So I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Not exactly sure why, but I’ve given up trying to figure out why my brain goes where it goes.

Anyway, the question is … Can an author write any genre without upsetting readers?

To clarify, what I’m wondering is … Can a man write romance women will love? Can a woman pen an action story that will have men talking? Do readers buy books based on the author’s gender? What about ethnicity?

I don’t know the answer. I’m just wondering.

Part of this came about because of some statements Nicholas Sparks made about his books and romance. Now don’t hang me up by my thumbs, but I enjoy his books. (Though I was quite unhappy about his comments regarding his “unique” storylines and how different they are from romance. That prompted this post, which he totally deserved.) Anyway … I like the way he writes and from the success of his stories, so do millions of people world wide.

But he’s a man. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard women (mostly writers) comment that a man can’t write romance. I beg to differ. My dear friend, Roscoe James writes the most amazing erotic romance I’ve read. His characters come alive. Their love stories resonate with emotion. His sex scenes are poignant and beautifully written. I laugh. I cry. I fall in love all over again even as his characters find their “happy-ever-afters”. There are many men writing romance and doing it well. Many, fearing the skepticism, skirt around the raised eyebrows by using pen names. I can’t say I blame them.

I know many women who write wonderful m/m erotic romance. One even … who’s gay! Yet their romances are best sellers and have won awards. Now granted, this may fall into a slightly different category as these women are writing romance for other women and not gay men. Still, I understand several female writers have a gay male audience. They’re not being told they can’t write m/m love stories.

And what about the caucasian author who wants to write the story of an African American heroine or vice versa? Will readers immediately turn from these books because the author can’t write that type of story?

Here’s my take on it. At the heart of writing is an author who’s a true actor. We “put on” the hats of our characters and play the role. Essentially, we crawl into their skin and listen to their thoughts. If we don’t, the reader won’t identify with that character and the story will fall flat. When I write from the hero’s perspective I have to think like a man, move like a man, talk like a man. Readers would be very unhappy if my male characters acted like women. Or my villians were boyscouts. Listen, I’ve never murdered anyone, but one of my favorite stories (still unpublished) involves a serial killer who does some really nasty crap. And as much as Mr. Nina would like to act out every scene in my erotic novels, let me just share with you … it hasn’t happened yet.

No one stopped Dustin Hoffman from playing “Tootsie” or Robin Williams from not only “Mrs. Doubtfire” but what about the robot he played that lived hundreds of years? Amazing stuff. I believe writers do the same thing. So why can’t authors cross all lines? Religious? Ethnic? Gender?

But that’s just the way I see things. I’m curious as to how you feel about it. Have you ever refused to pick up a book because you felt something about the author would prevent them from writing a story in that genre? If you found out your favorite romance author was the opposite sex or different skin color or … whatever … would you stop buying their books?

0 Responses to Is the Unexpected Okay?

  • Nina, I’m SOOOO glad you wrote this. I also like Nicholas Sparks’ books and movies and was glad a man was doing so well in the genre. (And he takes a fair amount of heat for it from the critics for not writing ‘serious’ books) I was dismayed to see the amount of criticism he received for his comments, and how many writers wrote nasty things about his books – the kinds of criticism we all HATE when it’s directed at us. I know he painted himself as different, but that may be to separate himself from additional criticism.

    So, no I wouldn’t not read a writer of romance for gender. As a writer, I write from the perspective of both genders, and my readers seem to like it. I would hesitate to write for race or ethnicity although I’ve written about prejudice and would like to see more people of color in all aspects of writing. My hesitation is only about differences in cultures I haven’t experienced directly enough. If I’m going to serve them, I want to serve them well.

  • You know, I don’t particularly pay attention to the gender/race of an author. I know female authors writing under male pseudonyms in fantasy/mystery and males writing in romance under female pseudonyms.

    My only concern is will the book hold my attention? Do I like the characters? If the answer is no, then I don’t care who the author is. There are quite a few Best Selling authors I don’t read because I don’t like their writing style. Nothing about my choice was decided by gender, genre, or race of the person. I just couldn’t read the stories.

  • VJ – I really do think the bulk of Sparks’s criticism came because of what he said about romance writers and saying that his books don’t fall in that category. I think it offended writers. That being said … he’s a guy. I won’t crucify him for saying something boneheaded. *g* And I’m with you about the cultural difference. I don’t know enough of other cultures to feel I could do it justice by writing a story, so at this point in time, I wouldn’t do it either.

    Beth – I’m with you. The gender vs genre doesn’t matter to me. It’s the story and the writing style that draws me in.

  • Excellent post, Nina. I love some of the creations of Nicholas Sparks. After reading the blog post linked above, I have a different view of the author behind these fabulous romances. However, I’ll still stand in line and buy my tickets to see his books on the big screen.

    You presented a wonderful question. Does gender make a difference? Not to me. Then again, I’ve received emails in the past asking if “I’m a man writing as a woman?” :)) This is always considered a compliment since writing from the male POV is something I do often.

    Nina, you provided wonderful points and examples today. You’re right–writers are true actors.

    Sensational blog!

  • Destiny – Yeeeeah, I wasn’t too happy with the goober when he got all high and mighty (Sparks that is). But I’m with you, I’ll plunk down my $8 to see his movies because I love a good tear jerker now and then. And I love that your readers think you’re a guy. It’s definitely a compliment that you’ve written the male POV so well. Hugs.

  • I’m glad you brought this subject up. I’ve not read those two authors and I will check them out now.

    I do tend to steer away from male romance writers, because I’ve read so many poorly written ones. They just can’t get into the skin of the female and write her character from a woman’s standpoint – it’s always from the standpoint of the male trying to write what he thinks a woman should say or feel. It comes off as a major ick for me. I’ve also read some stories where I had no idea the author was not a woman, but the writing made you wonder and believe it must be a man writing as a woman. A little research confirms. Not with you, Destiny, I’ve never felt that way with your stories.

    I have no issues with anyone writing different ethnic’s as long as they do it well. I worry when I do it – I don’t want to offend.

    For writers to pull any story off, they must be able to get into the character, become the character. I want stories to grab my heart and fill me with their lives and emotions.

  • Bekki – Well said. You pinpointed what so many readers feel … that a man just can’t get to the heart of the romance and it comes off cheesy or worse … as a male fantasy. No matter what genre the author writes, it’s important for the reader to connect with the characters, otherwise the story, regardless of genre … is flat. Thanks for stopping by.

  • I would never turn down a book because of the author’s race, gender, sexual preference. What matters to me is the story. I choose a book based on the blurb on the back and the first three pages. This may not be the best of things, but I can’t tell you the books I like, but I have to acually look at them to remember the author’s name. It’s the stor that’s important to me, not who wrote it.

  • Shawn – That’s nice to know. Authors love to hear how readers buy books. To know it’s the blurb and the first three pages definitely means your buying the book based on the writing. Just out of curiosity … does the cover affect your decision at all?

  • Great post! I buy urban fantasy regardless of the author’s gender. But romance….hmmm…I wouldn’t refuse to read one because the author was male, but I don’t think I’ve (knowingly) ever read a male-written romance. I might need to check out Roscoe James.

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