While female authors still greatly outnumber their male counterparts in the romance category, more men are writing love stories, though not always under their own names.
One of those authors is Brindle Chase, whose novels for Ellora’s Cave include the April contemporary Lover Unexpected. While Chase didn’t exactly feel welcomed into the genre when he started in 2010—“There was wariness about my gender, so I chose a pseudonym that would seem gender-neutral,” he recalls—he says he finds male authors in romance are more accepted now. “There remains a stigma that men can’t write the genre, or even understand it, but that is a minority opinion and diminishing as I and others continue to establish ourselves within the published circles.”
S.L. Carpenter, whose Suite 69 with writing partner Sahara Kelly is due in print in July from Samhain, chose a gender-neutral pen name but doesn’t pretend to be female. “The people who read and follow me online know I am a man,” he says. “Newer readers may be surprised to find out I am a male writer, but I didn’t want to change my name to something overtly feminine to mislead them.”
M.L. Buchman, author of the Night Stalkers series (The Night Is Mine, etc.), also uses his initials for fear of pushing away female readers who might be reluctant to trust a male romance writer. He adds, “I do like using my initials as so many women have done over the years to protect themselves in our society. It feels appropriately ironic.”
Bucking the trend, Nico Rosso, whose Night of Fire will be out in July from Avon Impulse, chose to write under his given name. “I felt that trying to package myself as a female would be selling the readership short,” he says.
Male authors of male/male romance have less to worry. Brenda Knight, associate publisher of Cleis Press and Viva Editions, notes that the house has one male writer, Rupert James, author of the bestselling gay romance trilogy The Secret Tunnel, The Back Passage, and The Sticky End. “All three were bestsellers with Direct Brands’ Insight Out Bookclub,” Knight says, “and did fantastically in the trade as well as digital sales.”
Susan Edwards, COO of Ellora’s Cave, says, “Some of our male authors use initials or gender-neutral names to disguise their sex. But then, so do some of our female authors. Their intent is that readers make a purchase decision based on the story itself.”
Making the Leap from Other Genres
Many male romance authors started out writing other types of fiction. Rosso was writing thrillers when he caught the romance bug from his wife, author Zoë Archer. “As I read her romance work and talked plot and character with her, I found the inherent hope and wide story possibilities very appealing,” Rosso says.
Chase stumbled into the category while writing a paranormal suspense novel, Gothic City Lights. “I had blurred the suspense with romantic elements,” he says. “The romance seemed a stronger plot. After a crash course on the genre and many revisions, my debut novel became a paranormal erotic romance.”
Others come to it through natural inclination or early exposure to romance novels. Wayne Jordan, whose latest for Harlequin’s Kimani imprint is April’s To Love You More, grew up in a household where the primary reading material was romance fiction. “I wanted to be taken to exotic locations and cultures,” he says. “The appeal of the romantic parts came later.”
In the 1990s, Jordan joined an online writers’ community, Painted Rock, owned by the late Carmel Thomson. Thomson, who wrote for Harlequin as Fay Robinson, encouraged Jordan to write a romance. “I started one,” Jordan said, “and entered the Heart and Soul contest of the Romance Slam Jam, an annual African-American romance conference. I won the contest and a submission to BET Books for their Arabesque line.” That was in 2005 and he’s never looked back.
Peter Golden made his first foray into romance with Comeback Love, which was published by Atria in April. “I think romance chose me,” says Golden, who also writes biographies, history, and memoirs. Unlike his nonfiction efforts, Golden says writing love stories engages him “at the deepest emotional level, alters my dreams, wakes me up at night and stays with me during the day even when I’m not working.”
Buchman, who also writes science fiction and thrillers, says he’s always loved focusing on strong female characters and strong emotions. “Even before I read my first romance, I was writing love stories that just happened to be in other genres,” he says. “There are the obvious differences of tropes and how relevant the love story is within the plot. But it is the similarities that I find so striking. The deep, deep connection between characters, whether driven by plot or emotion—that’s what brings a book to life for me. When I stumbled upon the idea of writing whole books about that wonderful moment of finding the right person and falling in love, as I was fortunate enough to do a decade and a half ago, I was sold. I’m fascinated by that moment of total exposure and self-discovery that we enter into on the road to happily ever after.”