getting. And no – I am not associated with Josh Lanyon nor am I sponsored by him ( more the pity) and up to now I haven´t been a minion to anybody – I am just a reader. Oh , and no offense intended.

  231. Jane
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 20:36:06

    @Teddy Pig – I admit that I got the name initially wrong and corrected that. But I went back and read every reference I made toward Lanyon and I don’t see it inappropriate. Again, if you can provide me an example of what you believed to be inappropriate, I would be glad to discuss it.

    My first reference to Lanyon was this:

    There was the discussion on the review by Jayne of Dangerous Ground by Josh Lanyon as to whether Laanyon was a gay male or whether she was a female author who has created a gay male persona to help sell books. Teddy Pig noted that (and then I quoted your comment extensively)

    You also stated this:

    When I recommend Josh Lanyon I do so because he is a good writer and his books contain lots of juicy Gay romantic plot elements.

    I think the actual experience of being Gay does count for something in this case.

    Then I replied to your comment about how this was related to Prop 8. I still don’t see the connection. Is not seeing the connection a gay slur? I stated:

    As for why it “fucking” matters, I don't know if it does but apparently, if Lanyon is a woman, then it matters enough to create a faux persona in order to gain authenticity through the personality which I find to be an interesting concept. It's no different to me than a man writing romance under a female persona (which is different, in my opinion, than a pen name).

    Recall that I was quoting your curse word but perhaps that was the slur? Please note that I said I did not know if it mattered (and also note that you previously stated that “being Gay does count for something in this case.”

    And then you said that this was about equality and said that we were gossiping about someone’s personal life by speculating as to the gender of the author. I don’t see it the same way but is that what is inappropriate? I replied:

    I had no idea that discussing gender of an author was considered gossiping about someone's private life. I think it is also interesting that you refuse to address the issue of whether the creation of a faux persona is required to be taken seriously within the m/m fiction circles.

    and so on and so forth. So again, please point to the comments/words/etc that contain slurs, bad behavior and justification therefor.

    As to your latest comment, I was quoting a discussion that we had at Dear Author on a review of an m/m book where you stated that the Gay experience mattered. It’s not the gender that is important. It’s the fact that there is a debate about the gender that matters in that it is important enough to the m/m market to know the gender of an author to have a debate about it.

  232. Ann Somerville
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 20:51:51

    some irrational vendetta

    If that’s referring to me, then you can blow it out your arse, Teddy.

    Jane cites your own words that Josh Lanyon is an example of a gay man writing, bringing that extra you expect from a gay writer.

    I state my own belief that his writing indicates him to be female.

    You lose your shit and start calling everyone bigots and homophobes.

    Nothing you have said, or his minions have said, has changed my mind. He writes like a woman. I do not believe he’s what he claims to be. The end.

    No vendetta. I despise for his behaviour and for inciting his followers to harrass and flame me. His opinion of me is very clear too. But that doesn’t mean my opinion of his writing is altered. I’ve said repeated he writes well.

    He or she is just an unpleasant piece of work on top of that. Are you going to claim everyone who dislikes Lanyon is running a vendetta? Maybe it’s just a case of his online personality pissing me off – like mine pisses a lot of people off.

    Now I’ll tell you this straight. My remarks about his writing were simple observation. I simply don’t care if you believe that or not. But you’re contradicting yourself with every post, and I’m just not able or willing to follow your thought processes any further. I wish you well, and you know I respect you, but I really can’t discuss this with you further. You’re simply being unfair and irrational.

  233. Teddypig
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 20:54:22

    Wow Jane,

    So in other words

    You did no research into this, so you did nothing, so you talked to no one including the author whom you were gong to involve in this discussion, so you did no wrong?

  234. Jane
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 21:06:21

    Okay – I just read your blog post and subsequent comments and I think I have a better understanding of where you are coming from. From your blog:

    Even as stupid as I am I know better than to mention any names as examples unless I know what the fuck I am talking about. Jane brought Josh's name into the whole discussion on purpose. I even had to tell her that the name she wanted to use was Josh and not J.L. Langley. Her feigning ignorance for bringing up and promoting the whole controversy after the fact is pretty sad.

    Yes, I made an error on the name of the author of the discussion previously held at dearauthor. I did use Lanyon’s name and the comments as an example, because it was illustrative of my example that people have gender bias when it comes to choosing what fiction to read. I don’t know where I feigned ignorance or was promoting the whole controversy after the fact.

    But I do get the sense you think that I wrote this whole post to target Lanyon and carry on some improper attack against Lanyon. I don’t know why I would do that. I have previously stated I enjoy his work quite a bit. I also have stated that his gender makes no difference to me. But the fact that there even is a debate is what the whole article is about.

    What research would have been important to discuss whether there is gender bias by readers toward books? Jayne herself noted in the review that she picked the Lanyon book over others because of his gay male perspective. The post was largely introspective about my own bias (the belief that a female author can riff more eloquently on the nature of falling in love and romance than a male author).

    While I don’t always agree with your opinions, TP, I have liked you and it is because I like you that I am taking your complaints seriously. I wouldn’t respond otherwise but yes, I don’t think I did anything wrong in this circumstance. I don’t see that research would be necessary to discuss my own bias and whether there was debate that showed bias by others since that appeared evident by the comments on the blog previously.

  235. Teddypig
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 21:09:55

    I don’t know Jane.

    Honestly, I think your very smart capable person.

    I just am disappointed in you right now because I think Josh is a good person behind that Pen Name.

    Maybe I am wrong to expect more from you.

    People listen to you Jane.

  236. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 21:16:37

    You did no research into this, so you did nothing, so you talked to no one including the author whom you were gong to involve in this discussion, so you did no wrong?

    Teddy, please don’t jump on me for speaking up here~and yes, I know I’m not looking at this from the same place in life you are, nor can I.

    However, all I read from Jane’s initial post was whether or not an author’s identity played into their writing. Somebody at some point wondered whether or not the author Lanyon was a male or female, I’m assuming based on the writing style and she referenced that, because it does play into the identity/author discussion.

    Where it went from there isn’t Jane’s fault.

    People aren’t told how to act and respond, although I firmly believe courtesy and mutual respect can do a lot more good than name calling or laying blame.

    I checked out the author’s site, just out of curiosity, and noticed that there’s some sort of workshop or book on how to write m/m authentically. So my point of thinking, on more than anything else, would be this… if he’s going to teach people how to write m/m authentically, it would have to be because he’s experienced it. For lack of a better example, it would be like me going to nursing school and having a bunch of non-medical people trying to tell me how to be a nurse.

    So if indeed the author is female, I can see some issue here.

    Now aside from that, I can honestly say I don’t see what it matters what the author’s sex is. But if there’s been some misdirection simply as a marketing ploy, I guess I can see why some people feel like they’ve been misled.

    I do think your personal experiences are playing into things-everybody has experiences in life that cause them to act certain ways, but it often clouds objectivity and I think your anger is playing into that here.

    I’m not saying any of this to attack you, attack Lanyon or anybody else. I don’t have a pony in this race. But it’s kind of coming off to me that you’re seeing attacks where a lot of us are just seeing discussion.

  237. Robin
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 21:18:51

    A pox on you, Jane!

    @Persephone Green: I’m not sure how to respond to you, because I’m not sure whether you’re simply reading through, around, over, or under what I’m trying to say, or whether this is a generational feminist difference, or what. You seem to be convinced that I am aligned with the type of women who blame other women for being victimized (and are you suggesting, btw, that only if a woman actively fights back against patriarchy after she’s raped or otherwise abused that she can claim to be a survivor? Because that sounds like a bit of a judgment to me, although perhaps I misunderstood you there. And it might be argued that you’re levying quite a judgment on me, there, too, or on the women you’ve aligned me with). That my desire to claim a position different than what I see as two extremes — women are always at fault for what happens to them v. we have to beat ourselves against the walls of patriarchy in order to be validated as independent persons — is being completely disregarded and collapsed into some reactionary anti-feminism a la Camille Paglia (apparently you’ve missed some of my rants, like my militaristic stance on battering in the thread on physical violence).

    I did not say that we need to change *every woman’s mind* about herself; what I said was that we have the power and the ability to respond to patterns of patriarchal thinking — that we can and should “break the pattern” amongst ourselves (break the pattern, not stand around waiting for every single person’s mind to change). And yes, I believe that one of the reasons we have not been able to sustain or advance many of the societal and institutional changes that have been fought for is because we do not see the process as multi-dimensional and that we cannot expect those who want to deprive of us power to validate us — EVER. And that self-validation — aka the exercise of personal agency — is necessary if we are going to make institutional changes advance and stick. As I said earlier, how can we expect others to believe we are worthy of being safe and wholly respected if we do not believe this amongst ourselves (and again, I’m not taking a head count here of changed minds). You may not agree with that, but I will never accept that simply because I do not myself ascribe to feminist principles more aligned with the first generation that I am anti-feminist or anti-women or a patriarchal operative.

    The real irony here, IMO, is that you seem to think I’m on the side of these idiots who talk about “grey rape” because I’m not rushing into battle with my sword and shield the way you think I should be. And yet I think my point is basically the same as the one you’re making in the first part of your last paragraph — that in teaching women that they should not judge themselves and each other for the choices they make and blame each other for being taken advantage of by male perpetrators you are fighting back. Because the way I read that is that it’s partly about getting women to feel empowered despite whatever men think or tell them or through what patriarchal social and institutional structures dictate or visit on them. By all means, fight for legislation and whatever else you feel you need to do. It’s going to be a hell of a long time, anyway, before we see which of us is correct about the relationship between internal and external change.

  238. cs
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 21:26:43

    Oh dear God, Jane made an opinion and that is all. Jane is not the end all and be all. I’m pretty sure people are capable of making up their own mind. Saying people “listen” to Jane doesn’t mean everything she writes will automatically mean everyone will bow down to her. Give people some credit here.

    I, for one found this topic to be very interesting. Though I have to admit, I read Josh Lanyon because I assumed he was a gay man. Because I wanted to read something from a gay male perspective. Now if he were to be “female” I’d go…’huh’ but that doesn’t mean I would stop buying his stuff/or enjoying it. But I do have the right to feel slightly taken back. Or is that not allowed anymore.

    I wonder. If Jane used someone else as an example, someone who isn’t as hugely ‘popular’ in this genre, would the reaction have been so…well this? I don’t know. The Bloggers here always use examples when expressing their opinions. I don’t see why this has suddenly gone up in flames.

  239. Lee Rowan
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 23:22:32

    @cs:

    I think the reaction to this revisitation of an issue that’s been popping up every couple of months may be a bit heated because there’s been a reiteration of the ‘why do/how can/how dare women write m/m fiction” being aired just about every other month, and for those of us who are women writing m/m, it’s getting a bit tedious.

    Sometimes this comes from people who don’t really want anyone writing glbt, sometimes it comes from gay men, sometimes it even comes from feminists who see women writing m/m as a ‘betrayal’ of one’s womanly identity. If someone were questioning why, for instance, James Baldwin wrote about a character of Caucasian descent in Giovanni’s Room, the silliness of this bias would be obvious. If someone questioned whether a man could be expected to write Anna Karenina or A Doll’s House … you see my point.

    In at least some of the m/m writing communities, it’s considered extremely bad manners to ‘out’ a fellow writer–there’s a pleasant but apparently archaic notion that it’s courteous to respect other writers’ privacy. In this blog post, Jane could have simply mentioned “an author” whose gender was being questioned by a reader who believed she detected a woman’s hand on the pen, if I may wax melodramatic. There really wasn’t any need to name the writer, and if the original ‘accusation’ was, as rumor has it, the result of a personal quarrel the accuser has with the writer, it’s even less fair that the presumption be perpetuated merely to illustrate an example that’s only tangentially related.

    To jump from the use of an opposite-sex or gender-neutral pseudonym to accusations of fraud is unfair and off-topic: fiction writing is not memoir writing. Adopting a false persona in order to present fiction as fact is indeed fraud. To use a pen name to write a fictitious account is … fiction. It pretends to be nothing else. If a fiction writer’s depiction rings true — I believe that’s called “good writing.”

    The bottom line, from where I stand: if Writer A has some quarrel with Writer B, for Writer A to say, “oh, yeah? You write just like a gurrl!” …. well, that makes somebody look like a 6-year-old, and it isn’t Writer B.

    I know that isn’t what Jane started out to say. In terms of writers as male or female, I’ve been surprised by how well some men write women (Patrick O’Brian and Aaron Elkins, for instance.) Lois McMasters Bujold writes terrific male characters. Horror writer Dean Koontz writes surprisingly good, strong women (he said once, in an interview, that he writes human beings; so did Dorothy L Sayers, when a fan asked her how she was able to write such convincing men.)
    And so many women have “male” names these days that I would read almost anything that didn’t reek of testosterone–no Cussler, thank you.

    I do think that if a reader’s focus is heavily on her or his own gender or orientation — women who are academic feminists, men who are immersed in the gay community — then there’s a likelihood they will focus on a range of fiction that reflects and reinforces their own perceptions and explores the particular area of interest. A gay man is more likely to pick up Armistead Maupin than Jennifer Crusie, a woman looking for an authentic woman’s voice would be more likely to go for Jane Austen. I’m not saying this as a criticism–but I do say I’ve never picked up a work of fiction expecting the author to articulate the female path to self actualization. I seriously doubt that there is just one path to self actualization for females and one for males. I consider myself a feminist, but I find a lot of feminist dogma either tedious or irritating. I just want a good story. If a story speaks to something deeper that’s a bonus, but I’ve found insight pretty much equally in books by by both female and male writers… and I’ve found poorly-depicted members of the opposite sex, too. It all depends on the writer.

  240. Ann Somerville
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 23:36:57

    In at least some of the m/m writing communities, it's considered extremely bad manners to ‘out' a fellow writer

    Really? New one on me, and I’ve been in the m/m community as long as you have. I wasn’t aware it was outing someone to say their writing didn’t seem to have any hallmarks of being a gay man’s, when that’s what the writer’s been presenting himself as.

    if Writer A has some quarrel with Writer B, for Writer A to say, “oh, yeah? You write just like a gurrl!” …. well, that makes somebody look like a 6-year-old, and it isn't Writer B.

    Oh yeah, that’s precisely how it went down. No misrepresentation there at all.

    Saying someone writes like a woman, isn’t an insult. At least, it’s not to me. Why is it an insult to you – or to Josh Lanyon? Is there some hidden belief that men actually do write better than women, that you’re too ashamed to come right out and say?

    You and your chums have a vested interest in people not examining this stuff too closely. Erastes is flogging gay porn to the gay male market, and she knows perfectly well she can’t be too open about her gender to that audience. Lanyon has done nicely as setting his or herself up as the voice of ‘true’ gayness in a female dominated genre. But neither of them should squeal too hard if someone says, hang on, your writing doesn’t feel all that male to me.

    Like I said, if they were honest and said why they were doing this, they’d be worthy of respect. Instead, we’re getting special pleading, I’m being vociferously abused, and you, Teddy and Erastes want to make out that Lanyon’s human rights and privacy are being violated. Puh-lease.

    If a fiction writer's depiction rings true -‘ I believe that's called “good writing.”

    And if I say the depiction doesn’t ring true, I’m a heinous bitch, right? Lanyon wants us to swallow the idea he’s a guy – a gay guy. His writing is indistinguishable on that score from other good female m/m writers. So…he isn’t much of a writer if his ‘fiction’ can be seen through that easily.

    If he hadn’t sold himself in that way, no one would care about the pen name. Seriously. Pretending otherwise, is more of the weaseling you and your chums have shown all through this.

    Man up, guys. So to speak.

  241. Paul Bens
    Nov 19, 2008 @ 23:52:30

    There are so many smokescreens being thrown up to misdirect the issue at hand it’s laughable. A few people here are trying to bring the conversation back to the real issue at hand and lo! and behold! someone magically shows up to yell fire to get everyone to look away.

    Paul doesn’t play that. Paul doesn’t like topics hijacked away from the real issue. Paul doesn’t like the lack of pronouns on some websites. Does Paul have pronouns on Paul’s PR materials. Why yes Paul does.

  242. GrowlyCub
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 00:01:08

    Hey Paul!

    You might not have seen it in the deluge of comments, I was hoping you could recommend some m/m written by male writers.

    Thanks!

  243. Paul Bens
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 00:17:02

    Hi Growly Cub:

    Sorry…I didn’t see it in the rain of comments. =-) Sorry about that.

    It is actually hard for me to come up with m/m romance by male authors because almost everything I’ve been reading lately has been written by females. So I may have to put my thinking cap on for a bit.

    Sean Meriwether is an excellent writer but the majority of his stuff tends toward the more erotica or bent, twisted fiction.

    I’m not done with it yet, but I’m currently reading Steve Berman’s “Vintage: A Ghost Story” and it has a wonderfully romantic feel to it. It’s YA, and I’m enjoying it very, very much and it is a love story underneath it all.

    Lawrence Schimel writes great stuff.

    While his novel Edinburgh is definitely not romance, Alexander Chin writes phenomenal stuff. And Noel Alumit’s off-beat “Letters to Montgomery Clift” is a love story of sorts.

    It’s interesting, because as a gay man, my idea of romance is far broader than the lust and fluttering hearts, so I don’t know that I’m the best for recs on true blue romance.

    My preferred reading site for gay lit is “Velvet Mafia: Dangerous Queer Fiction” (www.velvetmafia.com) and that is where I tend to find really, really interesting gay male writers. Some of the stuff the authors there contribute is romantic and other stuff in more raw.

    Ann can probably add more intelligently to this list than I. But I’m sure I’ll think of others.

  244. Paul Bens
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 00:24:06

    BTW…I cant access DA at work so I only get the spare minutes at home or when I’m out sick. But I ultimately get through all the comments.

  245. ttthomas
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 01:56:59

    I think Ann Somerville has hit a few raw nerves, and I’m glad. As a gay woman, still smarting from the lies, deceptions and flagrant disregard for the equal rights of others that propelled Proposition 8 in California to a win, I have to say that while I “hear” something familiar in some of TeddyPig’s lament (anger, perhaps?), I feel as though his emotions have clouded his clarity and perhaps caused the anger to be misdirected. I’m sure he’ll correct me if I’m wrong on that. But hear me out.

    I do indeed think the subject of an author masquerading as a gender s/he is not is relevant to what just happened in California, but I think it for reasons exactly the opposite of Teddy (If I have understood his points). Honesty is not a gay issue. It’s not even a civil rights issue. It is, as Ann said, a consumer rights issue—and THAT is its only connection to Prop 8. The voters were lied to, misled, and purposely frightened by disingenuous power plays masquerading as concern for the children. And for our part in California, we just didn’t do our job of exposing the lies.

    But here’s what got me going while reading DA today:

    Ann To Erastes: “The only people making this an issue are the people maintaining the pretence when challenged or asked. Readers don't care about it – but they don't like being lied to. Writing frauds are unfortunately common – doesn't mean we have to accept it any more than we have to accept mealy mouthed explanations of plagiarism. For the record, I'd respect you and Lanyon a lot more if you just came out and said you thought your books would sell better if people thought you were blokes. That was what the Torquere Press crowd did it for originally, but they've since realised it's not necessary. All this crap about ‘Erastes is a male character' and the other self-justifications I've read today, is nonsense.”

    I don’t think this could have been said any better.

    When an author who writes m/m tells her audience that she is a male, call her Ratso or Fatso or Crazyasbatsoshit, that is a deceit of the highest order, and the only possible motivation that I can see is to capitalize financially on a market. Any other rationalization is bull. But there’s something worse than the initial lie and that is, the perpetuated lie.

    I believe it is possible to completely enjoy a book written well by such a person. Do I respect that person? Absolutely not. And there’s more. In the case of the author who showed up here to defend her bogus disclosure clause (in other words, it’s as if she’s saying—‘I said I was a man, and my screename and my pen name is that of a man, but actually I’m a woman, which you may or may not know, as a reader, and so now that I told you, if you read the internet places where I said that I am, I think it’s OK…’ A big WTF…?

    What author doesn’t choose their pen name with premeditation of all the implications it will impart to the reader? We all do that. Writing under a pen name is not the issue. Writing under a pen name of a gender different from your own is not the issue. But proselytizing and projecting oneself on line and as an author as a gay man, with the shroud of authenticity that one thinks being a gay man will give one, is not the same thing as actually being a gay man, is it now?

    To use ones phony mantle as a jumping off point to criticize, and critique, others for their alleged lack of historical accuracy and authenticity is beyond the pale. (Not to mention a couple of memorable historical inaccuracies in Erastes’ book Standish) Does not the pulsing, hot light of even a moderate amount of shame permeate such a person’s aura? I think so—indeed, one could write a whole separate essay on shame as it relates to deception. I mean think about it (and this is for all the “Teddys” of the world): We’ve spent all our entire goddamn lives trying to hide who we really are, staying compliantly obsequious in that hot, dark, scary closet so as not to offend the friendly UnQueers, and so as not to provoke the unfriendly UnQueers—and you want to defend an author who has some glam fetish foolhardiness going on about being a real gay man when she’s a female??? I don’t care if she writes with a male or neutral gender pen name. That’s fine. BUT SHE’S NOT WHAT YOU AND ME AND HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF OTHERS ARE and that’s why it is exactly wearing colors one hasn’t earned. And that’s all it is. Truth in lending, as it were. I don’t care where she lives or who she sleeps with or whether she’s straight, gay or bent into a pretzel (by this point in her reading…lol); but she don’t get to be Queer, Teddy, if she ain’t!

    From time to time, but I have respected various things TeddyPig has said in other forums on other issues. I don’t have a puppy in this mill, either, but for all the reasons that the Yes on Prop 8 people swindled the voters—those are the very same reasons I think someone who has gendered themselves differently in print as though doing so makes that person some kind of expert in being that re-gendered entity, is a liar, a thief and a fraud. All the sadder when that person is a good writer and never needed to have done so, or, having done so, can’t stop justifying the lie already. If Erastes wants to discuss being a grownup, I believe one of the hallmarks of maturity is owning up.

    Because of that, people such as Teddy, but not just Teddy, should evaluate either their priorities or their friendships. I do not question such a person’s compassion, identification, genuine caring for the gay men she re-gendered herself into being (temporarily); I question the lie and deception she has perpetuated upon the reading public—because, guess what? Many of those reading public are homosexuals and lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people who she thinks so damn highly of that she lies to them. And, yes, I do question the honesty and the character of that person.

    I question it, but I don’t yet condemn it. Maybe I ought to have done by now, but it occurs to me that the possibility of “dawns the light,” while full of irony, is a better state than the inauspiciousness of initially illicit, and later public, gender hijacking. It is exactly wearing colors one hasn’t earned, and if anyone ought to know something about the pain and hurt of fraud perpetrated, and perpetuated, surely it is my gay brothers and sisters. (I use the word “gay” as inclusive shorthand).

    Thanks Ann for once again rising and roaring out of the muck that has been splattered upon you at the hands of lesser minds…and, as even the most casual observer can easily see, lesser hearts.

    Yeah, well, maybe I do have a puppy in this mill. I think it’s me.

  246. Lee Rowan
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 02:11:41

    @ttthomas:

    I guess you think you’re supporting Somerville’s position, here, but believe me, I’d rather be the object of your ire than have you speaking up on my side of the discussion. Your conflating the use of a pseudonym — in Erastes’ case, it is obviously a pseudonym — with the misrepresentation of the issues of Proposition 8 show a great deal of sound and fury, but the rage drowns out any sense that might exist.

    I haven’t been reading Somerville’s posts, btw; one or two was sufficient. When somebody’s riding a hobbyhorse and has no argument beyond “I am RIGHT and everyone else is WRONG,” that’s no longer a discussion, it’s a rant.

  247. Ann Somerville
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 02:22:21

    Whereas calling those who disagree with you children, and not even reading what they write, is the ultimate in respectful discussion, right, Lee?

    So glad you’re here to lay down the law, explain imaginary community rules for imaginary communities, and defend imaginary gay people while slapping real ones upside the head.

    A real freedom fighter for personal rights, aren’t you?

    ttthomas, thank you for your kind words. Sorry it’s brought the wrath of the queen bitch down on your head. Now you can see for yourself how certain cliques in m/m work – you don’t just disagree with people, you annihilate them, and all those who agree with them. Lee Rowan’s posse, and Lanyon, have developed that to a fine art. If these are the ‘certain’ communities with their amazingly convenient rules of etiquette, well, I’m ever so glad I’m not a member.

  248. Moth
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 02:31:38

    @Chrissy
    “I understand that you, Ms. Somerville, are trying to turn your amateur slash writing into a career on the allegedly successful m/m romance market”

    This seemed uncalled for to me. I don’t always agree with everything Ann S. says or how she says it but I think comments should stay away from dragging her personal writing into it. Just my two cents *ducks to avoid impending flame war*

  249. Maggie
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 02:52:32

    ttthomas @ 245:

    But ttthomas… Lanyon never claimed to be a man or a woman. Ms. Somerville made that part up. I think there’s a misunderstanding here.

    And since he never claimed to be one or the other, how does that make it lying?

  250. Ann Somerville
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 02:56:52

    Lanyon never claimed to be a man or a woman. Ms. Somerville made that part up.

    I most certainly did not make that up, and if Lanyon is still saying that, she’s lying. Flat out, bald-facedly lying.

  251. ttthomas
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 03:00:39

    I guess you think you're supporting Somerville's position, here, but believe me, I'd rather be the object of your ire than have you speaking up on my side of the discussion.

    Lee Rowan, am I supposed to thank you for that insult? Well, see, I think you should thank me for disabusing you of the screamingly wild ducks notion that you are clever. Really what you say says more about you and your ass hanging out than it does about me.

    Had you bothered to read all of the previous 247 comments, you’d know that the correlation to Prop 8 was brought up by Mr. TeddyPig in such a way that everyone, including me, at first, thought he had posted to the wrong forum. On further reflection, I thought the emotional intensity with which he brought up Prop 8, while misdirected, unintelligible within the the context of what he was responding to, and rather painfully personal, was, in better hands, a not-so-unworthy metaphor for the real discussion here, which is honesty. Sorry you missed it.

    @ Ann
    Don’t worry, Ann, I’ve been smacked by bigger, better, smarter and prettier bitch queens. And those are my friends!

  252. ttthomas
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 03:04:48

    I think there's a misunderstanding here.

    I agree, Maggie, but I don’t think I’m the one misunderstanding very much at all. I am new to posting on this and other forums, but I’m not new to reading them. I did arrive in this country on the Queen Mary (now docked in Long Beach, CA), but I assure you, it wasn’t yesterday.

  253. Seressia
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 03:18:11

    Geesh. Maybe I should just keep writing under my birth name.

  254. Ann Somerville
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 03:35:46

    @Maggie:

    If you want just a teeny little bit of evidence for Lanyon’s dishonesty, how about the review cited in Jane’s post? Jayne said:

    Another reason I picked your book to begin with is the fact that as a Gay man (Edited to add: At least I'll continue to assume you're a man until it's proven otherwise), you certainly know of what you write.

    Teddypig said:

    When I recommend Josh Lanyon I do so because he is a good writer and his books contain lots of juicy Gay romantic plot elements.

    I think the actual experience of being Gay does count for something in this case.

    Julia Sullivan said:

    I think that starting with a gay male writer who's adept at both the conventions of mainstream gay fiction and m/m romance is a smart choice for someone new to reviewing this genre. Also, Josh Lanyon is just a really good writer, full stop.

    ‘Mr’ Lanyon, that marvel of honesty and rectitude, then posts a reply after all these comments. Does ‘he’ say anything about the assumptions in the comments, and all over the post?

    This is the entire comment ‘he’ made:

    Thank you very much for the review, Jayne. I can't tell you how pleased I am to see gay or M/M reviews included in a mainstream romance review site. Very kind -‘ and very much appreciated.

    Nothing contradicting what the others believe to be so. So it’s a claim by omission, if nothing else.

    This is aside from the fact I’ve actually seen ‘him’ getting snotty over someone reviewing his work on a forum and referring to him as female. This was in his LJ, no I can’t find the post, but posts can be deleted, edited and made private at will. I’m not imagining it, and I’m not lying. There was a snarky back and forth with a friend, offering to show people his driving license and so on, a very much firmer claim to the male gender than most other ‘male’ authors in the genre has ever made, in my experience.

    Lanyon also exclusively uses a male avatar on LJ, which is a clear way of flagging gender.

    I don’t think all those people who assumed he was male – unlike all the other male named authors in the genre – were victims of a mass delusion either. ‘He’s’ very deliberately building up the persona of being a gay man in people’s minds, and until this post, had done absolutely nothing to contradict that assumption even when made in front of him. Of course now, it’s damn obvious he’s just like Erastes and all the others faking it, because of the squeals of ‘no fair peeking!’.

    I suppose to those who’ve swallowed the Koolaid, this can be handwaved away. But to the rest of us, it’s very clear what message Lanyon wanted us to believe. As is also very clear, he wants us to believe it because it makes his writing somehow ‘better’ – more authentic. It’s ironic that he does indeed write well enough not to need this bullshit. He writes better than me, I freely admit that. He should just front up, admit what he’s up to – or not up to, if I’ve got all the clues and cues completely wrong (which I might have) – and get on with his writing.

    You don’t need to be gay to write m/m. I don’t know why he thinks you do.

  255. MD
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 05:01:03

    I agree with the poster who originally mentioned that some of these m/m works have a feminine viewpoint of men and relationships. Authors like Erastes, Rhodes, Beecroft, Buchanan, and some others whose names I can’t remember, I thought were female writers because there are hints of a female focus in their writing (or in some cases it’s crystal clear), but it hasn’t stopped me from buying and reading their work. Laura Baumbach is the only openly female m/m author I can recall at the moment, and Ann Somerville.

    Ironically I find of the m/m I’ve read in the past few years, Ann Somerville and Lanyon both write, at least in my opinion, with the least “feminine” style in m/m and I think they’re both competent writers. I don’t find one particularly better than the other. The level of sexual content in the book doesn’t impact my opinion of whether the story has a feminine feel, because the female authors usually write sex as raunchy and explicit as the male writers do.

    But I can understand why Lanyon has been singled out on this thread. I’d been thinking about buying the How-To book on writing m/m fiction written by this author and yes, mainly because I was curious to see what advice a gay male would give on the subject. I’ve decided to put off buying it for now, because I’m not sure I’d be getting what I initially thought was being offered. If I want female advice on how to write m/m, I can find that basically all over the ‘net. =D

    It’s one thing to disguise yourself as a man and tell me stories from your imagination. It’s decidedly another to tell me you’re giving me a gay man’s perspective on writing fiction when in truth you’re coming at it from the exact same perspective I am.
    If I’d bought the book, I’d be feeling terribly taken advantage of now.
    I don’t think this author is doing himself/herself any favors by playing this game.

  256. Ann Somerville
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 05:20:44

    Laura Baumbach is the only openly female m/m author I can recall at the moment, and Ann Somerville.

    Just a few plucked from list of my friends, my publisher, memory etc:
    Emily Veinglory
    Jules Jones
    Lee Benoit
    Lydia Thorne
    Jaime Samms
    Ginn Hale
    Nicole Kimberling
    Astrid Amara
    Ally Blue
    Maya Banks
    Treva Harte
    Joely Skye
    Vivian Dean
    Maia Strong
    Aislinn Kerry
    Amanda Young
    Jade Buchanan

    There are many, many more.

  257. How to Write Professionally | English Writing Software
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 07:25:27

    […] Does an Author Have to Live It to Write It? | Dear Author: Romance … addthis_url = ‘http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bestenglishsoftware.com%2Ftips%2Fenglish-writing-software%2Fhow-to-write-professionally%2F'; addthis_title = ‘How+to+Write+Professionally'; addthis_pub = ”; Tags: Attention Writers, Bored, English Software, How to Write Professionally, Internet Libraries, Internet Sites, Media Library, Paragraphs, Punctuation Errors, Sentences, Suspense, Target Audience, Task Bar, Vast Resources, Writing Ideas, Writing Software, Writing Techniques Posted under English writing software by Jane Sumerset on 11.16.2008 […]

  258. joanne
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 09:39:56

    First of all I would like to thank each and every poster for allowing me to practice restraint at my family’s upcoming Thanksgiving dinner.

    Second, I applaud all of you for your passion and strong opinions and many of you for being able to write them in cohesive sentences. (I would mention editing your own writing and using paragraphs for easier reading but this doesn’t seem to be the right place.)

    And last, but my main point of stepping into the war zone, in any and all future discussions about writers/writing/reviewing/sales/authors etc. PLEASE never, ever, ever use the phrase “average reader” because the one thing I can guarantee is that we may not be posting to these sites and discussions but we are reading them (and messaging back and forth about same) and seeing that lack of respect for our individual likes and dislikes in any sentence will get you a big old “you have got to be kidding”.

    Now while I’m hoping that I don’t get hit with an axe the size of Rhode Island I wish you all good luck and success.

  259. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 10:53:35

    @Seressia:

    Geesh. Maybe I should just keep writing under my birth name.

    Seressia, man, I’ve been wondering the same thing…for a few brief moments, at least. ;)

  260. azteclady
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 11:47:55

    Being without internet access for almost 24hrs: yikes!

    Having read the flood of comments, I would like to ask…

    The question, if I understand correctly, is whether claiming to be *something* one isn’t in order to market one’s work–as a way of giving authenticity to said work–is deceitful or not.

    Whether mentioning Lanyon by name or not, would that be the basic question? It is not, mind, a question of whether the person claiming to be something s/he isn’t can pull it off well enough to deceive the public or not (Ann Sommerville’s take on Lanyon’s writing notwithstanding), but whether it is okay to claim to speak from personal experience.

    So, if Lanyon were not a gay male but is marketing a manual on how to write and market m/m fiction as a gay male, that would be deceitful, right?

  261. Randi
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 12:20:14

    azteclady: Exactly. That was my understanding of the initial question posed by Jane. Using Lanyon as a hypothetical situation was, though my filters, exactly that. A hypothetical situation. I also agree with Ann S, way earlier in this thread, that there does seem to be some “now you’re bashing my favorite author and that’s not OK” going on.

    I forget who supplemented the Mark Twain example (sorry), but I think that’s a little deceptive. At this point in history, when introduced to Mark Twain, it’s common knowledge that he’s really Samual Clemens, and that his “autobiographical” material is half fiction. That is a completely different scenerio than an author, now, creating a fictional persona. If Samual Clemens were writing today, and published his “autobiographical” works, and I found out they were half false, I’d be pissed. OTOH, if all he did was create a pseudonym, big deal. And I think that’s the big deal here: pseudonyms are a common practice, and I think, most readers don’t care. Going the extra step and creating a fake bio and pitching oneself and something one is not, is entirely different. I don’t know Lanyone from a hole in the wall. If he is a gay male in real life-great. If he’s a female and pretending to be a gay male-well, that’s a big problem, IMO. Eventually, the truth will out.

    @ Paul Bens: You may not have meant to be disparaging when you wrote, “…my idea of romance is far broader than the lust and fluttering hearts…”

    But is was disparaging. Is it your stance that most romance books are about “lust and fluttering hearts”? Because that’s not why I read romance. I read romance for the HOPE of HEA. To read about two, or more, people traversing, together, the pitfalls of life to find another person (or persons) who care about each other and support one another. The road can be funny, bittersweet, meloncholy, or a mix of all that. But at the end of the day, it’s about the search, and the finding, of that special someone. However you meant your comment, it came out really condescending. At least to me.

  262. Brussel Sprout
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 12:23:16

    I think it is quite odd not to read male writers – I read evenly across the genders. My current favourite contemporary authors in no particular order are Jenny Crusie, Michael Chabon, William Boyd, Sebastian Faulks, Margaret Atwood, Kate Atkinson, Diana Norman, Jonathan Franzen and Joshua Ferris…Boyd and Faulks in particular have created persuasive female characters and Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie is one of the best male characters I’ve read, ditto Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond, Niccolo and Thorfinn.

    It’s true that in genre fiction, I think there can be weaknesses in characterisation, but it doesn’t necessarily hinder my enjoyment, because quite often (especially with first person narrative) the weakness in any depiction of the opposite sex is connected with the narrator’s journey from one state to another, and consequently offers the writer the opportunity to write with irony.

    The success or otherwise of a writer’s voice depends on the security of his/her vision. A writer should write about what they know in a Le Guin sense – provided a writer knows his or her own world solidly, and has an engaging voice/style, then they can take me wherever they want.

    Personally, I have pretty much given up on historical romance – I prefer historical fiction. I’ve read widely in the genre – James and Balogh included, but over and over, there’s something missing for me as a reader. I think it’s closely connected with voice and the focus on the third person limited point of view and the one-sentence paragraph, all of which plague the historical romance. There isn’t a formula book, but romance writers are canny and they take apart what sells and then replicate it, hence the wallpaper nature of so many books and the fundamental accuracy issues. Accuracy doesn’t seem to matter much to most historical romance readers, and those of us who do care about it find enough romance and historicity in hist fiction so we give up on historical romance quite quietly. The problem is that sales and marketing have overtaken worldbuilding as priorities for the publishers. I do think that there are editors in the romance sector who are just not that rigorous – I’ve published five novels and none of them have been severely edited, and believe me, re-reading them, I can see places now where decent rewrites would have made better books. But the pressure was to meet publication schedules and hit marketing deadlines.

    This pressure crosses the genre barriers. As a reader who loves big fat thick books, I am perpetually seeking modern equivalents to George Eliot, Dickens, Trollope, books that you can sink into and dwell in for a week or two. But the vast majority of modern novels over 400 pages are woefully under-edited. The writers are good, have great stories, but no one seems to be around to tighten them up in terms of both plot and structure. And if the writer is successful, the last thing an editor will do is tell them to cut cut cut. This is because there just isn’t that much time to reduce the book because the publishing schedule and the marketing campaign have been planned and cannot be altered.

  263. Jessica
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 13:06:22

    So many issues are being aired, but as far as I can see, here are the main ones (sorry if this doesn’t help anyone but me):

    Question 1 is whether an author has to live something to write it. (And we can disagree about what it means to say someone “lives something”: Do you have to have had cancer? Or just one of your close friends? Or do you merely have to have done your research?)

    [Sub-issue: what counts as “doing your research” — having minions do it, etc.?]

    [Sub-sub-issue: Do historical novels have to be accurate, and in what detail (depiction of location of hymen)? And same question for erotica (depiction of uncircumcised penises).]

    [Sub-sub-sub issue: Hymen reconstruction surgery, and whether it represents an authentic choice for women. Women as puppets of patriarchy versus autonomous choosers.]

    Question 2 is what constitutes lying about his or her identity by an author. (Is any pen name a lie? Is failing to correct widespread but mistaken assumptions about one’s gender a lie? Etc.)

    [Sub-issue: To what extent is an author’s personal identity private, and is a line crossed, either in terms of morality or civility, when gossip about an author is spread.]

    Question 3 is whether an author who lies about one’s identity or persona is doing something wrong. (So, for example, a woman writing erotica or a political tract in the 18th century might have compelling reasons to pose as a man that outweigh the wrong of lying. But a writer in the 21st century who cashes in on a sexual identity to sell more books may not.).

    [Sub-issue: what role, if any, editors and publishers play in crafting or influencing the crafting of false or misleading identities, and to what extent this mitigates authorial culpability.]

    I took it that the Question One was the point of the original post. Unfortunately, hundreds of albeit fascinating comments later, it doesn’t look much progress was made on that one, thanks to questions 2 and 3 getting thrown in to the mix.

  264. Lissa
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 13:18:58

    I have been following this thread for several days now and I have to say that it started out to be a very interesting discussion.

    Too bad it didn’t stay that way.

    I read both male and female authors. I read romance; straight and m/m, menage and erotica. I read mystery and suspense. In fact, I read just about anything – except horror, as a single female, I don’t need anything else to keep me up at night other than my own imagination. The point is – whether the author is male or female, gay or straight plays no part in my reading selection process. I choose stories that interest me, stories that I think will entertain me. After all, that is the function of fiction is it not?

    I have read male authors who write female characters well, and male authors who don’t. Same goes with female authors. I don’t know, unless the author tells me whether or not s/he is gay or straight or otherwise, nor do I really care. The quality of the storytelling and the character development is what I look for in an author. If those two things are present, I will choose the author again and recommend his/her books to others. If not, I move on. The author’s personal life is irrelivant to me.

    Personally, I think that if you are choosing your authors specifically on their gender or life experience you are cheating yourself out of some very good books. But that is your choice.

    As to the use of pen names – go for it. Write under whatever name for whatever reason you choose. But if you tell the world that you are a gay man – then be one. If you tell the world that you are a married grandmother with gray hair and an active sex life, then be that. Do not, under any circumstances, pretend to be something that you are not; or expect that people who find out differently will feel cheated and deceived and be prepared for the fallout.

  265. MD
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 13:31:35

    Emily Veinglory
    Jules Jones
    Lee Benoit
    Lydia Thorne
    Jaime Samms
    Ginn Hale
    Nicole Kimberling
    Astrid Amara
    Ally Blue
    Maya Banks
    Treva Harte
    Joely Skye
    Vivian Dean
    Maia Strong
    Aislinn Kerry
    Amanda Young
    Jade Buchanan

    Oh that’s right. Thanks. I can never think of names when I need to. =D
    Some of those authors I’ve never read, though. Nothing about vampire stories appeals to me. I think I’ve read two in my life- Bram Stoker’s and some book pitting Sherlock Holmes against Dracula (which I only read because I like Holmes stories). Also don’t read werewolf/shapeshifter/anime-based or influenced romance fiction. That all seems very popular in m/m.

    I’ve read some of Benoit’s work and liked it a lot and I didn’t initially know she was a woman. As I said, I don’t care when female authors use male pseudonyms because I enjoy male written or female written fiction alike and it doesn’t influence my book buying in the least.

    It only becomes a deceptive trade practice, in my mind, when you offer me a product I rely on to be one thing and it turns out to be something else.

    And for anyone who might reasonably argue that I don’t know whether Lanyon is a female author- well, I don’t believe a gay male author would have any need to flip flop or be furtive about the issue. Do you? (seriously?) Consequently, I feel confident this author is female.

  266. Maggie
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 14:09:20

    MD @ 264:

    “well, I don't believe a gay male author would have any need to flip flop or be furtive about the issue. Do you? (seriously?) Consequently, I feel confident this author is female.”

    He’s not being furtive. He’s just refusing to comment here so he can avoid a shit storm.

    I’m don’t even know how to respond to Ms. Somerville since her response to my comment saying Lanyon never tried to deceive anyone was to point out the fact that Jayne assumed from his pen name that he was a gay man. Jeeezus.

    I think it’s very sad that people just flippantly start gossip (and even defend that behavior) and then use that as a springboard to start accusing authors of deceptions that cannot be proven at all.

    And it’s horrible when the only reason for that accusation is, “Well, me and my gay friends have examined and discussed his writing style, and we have determined it to be decidedly feminine.” Well, you know what? I’ve read Josh Lanyon, Ann Somerville, AND Paul G. Bens, Jr. (A. Somerville’s best gay bud). I think you all are talented. There’s absolutely no reason for this mud slinging. And just to clear things up, no I cannot tell your freakin’ genders from reading your works and there is NO SET WRITING STYLE. I actually think Paul G. Bens writes even more flowery prose than Josh Lanyon, what with all the “delicate pink spot”s and the “intoxicating nectar”s. So there. Men are capable of romantic prose.

    Unfortunately, I think once people have started all these speculations and accusations, they will continue making them. I might make myself unpopular on this thread by saying this, but in this case, I think it was wrong of Dear Author to bring up specific names. It prompted certain other individuals to vent and spew hatred. The topic was legitimate, but once you start naming names, it just gets personal. But it’s worse than naming names, because you’ve insinuated that he’s lying when there’s absolutely no way you would know that. That’s just deliberately tarnishing someone else’s name when he did absolutely nothing to you.

    Ms. Somerville, you are a talented author. And Josh Lanyon is a talented author. Don’t tar your name and Lanyon’s by continuing this. Authors should be helping each other, not tearing one another down.

    Anyway, my comment is longish, but I wanted to remove myself from the thread, so I had to finish saying my piece. I’m not naive enough to think people will stop assuming things, but I’ll just stop defending, even though I hate that an author I love is being viciously attacked.

  267. Robin
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 14:15:07

    well, I don't believe a gay male author would have any need to flip flop or be furtive about the issue. Do you? (seriously?)

    I do. But then I’m not a proponent of the ‘people who have nothing to hide hide nothing’ school of thought. I believe people hide stuff all the time when it’s not really all that important, and I believe that someone who really is a gay man might absolutely be unwilling to declare himself that way by offering “proof” of some sort.

    I have my own opinions about Lanyon — and ironically they have not at all been influenced by either Jane’s or Ann Somerville’s comments — but that’s all they are — my opinions. IMO the original issue here was whether we can have the discussion about how authors market themselves as authentically empowered to write a particular thing, and clearly even having that discussion (let alone having the right to speculate about an author’s gender) is off limits as far as some are concerned. A position I find really troubling, especially in an environment where readers are regularly interacting with authors in a pseudo-personal way online, at author signings, etc. What all this furor has done for me is illustrate that it’s really not just about the work for those who are upset about the Lanyon discussion any more than for those they accuse of the same.

    But still, I can absolutely believe that someone who is exactly what they say they are refuses to prove that to anyone else’s satisfaction.

  268. Robin
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 14:20:24

    One thing I don’t understand is how this is all getting dumped on DA. This line of speculation about Lanyon was known to me before *anyone* brought it up here. Even as someone outside the m/m fan fiction, slash, and Romance communities, I had heard about this and thought it was a pretty widely rippling area of speculation. So I’m really confused about the insinuations that it was invented here (let alone the idea that it’s an attack on Lanyon).

  269. Marsha
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 14:58:19

    The insistence that any given author prove that he or she is as advertised (whether tacitly or implicitly) strikes me as nothing more than an entitlement tantrum.

    A friend once was deeply chagrined to discover that his new favorite “microbrew” was, in fact, a Budweiser product. When it was pointed out that nothing had changed about his enjoyment of the beer – it was still cold, refreshing and delicious – he conceded that it was only his own vanity that prevented him from purchasing it again. He didn’t want to be a Budweiser kind of guy, however such a person might be defined by him.

    If someone is getting what he or she needs from a book what of the particulars of the author? Whatever or whoever the author is personally does nothing to change that the book delivered what the reader sought and if the reader feels the need to demand that credentials be checked anyway then I think the reader needs to ask him- or herself why (since there’s no bearing on the content of a previously pleasing book). Which I guess brings us right around to the top of this thread.

    Then again, there are things external to a book. I may not want to give income to an author who believes X, Y, or Z thing. I don’t buy a certain company’s pizza because I don’t like what it might do with the profits generated by my purchase. If f the author of my fave ever Dessert Island Keeper (wait! are we allowed to say that anymore?!) turned out to be, say, Bill O’Reilly I might have to rethink my position.

    Not really helpful, am I?

  270. cs
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 15:05:09

    Personally, I think that if you are choosing your authors specifically on their gender or life experience you are cheating yourself out of some very good books. But that is your choice.

    Very, very true. However sometimes I do want a certain perspective and I actively go and seek it out. Especially in gay fiction. I’ve read tons and tons of books written by married straight women. But I also want to read gay fiction by people who are actually gay.

    Growly Cub: Have you ever read books by Michael Thomas Ford? He’s the man.

    Lee Rowan: Thank you for your comment. I actually have a few of your books in my TBR pile as well :) On the subject matter. I have to disagree, I don’t see anyone attacking female writers for writing gay fiction. Not on any BLOGs anyway. I think people like discussing it, just as much people like discussing why straight women like reading gay-fiction (i.e. me). The only time I’ve come across people being horrible about the fact women write gay-fiction, is from a (select) gay men. But hey they have every right to say what they will on the subject, as I am if a conservative white woman/man was writing about the life of an Asian girl (i.e. me). Your story might be fiction, but being gay or Asian is not.

    To jump from the use of an opposite-sex or gender-neutral pseudonym to accusations of fraud is unfair and off-topic:

    No one said that. However if you write a manual about writing about gay men/sex then you gotta admit, people will be a little-bit pissed off, if they find out that you’re neither male or gay. Have as many gender-neutral pen names as you want. Hell knock yourself out, but I don’t understand this whole ‘super-uber’ secret about whether your male or female.

    Many don’t seem to like Ms. Somerville and alright then. However all she really said was she believed that Josh Lanyon was female. Hell even I thought that ages ago as well. Believe it not assuming someone might be female is not slander. Now if I said Josh Lanyon is a creepy sod, then I can understand the outcry. But hey this poor thread has lost it’s initial point anyway. However still looking forward to the last installment of your series Josh, and your working partnership with Jordan.

  271. Lee Rowan
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 15:21:33

    @cs: @Marsha:

    If someone is getting what he or she needs from a book what of the particulars of the author? Whatever or whoever the author is personally does nothing to change that the book delivered what the reader sought and if the reader feels the need to demand that credentials be checked anyway then I think the reader needs to ask him- or herself why (since there's no bearing on the content of a previously pleasing book).

    Yes, exactly. There’s some publisher or other — Black Lace, I think — that requires that its authors be women. What do they do, demand a doctor’s certificate? I swear, if I were a man I’d be tempted to submit a story just out of sheer orneriness. Worrying about the gender of a writer would be like demanding that the person who built your dining room table be a large, burly man with a shop full of power tools. WTF? If it’s a good table, it’s a good table. Issues of business ethics and environmental impact are valid — the personal identity of the carpenter is not.

  272. Lee Rowan
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 16:03:56

    cs:

    I don't see anyone attacking female writers for writing gay fiction.

    Oh, it does happen; it has. Individual gay men, as you said, and I’ve had a couple of sniping episodes from a woman who considers herself a feminist who took potshots at my f/f marriage because, in her opinion, no True Lesbian could write about MEN. Or something. She kept at it for a year, and snarked at some other female m/m writers. The accusation was inane, but the brouhaha gave me a real dislike of the assumption that a writer’s private life, including sexuality (what is more private?) is any of a reader’s business.

    if you write a manual about writing about gay men/sex then you gotta admit, people will be a little-bit pissed off, if they find out that you're neither male or gay.

    I don’t see why. Is the book good? Is it effective? He didn’t write “How to be a Gay Man,” he wrote “How to WRITE about Gay Men.” If — having written a few books a la Louis Lamour, you wrote a book on “How to Write a Western Novel,” it would not be reasonable to expect you were out ropin’ dogies on the lone prairee. It would be reasonable to expect that you had done what you were attempting to teach (he has) and had consulted other writers who had done the same (he did.) I haven’t read it, mostly because I’m not keen on “Write X for Fun and Profit.” Like backyard breeding, it draws in people out to make a buck, not people who love the genre.

    I don’t subscribe to the notion that a writer (or an actor, or musician, or any creative artist) owes the audience anything more than the best story, music, or performance that s/he can possible produce. I think this clever-dick nonsense about being able to determine gender from a person’s writing is about as scientific as creationism or phrenology. Less, maybe — a phrenologist could at least detect if somebody’d been given a serious clunk over the head.

    And yes, anybody is free to express any opinion. But this psychic gender-detection is just goofy. What if — and this is utterly made up of whole cloth, totally unrelated to Josh, whom I have never met — what if a person writing with a male pseudonym were a transgender woman whose personal sexual identity was male? What good would it do anyone to “detect” that s/he was anatomically female?

    And more to the point: what hurt might it cause the writer who had found a medium in which his true self could find expression? Is the satisfaction of “LOOK!! I’m RIGHT!!” justification for this intrusion?

    (warning: the following paragraph is not to be taken seriously.)

    It’s particularly silly that a heterosexual woman is claiming the ability to determine gender over the ethernet Or… is “she?” I never met Ann Somerville; I don’t know that she is female.

    Yes, this speculation is intentionally ridiculous. I don’t know or care what Somerville’s identity or persuasion might be, I’m just trying to demonstrate that while it may be fun to point the microscope at someone else, it isn’t comfortable to be at the business end of the inspection.

    I expect all the speculation will be good for Josh’s sales, though.

    To answer the original question of the thread: Does the author have to live it?

    Not if s/he has an adequate imagination.

  273. MD
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 16:08:15

    And it's horrible when the only reason for that accusation is, “Well, me and my gay friends have examined and discussed his writing style, and we have determined it to be decidedly feminine.” Well, you know what? I've read Josh Lanyon, Ann Somerville, AND Paul G. Bens, Jr. (A. Somerville's best gay bud).

    A whiff of feminine viewpoint in an author’s work does not preclude talent. I don’t know where you got that from.
    I think all the authors you’ve mentioned, whether they are male or female, are fantastically talented and write some excellent fiction. Paul Bens in particular. His Torquere story is one of the best m/m stories I’ve ever read.

    My beef is not with the fiction. I don’t care what the author’s sex is.
    It’s the non-fiction that to me personally comes across as deceitful. Lanyon may not wish to confirm whether he’s male or female, but when his identity makes his work in the non-fiction field a lie, I feel he’s under an obligation to correct that.
    YMMV.

  274. Ann Somerville
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 16:14:46

    There's some publisher or other -‘ Black Lace, I think -‘ that requires that its authors be women.

    Since you can’t even be bothered coming up with a real example, I’ll give you one – The Mammoth Book of Gay Erotica, edited by Lawrence Schimel, which I reviewed here. Schimel decided that he only wanted real gay men to write for the anthology, and I’m very glad he did, because there, unequivocally, I can say, this is a sample of real gay writing.

    If you, Rowan, had managed to fool him, you would have tainted the product. It would no longer be authentic. Sure, the writing might have been good (I don’t know, since I’ve never had any interest in your writing to find out what you sound like when you’re not being an ass), but it would not have been what Schimel wanted to offer. You would have made him commit a fraud on the readership, something he cares very much about not doing.

    Maybe the publisher you can’t be bothered to find out the name of, wanted to do the same – perhaps say ‘real women’s erotica, by real women’. You think it’s cute to make a publisher lie to the readers, when the readers have made it very clear in this post, they really, really hate being lied to?

    Fan of Schimel as I am as a editor, for he is one of the best, he personally isn’t as good a writer as some of the women I know. But what he is, is a real gay man. If he turns up in an anthology of real gay men’s erotica, or biography, I don’t have to guess whether the male name is hiding a female’s voice. Some of the stories in that anthology aren’t fabulously written – I’ve certainly read better, written by women. But that isn’t the issue. Sometimes, the quality of the writing is not the only thing that matters.

    @Maggie – Paul’s a good friend and a very good author, but he’s far from being my only gay friend. Moreover, unlike some of the commentors here, no one’s got a hand up his shirt telling him what to say and how to say it.

    I actually think Paul G. Bens writes even more flowery prose than Josh Lanyon, what with all the “delicate pink spot”s and the “intoxicating nectar”s. So there. Men are capable of romantic prose.

    No one said they weren’t. If you bothered to actually read my comments, instead of the creative reinterpretations by friend Rowan et al, I pointed out that gay authors tend to have a shift in focus – something very obvious in the anthology I’ve mentioned here. Nowhere in my remarks did I say that equated to not being flowery, or romantic. Nothing in my remarks about Lanyon’s writing was uncomplimentary in the slightest either.

    However, (falling for your classic deflection though I am) I don’t think Paul writes flowery prose anyway – though I can’t read most of his stuff because it’s just too damn dark and creepy. That I have read, has been tight, dark-hued and far from traditionally romantic.

    er response to my comment saying Lanyon never tried to deceive anyone was to point out the fact that Jayne assumed from his pen name that he was a gay man.

    My response was to point out that Lanyon did nothing to correct her assumption, nor that of at least two other people. Honestly, are you actually reading anything I write?

    Mrs Giggles compared people like you to Clay Atkins’ fans. She was absolutely spot on.

    You want to look at who’s flinging mud and who derailed this post? Look at Teddy Pig’s comments, and his two wildly misleading posts. The discussion here has been civil, except where a few supporters have charged in to defend the authors they ‘love’.

    I don’t want my readers to love me. I only want them to love my writing. Clearly that’s not enough for some authors.

  275. Nora Roberts
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 16:17:14

    ~might make myself unpopular on this thread by saying this, but in this case, I think it was wrong of Dear Author to bring up specific names.~

    That makes no sense to me. DA brings up specific names in discussions all the time. Mine’s mentioned in this blog as JD Robb. The ensuing discussion, statements by those who comments, the tone and direction of same is certainly not the responsiblity of DA, particularly when the article FOR discussion was anything but a spew.

    Many here seem very sensitive about this subject. I won’t argue with them. I think people are entitled to their sensitivities and hot buttons. Others are equally entitled to disagree and put their own opinions out there.

  276. Ann Somerville
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 16:26:42

    He didn't write “How to be a Gay Man,” he wrote “How to WRITE about Gay Men.”

    As MD said, she would have bought this assuming the author was a gay man, and felt cheated to learn otherwise. You are being quite disingenuous, you know.

    I think this clever-dick nonsense about being able to determine gender from a person's writing is about as scientific as creationism or phrenology.

    Except I was right, wasn’t I. Like I said, and you didn’t read, you and friends have a vested interest in deriding gender differences. Maybe you think writing like a woman is a bad thing. I don’t.

    I don't know or care what Somerville's identity or persuasion might be

    Did someone ‘persuade’ you to be bisexual? You really do sound like some of the lying sods behing Prop 8 when you say stuff like that.

    Microscope away, Rowan. Like Paul Bens, I’ve made no secret at all about my gender or sexuality. It’s only your little chums who play stupid games with readers about such things – and it’s only because of the stupid games, that anyone gives a flying f*ck.

    expect all the speculation will be good for Josh's sales, though.

    Good for her. I keep saying, she writes well. People won’t be buying a bad product per se. Whether they care about the persona, is up to them.

    But if sales are going to increase, maybe she and her chums, and you and your chums, should stop squealing like stuck pigs, and be grateful for all the free publicity. Not to mention all the hugs and cuddles for being such poor oppressed little writers.

  277. Robin
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 16:51:53

    I want to swing back for a second (WARNING: blatant attempt to change the course of the thread ahead!!) to the issue of reading women instead of men or vice versa.

    As someone who was raised, like most people, I think, reading mostly male writers — all through high school, college, grad school, and law school — I feel that I have a pretty good saturation in the male authorial voice. Now I adore reading both male and female authors and have many favorites among both genders. But I totally understand how grown, educated, intelligent, civicly engaged women might prefer reading women over men, and I note that no one here is arguing it’s because women write better books (as has been argued about male authors). I understand this perspective because as a woman I know what it’s like to have the enormous symbolic phallus waved in my face every day in this society, that so much in our culture is determined via a male perspective, and I can well imagine that at some point retreating to female-written books might simply be a perceived safe harbor from masculine authority. It’s not my desire, but I understand it.

    My attitude is pretty much that when men can show me that they are as educated — as steeped, really — in female-written books as women are in male-written books, we can have a serious discussion about whether educated, intelligent women should be choosing to read only female-authored books. Until then, I get the escapist (from patriarchy) fantasy in choosing women-authored books for pleasure, even if it’s not my choice.

  278. K. Z. Snow
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 17:02:18

    I don’t know why I’m doing this. That said . . .

    The “truthfulness” issue has a clear fulcrum point, which everyone other than a handful of posters has overlooked.

    Obfuscation of identity isn’t the fundamental issue. Not for me, anyway. An author who is simply producing works of fiction can, as far as most readers are concerned, present him/herself in whatever way he or she chooses. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with that, because our lives are our lives and nobody else’s. (I had no clue Erastes was female. Does it matter to me? Not one whit.) BUT . . . desire for privacy or acceptance tilts toward fraud when a fiction writer begins touting him/herself as an authority based on that smokescreen of a public persona.

    Say, for example (yeah, this is what “hypothetical” is all about):
    Bertie Buchinski offers a critique service for lesbian authors.
    Bertie Buchinski has dispensed a good deal of f/f writing advice and criticism on line.
    Bertie Buchinski has authored a “how-to” writing guide for lesbian fiction.
    Ergo, Bertie Buchinski has gone far toward establishing it/him/herself as an authority on (not just an author of) f/f fiction, and has been profiting from it.

    Now, if Bertie Buchinski were, in actuality, a het or bi man, het or bi woman, gay man, male-to-female trans, female-to-male trans, hermaphrodite (intersexual), precocious chimpanzee, or anything other than a full-fledged, card-carrying lesbian, Bertie Buchinski’s claim to “authority” is specious, at best. And all those readers and writers who assumed they were getting the lowdown from a bona fide queer girl — as they were intentionally led to assume — have been hoodwinked.

    I have no bloody idea if this type of thing has gone on or not. None whatsoever. And I have no inclination even to lean either way when it comes to making a call on any given author. Speculation is pointless. But IF such a situation were to be the case, it would indeed chap my ass. It’s akin to a person misrepresenting his credentials when applying for a faculty position at a college or university.

  279. MCHalliday
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 17:24:02

    I believe people hide stuff all the time when it's not really all that important…

    So true…in fact, I base my tales on the same notion that masking truth has a basis in fear of rejection and so many other deep seated reasons in order to keep the truth hidden. None for marketing purposes as yet but an excellent subject to explore.

    IMO the original issue here was whether we can have the discussion about how authors market themselves as authentically empowered to write a particular thing

    On that topic without the marketing slant, an author does not have to ‘live it to write it’, but it can’t hurt to have some experiences that can aid in the feel of authenticity when writing.

    For example, in writing a historical circa 1000 AD, it was helpful that I spent some time in a recreated wattle and daub village. Although the building materials in the era and location of Ireland I wrote about were different, it was influential in my acurate construct of a medieval village.

    Writing about places I've been are far easier than imagining, such as knowing Victorian London from the streets, homes, parks and buildings that survived WWII. Add research for accurate detail but more so, I've intimately known Victorians (most of my paternal side of the family lived into their late nineties) which afforded me first-hand knowledge of culture, custom, religous influences and speech patterns with words and grammar according to class and location in the UK.

    Off current topic but in reference to Mrs Giggles comment about a much needed NEW imprint for out-of-the-box tales, the Kensington editor, Hilary Sares, wrote to me, “Your wonderful prose and characterization were the highlights of this Victorian novel, which reminded me in many ways of the bestseller TCPaTW…but I would have to say that writing…in the first person may have not been the best choice.”

    Back to knowing what you write…as my contemp mysteries are primarily based in London, I can see Kensington Park when I write about it, same with the ring road or driving on the M5. I've been to *cough* many pubs, restaurants and use Brit preferences for food and drink. And also, really understand area specific slang and humour.

    On the other hand, my books (mostly the mysteries) relay characters/suspects POV concerning horrendous experiences and nurtured attitudes typically considered taboo. Only some of these experiences are my own (not saying which ones) but I don't write about a character without huge insight; I have never been a nun but I went to Catholic school, took and taught catechism, and am well aware of different convent protocol, also I considered the vocation on retreat many years ago. I know nuns are not saints from my own physical and mental abuse so I wrote about a mean-spirited Mother Superior in the second book in the series. I've known wonderful priests and absolutely horrid ones, so I wrote a priest (in the same mystery) as a rather sad and challenged secondary character.

    Back to experiences aiding the process of writing…some part of me must be empathetic to a character, even the villian. I have never experienced a lack of bad thoughts, even in my early development as I prayed for perfection, there were things I've done that still haunt me. A character always has a profound reason for motive and behaviour, even if it is innate.

    I want to swing back for a second… to the issue of reading women instead of men or vice versa.

    To that exact issue, I have personally encountered Layton on a group when I asked if readers might consider reading and the (hopeful) subsequent support of women as mystery writers due to the stats of male authored mysteries. Layton countered my stance, stating gender should not be considered when reading a book. As Layton's viewpoint is especially pertinent to this general discussion, I find his absence mystifying.

  280. MCHalliday
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 17:26:09

    Bloody hell, all my quotes were either lost or misplaced!

  281. MCHalliday
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 17:28:21

    I believe people hide stuff all the time when it's not really all that important…

    So true…in fact, I base my tales on the same notion that masking truth has a basis in fear of rejection and so many other deep seated reasons in order to keep the truth hidden. None for marketing purposes as yet but an excellent subject to explore.

    I

    MO the original issue here was whether we can have the discussion about how authors market themselves as authentically empowered to write a particular thing.

    On that topic without the marketing slant, an author does not have to ‘live it to write it', but it can't hurt to have some experiences that can aid in the feel of authenticity when writing.

    For example, in writing a historical circa 1000 AD, it was helpful that I spent some time in a recreated wattle and daub village. Although the building materials in the era and location of Ireland I wrote about were different, it was influential in my acurate construct of a medieval village.

    Writing about places I've been are far easier than imagining, such as knowing Victorian London from the streets, homes, parks and buildings that survived WWII. Add research for accurate detail but more so, I've intimately known Victorians (most of my paternal side of the family lived into their late nineties) which afforded me first-hand knowledge of culture, custom, religous influences and speech patterns with words and grammar according to class and location in the UK.

    Off current topic but in reference to Mrs Giggles comment about a much needed NEW imprint for out-of-the-box tales, the Kensington editor, Hilary Sares, wrote to me, “Your wonderful prose and characterization were the highlights of this Victorian novel, which reminded me in many ways of the bestseller TCPaTW…but I would have to say that writing…in the first person may have not been the best choice.”

    Back to knowing what you write…as my contemp mysteries are primarily based in London, I can see Kensington Park when I write about it, same with the ring road or driving on the M5. I've been to *cough* many pubs, restaurants and use Brit preferences for food and drink. And also, really understand area specific slang and humour.

    On the other hand, my books (mostly the mysteries) relay characters/suspects POV concerning horrendous experiences and nurtured attitudes typically considered taboo. Only some of these experiences are my own (not saying which ones) but I don't write about a character without huge insight; I have never been a nun but I went to Catholic school, took and taught catechism, and am well aware of different convent protocol, also I considered the vocation on retreat many years ago. I know nuns are not saints from my own physical and mental abuse so I wrote about a mean-spirited Mother Superior in the second book in the series. I've known wonderful priests and absolutely horrid ones, so I wrote a priest (in the same mystery) as a rather sad and challenged secondary character.

    Back to experiences aiding the process of writing…some part of me must be empathetic to a character, even the villian. I have never experienced a lack of bad thoughts, even in my early development as I prayed for perfection, there were things I've done that still haunt me. A character always has a profound reason for motive and behaviour, even if it is innate.

    I want to swing back for a second… to the issue of reading women instead of men or vice versa.

    To that exact issue, I have personally encountered Layton on a group when I asked if readers might consider reading and the (hopeful) subsequent support of women as mystery writers due to the stats of male authored mysteries. Layton countered my stance, stating gender should not be considered when reading a book. As Layton's viewpoint is especially pertinent to this general discussion, I find his absence mystifying.

  282. Lee Rowan
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 17:46:28

    @K. Z. Snow:

    Now, if Bertie Buchinski were, in actuality, a het or bi man, het or bi woman, gay man, male-to-female trans, female-to-male trans, hermaphrodite (intersexual), precocious chimpanzee, or anything other than a full-fledged, card-carrying lesbian,

    Oh, lord, I am not going to get into the bi/trans/woman-born-woman business.

    As far as I’m concerned, it’s next to impossible to say that one person’s definition of a ‘real’ gay/bi/lez/het identity is precisely the same as anyone else’s. I know who I am, I know who I love, and other folks are entitled to make those decisions for themselves.

  283. Lee Rowan
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 17:49:09

    @MCHalliday: @MCHalliday:

    Who’s Layton?

  284. Nora Roberts
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 17:50:40

    I haven’t done or experienced a fraction of the things I’ve written about. I haven’t set foot on most of the locations I’ve used as setting. Except I’ve done and experienced all of it during the research and writing, and spent a great deal of time in every location within that same framework. Imagination, research, empathy, observation–all essentials in the writer’s toolbox.

    Obviously I haven’t lived in NY in 2060, but I write about that place and time, that world regularly. I’ve never killed anyone (and no one can prove otherwise) but I’ve murdered many fictionally. I believe I know how it feels to do so, and I think belief is enough when writing (if you have the talent, skill and imagination required). You have to believe in the absolute truth within that bubble of fiction to make it strong enough for the reader to believe it.

    Honestly, I don’t need any sort of ‘background’ or experience. I don’t need to have been there or done that on any level *except* through the process of writing to create the setting, the characters, the atmosphere. It’s my job to do that.

    That said, if I pretended I had, or that I was something I’m not, that I’d lived a life I hadn’t lived in order to sell my books or make them seem more ‘authentic’, then, imo, I’d be a fraud.

    I don’t know and haven’t read the work of the writers under discussion here. I have no pony in this show. This is a general and I suppose fairly encompassing opinion on the initial discussion posed.

  285. MCHalliday
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 17:54:05

    Lee, I majorly boobed: I meant to write Lanyon.

  286. Cat Grant
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 17:55:22

    As usual, La Nora brings class and level-headedness back to the discussion. Thank you! ;)

  287. Jane O
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 17:58:16

    I must say I have found this entire thread amazing.

    There are authors who delight in doing an emotional/spiritual/physical strip tease in public, and there are authors who go to great lengths to protect their privacy. There are Norman Mailers and there are J.D. Salingers. But that is entirely up to them.

    As reader, all -‘ and I mean ALL -‘ we have the right to demand is a book.

    If the author has written it well enough to convince us, fine. We may buy the author’s next.

    If the author has not written it well enough to convince us, we don’t have to read it -‘ or finish reading it -‘ and can toss it in the trash if we so choose.

    But we are not entitled to any personal details about the author.

  288. Ann Bruce
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 19:12:12

    But we are not entitled to any personal details about the author.

    I don’t think anyone here is talking about prying into an author’s life. If an author says, “My name is John Smith,” and nothing more, that’s fine. The issue is saying, “My name is John Smith and I’m an A,” when he’s really a B. I don’t know about you, but I consider the latter to be dishonest. Much like James Frey claiming to be the person in his “memoir,” which he did to sell his book.

  289. kirsten saell
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 19:38:18

    “My name is John Smith,” and nothing more, that's fine. The issue is saying, “My name is John Smith and I'm an A,” when he's really a B. I don't know about you, but I consider the latter to be dishonest.

    Okay, but I missed the part where Josh Lanyon came out and actually said “I’m Josh Lanyon and I’m a gay man.” If he has, I will stand corrected, but I honestly haven’t seen it.

    And I know Ann and others will insist that his failure to refute the accusations that he’s really a woman is a tacit admission of guilt, but I haven’t seen him responding either way–to claims that he’s a woman, or claims that he’s a gay man–and I honestly don’t think he should have to.

    Say, for example (yeah, this is what “hypothetical” is all about):
    Bertie Buchinski offers a critique service for lesbian authors.
    Bertie Buchinski has dispensed a good deal of f/f writing advice and criticism on line.
    Bertie Buchinski has authored a “how-to” writing guide for lesbian fiction.
    Ergo, Bertie Buchinski has gone far toward establishing it/him/herself as an authority on (not just an author of) f/f fiction, and has been profiting from it.

    Now, if Bertie Buchinski were, in actuality, a het or bi man, het or bi woman, gay man, male-to-female trans, female-to-male trans, hermaphrodite (intersexual), precocious chimpanzee, or anything other than a full-fledged, card-carrying lesbian, Bertie Buchinski's claim to “authority” is specious, at best.

    Um, I don’t think it’s specious at all. If all Bertie B is doing is professing to be an expert at writing f/f fiction, well, I don’t see a problem. If Bertie B is claiming to be a lesbian, and that that makes her a better writer of f/f, well, I might be annoyed to discover she was lying, but honestly, it isn’t going to keep me awake at night, tapping angrily on my keyboard. What would make me angry is if I bought her books and they sucked.

    Slightly OT: I do wonder why so many lesbian and bi woman authors write m/m. I will admit that I find it annoying, but for selfish rather than philosophical reasons–there isn’t enough decent f/f and f/f/m erotic romance out there for me (although there does seem to be plenty of erotica). For whatever reason, straight women would rather write m/f or m/m, and I have yet to encounter a gay man who writes steamy f/f. If anyone knows of one, I’d love a rec.

    And for the record, Erastes is quite open about the fact that she’s a woman–I recall her saying she chose the pen name before she was published because she believed she wouldn’t be able to sell without the cred that went with it. Soon as she realized that wasn’t true, she came out. All in public-like, too.

  290. Lee Rowan
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 19:56:15

    @MCHalliday:

    Oh! thank you.. I don’t have to go look through all those posts…!

  291. Lee Rowan
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 20:03:52

    @Ann Bruce:

    Frey’s book was supposed to be a memoir; that is a claim that the story is non-fiction and that the details are a part of his life. If the book had been presented as fiction, his personal life would be irrelevant. Heinlein never mined ice on the moon.

    I think the cover of the m/m writing book mentions that JL is the author of the Adrien English mysteries. That’s not a statement about the author’s personal info, it’s the credential that he has written in the genre.

  292. Ann Bruce
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 20:09:27

    Okay, but I missed the part where Josh Lanyon came out and actually said “I'm Josh Lanyon and I'm a gay man.” If he has, I will stand corrected, but I honestly haven't seen it.

    Ms Saell, if I was talking about Josh Lanyon in particular, then I would’ve used his name. I’m talking about the issue in general.

  293. cs
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 20:10:33

    As MD said, she would have bought this assuming the author was a gay man, and felt cheated to learn otherwise. You are being quite disingenuous, you know.

    My point right there.

    So how to write a gay man is different how? If this author were to be female and married with 2.5 kids, why would I want advice writing about gay men from her? If I were an author and wanted to do some research, about gay men and stumbled across the authors ‘manual’ I would have bought it on the assumption the author was a) male and b) gay. It would be research. I would want to make my characters authentic because as I said being gay isn’t fiction. As Ann said I would feel cheated if the author was actually female, and wrote the book because she has three gay friends and suddenly knew what it was like to be male and gay.

    Also no one is asking for the authors bank details here. As I said this big hush-hush about keeping your gender secret in the m/m business (I only know about this genre, I’m not saying it doesn’t happen elsewhere) is slightly weird to me. But when is that suddenly being privy to an authors personal life? I walk down the street and people say ‘hey that’s a woman’ suddenly they’re all up in my private life? Mmm…

    But on writing what you know vs. what you don’t know. The latter requires research, and especially if it’s a contemporary story about the world today. But if you research your topic well enough, who says you can’t do it. You might not know the exact feeling – but you’ll get the point well enough. If you’re writing about Mars in the year 3010 then…you’re alright there :)

  294. Ann Bruce
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 20:15:56

    @Ms. Rowan – Ditto what I said to Ms. Saell.

  295. Robin
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 21:33:35

    Okay, but I missed the part where Josh Lanyon came out and actually said “I'm Josh Lanyon and I'm a gay man.”

    But isn’t the deliberate mystery — the assumption of a male pseud, the refusal to use pronouns in reference to one’s self, the refusal to say one way or the other — the very thing that makes the questions, the curiosity, inevitable? And from what I understand via this thread, even *asking the question* is verboten — a gay slur, a personal insult, an inappropriate invasion of the author’s privacy, etc. For the record, what I find problematic is begging a question and then striking out at those who dare ask it. Although I have to say that using the name “josh” would be such a lovely inside joke if, indeed, a woman stood behind it. But then, I am so cheesy that it would be difficult for me to refuse that pun, lol.

  296. Ann Bruce
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 21:42:40

    @Robin – I just hopped over the Josh Lanyon’s site, and he does use the male possessive pronoun:

    Josh lives in Los Angeles, California, and is currently at work on about a zillion other writing projects, as well as his new M/M Manuscript Evaluation Service.

  297. Paul Bens
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 21:44:48

    @ Paul Bens: You may not have meant to be disparaging when you wrote, “…my idea of romance is far broader than the lust and fluttering hearts…”

    But is was disparaging…. However you meant your comment, it came out really condescending. At least to me.

    @Randi: I apologize profusely for having offended you (as well as anyone else I offended). I did not mean for it to come out that way, but I understand completely how it did and that it did. I did not mean to belittle the genre in any way. When the genre is written well, it is all those things you enjoy about it and that is also what I enjoy about it (in the m/m world as, forgive, but straight romance I am vastly under-read on) as well. I have only my speed at typing and my denseness for not realizing how it would come off to blame. Doesn’t excuse it at all and I am very sorry.

  298. Paul Bens
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 21:59:05

    Well, you know what? I've read Josh Lanyon, Ann Somerville, AND Paul G. Bens, Jr. (A. Somerville's best gay bud). I think you all are talented.

    @Maggie: I don’t know if I’m Ann’s best gay bud, but if I am that would make me do the snoopy dance. And thank you for the compliment regarding the writing. I do what I can.

    I actually think Paul G. Bens writes even more flowery prose than Josh Lanyon, what with all the “delicate pink spot”s and the “intoxicating nectar”s. So there. Men are capable of romantic prose.

    I can’t comment on how my prose is viewed in comparison to Lanyon’s, but I am the first to admit that on many occasion I love to roll around in purple prose. “Mahape…” is probably the purplest.

  299. Paul Bens
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 22:01:01

    @Robin – I just hopped over the Josh Lanyon's site, and he does use the male possessive pronoun:

    Then that was added last night because it was not there when I looked.

  300. Paul Bens
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 22:04:39

    Paul's a good friend and a very good author, but he's far from being my only gay friend.

    @Ann…but I am the prettiest, right?

  301. Paul Bens
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 22:14:12

    Shoot…I should done this in all one post…

    Moreover, unlike some of the commentors here, no one's got a hand up his shirt telling him what to say and how to say it.

    Oh my mind went evil rude places with this…I’ll spare you, but the BF was involved.

    I don't think Paul writes flowery prose anyway – though I can't read most of his stuff because it's just too damn dark and creepy. That I have read, has been tight, dark-hued and far from traditionally romantic.

    @Ann: Dark and creepy just makes my heart sing. Thank you. Yeah as a warning to all who may be curious about me…I don’t venture into traditionally romantic very often. It’s not easy for me to write for reasons I won’t bore you with. Which is why I should probably venture to write it more often. It’s out of my comfort zone.

  302. Robin
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 22:15:35

    @ Ann Bruce: Well that makes the question even more pendant, IMO.

  303. Paul Bens
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 22:18:00

    Paul Bens in particular. His Torquere story is one of the best m/m stories I've ever read.

    @MD: I don’t know who you are, but I would like to have your babies because of that compliment. Thank you very much.

    For the record, I would also like to have ttthomas’ babies, but I don’t think either of us have the stuff the other is looking for.

    And Ann’s…cause they’d just be so cute given both our looks.

  304. Randi
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 22:23:33

    @ Paul Bens: ;) You’re a classy fellow Paul.

    warning: serious off topic below…

    @ theo: thanks for the reply. I asked about the hymen/menstral problems because when you mentioned it, it struck a thought about dysmenorhea (god, did I spell that right?). Since dysmenorhea is a catch all phrase for “we don’t know why you have really seriously debilliatting cramps”, I wondered if maybe hymens could be part of that problem. Very interesting, none the less.

  305. Ann Somerville
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 22:29:00

    I am the prettiest, right?

    You are the prettiest. And always a class act.

  306. Paul Bens
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 22:36:59

    @ Paul Bens: ;) You're a classy fellow Paul.

    I try. And the apology is heartfelt. It’s funny, I can’t access DA from work, but because I had checked “advise of responses” to the thread, I saw your comment early this morning (I do love that it forwards the whole response). I felt so bad and even worse because I couldn’t offer the apology until I got home.

    =-)

  307. Paul Bens
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 22:39:01

    And always a class act.

    @Ann: You should see me right now…with lasagne sauce dripped down the front of my t-shirt. The BF just looked at me and said “Classy.”

    -Paul, white trash through and through.

    =-)

  308. Ann Bruce
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 22:43:54

    @Robin – Hmm. I’m more of a spectator in this discussion, but since Mr. Lanyon has implied that he’s a he, the question of gay or not is now kind of irrelevant because if he turns out to be a she, then, IMO, Mr. Lanyon has deceived his readers for the sake of selling his books.

    If that’s the case, it’ll be interesting to see if the aftermath is like Mrs. Giggles predicts.

  309. theo
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 22:47:17

    @Randi

    **totally off topic reply**

    You’re welcomed :) Yes, dysmenohrea is a blanket term for, you’re right, we-don’t-know-what-you-have-so-we’ll-just-shove-it-under-this-diagnosis, but it also covers several structural problems, hymen deformities, vaginal prolapse, tipped uterus…

    Makes me want, just one time, for those darned male doctors who say ‘this won’t hurt a bit’ to have the chance to experience how much it ‘won’t hurt’…

    And I need to stop. I don’t want to pull this off topic again. :-)

  310. Robin
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 22:52:09

    @Ann Bruce: I thought the question at issue was about gender more than sexuality (although certainly one can lead into the other), but I could be totally confused. It sure as hell wouldn’t be the first time. ;) In any case, I don’t think we’re in disagreement.

  311. Ann Bruce
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 23:05:16

    @Robin: It could be me. It was a long day at work. I just kept seeing “Josh Lanyon” and “gay man”, so I assumed (and you know what they say about assume) it was about both gender and sexuality. Did I see someone mention Mr. Lanyon’s writing is more authentic because the author is assumed to be a gay man? Or was my mind playing tricks on me?

    But, yeah, we’re not in disagreement.

  312. Robin
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 23:13:15

    @Ann Bruce: In a sense it doesn’t matter, because I don’t think we’re supposed to be talking about any of it. . .

  313. Ann Bruce
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 23:14:35

    @Robin: lol

    I needed that.

    I’m off to bed now.

  314. Ann Somerville
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 23:19:06

    @Robin:

    To me it’s about gender. When someone claims to be male – and more than that, writes a book on how to write about gay men – then the maleness, to me, becomes important. Being a gay woman isn’t the same as being a gay men, nor does being a bi woman. Erastes is a bi woman, so is Lee Rowan. So might Lanyon, for all I know or care. Erastes is queer, certainly, but not a man. She doesn’t have balls, a penis, and hasn’t fucked a man with that penis. The ‘man’ bit is important – otherwise you’re imitating it. The thing that makes m/m a joke to actual gay men very often is how shoddy that imitation is – and how insultingly stupid it is too.

    Whether you convince yourself you are the bestest fake gay male writer evah, or not, if you’re selling to an audience looking for the real deal, then it’s a cheat.

    I’m not ignorant – I know many people are fluid in their feelings about their gender, and some writers in m/m are transsexuals (FTM). But if you’re talking about how boy parts work, and how they feel to the owner, then I don’t think even a transsexual can talk from personal experience about that the same as a cis-male can (thought they can certainly talk about things like the effect of testosterone and so on, body image etc.) This is where it gets complicated, at least for me because while I know how important it is for transmen to be accepted and treated as the men they feel they are, and actually are. Yet with some transmale authors I still see their writing as being on the female side. Again, this is not a criticism, it’s just a question of the focus.

    To me, the worst thing about all the screeching from the ‘other’ side is the way it’s considered insulting to be a female, or known to be one. It’s like this shocking secret that one must hide, and having it discovered is like outing a gay person to his employers or something. Strange how all the bellowing about it doesn’t matter if the writer is male or female, assumes that it very much matters if they’re thought to be female.

  315. ttthomas
    Nov 20, 2008 @ 23:40:36

    @Paul

    For the record, I would also like to have ttthomas' babies, but I don't think either of us have the stuff the other is looking for.

    Thank you Paul, that’s a very sweet thing to say. It’s true, I’ve already found what I’m looking for and what she has in common with you is a lovely graciousness.

  316. Robin
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 00:13:35

    I think the part of this that interests me most, and the aspect I’ve been trying to work out for myself before really commenting on it, is the idea that the gender of the author doesn’t or shouldn’t matter, and that the reader should not consider it when buying a book. Now there is a cynical defense of that position, obviously, but pushing past that, it just feels incorrect to me, although I have not yet been able to marshal all the reasons for that response.

    One is that even though I do not believe the generalization that men and women write with different, gender-based voices, I do believe that there are genres of writing that rely on a particular gender perspective, and even more narrowly, there are genres of writing that stand on the gender of the author (feminist memoir, for example).

    But beyond that there is the current marketing machine that IMO works very assiduously to identify readers with authors in gender specific ways. And I don’t, honestly, know of an author who has even tried to escape that. Which is not the same thing as saying there are no authors who haven’t tried to game the system to their advantage. Just that I haven’t come across any authors who have not submitted to the impulses of the marketing machinery to greater or lesser degree.

    Finally, though, I do not think it follows logically that if one recognizes or even purchases a book based on the purported gender of the author that such a thing means they will not be able to read the book objectively. First of all, our best attempts at objectivity are *always* compromised by various ideological imperatives. But also, I find gender blindness, like color blindness, to be an unattractive aspiration for the same reason I find *blindness, per se* unappealing. I do not think recognition of gender leads to untenable subjectivity any more than I believe that ignoring it gives the reader a more objective view of a book. We bring so much to our reading experience, and we will inevitably create for ourselves an authorial voice that fits with those experiences and expectations.

    I know there is more to this, but I haven’t yet thought it through. In any case, I find these calls to “judge the book and only the book” echoes of the calls of New Critics who believed that any work of literature gives up all its meaning within the four corners of the text itself. New Criticism was ultimately rejected as incomplete, hegemonic, and unfairly ignorant of the various cultural influences that give rise to any text. So I’m sure that accounts for some of my resistance, as well. But in any case, I think we need to interrogate this notion of what it means to judge books on their own terms. IMO, that cannot occur until the context in which they were written is understood and considered.

  317. Ann Somerville
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 01:17:36

    I find these calls to “judge the book and only the book” echoes of the calls of New Critics who believed that any work of literature gives up all its meaning within the four corners of the text itself.

    Which is nonsense. How can you examine Dickens out of context, or Marx, or any serious writer? Are we supposed to know what Animal Farm refers to, without reference to the Soviet experience?

    The author might be dead, but the author is still part of the construction. More so when the constructed persona is intended to play into the art – as it does when a female author sells herself as male, or vice versa. If it didn’t matter…they wouldn’t do it.

    I do laugh to see all these people claiming we should only look at the book, when they are the first to howl they will NEVER read a book by this or that person because of
    1. Bad review by that author
    2. Bad behaviour by that author
    3. That author smells bad

    Can’t really have it both ways, can they?

  318. Benjamin
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 02:31:19

    Okay I must have read an entirely different book when I read Man, Oh Man. When I read it, I thought the book was about how to write M/M Fiction, not about gay men as you stated Ms. Sommerville. For the record, I am a gay male (but hey this is the internet so who really knows). The reason why I brought the book is bc I am entertaining the notion of writing M/M fiction. The reason why I stated I may have read the wrong book is bc nowhere in the book does it say this is how gay men act because we are all different that is the beauty of gay men. We all react different in moments of love and romance.

    I think the real thing to do is do like my college English professors and cite from the text on where you think you feel he is really a she. Im willing to gather that would be a hard thing to do. For example, lets say we take the Annie (back when she went by E. Annie Proulx) out of her name and it was gender-neutral E. Proulx and read Brokeback Mountain (before the phenomenon). Now. When I read it (before it became a juggernaut), it shook me to the core by how great the WRITING was. She truly captured the heartbreak of two gay men which newsflash is not that different from a heterosexual breakup. I willing to wager that depression, feeling like your guts have been wretched out of your body, and crying are symptoms of heartache that knows no gender.

    If you feel that he is perpetruating a fraud, you would need to do like my English professors would tell me: “Back up your theory by citing from the text”.

    I guess we have to agree to disagree on that Josh Lanyon is using false marketing for his non-fiction book that has nothing to do with HIM but with the nature of writing . Now if he did a JL Leroy (if u dont know who Im talking about do a quick Google) or even a James Frey then this whole post would have some merit. But I have read Man, Oh Man more times than I care to say (re-reading it now to be exact) and NOWHERE does it say “This is how you should write M/M fiction because I am a gay man”. Trust me. That is a statement I would have picked up on. And in that some of you REALLY need to show and prove to give your point any validity

  319. Ann Somerville
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 02:58:21

    @Benjamin:

    The person who turned this into a ‘is he gay or straight’ discussion, is Teddy Pig, so you need to go talk to him.

    All I said that I felt, from the writing, Lanyon was female. After all the carrying on over the last few days, I feel even more certain of that. Lanyon is now, belatedly, admitting through his site, what I have been saying – that he/she has and is claiming to be a male. This is despite people like Maggie stating he hadn’t done any such thing.

    Personally, I don’t believe it. You may feel otherwise. But the person putting the importance on the gender is him/her, and he/she has been pitching himself/herself as not just a man but a gay man, allowing that belief to stand unchallenged. So if it’s true, then he/she is acting honestly. If not, then she/he is not.

    My belief is the latter. Nothing you say, Lanyon says, or any of his supporters say, will change that belief, because of the way Lanyon reacted when this was posed. Not only how he reacted, but his friends and supporters reacted. I’m sure you’ve seen the same kind of reaction from in the closet celebrities when asked if they’re gay. You can make your own decision. I honestly don’t mind what you believe on this score, but I do mind being repeatedly called a liar.

    This entire issue only matters because Teddy Pig decided to make a total drama out of a misreading of what Jane posted, and what I said. So go ask him why he did that.

    Lanyon’s how to book might well be excellent but as MD said above, there are plenty of books/guides about how to write m/m, written by women, on the internet. If someone I know is actually gay writes one, I might be interested.

  320. MaryK
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 03:19:41

    @Robin: I’m not sure how your comment at 277 relates to your comment at 316.

    I can well imagine that at some point retreating to female-written books might simply be a perceived safe harbor from masculine authority.

    I read mostly female authors because I’m gravitating to a richer experience. I’m one of those “psychic gender-detectors” who can, more often than not, determine the sex of authors from their writing. And in my reader’s eyes, the female authors are mostly better at writing character driven stories. I’m not saying men can’t write well in that style, but they certainly don’t flock to it. I don’t see how a strong preference for a particular style of writing means I’m retreating from authority – that would assume I view male writing as authoritative.

    My attitude is pretty much that when men can show me that they are as educated -‘ as steeped, really -‘ in female-written books as women are in male-written books, we can have a serious discussion about whether educated, intelligent women should be choosing to read only female-authored books. Until then, I get the escapist (from patriarchy) fantasy in choosing women-authored books for pleasure.

    I’m really confused by this. Are you saying there’s something wrong with reading only female-authored books? That the only reason women read women-authored books is to escape patriarchy? Isn’t this the basic argument leveled against romance novels – that they’re escapist reading with no real merit or relation to the real world?

    Are there Correct Choices as to what “educated, intelligent” women can read for pleasure? I left required reading lists behind in college, and I’ll continue to avoid writing that I don’t enjoy. Personally, I think women can choose to read whatever they want without apology or discussion with men.

  321. passer
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 07:35:24

    @Ann Somerville:

    First things first, I’m not anyone’s ‘minion’. I’m just a fan of Josh Lanyon’s work, and he doesn’t know my existence. I’m not even a native speaker, as you can tell from my unskillful English.

    Now, may I ask you again: Do you have any tangible PROOF that Lanyon is a straight WOMAN pretending to be a gay MAN? Because you are practically saying that he’s lying through his teeth, and that’s a serious accusation. And you know damned well many readers wouldn't forgive an author for that. You need to give more proof than those flippant ‘I thinks’ and ‘I feel from his writings’.

    Don't evade the question. Answer me straight.

    Now things are getting out of hand, but that's what you want, right? First you picked up a brief mention of Lanyon's name in a relatively long post, then you couldn't wait to jump in with your two cents, stating that you HAVE A FEELING that Lanyon indeed is a female author hiding behind a gay persona. And, WHAM! This ASSUMPTION somehow became a FACT, and then you forced Lanyon to admit… WHAT?! That he's a woman because he writes like a woman? That he really is a gay man (God Forbid!) who's ‘imitating the female style of gay romance' (WTF is that)? That he's… what Ann Somerville says he is? Hello, since when authors have to specifically report to you on their genders?

    Anyone who has a slice of brain must see how ridiculous this whole thing is. Before this, Lanyon's gender has never been an big issue. It's YOU who made an issue of it. It's YOU who started all this out of nothing, deliberately, aggressively, viciously. You want to put doubts and disbeliefs into people's head. You want people to take a dim view of Lanyon and question his honesty and integrity. You want to bring him down. You want to tarnish his reputation. You want to hurt him as bad as you can. With what, a few petty speculations and ‘feelings'? You know better than that, Ann.

    No one said it better than Lanyon's publisher and friend Laura Baumbach. Let me cite her from another blog, ‘One point people who are claiming Josh has created a male persona to enhance his status as a M/M romance author have all conveniently forgotten. Josh has been JOSH for at least 10 years, writing successful mysteries and winning significant writing awards. Years before he started writing M/M romance. He must be one hell of a planner to have concocted this persona a decade ago just to enhance his current writing. God, I admire Josh more and more each day. ‘

    Why do I care? Because I hate to see nice people getting hurt. From what I observe with my own eyes, Lanyon is ever a gentleman. Surely he has flaws – who doesn't – but he always strives to be a decent, polite, caring, honest person. And you, Ms Somerville, I'm afraid I can't say that about you. Frankly, as far as I watch you ‘in action', you show yourself as a nasty, paranoid, vengeful, hostile, raving, cold-hearted, witchhunting rumormonger. You don't even PRETEND to be nice. It's no wonder people like Lanyon would piss you off so much.

    But that's not the whole story, right? You and him had a history long time ago, and you hated his guts since then. You seize every opportunity and attack ruthlessly, slash and slay a lot of people by the way. Well done, Ann!

    Any outsider who doesn't know but interested in the history of all this mess, you can dig it out yourself. The argument on this forum, at least on Ms Somerville's part, is not a general discussion of the tradition of pen names, or author's right of privacy and anonymity. This is personal and malicious and horrible. You don't need to believe me, and you don't need to believe anyone for that matter. See it with you own eyes, and draw your own conclusion.

    As for Lanyon, all I want to say to him is: You displeased the wrong people; watch out at every corner from now on.

  322. Ann Somerville
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 07:51:12

    @passer:

    Bored now. Go run your mouth off over at Teddy Pig’s little slash fest. He’s the one who turned this into a clusterfuck.

    I’ve got books to write.

  323. GrowlyCub
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 09:03:41

    Passer and other impassioned fans,

    just from one reader to another: You are not doing ‘your’ author any favors by calling others names on their behalf. It reflects badly on the author.

    I’ve only read one of JL’s book, which he graciously sent to me so I could try before I buy (because I’m not into romantic suspense). I liked it up to a point, a lot, but then it broke down for me and I thought it was because he was a male writer. It seemed lacking in some essential, ethereal quality that, being only a reader and not a writer, I cannot quite put into words.

    If he were female, then obviously the gender of the author had nothing to do with my not being entirely satisfied with the writing. Maybe the Leigh Greenwood titles I read that also seemed somehow lacking to me, which I blamed on him being male AFTER I found out he was, are just lacking because of what I as a reader expect and it doesn’t have anything to do with the writer’s gender and all with their writing ability to produce something that works for me, as one specific reader. I don’t know, but I still suspect gender does have to with writing style to a certain extent.

    I just know that I do not enjoy books written by men as much, mostly because I don’t like the subject matter so many of them write about. That has more to do with content than with style per se, but style does come into it.

    I may be missing out on great writing, but if the the writing is about a subject matter I have zero interest in, I’m not missing anything at all (saying I ought to read more male writers is like telling me I have to read more classics to improve my mind; ain’t gonna happen, cause I ain’t got no interest in that fancy high-faluting stuff either. :)

    Oh, and I’m not a native speaker either…

  324. passer
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 09:55:04

    @GrowlyCub:

    Thank you for reminding me.

    To make things clear, I’m not on behalf of anyone. I take full responsibility for my words and action.

  325. passer
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 09:57:46

    @Ann Somerville:

    Your avoidance of answer said it all.

  326. MD
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 11:41:50

    And you, Ms Somerville, I'm afraid I can't say that about you. Frankly, as far as I watch you ‘in action', you show yourself as a nasty, paranoid, vengeful, hostile, raving, cold-hearted, witchhunting rumormonger. You don't even PRETEND to be nice.

    Wow. Guess you don’t pretend to be nice, either?

  327. Jane
    Nov 21, 2008 @ 11:49:33

    I’ve turned the comments off. It appears that any discussion worth having on this issue is being derailed by personal issues.

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