I find being a writer to be an odd profession at times. You could see an author as a professional liar and con artist. Isn’t that what we’re doing? Creating an elaborate con, editing it and serving it up the customers who like to pretend it’s true?
Being an author is also a balancing act. You’re stuck between being lost in a fantasy world and the reality of real life. How much time should you spend in each? How much promo should you do? How much should you pay for marketing? Is spending four weeks promoting a book worth it – or is it better spent creating the next masterpiece-wannabe for release? How long should you write – novel, novella, short? What sub-genre? Will readers be turned away by the switch in genre?
I find that I’m learning every day and—yes I admit it—making mistakes. From learning my “craft”—oh, is THAT what an Oxford comma is—to learning about racism. I’m also learning my way through social media and dealing with people in an environment where you can’t judge their expressions which has led me to trusting those who I shouldn’t have.
These mistakes plus reading bad reviews and often wondering what the hell that author did to make it to #3 on Amazon (and are those 20 good reviews of theirs fake) can make you question yourself, question your profession choice, and regularly feel bad about your life.
But all it takes is a small thing—like a Facebook video that goes for less than two minutes—to remind you one of the reasons you write, and renew that urge to make a difference.
Today, for me, it was a video about body image and men. The video talked about images in the media that made men want to bulk up and put on muscle. How more young men are using steroids. How the pressure is mounting on our society. I was reminded about how one of the things that made me start writing was my desire for more stories where the characters weren’t perfect, alpha-male, good-looking, straight-acting, rich men. I’d read a plethora of these books and often found I couldn’t relate to the character because I’d never met anyone who that perfect.
As a writer, my first priority is to entertain, and the first person I entertain is myself. And I’m entertained by characters I can relate to—those who are not perfect in their personalities or their physical appearance. I write to entertain, but I also know I have a responsibility to represent realism in my books. Oh, I love a good hero book as much as the next girl, but you can’t live on a diet of chocolates.
I grew up reading M/F romance. It was tiring reading about women who were beautiful and polished. Sometimes they were plain women who had perfect skin, lovely hair, a nice figure, nice eyes and spoke softly. I used to wonder if these authors had ever looked up the definition of “plain.” I wanted to find a character like me with not-so-perfect skin, large wobbly thighs, a nose they hated, and a face that never made a billionaire fall in love at first sight. Even in romance labelled as BBW the characters had something about them that would make the hero ignore their chubby cheeks but instead focus on the purity of their skin.
So when writing my M/M Romances I like to keep reminding myself of that dissatisfaction I used to feel. It brings me joy to write about real people who have real problems. I don’t mind at all if you tell me that it’s not your cup of tea because you prefer your perfect, macho men, because yes, I like those novels sometimes too. But for me I like to think that I’m reaching an audience out there that is maybe feeling terrible about their own body image, and can be comforted about finding someone similar to them between the pages of a book and—oh, my gosh, no—that person can find love.
I’ve had readers who’ve disliked my choice of characters, disliked my character because of a personality flaw, and who’ve even made fun of my character’s physical appearance in reviews. I have to remind myself that they weren’t my target audience. And if a reader tells me that I should’ve written about the character they enjoy instead, I’m going to blithely ignore them. Because I love my characters. I have flaming twinks and grizzly bears. I have guys with attitude and guys who wouldn’t know attitude if they accidentally tripped over them four times in a row. I have guys with disabilities, guys with hang ups, and guys with pasts. I write about the lost, the broken, and the ones who didn’t know what was missing from their lives until their perfect match came along.
Some have perfect bodies – Andrew and Paul certainly worked their bodies hard at the gym as they achieved a satisfaction from that. Some don’t – and I will never ever apologise for Shawn and his curves. Some dress up, literally – because who doesn’t like a man in a dress? – and some are grateful they can afford a five-dollar polo shirt. Some are hairy and don’t give a stuff about what people think of that, and some are rather vain about the fact their chest doesn’t grow hair.
My new release, Don’t Twunk With My Heart features two men who are trying to reach an ideal body image—that of a sleek, polished, young twink. For Tate, the passage of time has taken him away from being a twink and he struggles with diets to try and hold onto that ideal. Tate needs to realise that his weight and his image aren’t what gets him respect. For Kee, he struggles with the insult of “fairy princess” an ex threw at him. He has to work through his idea of masculinity and self-respect.
I like to think that you need to have love for yourself before you can truly love another. In this book it is true. Kee must learn to accept who he is, and Tate has to learn to accept who he will never be again. Neither character is perfect. But sometimes they just may be perfect for each other.
Don’t Twunk With My Heart is a sweet little story that I hope entertains, but also reminds you to accept yourself and everyone – even those who have the bad taste to wear pink jeans.
Available now for preorder from Dreamspinner.
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