I asked my Facebook friends for some topics to blog about to promo my new book, Safe in His Heart (Safe #2) and Susan Lynn suggested this (above topic) for me. First I looked at it and said, “No – there’s nothing to write about this,” but I’ve thought about it longer, and you know what? I think there are things to say.
I have to admit that a small part of me liking M/M Romance is that it “takes out the uterus.” Now, let me explain this comment. I read M/F Romance for years, and one of the things that I got annoyed at is that having children always seemed to be a part of the equation. No romance story seemed to be complete without having the requisite boy/girl set of twins at the end. As if to say that a love story is not “true” without producing twin babies exactly nine months after the wedding.
I often think to myself on whether the love comes first, or the discussion of children in these types of books. Even when you have a strong female lead in a romance, who often says she doesn’t want kids because she prefers her career, the author will have to discuss the possibility of the husband staying home and raising the children. It’s as if the uterus in the relationship is more important than the heart.
My own experience in life tells me that a child is not necessary to complete a relationship. My best friend told me when she was sixteen that she didn’t want children. Over twenty years later, she has never, ever wavered from this path. She’s been with her partner since she was eighteen, and they are more than happy not to have children.
There seems to be a plethora of M/M Romance involving babies and children lately. I think it is a combination of factors. For a start there are so many M/M Romance books out there now – the genre has exploded – so there is more of everything. We’re also seeing how writers are reflecting in our fiction the changes of our laws. Many more countries have same-sex marriage laws, and with it often come adoption and surrogacy laws. Society is evolving and the laws are changing to keep up.
Here in Australia, we are actually in a spot of bother when it comes to gay men becoming fathers. Sean Kennedy and I have often discussed it over coffee. We have no same-sex marriage laws for a start (although we recognise same-sex defacto relationships). Adoption is all but out of the question, especially newborn adoption. There are no laws banning same-sex couples from adopting, but it seems as if the adoption agencies will choose straight couples over gay couples. Unlike America where there seems to be a lot of parents signing away their rights to their children, who are then placed in foster care that hopefully leads to adoption, Australian fostering and adoption is a lot harder and the parental rights held in the highest regard. Adopting newborns or even older children who were born in Australia is rare.
But to put another hurdle in the way of gay couples who wish to have children, commercial surrogacy is against the law in Australia. Our laws are very strict. Most people wanting some sort of surrogacy arrangement went overseas to Indonesia, India and Thailand. In the past 18 months there were a few cases of Australian couples doing some terrible things in relation to surrogacy (like abandoning their children in the foreign country if they are born with a disability), and as a result of outrage when the public found out, these countries have closed their commercial operations.
So you would think that I would actually never write about children in my M/M Romance novels, right? With gay men unable to adopt or obtain surrogacy permission in Australia, and the fact I’m a little derisive of trite endings?
For one simple fact. Children occur in life. All of my books have contained children or pregnancy in them. Brothers and sisters, or friends of the MC getting pregnant and having children is pretty usual in a gay man’s life. And Renae Kaye loves writing her realistic stories with flaws and all.
I love to write about children because they are often innocent. They love their uncle for being him, not because he’s gay or not gay, strong or not strong, handsome or not. Being an uncle or aunt you often get the best of both worlds because you get to have fun with the kids, but hand them back to their parents for the tricky part. Children can also provide comic relief in a story that is getting a little heavy.
The frustration about writing children into a book is that not everyone wants to read about the hum-drum, normal, tiring part of parenting. And by being a parent myself, I know that 95% of parenting can be the boring bits. It’s like looking in a photo album – you have photos of birthday parties, Christmas, that zoo trip, and the day that Little Penelope put blue cake in her hair. You don’t open up the album and find pictures that are labelled, “4th of May, Little Johnnie. Had cornflakes for breakfast and only spilled some of them. Had to change his red shirt for a blue one.”
In The Blinding Light (The Tav #1), Jake and Patrick have the opportunity to adopt a child at the end of the story. But you never see the ins and outs of parenting, because it occurs at the end. In the second book in this series, You Are the Reason (The Tav #2), the story moves onto Dave and Lee. There are a couple of scenes where you see a peek at Jake and Patrick’s new life, but never the full picture.
It was my own short-sighted self who didn’t realise that Paul would get his own book that created a need to heavily involve children in Safe in His Heart (Safe #2). In Safe #1, I created Paul, and he was in love with a married man who had children. So when I attempted to write Paul and Andrew’s story, I was constrained by the relationship I had already created. Andrew had two small children who he loved and it would break his heart to leave.
And bound by that, I wrote Safe #2. It was a joy to write about Andrew’s love for his children. Just because a man is gay, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t long for children. Andrew’s children are the most important thing in his life. But it also meant the story needed to get into the nitty-gritty of child care arrangements. No matter how much I wanted it to, I just couldn’t have Andrew constantly leaving his children with a conveniently available babysitter while he went off on dates with Paul. So, by necessity, Paul spends a lot of time in Andrew’s house… with Andrew’s children.
It brings a whole new element into the story, because now the focus isn’t just on the two main characters, the focus has expanded to include two more characters whose needs are fundamental in the relationship. Scenes will involve all of them. And the opinions, behaviour, and needs of these extra characters provide extra complexity to the storyline.
That being said, I never once shied away from putting Lilah and Germy in the story. The joy of children much outweigh the frustration.
Excerpt, Safe in His Heart
Paul smiled at him again. He really was a cute little kid, and his resemblance to Andrew made Paul’s heart melt. He was going to be a handsome boy, like his daddy. He was dressed in wrinkled blue shorts and a matching short-sleeved jacket that had a picture of a snoring dragon on it. The blue shorts were stretched around an obviously full nappy.
“Hello,” Paul tried again. “What’s your name?”
The boy removed the finger from his mouth so he could speak. “Germy.” He popped the finger straight back in, allowing a flow of drool to trickle from the corner of his lips. Drool was nothing new to Paul.
“Germy?” he asked. The boy nodded, and Paul finally remembered his name was Jeremy. Going by the drool, perhaps Germy was a better one.
“Well, Germy. Is your daddy awake yet?” Jeremy shook his head solemnly. So Paul said, “What about your sister?” Jeremy solemnly shook his head and looked sad. Playing alone was evidently a disappointment for a two-year-old. He sighed. “All righty, then. I guess it’s only us who are up with the larks. Or is that the sparrows? I never remember. Since I have no idea what a lark looks like, I guess I’m not up with them. What do you think?”
Jeremy blinked once but didn’t answer. Paul laughed and reached out to ruffle his hair. “Sorry, buddy. A bit beyond you. I know. I’m Paul, by the way. I’m a friend of your daddy. How about you show me where the toilet is, because I need to go really badly, and then we can go and see if we can get Daddy up. Hmm?”
Safe in His Heart, by Renae Kaye. Released 2 May 2016.