Monday, February 1, 2016

Showing Some Love

Jason P. Henry: I’m taking a break from my usual Dream Chaser posts here at The Blood Red Pencil, and directing a month of theme-writing from the male perspective. You see, a few months ago I found my work taking an unexpected detour. Instead of writing about the usual monsters, dead bodies, psychopaths, and serial killers, I found myself writing something very dark. 


Romance. 
                  
Believe me, I was just as surprised as you. Not once, since my first word as a writer, had I considered writing a romance novel. But, there I was. After a closer look at the genre, one thing I noticed was an absence of male authors. When I dug a little deeper, the few male authors I found were working under female pseudonyms. Naturally, many questions came to mind.

I decided to look a little more inward for the answers. What had been my own aversion to romance all this time? Was it because I grew up feeling I would be ridiculed for reading romance? Maybe it wouldn’t be considered tough, cool, or even proper for a male to enjoy that kind of material. After all, we guys are supposed to enjoy cars, sports, and other testosterone-infused pastimes, right? I’m sure all of these played a factor when I was younger, but what about as an adult who was able to think for himself and shed the stereotypes?

For me, I think it came down to my idea of what Romance novels were. Admittedly, my perception was illustrated by thoughts of scantily clad men and women on the covers of the old bodice-rippers I used to see on bookshelves. Then there were the stories about throbbing loins, pining hearts, someone succumbing to the primal, animalistic urges of the other. Longing. Wanting. Swooning. Good grief…

Now, I’m not saying the romance industry doesn’t still publish such works. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with these themes. They’re simply not appealing, not my style. Romance novels, as I envisioned them, were not my box of chocolate. So, what changed?

I have the pleasure of sitting with a fabulous group of writers every Thursday night. Among them is Harlequin author Angel Smits, who I’m proud to call a friend. As we writers do with writer friends, I went to her signing and I bought her book. After reading the novel, my opinion of romance was forever changed. It wasn’t page after page of sweaty, overly-graphic sex scenes. There were characters with depth, and a plot. A good one. There was an actual story and I was pulled into it. It was about the characters themselves and the relationships between them. It was about the truest form of romance there is. Love. For better for worse, through good times and bad.

I began to look at my own characters and novels much differently. I realized the novels I enjoy the most (thrillers, suspense, horror) all employ the key elements of romance. If the characters don’t have depth, if the relationships aren’t believable, then the story, no matter what the genre, falls flat. So, I decided to challenge myself. I put away my thriller, suspense, and horror, and decided I was going to write a romance novel.  

Let me tell you, it’s been quite the experience. I’ve learned more about character development with this novel than I have with any other project. I’m focused on the internal motivators as much as the external. I’m tuning in to what the characters see in themselves, and how they feel others see them. Rather than planning a murder and figuring out how to hide a body, I’m trying to decide what characters need to make themselves better for the people in their lives.

Now, I’m not done with my true love. My heart will always belong to the crime genres. But I’m convinced that there’s something to this whole romance thing. I hope that more guys will see beyond the sexy covers, the steamy love scenes, and get to the heart of the matter. There’s no shame in reading or writing romance. After all, everyone needs a little love in their life, right?

Please join The Blood Red Pencil team and me this month as we explore the world of Romance, mostly from the male POV. You'll get many perspectives over the next few weeks, and we're going to heat things up with some very special guests and interviews. Romantic Comedy author Rich Amooi, cover model Jason Baca, and others.

As always, we invite you to leave a comment and share your thoughts. Why do you feel there are so few men in romance? What are your thoughts on the genre in general? Thank you for joining us and, no matter what your box of chocolate is, Happy Valentine's Day!

When he's not working with the dedicated and passionate people of Pikes Peak Writers, Jason P. Henry is lost in a world of serial killers, psychopaths, and other unsavory folks. Ask him what he is thinking, but only at your own risk. More often than not he is plotting a murder, considering the next victim, or twisting seemingly innocent things into dark and demented ideas. A Suspense, Thriller and Horror writer with a dark, twisted sense of humor, Jason strives to make people squirm, cringe, and laugh. He loves to offer a smile, but is quick to leave you wondering what lies behind it. Jason P. Henry is best summed up by the great philosopher Eminem “I'm friends with the monsters beside of my bed, get along with the voices inside of my head.” Learn more about Jason at JasonPHenry.com

27 comments :

  1. Well, Jason, I alway subscribe to the notion, 'different strokes for different folks' ... and I never ridicule anyone for their stroke. I'm certainly not going to bash anyone for reading (or writing) romance novels ... heck, I read every word Ian Flemming ever wrote and no one beat me up for being low-brow ... tasteless, maybe, but not low-brow. Just follow your own muse where ever it leads and have fun ... that's all that matters.

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    1. The world is, for the most part, coming around and opening it's mind. It took me awhile. I still love 'guy stuff", but I am far from the insecure teen I used to be.

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  2. You've sold me on reading Angel's novel...this sounds like a great month of posts on the BRP.

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    1. Do it! You won't regret it. I would love to hear your thoughts.

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  3. I think writers (male/female/other) can be turned off by the stereotypes and formulas associated with romance. You always know how it is going to turn out (usually unrealistically).

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    1. Totally not my experience in the past two years. I've read some of the best stories ever in the guise of modern romance and erotica. I think what turns most people off is the discomfort of reading intimate descriptions. I feel much the same way watching a graphic love scene in a movie - like I'm an unwilling voyeur. I used to have that reaction with romance novels - the writing is almost more intimate than actual imagery. For me, exposure created the comfort level. Sort of like being a young art student and taking the entire semester to get comfortable drawing nude models in class.

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    2. That was my hang up, getting past the stereotypes. I've sonce learned that romance, like many genres, is much broader and varied then it used to be.

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  4. I figure I've read about 500 romance novels of differing heat levels since we started this February series a couple of years ago. I consistently notice some excellent writing beneath those cheesy six-pack covers with the silly Alpha CEO Cowboy Boyfriend titles. Lots of character development and strong story arcs. And actually, some fairly interesting surprise endings - although almost always a happily ever after. It's like a game to keep smug readers out of the secret club! LOL. Despite that, romance writing is one hot sales venue dominated by women authors, so that makes the male perspective all the more fascinating. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Can't wait to read your romance novel!

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    1. Lol... I can't wait to finish it. Hit a major breakthrough this week. Feeling much better about it.

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  5. I remember going to a mystery writer's conference (I write romantic suspense as well as mysteries) and trying to explain to a male mystery author that writing a romance required two complete character arcs, a romance arc, AND the mystery suspense arc. He shook hie head and said he couldn't imagine doing that and walked away. I call all my books "Mysteries With Relationships" and it's got to be about the characters.

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    1. I enjoy character driven books more than plot driven books.

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    2. Us guys are kind of thick headed. Lol

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  6. Yes, I enjoy sweet romances.romantic suspense, and cozies. I know there's a huge market for erotica and spicy romances, but to me, the intimate detailed descriptions slow the story down, and I'm an impatient reader and don't need lessons on anatomy.

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    1. Agreed... sex in a plot doesn't add intimacy or emotion for me. Those things come from entirely different places beyond physicality.

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  7. Thanks for your perspective, Jason. In my opinion, good books of any genre have well-developed characters, conflicts and goals, as well as love (and not just the bodice-ripping kind )

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  8. So refreshing to read about a male author boldly going where so few men have gone before. Bravo. I appreciated reading your perspective on love, romance, and what makes any good story better: well developed characters and relationships. I'll be curious to see what else is in store this month...

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    1. I'm looking forward to all the interviews!

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  9. I'm not fond of the romance genre, but I do think this will be an interesting month, especially for the different perspectives offered.

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    1. I think we will find we got what we were hoping for this month. Can't wait to read everything.

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  10. Great post, Jason. Interesting to hear about romance from a male point of view. After all, a man is usually 50% of the romantic couple. I write crime fiction, but there's always either a romance or romantic elements. I also write erotic romance where the romance is more, um, graphic. There's a place for all of it. There are a number of men who write erotica. Whatever floats your boat, as they say.

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    1. If you're going to do it, enjoy it. I think all genres can learn something from the others. Just have to know what you want to get from them.

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  11. A great story is a great story, no matter what the genre. And a great love story always strikes a chord with me. Personally, however, I don't like graphic sex scenes; but to each his own.

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  12. looking forward to your next posts.
    Donna Kunkel

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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