Today in the run up to the Book Blast Tour for Kjartan the Gentle on April 17th, I am pleased to host Nya Rawlyns, a great writer and one of the authors I’ve been friends with for longest. She writes about her M/M life on and off the page.
On Doing Guys… The Confessions of a Gender-Challenged Author
I like guys. No, wait… I really like guys.
I like the strength, the play of muscles over tendon and bone, the long line from shoulder to thigh. I like the way guys move, striding with purpose, without guile (most times). Sometimes there’s a bit of a swagger, a little hitch to that git-along that draws the eye. Package that with worn jeans, the jingle of spurs…
Um, hmm. What was I talking about?
Let’s start over. I like cowboys, as in obsessed from an early age. If you asked me what I discovered first, cowboys or horses, that might actually be a dead heat. Yeah, yeah, you’re saying well duh, but it’s totally possible to fixate on horses and insert that little girl into the mix without the clutter of distractions in the form of long legs wrapping around a girth, the seat settling easy, head tilted, eyes half-hidden in the shadows cast by the brim of…
Crap. Never mind.
Somehow I beat the odds growing up and spent most of my working life in a field that was almost exclusively male at the time. Those years were a bit of a proving ground, fraught with some nascent sexism, or as I preferred to think of it… paternalism. Eventually, as times changed, attitudes changed, allowing a lone woman to fit in, without prejudice and without the onus of feeling different and less valued.
Mileage varied back in the dark ages, and I am all too aware how fortunate I’ve been to be privy to that inexplicable world view that centers on Mars and not Venus. My long exposure to the male perspective has afforded me a few insights on how men frame their lives, their careers, their interests and their relationships. It helped educate my ear—to speech patterns, to the nuances of communication that’s often terse and straightforward. It can also carry a subtext of dominance and submission, of thrust and parry, of metaphor and analogy sharpened in the cauldron of unlevel playing fields.
I learned early that men prioritize differently. They can do business with an enemy when needs must, they can set aside affection in pursuit of a goal—a greater good, a selfish desire—and they become masters at holding things close to the vest. Not all, never all, but there’s a trend and it skews in a decidedly different direction than it does for the distaff members of the community.
Because I feel most comfortable in the company of men, it seemed natural that my writing would reflect that. My first book was a YA fantasy, told from the male perspective and geared to a younger male audience. So too were my few forays into the M/F romance/sci-fi/crime genres. History has afforded me the luxury of not having to “get inside” the head of a male character because I was already there. And I am also fully aware that, despite that questionable advantage, my own socialization and life experiences stamp my work with a female perspective.
It is what it is. However, when I tackled a M/M romance, the small disconnects dissolved. I found that comfort zone where the characters, their behaviors, how they thought and felt, what they wanted, how they were willing to get from A to B… all that that gained a level of authenticity that I think (I hope) reflects real men facing real challenges in a world dominated by binary assignments of gender—in a world of either/or that barely scraps the surface of a sliding scale of possibilities.
Of course, given my obsession, my characters often are modern day cowboys with a mix of John Ford grandeur and the intimacy of life lived on the edge. These are men who don’t need to ask permission, who accept risk as the cost of doing business, even if that “business” extends to potential relationships. I like that they can compartmentalize until the consequences tear them apart or drive them together. I especially appreciate the element of power, how it’s shaped and diffused into vulnerability. I love the silent cues and miscues, the richness and texture of sensitivity hiding behind fear of failure, the explosiveness when control loses out to passion.
And though the series is a romance, it doesn’t necessarily afford the same kind of closure you’d find in a typical M/F story. The LGBT landscape is far richer, far more complex than the tropes would have us believe. It offers many possibilities for defining how two people discover and create a context for a shared future, it allows for failure and for living outside the box if that is what suits.
To be honest, I know few M/F pairings in real life that come close to the ideals/templates imposed by the romance genre. But what I do know of are long term partnerships among gay couples—both male and female—that somehow beat the social odds partially because they came to that partnership unhindered by convention.
So there you have it. I write M/M because I can, because in many ways it’s what I know best, and because I believe we all deserve the freedom to define who and what we want to be. As they say: love is love. It’s that simple, and that complex.
Peace and happy trails.
The Men of Crow Creek: http://the-men-of-crow-creek.weebly.com/ (Six books starting with Ash and Oak, finishing with Mending Fences)
Twitter @Nya_Rawlyns : https://twitter.com/Nya_Rawlyns