Pay It Forward · Writing

Guest Post: Lou Harper

** THIS IS AN 18+ ONLY POST **

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(All Images provided by Lou Harper)

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This post is entirely written by: Lou Harper

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Happy Young Gay Couple Outside

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When Elaine asked me to write a guest post, she suggested I talk about what it’s like to write gay romance as opposed to traditional hetero romance. Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve never written traditional romance stories.

I grew up as a voracious reader, consuming anything I could put my hands on, regardless of genre or literal merit, but, for whatever reason, not much of it was outright romance. While I gobbled up romantic books, like Jane Austen’s, women’s roles in books and movies frustrated the hell out of me. Being a tomboy, I wanted to be the hero, the one facing down the bad guys and riding to the rescue. Waiting to be rescued and the traditionally feminine roles in general never appealed.

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KickAss

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My female role models are Ripley from Alien and Zoe from Firefly and Serenity. Unfortunately, strong women don’t lend themselves well to romance. In a satisfying love story both parties must yield to the other at some point. The moment when the big macho hero bows his head and admits his powerlessness when it comes to the heroine is the one that shoots through your heart. However, if the previously ass-kicking heroine does it to the guy, everything is just slipping back to status quo.

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Janto

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I realized how much I liked the idea of romance between two men while watching Torchwood. This British Doctor Who spin-off had its faults, but it led me to fanfiction and through it the M/M genre. M/M was like a revelation—finally romance I could fully enjoy.

I know, it’s an odd concept—heterosexual women writing and reading romance stories about gay men. In my twenties when I first fully realized I wanted to be more like men, but I also sexually and romantically desired them, I came to think of myself as a gay man trapped in a woman’s body. This is something you often hear from readers and writers of M/M. However, I have since changed my mind. The truth is both more complicated and simpler.

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rearwindow

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In college I took several Film Studies classes, including one about Alfred Hitchcock. One of the films we watched in class was Rear Window. In case you’re not familiar with the movie, it’s about a photographer (played by James Stewart) laid up with a broken leg in his New York apartment. Out of boredom he starts spying on his neighbors through a telephoto lens and binoculars, and eventually becomes convinced one of them is a murderer.

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caught

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After watching the film, our professor revealed he always observes the class when the movie comes to a certain point. It is the scene when the killer—played by Raymond Burr—first looks straight into the camera. When it happens every person in the audience jumps—because the murderer is looking right at us—we’ve been discovered.

In a movie the camera is the point of view, and in the case of Rear Window it’s the POV of James Stewart’s character. He’s the one we, the viewers, identify with, and so when his life is in danger we experience his fright.

James Stewart is a man, but female viewers will identify with him in the same way as male viewers. And this is what I see as the key. The vast majority of films and TV shows still present stories from the POV of a male protagonist. We, women, have learned to identify with men since we were little. For those of us who have always wanted to wear the ass-kicking boots, this is probably even more pronounced.

Meanwhile, as hot-blooded heterosexual women, we still desire men as well. So for someone like me the big appeal to M/M is that I can both identify with the protagonists and desire them. Both. Simultaneously, even. Freed from the traditional gender roles I can throw myself into the romance with wild abandon.

You may ask, but isn’t gay sex icky? Well, no. As Woody Allen said, “Is sex dirty? Only if it’s done right.” Seriously, aside from cock-docking** there’s not much a gay couple can get up to that a straight couple couldn’t, although you might need a few toys. There are also plenty of M/M books where the sex is low key or fade-to-black. All in all, just as in the case of their traditional counterparts, I what makes or breaks a story is not so much the sex but the character dynamics, plot, and well, the romance, obviously.

I write mostly light-hearted contemporary romances that are often also paranormal. Elements of mystery and suspense mix in too. Among my protagonists are a vampire who refuses to brood but likes role-playing, a necromancer who’s a web developer by day, and a psychic who falls for his grumpy roommate.

** Cock-docking: it’s like the docking of two space shuttles but with penises. Foreskin is a bonus. **

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Under a prickly, cynical surface Lou Harper is an incorrigible romantic. Her love affair with the written word started at a tender age. There was never a time when stories weren’t romping around in her head. She is currently embroiled in a ruinous romance with adjectives. In her free time Lou stalks deviant words and feral narratives.

Lou has misspent most of her life in parts of Europe and the US, but is now firmly settled in Los Angeles and worships the sun. However, she thinks the ocean smells funny. Lou is a loner, a misfit, and a happy drunk.

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Website: LouHarper.com

Blog: LouHarper.blogspot.com

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/louharperwrites

19 thoughts on “Guest Post: Lou Harper

  1. PS. Cock-docking requires at least one foreskin. Not that I know that directly, but, um,…oh never mind.

    1. lol. Don’t worry. The research writers have to do for books (and me in particular, being a straight female writing MM books) would make a sailor blush 😛

    2. Ulysses, you’re absolutely correct. I’m guessing it happens more in Europe than here in the US.

  2. Great post, Lou! I have thought a LOT about this subject over the past year (funnily enough, I never thought about the “whys” of it when I was only reading m/m, but have pondered it extensively since I began writing in the genre.)
    Anyway, I think all your reasons make total sense, and I feel similarly.
    I’ve also found that for me, men irl can feel very unsafe. And so writing men, and reading about men in Romance from a very close pov, is reassuring. I know these men, I trust them, and I can relax enough with them to be fully invested in the story. When they show tenderness or vulnerability or love, I am reassured that men in general are good.
    I guess we all have many reasons for loving m/m.
    I’m just happy to see the genre growing and doing so well 🙂

    1. So true! That’s why I wanted to create a little bit of exposure for it on my blog. I recently started writing MM romance too and I thought it was high time my blog audience got introduced to the best. 🙂

  3. That was great, Lou. You answered the questions I’ve pondered about…why I’ve become so addicted to MM romance in the last couple of years. But I still think I’m a gay man inside a heterosexual woman….ha. I’ve also decided it’s because I’ve been there done that for so many years and this is different and so interesting.

  4. Wow. This is a stellar post. This is exactly why I love M/M romance so much. Growing up, I always identified more with male characters than female ones, but it’s only been recently that I’ve realized that. I am innately drawn to romance but I just got so frustrated with traditional het romance that I was only reading books with romance aside from the main plot or with none at all. But I felt like I was finally home with M/M stories. I devour them and write them too. I also like it when there are strong female secondary characters, but that’s a whole other blog post, lol.

    1. Thank you, and I agree with you about the female supporting characters. Making them strong and interesting is something I’m mindful of in my writing.

  5. Thank you for this thought provoking article, Lou! I think you have a point or two. Actually, I was thinking along similar lines for a while now. I’m not sure about the perpective thing but it sounds interesting and is a line that should be followed. For me (personally) an element of or desire for real equality of the two partners in a relationship figures in, something that (most of the time and if it’s only physically) can’t be achieved in the het romances.

  6. This is definitely an interesting angle on the reasons why m/m genre may appeal to women. I certainly identified with the tomboy/gay man stuck in a woman part 😀
    My theory is that some women are just fed up with het romance and the idea that some other woman gets everything you ever wanted – again! (insert bitchyface here). Envious much? you’ll ask. Yes. Yes, I am. It’s just more tolerable if it’s two guys instead. Not to mention it’s HOT.
    I don’t like to generalize but I’ve noticed that m/m authors (at least those whose work I’ve read) tend to be less sappy, if at all, and sappy really gets on my nerves.

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