It is always an adventure being a male romance writer...and I just had another one!
In 1996 I went to my first ever writer's conference: Romance Writer's of America National Conference. I couldn't start with some little science fiction convention or regional event. No! That would have have been too easy. My then publisher wanted to prove that men wrote romance. So she took four male authors and held us up to prove a point. I was also the only one contracted and as far as I know, I'm the only one who went on to write a romance (I had a fantasy with a few blatant sex scenes--forgive me, I was a beginning writer and didn't know better).
Anyway, the point that I'm heading toward: My publisher brought 4 men. That made it so that the conference was 7 men total...and 1,800 women! The experience was...educational. Because I was male, I was wholly and completely dismissed.
- Everyone assumed I was just some boyfriend along for the ride.
- Agents (at least the male ones) refused to speak to me in group sessions as I was just wasting their time.
- Editors (again mostly males, but some women as well) brushed by me.
- Every session in which I asked a question, it shut down the session.
- "You're a writer?" Yes.
- "You've written a book?" Yes.
- "You've sold the book?" I often had to hold up the "First Sale" sticker on my badge to prove it.
- "There's a love story in it?" Yes.
- "Oh!" Then they'd look puzzled for a moment, Then they'd finally answer my question.
- As to the attendees: while they often looked at me in surprise, they were an immensely welcoming group, several of whom I'm still in touch with 2 decades later.
The interesting bit occurred when I went home and described my experience to my female friends. They consistently said:
"Welcome to our world."
YOIKS! That response--probably more than anything else--has influenced what I write. I LOVE writing about strong women. It has even become my tagline:
Strong Women and the Men They Deserve
At that conference I also read my first romance, actually my first three. I carried home another dozen and those were gone within the week. I had found my genre. It would take me another decade and a half to find the right idea and the right voice to break into writing romance, but I certainly haven't looked back. Over 30 of my 45 novels are romances.
I attended National one more time in 1998. The ratio had changed...there were perhaps 10 men and 5 hesitantly confessed to writing romance.
The next time I went to National was 2016 just two weeks ago and the world has definitely changed:
- 2,000 women
- 25(!) men...and perhaps 15 of us were writers
However, I was no longer ostracized. I was welcomed. The one remaining factor was perhaps: surprise.
- "You're male!?" was one of the most common comments I received.
- I write as M. L. Buchman. And while I'm not hiding the fact of my Y-chromosome, you also won't find my picture in any of my novels (though it is on my website).
- I personally felt that my gender was a little obvious as you can see by this picture, but it did cause great surprise.
|At RWA National 2016 Literacy Signing, pointing at my RITA Award Finalist flag.|
- Other than that single note I was neither shunned nor ignored nor sidelined.
One of the main reasons I choose to write the stories I do is in hopes of making this world just a little bit better place for my daughter. I don't want her to go through what my female contemporaries did, being sidelined, ignored, or, worst of all, targeted. She reports back to me a world that was almost unheard of in my youth and I'm proud to be even a tiny part of it.
Perhaps you can see that in my two upcoming releases for August:
More information on both of these titles may be found on my website at:
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M. L. Buchman has over 40 novels and 30 short stories in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the Year” and twice Booklist “Top 10 of the Year,” placing two titles on their “Top 101 Romances of the Last 10 Years” list. He has been nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of 2014” by RT Book Reviews and was a 2016 RWA RITA finalist. In addition to romance, he also writes thrillers, fantasy, and science fiction.
In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world.
He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife and is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing and receive exclusive content by subscribing to his newsletter at www.mlbuchman.com.