Romance Editors: Adjust Fire


On December 6th, I sub­mitted an entry to Teresa Frohock’s “Gender Bending Con­test.” The Con­test hosted a number of authors, each writing under an assumed name (or no name at all). The audi­ence then tried to guess the author’s gender.

I am known for my hard-bitten mil­i­tary action novels, com­plete with muscle-bound, gun-toting pro­tag­o­nists, giant explo­sions and enough tough guy talk to fill a TV Tropes page. I think most folks would agree that it’s pretty easy to tell I’m a guy from my writing. Right? Maybe not.

For the con­test, I wrote a regency romance scene.

Under the name Alice Leakey, I wrote a piece about a young girl in 18th C. Boston, mooning over a ship’s lieu­tenant who jilts her for her older sister. I titled it “The Edu­ca­tion of Rebecca Cavendish.”

100 people sub­mitted guesses.

Roughly 50% of them thought I was female.

About two years ago, I started asking romance edi­tors who the great male romance writers were. The near uni­form answer was, “Apart from the rare Nicholas Sparks’ of the world, the very few men who write romance do so under female pseu­do­nyms. The audi­ence is almost entirely female, and they simply won’t accept a male romance author.”

Now, this is hardly sci­en­tific, but I think the above sam­pling sug­gest that readers can’t tell the gender of the author by the writing.

Men fall in love. Men have sex. Men desire companionship.

Men like romance.

Assuming that only females read romance is wrong. It implies that men aren’t inter­ested in the topic. We are.

Assuming that female readers won’t accept an openly male romance writer is wrong. It doesn’t give them the credit they deserve.

Assuming that males can’t write good romance is wrong. The reality is that most people can’t tell the gender of the author from the writing.

Early female SF/F writers used gender-ambiguous or male pseu­do­nyms to sell their work. We look back at those days now and cringe. We know it was wrong.

And it’s wrong to tell male romance writers that they must use female pseudonyms.

Romance edi­tors: Adjust fire.


  • http://twitter.com/PrinceJvstin Paul Weimer

    There are plenty of men who like Mary Robi­nette Kowal’s fan­tasy novels. So, yeah. More evidence.

    • http://twitter.com/SeandBlogonaut Seand­Bl­og­o­naut

      Raises, hand. And Jane Austen — though I tend to watch tele­vi­sion adap­ta­tions because of the time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=19800468 Dan Adler

    Well written. You romantic softy, you 😉

  • http://twitter.com/laurakcurtis Laura Curtis

    I still main­tain that James Rollins writes para­mil­i­tary romantic sus­pense. Andrew Gross writes thrillers with female char­ac­ters who are as fully devel­oped as any romance writer’s char­ac­ters. In the crossover genres, you find plenty of men writing romantic work–epic fan­tasy is all about romance.

  • http://twitter.com/shilohwalker Shiloh Walker

    Myke, you write a romance, I’m totally buying it.

    But…aside from that…plenty of guys read authors like J.D. Robb, etc under the assump­tion .. ‘it’s mys­tery’ etc, and um. Well, no. That’s Nora Roberts. 😉

    Yeah, a number of guys like romance. It’s just dressed up as some­thing else. Plenty of guys read authors like Sher­rilyn Kenyon, too and sim­ilar authors. I know, cuz I’ve talked with quite a few of them. They tend to like the faster, more action driven ones — PNR,etc, but…well, so do I. To each their own.

  • http://twitter.com/ilona_andrews Ilona Andrews

    You should know that Anne made Gordon and me choose a female pseu­donym because the books would sell better under the female byline. It was con­di­tion of our pub­li­ca­tion and con­tract. So not just romance editors. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/alexvdl Alex Von Der Linden

    Does that mean that your new con­tract will include a couple of romance novels?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=778500532 Matt Jebus Jones

    Trying to think of some truly great Fan­tasy love story arcs written by dudes and am coming up blank (Vimes & Sybil? Garion & Ce’Nedra? Jaime & Cersei? Pug & Miranda? Frodo & Sam?), will have to think on it. Best one I can think of is Fitz & the Fool but that was by Rbin Hobb…

  • http://twitter.com/fidget78 Dolly Sandor

    Myke, two of my favorite series are written by males about females, The Sherry Moore series by George Shuman and the Jane Whit­field series written by Thomas Perry. They have romance in them too!!

  • http://www.angelaquarles.com Angela Quarles

    So true Myke! I totally sup­port my fellow male romance authors,and I have met a few. It’s ridicu­lous to dis­crim­i­nate. Have you heard of The Romance Man? He’s former mil­i­tary (I think?) and reads romances http://​thero​manceman​.com

  • cmdrsue

    I started http://​men​read​ro​mance​.com/ today. It would be great if you wanted to come by to do a guest post at some point. :)