When introducing his book Breach Zone, author Myke Cole writes about his recent experience with the romance genre:
“When I first got my book deal and moved to New York City, I was eager to launch my life as a writer. I spend the majority of my time in the intensely conservative institutions of law enforcement and the military, and I was looking forward to forging deeper into a social circle that was progressive and diverse.
When a friend hit town and asked me to meet her at the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference in Times Square, I threw on my Chuck Taylors (hey, I live in Brooklyn), and jumped on the subway over there. I rode the escalator up, wondering what the crowd would look like. I’ve pretty much lived my whole live in SF/F conventions, but this was my first time ever going to a gathering of romance writers and fans.
I crested the escalator and my jaw dropped open. There were thousands of people on the con floor.
And not a single male.
When my friend and I took our seats, I asked her why this was. “There have to be some men writing in this genre,” I said. “Not many,” she answered, “and the ones that are writing category romance do so under female pseudonyms.”
So much for diversity. I hit the ceiling. It was wrong when fantasy writers like C.S. Freidman, Andre Norton and Robin Hobb had to choose deliberately ambigious pseudonyms because women weren’t supposed to write fantasy, and it was wrong that men should do the same for romance. I resolved then and there to change it. I was going to be the first male category romance writer to publish a work in the genre under his own name.
I went on this same tear with a friend of mine who had been an editor for Harlequin, one of the major romance imprints. “That’s all well and good,” she said, “but you can’t just waltz into a genre you know nothing about and expect to be successful. You need to learn your trade. You have a lot of reading to do.”
Good advice. I took it. I read and read and read and still do read romance. I was amazed at how central character was to the genre, how these seemingly plotless stories were pulled along by agendas clashing, how transporting it was to see protagonists fleshed out until they felt like real people.
I was in awe of the skill involved. I felt sure I could never equal it.”
Mr. Cole’s previous career involved being a security contractor, government civilian and military officer. Surely a soldier isn’t “supposed” to write a romance? He continues:
“[…] I realized that all that reading in the romance genre had percolated into my brain, flowed unconsciously into my story.
BREACH ZONE is a war story, absolutely.
But it is also a love story.
And it is so soso much better for it.”
[Apologies for the lengthy quote; I merely wanted to do justice to Mr. Cole. The whole post is available on Mary Robinette Kowal’s blog.]
Because you never should confine people to stereotypes on the basis of their career – or gender.