Romance Editors: Adjust Fire

By January 8, 2013Comms

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.


Author Myke Cole

Myke Cole is an American writer of history and fantasy who leverages a lifetime in military, law enforcement and intelligence service to take you to battlefields, real and imagined.

More posts by Myke Cole

Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • Paul Weimer says:

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

  • Dan Adler says:

    Well written. You romantic softy, you 😉

  • Laura Curtis says:

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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. 🙂

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

  • 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…

  • Dolly Sandor says:

    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!!

  • 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

  • cmdrsue says:

    I started today. It would be great if you wanted to come by to do a guest post at some point. 🙂

Leave a Reply