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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Quest for Erotic

There’s nothing more annoying than a know-it-all. Am I right? Worse, once again the truism of “those who can’t write, critique” is proved. Yeah, I’m a long-term reviewer and, thus, I have an opinion. About everything. “It’s what I do.”

Worse, I’m o-so-confident in myself that I put my beliefs to action and I put my hands to a keyboard to write erotic romance. I’d love to say that it was an easy thing to do, with all the history I’ve had in the romance genre, but it wasn’t. Romance itself demands a deep sense of authenticity, erotic more so.

One can talk about something, maybe even build a scene around something, but unless one is actively inside that something—now or in the past—then the reader will recognize that. Worse, they will not forgive it. No, that’s not specific to romance itself, but this hard line in the sand is often proven in the romance genre.

I remember reading a book in the 80s where the protagonists were “on the bridge to Catalina Island and…” There is no bridge. Read that again. There is NO BRIDGE TO CATALINA ISLAND. Just a nauseating two-hour boat trip that I endured twice a summer, every bloody summer, because my mother dragged me on the boats for the hellish yearly July 4th trip—this is not a therapy session. 

Anyway, as you can see I *still* remember that gaffe and, no, I don’t forgive it. But back to EroRom and the tacit contract of authenticity between reader and author.  It was that very thing that gave me pause when my (then) publisher invited me to write m/m romance. Of course I said, “Yes,” but my mental answer was, “But, I don’t have the equipment for that.” Yes, EroRom demands authenticity and not to make too fine a point on that topic, I know what it’s like to desire a someone. More, (I’ll say it) I know what it is to touch and by touched by a guy I’m attracted to.

As for the “male specific” bits of authenticity—and, yes, there is a huge difference between the male mind and the female mind—I find authenticity from what’s authentic. A guy. My buddy Brian, in fact. (So very often he sighs when faced with a question, but he’s never let me down.)

Reviews: “Such an authentic voice!”
Me: “Yeah, my guy friends give input. I’m not gonna lie.”

But then, it was a question of “do I have a character for this?” As it happens, I did. My Jeremy, bless his (fictional) heart, had threaded through my first two books based in Portland, OR. (I see a coltish awkwardness in retrospect, but learning in the public’s eye is—imho—pretty much the story of all genre authors.) So, Jeremy, a bearded and balding, chubby and 50ish dude. I wanted him to be a heel, to use a wrestling term, but he fought back.

He pushed at me, telling me he was gay and closeted. How could that be a romance hero? I thought it was me. Maybe this craft wasn’t for me? Was I doomed to only review? Then I signed up for a teaching module at Seton Hill’s WPF program, and this one was on the topic of LGBTQ romances.

(Shout out to Annie Harris!) In that module I heard an off-hand comment about how there was next to no romance characters that were less than physically perfect. You’ve seen them.  John De Bare-Chested. Joe Chisel Chest. Laura of the Perfect Bosom and Flowing Locks. The idea of writing of an imperfect character was gently addressed by Annie. Basically “why not?”


I heard Annie and I heard Jeremy, and Butterball was born, now in the hands of Loose ID publishing. (To this day, it remains my bestseller. A chubby closeted gay man is my bestseller. What were the odds of that?)

~  Michelle

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