Good question. At first I simply offered my answer of “I like it.” That was sort of stating the obvious and didn’t really offer much in the way of deep, thoughtful insight. However, I could almost see those reading my answer (the similar answers by other authors) sagely nodding their heads in agreement. It’s like asking the reader, why do you read this genre? Gee, ‘cause they like it, silly, would be the universal answer. For me the real reason goes deeper, more on that to come.
Another commonly posed question, or set of questions always revolve around the writing process itself. How do I come up with ideas, how do I plot a story? One of my most valuable tools in creating a book (or series) is my daily walk of the dogs. It’s quiet, no phone, no email, no distractions other than picking up the occasional bit o’goodness dogs tend to leave behind, so I get a lot of mental work done. During one of these walks while contemplating some plot points in my series, Sentries, the answer to that first question hit me like a sledge hammer.
This is January, the first month of our new year—Happy January! The theme this month is firsts, first books, first loves, first time. First!
What does this have to do with all that other stuff (points up) that I was just blathering on about? Funny you should ask, because today for the FIRST time I have an answer.
It’s not, however, short.
Marked Yours was a culmination of my life-long dream to be a published author, and I have to say it’s all I dreamed and a bit more. It’s a novel of firsts. My first novel, my first being tossed into the world of publishing, my first literary dream come true.
The book is chocked full of firsts and is the first in a series, Sentries. During the course of the story the main characters, our intrepid heroes Todd and Nick Ruger meet in person for the first time. They share a first kiss, which grows to first true love for both men. First kissing eventually leads to lots of first other things between the sheets.
Marked Yours in particular and the Sentries series in general isn’t about the sexual exploits of two men, though there is a bit of steam. It’s more about the course of their lives as a couple. Throughout they find danger, a boatload of action and adventure, and some big, bad nasty paranormal things to fight. Most importantly they find a bond and a love with one another. They find in each other a family.
However, before any of that could happen they had to share that first kiss, cement their bond and become the committed pair they are. Which brings me back to the question of why two men and more firsts.
Might want to get a snack and drink, I’ll wait.
Back? Good! Whew, otherwise I’d have to talk to myself—not that that’s ever happened before.
Sooo….I’m out walking the dogs one day, contemplating the affairs of my writing and while waiting on one dog to water some dead leaves when I stumble upon an epiphany about myself and why it is I enjoy reading and writing M/M romance. My answer goes much farther back to a time long before I became aware of gay romance or read that first story.
It’s because of my grandfather, who was, as far as I know, a completely straight, sort of conservative man. Interesting how things work out.
He also loved to read and watch television.
I was raised by this man, and lived in a predominantly male household. From the time I was a very little girl I was constantly telling a story and that evolved into writing them when I learned to string letters to words and words to sentences and sentences to paragraphs and…okay I can do this all day, you get the idea. As far back as I can remember this man told me I should be a writer.
I’m sure M/M romance is not what he’d had in mind, but I think he’d be happy knowing I was being published and people were reading and enjoying my stories.
My grandfather was a huge fan of reading the mystery, the more suspense and action the better. Throw in some political intrigue and he thought it was perfect. I grew up surrounded by books, literally hundreds that were in a basement library he built by hand. He was a woodworker by hobby, much like Todd Ruger as we find out when he and Nick are in their first home. All my grandfather’s favorite books had a common theme of two men, detectives or cops or whatever that were partners and friends. Men who cared deeply for one another.
Enter the male bonding theme, two men with a connection, deep love and respect for one another presented to me when I was so young I couldn’t even read.
Grandpa did more than read, he loved sports, but a physical problem kept him from being very active, so he watched television, often while reading. For years I watched football, baseball and basketball with him. In between there were shows that were staple of the television industry at the time, Combat, Five O’Clock High, Rat Patrol, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Star Trek, Batman, the list goes on. They all had the commonality of men bonding, be they friends, fathers and sons or brothers it didn’t matter. I was immersed from a very young age in stories where the central characters were men. Men who loved one another, even if it wasn’t in the romantic sense.
My favorite was Maverick. I’ll still watch that show when given the opportunity. Two brothers who every week found some mystery to solve, or wrong to right or simply engaged in a good-guy/bad-guy chase down a deserted road and into a box canyon. From that show and those men I learned a love of a good (fictional of course) bar brawl, gun fight, chase, ghost story and an appreciation for taking a gamble in life. Times have changed and in the decades between Maverick and now there have been dozens, if not hundreds, of shows and books revolving around two men in some sort of close, loving relationship.
Okay, these guys weren’t in romantic relationships, but the groundwork for that next step was laid down and mapped out in my mind long ago and far away.
Is it really such a wonder that from there the leap to gay men and their close romantic relationships was made?
The main characters of Marked Yours are no different than the men of countless pieces of literature or viewing I grew up loving. They just have one more aspect to their lives and relationship: that of a bonded, mated, romantic couple. Todd and Nick are lovers as well as partners, with a great deal of love and respect between them. Now, how could you not like that?
For women to read, write and enjoy all male romance isn’t so strange. So, here I am, many (we won’t discuss the actual number, but those of you who know the shows of which I speak can work it out I’m sure) years later, a woman whose first novel is paranormal action/adventure with a healthy dose of romance between two men.
It makes perfect sense really, when you think about it.
I, for one, couldn’t be happier or more proud that my first published novel revolves around a theme that I loved before I knew what it was: Men loving one another, how doesn’t matter. That Marked Yours, and the books that followed were not only about the close bond men share, but one that allows them to take that bonding to the next level.
To answer the question of why the first novel I wrote and published was M/M romance, well it’s simple really, it’s what I love, it’s what fascinates me and fires my imagination. It’s what I grew up learning to love and I want to offer a big thank you to those that created those books and shows then brought them to life for one little girl to appreciate the male bond.
From the brothers Maverick, Cartwright, Simon and Winchester, to the buddies Matt Dillon and Chester, Starsky and Hutch, Jim Ellison and Blair Sandberg, Peter Burke and Neal Caffery, and a whole bunch of others, I learned how deeply men bond and love one another and came to appreciate that bond. Mostly I owe them my heartfelt gratitude.
Really, is there any other genre steeped in such tradition for me, or that would feel so natural, to write in and explore? Was there ever a question of what would be the subject matter of my first novel, Marked Yours? Hell, no!
There is plenty of action, love and general fighting of evil in all three Sentries books. Check out Marked Yours, Together Bound and Chained Hearts.
This little bit appeared on the Guys Like Romance Too site earlier this year.
Contribution to YAM Magazine’s 2012 LGBT Blogathon