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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Adventures in Being a Male Romance Writer

by M. L. Buchman

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.

Perhaps it is because I now have a name for myself, but I prefer to think that the world is a changing.

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:

While there, be sure to sign up for my newsletter so that you don't miss: New Releases, my monthly Ides of Matt free short story.

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.

10 comments:

Kristin Holt said...

Interesting and informative post, Matt. Thanks for sharing your unique experiences as a male author of romance novels. It's tragic that so many are dismissed, diminished, ignored for various reasons in so many facets of our lives...tragic, but true. I celebrate your triumphs!

Paty Jager said...

Great post! I remember sitting with you waiting for the doors to open for an RCRW meeting. At the time I didn't have a clue who you were, but you and I talked about the romance industry for ten minutes. I've not forgotten your kindness that day. Congrats on all your books!

Clare McKay said...

I was at RWA in San Diego also and loved seeing the diversity in genders, races, sexual orientation and about any other orientation or choice reflected in both the authors and the books. Thanks for the strong women!

Maggie Lynch said...

It's wonderful to hear that you have really been accepted now as a romance writer. Some of it may be your success, but I do believe that the people of RWA are more accepting now too. In the early years, I suspect some of the energy you felt were women who thought: "We finally have a genre to ourselves, and now men want in too." It took strong women to form RWA and to keep it going and to make it the juggernaut organization it is. Because they have a lot of power now, it is easier to be more accepting. I think that's a lesson for all of us on how/why those who feel they have little power become very protective of territory.

Your experience at RWA National in 1998 somewhat echoes my experience at SFWA in the 1980's. Though there were more women writing than there are men in romance, it was still quite the boys club. And the women who were making it were considered feminists--which had its own connotation. It's now evened out in SF and Fantasy. I haven't been to any of the conventions for more than 15 years, but I see who is doing well.

My hope is that more and more men DO write romance AND admit to it. I know a number of men who are writing romance with a female pseudonym and say they will never out themselves. I think we need diversity in every genre--diversity of characters and diversity of authors. People learn from fiction. People learn how to empathize with characters unlike themselves. We need lots of different voices.

M. L. Buchman said...

Hi Paty, I remember that day and I was the one who was pleased to meet you. :)

I did feel much less of an "intruder" at this RWA. There were still times (much more self perceived than actual I'm sure) that I still felt the outsider. The main reason was the CRAZY female energy going on. The groups of women were just so happy to be together and talking about what they were passionate about that it created a palpable wall. I often felt bad about intruding on that, even when I was made completely welcome, because it was just so damned joyous.

Maggie, what I've heard on the SF front is mixed. There are many more women writing today in that formerly male bastion, granted. I haven't been to an SF conference in over a decade, but apparently there is a "new guard" of women who want to think they're first and are therefore completely shunning the idea that there were any female writers prior to them. The prior generation of women are being written out of histories, left out of back-looking "definitive" collections, etc. Again, women having a much harder time going the other way. SIGH!

C.D. Hersh said...

Matt- May I call you Matt? I'm a male romance writer also. I do it with my wife. Write that is :-) We write under the pen name C.D. Hersh.
Can't say I had the same experience so thanks for breaking the barrier. Yes, there is still surprise but then the questions concerning the male voice. Romance writers are very accepting and generally helpful.
Enjoyed your post and thoughts.

Lynn Lovegreen said...

M.L. thank you for the heartening post. I too have seen changes in the genre, and I am so glad you are accepted for the great author you are. :-)

M. L. Buchman said...

Hi Lynn, Thanks so much. Glad that you're enjoying my work. Work...hmmm. So glad that you're enjoying the results of something I soooooo love doing!

Hello C.D., It is a shockingly small community isn't it? I work with and talk to a lot of male writers in other genres and when I say, "I write romance" their faces go stone blank or just get confused. It's an amazing conversation stopper. My local RWA chapter has 3-4 men who attend every meeting (all beginners but about 10%). Numbers that did not play out at National. Keep it up! Your heart can't help but be more open if you write romance. My wife is is my biggest cheerleader and she is the target audience I write for. If I can make her laugh or smile, I have achieved what I set out to do. That others enjoy it as well is just a wonder to me.

Anonymous said...

Matt - Congratulations on your RITA nom! We met at last years ECWC and after speaking with you, hearing your story about why you write, I had to go out and read your works. Very much enjoyed the read and came away with a new perspective on writing.
Till we meet again!
DaniJo Avia

Judith Ashley said...

I'm a bit late to the party, Matt but appreciate your view of the romance author world! So pleased M.L. earned a RITA nomination! Having read your books, I know it was well-deserved.