What’s it like to be a man writing romance? What’s it like to be a black man writing romance in a predominantly Caucasian and female romance industry? We are thrilled to have Wayne Jordan here to give us the in-his-shoes perspective on publishing in romantic fiction.
People always ask me – Since you’re a man, what is it like writing romance?
On one level writing and reading romance isn’t easy. I started reading romance while in my teens and I’ll be 50 next year, so it’s been a long time. I endured years of silent ridicule at school, college and even in the workplace because I read romance. For a few years, in the early 1980s, because I thought a literature major should be reading ‘proper’ literature, I gave up my secret fantasy…or should I say fetish.
But as any romance lover knows, it’s not easy to give up reading romance novels, so I returned to the genre. However, I was a bit more mature now, and found that, I really didn’t give two ‘hoots’ what anyone thought of my preference for romance. I was a man who loved reading romance!
In high school, I discovered that I loved writing and ‘had a talent for it’, said my teachers. Scenes from stories would flash in my mind’s eyes, and I’d quickly write them in my never-ending supply of notebooks. Like the stories I read, there would always be a beautiful heroine and a handsome hero. In the stories I created, I would become that hero and in the end too, I’d get my heroine and swoop her into a passionate embrace. Even then, writing romance came naturally. The words flowed freely from my brain. I created wonderful heroes and heroines, placed them in situations with intense, sexual tension, the customary misunderstanding, but eventually I’ve give them their ‘happily-ever-after’.
I submitted my first romance novel years ago (the late 80s), submitted a query and was rejected. Now I look back on that attempt, I’m not surprised that it got rejected. It was almost twenty years later that I submitted my first ‘fit-to-be-published’ manuscript to BET Book for their Arabesque line. I received the CALL. Today, I know a lot more about romance and have published eight books; my ninth, To Love You More, will be released in April 2012 under the Harlequin Kimani Romance line.
However, almost six years after my first book, Capture the Sunrise, went on sale I still feel like the ugly stepbrother of romance. Why? You ask me.
Because, I have two things going against me….I’m still a man (lol) and I’m black.
I’M STILL A MAN
I’m still very much a man writing in a woman’s world and that’s definitely a negative when it comes to writing romance. I’m not saying this is a problem with all readers, but the majority of women still believe that a ‘real’ man can’t write romance.
Have you ever heard these? Or even heard them echoed in your mind?
A man can’t write romance because:
• He would find it difficult to get into the mind of woman.
• He lacks the sensitivity needed.
• He can’t be emotional.
• He can write about sex, but he definitely won’t be able to able to write love scenes.
Crap! Or should I say poppycock!
For me, there are two important factors which define the ‘good’ romance writer. There are others, but these are significant.
1. An individual (male or female) who knows and loves the genre.
2. An individual (male or female) who loves to and knows how to write.
Those are the qualities I possess and have helped me to create the stories I write. I know I’m a good writer. But I also know I still have a lot to learn to become a great writer.
In the world of romance, black writers are the ugly step-sisters! While the acceptance of and respect for African-American romance writers is slowly changing, it’s far from the equal acceptance that should be the norm.
When I started reading romance novels in my teens, I never found it strange that the hero and heroine looked nothing like me. In fact, since my reading at school was comprised of the works of Shakespeare, Keats, Dickens and many of the British elite, I didn’t find it strange at all. It was only when Sandra Kitt’s Harlequin American, Adam and Eva, that I realized that stories could be written about people just like me. In 1999, with the increasing number for African-American romance writers and the growing success of the Pinnacle Arabesque line (eventually sold to BET who created BET Books) I created a website, www.romanceincolor, which focuses on promoting African-American romance authors and their work. Since then, I’ve become a strong advocate for African-American romance. My dreams of being a romance writer changed. I wanted to write about characters who looked just like me.
The state and acceptance of African-American romance in 2011 is still of serious concern to me. The works of African-America continue to be segregated and shelved under the African-American romance, thus limiting the audience potential. While this is technically true, I’m yet to hear a category called Caucasian romance. For me, romance is romance and love is love and has nothing to do with the color of the reader’s or author’s skin. This can change and has to change.
I have the ideal solution. The same way black readers have been embracing books with Caucasians hero/heroines for decades, the reverse is necessary. I read a wide cross section of romance. I have a diverse taste and enjoy all. I read from several Harlequin series lines (Love Inspired Historical, Blaze, Romantic Suspense, Intrigue, Kimani Romance, Superromance, Desire and Presents). Along with this, I read from several other genres (mystery, suspense, mainstream). My favorite authors are Brenda Jackson, Nora Roberts, Beverly Jenkins, Catherine Mann, Mary Balogh, Maureen Smith, Tami Hoag, Marie Force… and the list goes on.
How many of you can say without hesitation that your reading is a diverse are mine; that when you pick up a romance it’s not about the color of the hero and heroine, but the promise of a story that will transport your into a world where love conquers all.
What’s on your bookshelf? What are your thoughts on the distance between the races in romance fiction? Do you have favorite authors who are males writing under a pen name? Do you have any questions for Wayne about how he handles the female perspective in his books?
C.J. Redwine continues her HolyCowAwesome story series on Monday.
After dumping her cheating boyfriend, Sandra Walters doesn’t trust men…especially men in white coats! So when she runs into Troy Whitehall in Barbados, she vows to steer clear of the heart-stoppingly handsome surgeon. The passion they once shared is something she’ll never forget, but she isn’t going to let down her defenses again. Even if the good doctor has a bedside manner no woman can resist.
For as long as he can remember, Wayne Jordan loved reading, but he also enjoyed creating his own make believe worlds. This love for reading and writing continued, and in November 2005 his first book, Capture the Sunrise, was published by BET Books. Wayne has always been an advocate for romance, especially African-American romance. In 1999 he founded www.romanceincolor.com, a website that focuses on African-American romance and its authors. Wayne is a high school teacher and a graduate of the University of the West Indies. He holds a B.A. in literature and linguistics and an M.A. in applied linguistics. He lives on the beautiful tropical island of Barbados, which, with its white sands and golden sunshine, is the perfect setting for the romance stories he loves to create. Of course, he still takes time out to immerse himself in the latest release from one of his favorite authors.
- Wayne Wednesday: How Much Do You Really Need and Want to Know?
- Wayne Wednesday: When Men Argue
- Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? – 2011 Style
- Wayne Wednesday: My History with My Woman
- Weekly Lecture Schedule for June 7-11: C.J. Redwine, Wayne Levine & Ann Charles