the true romantics of m/m (with edit)

I’ve had a couple of fascinating discussions with Sunita of Dear Author reviewing fame and John of Dreaming in Books about m/m romance.

In 140 characters or less, we’ve shared thoughts on a number of issues.  Such was my interest that I begged and pleaded with them to let me post about some of the topics here.  They agreed.  Naturally.

One of the first things I’d like to talk about is the theme of romance in the m/m genre.  No, I’m not kidding.  Stick with me here.

We’ve all read our fair share of m/m romance certainly; however, how many of these have really been romances in the ‘classic’ sense?  How many of these involve two ‘out’ protagonists simply falling in love?  How many focus on the ordinary, every day challenges of a developing relationship without any of the internal and external conflict associated with the couple being gay?


Let me put something else to you…

Of all the so-called classic romance stories you’ve read in the m/m genre, how many of those books were written by female authors?  How many were written by male authors?  How many by authors who identify as GQ/T*?

It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

It also reminds me of a situation in which Sean Kennedy and I find ourselves.

In a nutshell, there are some in this community who believe Sean and I are one in the same person.  In other words, Sean Kennedy is apparently the pseudonym I use for publishing my work and, yes, I’m well aware of the irony.

When asked why people perceive this, one of the main responses is ‘that his work is too romantic’.

Too romantic’?  The fuck??  Are these people suggesting a gay author can’t write ‘real’ romance?  Because that’s what it sure as hell sounds like to me.

It was this, together with my conversations with Sunita and John, which got me wondering about what others thought.

So?? Who do you think the true romantics of the m/m genre are?


Hmmm.  I’m wondering if I was too ambiguous with my question as some of you seem to think I was asking about romance and authors in a general sense.

To clarify, what I attempted to ask was if, based on your reading experience, who are the authors who write the ‘best’ romance tales in the m/m genre?  Is it women, men, GQ/T* people?  Who?

I’m putting this to you as I believe the notion a particular gender or sexuality can write more romantically is something that needs challenging and having open discussion about, hence the example of the situation in which Sean and I find ourselves.

BTW, this is something entirely different to saying Sean and I are the perfect examples for a guy who is romantic and a chick who not.  While this may be true in the broad sense, I’m sure I should be vaguely offended at everyone saying I’m not.  Rude bastards??

About Kris

Reads, rants, randoms & R+s. You've been warned. BTW, don't follow me if you're a GLBTQQphobic wanker. It won't end well. For you.
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45 Responses to the true romantics of m/m (with edit)

  1. Tam says:

    I can't really say who the true romantics are, but I sometimes prefer that kind of romance. Maybe I'm a romance purist. 🙂 Okay, sometimes it's good to have the outside forces, but for the most part, if every book is fighting against society, it gets a bit hard for me, as a straight woman, to relate. I do however relate to a slob and a neatnik moving in or a workaholic and a slacker or other couples issues that are not gay/straight issues, just two people in love issues.

    Sometimes when I write I feel obliged to throw in the external conflict because it seems to be expected in m/m. If they aren't standing up against the world, its not real m/m. I suppose the old adage of write what you know comes into account. I would assume gay male authors have that external conflict more in the forefront of their brains coping with it daily, than I would.

    I think there is room for both and I wouldn't want to see either fall by the wayside. Sometimes “you and me against the world” is perfect and sometimes “you and me against each other” is also good.

    Well, I've never MET Sean, but I did hear his voice and I texted him while I was with you in NYC so unless you had another iphone in the bathroom and were really pulling the wool over my eyes, that's just stupid. Especially the reason why. LOL Somehow Kris + writing romantic fiction just doesn't compute for me. Nothing personal hon. 🙂

  2. Chris says:

    Some random thoughts:

    Heh, having met you, I'm willing to bet any m/m you authored would be a hellalotta grittier than Sean's work. 🙂

    We met Andrew Grey at Yaoi-Con in 2010 (ie, we know he is a boyperson), and I think you'd be hard pressed to say his work isn't romantic – more romantic than, say, KA Mitchell's work.

    I'm fascinated by how many of the female authors of m/m romance identify as B and L.

  3. K. Z. Snow says:

    Clearly, if Sean's fiction is perceived as “too romantic,” you're not writing it. Don't those people know you?

    Yes, I'd say Andrew's work is romantic.

    Um . . . what is #GQ//*? (I might've misremembered that.)

  4. Tam says:

    Good point about Andrew Grey, Chris. I know, I know, seeing someone doesn't mean much 😉 but when you imagine the type of writer who writes the books authored by Andrew Grey, the guy we met is it. I couldn't imagine him not writing terribly romantic stories, it seems to fit his personality. (Now he's going to write a hardcore murder mystery just to prove me wrong. LOL)

  5. Tam says:

    Gender Queer KZ.

  6. Sean Kennedy says:

    If Kristobel wasn't romantic, she wouldn't be reading romance.

  7. Natasha says:

    Is this like the Sean is a girl thing? Coz I'm getting confused again. I know it doesn't take much. Having a baby causes you to lose brain cells and I've had three….yes I've only ever had 3 brain cells. So I'm lucky I still know how to tie my own shoes 🙂
    Okay someone thinks you are Sean, right? Eewwww! No offence Sean but really Joni Mitchell and op shop chic? Somehow it suits him but not you and so if you are the same person that's some schizophrenia you got going. And you aren't romantic like Sean is. I mean he is the biggest sook…. Have you even read his books! And well Hun, I love you and everything but nuclear fusion is scared of you…. No really I asked 🙂
    Seriously though…. I still think Sean is a 15 yr old girl with a crush on her English teacher…. Must be how he writes LOL!
    The reality of it is I don't give a shit! You can be several different people and I would still think you fab 🙂


  8. Mariana says:

    This has me really thinking what I consider romantic…

    There are authors whose stories do fit the bill of what you've described… LA Witt, Missy Welsh, Kate Sherwood (although the stuff that I've read is polyamorous), Chris Owen, most of ML Rhodes and KA Mitchell, that I don't necessarily consider romantic.

    KZ Snow's Visible Friend was for me a fantastically romantic story; I Just Play One on TV by AL Turner is another. These two stories were completely different but touched an emotional nerve for me, and were more of a “romance” than others I've read.

    As for the gender/sexuality I don't really keep track of and don't know for most of the authors I read. If they are extremely active online and have posted about themselves, I may have an idea, but for the most part I don't take note of it. I don't ever really think of it unless there's a discussion going on about something in particular.

    If you are Sean Kennedy, can we get more stories soon? LOL… I've been having Simon and Declan withdrawal and thinking of extinct animals all over Tasmania 🙂 That's a pretty funny rumor and I hadn't heard it, it's a pretty good one. At least it's a talented author 😀

  9. nichem says:

    Hmmm, don't know about the true romantics, but since you're Sean, can I get an autographed copy of Tigers and Devils plz?

  10. K. Z. Snow says:

    “If Kristobel wasn't romantic, she wouldn't be reading romance.”

    Aw, I just have to provoke her once in a while. She's ticklish that way. 😉

  11. Matthew says:

    I always thought romance actually needs a conflict, be it external or internal. If “love conquers all”, then there must be a fight of some sort. Recently, I read a book where there was no conflict for two protags. Bored me out of my skull.

  12. nic b says:

    I'm giving myself away as a compete sap here…. Carol Lynne is my guilty romance pleasure.

    I'm seeking help for it.

    Also, if Sean is you, I'll be totally pissed because he was going to be our world domination advisor. And, frankly, advising yourself in world domination is just weird.

  13. Kris says:

    Thanks for all the comments, but I think I was too ambiguous with my question so I've made an addition to the post.

    Thank you to please to be going back and having a rethink.

    Hey, I asked nicely! Which is more than I can say about some of the not-so-nice comments about my romance ability. *poutmope*

  14. Kris says:

    Tam: “… just two people in love issues.”

    Indeed. This is important I think to your great point about external conflict in m/m, experiences and expectations. In fact, I've actually got a post ready to go on this very topic. 🙂

    Chris: I'm the only one who's allowed to be random here… 😛 … so I'm going to ask you straight up about the examples of AG and KAM and what point you were making. Well??

    KZ: You are rude, AND you're not answering the question.

    GQ/T* means Gender Queer and Trans and all the variations thereof. 🙂

    Sean: “If Kristobel wasn't romantic, she wouldn't be reading romance.”

    Yeah! So there!

  15. Kris says:

    Tish: Don't worry, hun, Sean and I are definitely different people. I'm also not the one who's offended about the accusations. ;P Having said that, those who think I'm an aspiring author have rocks in their head.

    “I still think Sean is a 15 yr old girl with a crush on her English teacher.”

    I'm curious about what you mean by this. Please explain.

    Mariana: This is me weeping for joy about someone answering my question. ThankyouThankyouThankyou. <3 <3 <3

    “This has me really thinking what I consider romantic…”

    That's it exactly! What does this actually mean? Surely, it's different for everyone, therefore to define a story as being 'too' romantic is overly simplistic.

    Let's really think about the term and then ask why there is the belief a woman would be able to write a more classic romance than a man.

    “That's a pretty funny rumor and I hadn't heard it, it's a pretty good one. At least it's a talented author :D”

    Yeah, but he writes like a girl… apparently. *kiss, kiss, BB*

    Richelle: Get lost. Although I will ask the RL Sean to give you a copy… if, that is, you answer the question…

  16. Matthew says:

    Oh, to answer your question: How should we know? We have no idea if the author is he, her, whatever inbetween, TG MTF or FTM. *shrugs* And as we know, it doesn't matter what the author is saying him/herself. They will say the exact opposite next week.

  17. Kris says:

    Matthew: Do you think romance should have conflict because it is your preference as a reader or because that is what everyone generally believes?

    “We have no idea if the author is he, her, whatever inbetween, TG MTF or FTM.”

    Yet, wouldn't this make the whole Sean/me thing illogical and, in turn, the people who call him a hypocrite all fucktards?? Surely not. 😛

    In all seriousness, though, even if we have no idea what gender or sexuality the author identifies with, it doesn't stop people from making assumptions; for eg, a romantic romance means the author MUSt be a chick.

    Nic: Go back, read the addition to the post and then comment again.

    Also, of course, I can be the adviser too. That is indeed how awesome I am.

  18. Natasha says:

    Women write better romance men write better sex! Except for Sean, his books tend to be romantic. The heros get it on and then have to learn to live with it 🙂 that's romantic.

    As for Sean being a 15 year old girl….. I know he's not but his stories are witty and sarcastic and when I was at school we were all like that LOL! (maybe that should read bitchy and sarcastic) That and the whole Joni Mitchell, op shop chic thing. It just how I imagine Sean… Poor bastard LOL! He says he's not Simon but I have a strong suspicion he actually is and is in denial 😉


  19. nic b says:

    Hmmmm, I agree with Matthew. I guess like anything, generalisations can be made about which gender writes better, but it comes down to the individual author for me. I find that some men do focus on the sexual aspect of things (and sometimes that comes across as skanky porn for me), but I've read female authors who have given me the same skanky experience.

    In fact, some of the most horrific non-consensual (supposed-to-be-sexy-but-was-just-rape) stuff I've read was by women.

    What's my point… I know I've got one…

    I shop for my romance addiction based on the individual author. I notice that most of the authors on my bookshelves are women (or identify as women), but I think that might have more to do with how many women authors there are in this genre and not that they write better romances. Does that even make sense? I need a drink.

    Why do you ask such hard questions? *scowl*

  20. Jenre says:

    My first thought was 'well how on Earth do I know whether an author is male/female/trans* unless they come out and say so'. Then I started thinking about some of the authors where I know for damned certain which gender they are and I don't think it's possible to pigeonhole writers into a particular romantic style based on gender. For example:

    Rachel Haimowitz is a woman but her stories are very hard line. Some people have said her stories are very unromantic, although not me.


    Andrew Grey is a man but his stories have sometimes been so sweetly romantic, it's been too much for me.

    I think it's actually quite limiting to say that men can't write romantically and that women are better romance writers. It's like saying that women are not as good at detective fiction as men, when it's obvious that PD James and Ruth Rendall are just as good in the genre as Colin Dexter.

    I've been in touch with a male author recently and we've been exchanging emails about the erotic nature of his sex scenes. He told me that he's trying to tone down some of the more raw erotic content he's used to writing in his stories aimed at gay men, and make his stories and sex scenes more sensual and romantic because he knows that the female m/m readers prefer that. Are people going to be claiming that he's a woman now because he's writing in a more romantic style? Ridiculous!

    Also unless you can change your handwriting from looping curls to little spikes, and have managed to afford two separate houses in Perth. I think it's safe to say that you are not Sean!

  21. nichem says:

    This is a tough question because you've phrased it as best romance authors, and I'm not sure what's meant by *best*. If you mean *most romancey* by best, there are writers both male (Andrew Grey) and female (Carol Lynne) that write books heavy on romance, so I don't think it can be separated by gender. But then some of my favorite couples/ love stories like Adrien and Jake and Vic and Jacob aren't even from particularly romancey books, so how would that figure in? Maybe I'm still just confused by the question, lol. If the question is does a person's gender affect their ability to write romance, I'd say no.

    Also I'm not sure where the conflict issue fits into this, but like someone else mentioned, I need some sort of conflict or I get bored. But I tend to lie books heavy on angst, so that's just a personal preference. The conflict doesn't by any means have to revolve around the couple being gay, though. I just read a book where the conflict was that one of the MC's was a serial killer.

  22. K. Z. Snow says:

    Oh, I see what you mean.

    I get the impression (and I could very well be wrong) that lesbian writers of m/m gravitate toward the fantasy/paranormal subgenres and tend to de-emphasize erotic content – for what that’s worth. *shrug*

    Beyond that, I find it virtually impossible to pin certain sex and romance levels to specific genders and orientations. Are trans gay men more into action/adventure and hardcore kink, and less into romance, than biological gay men? Maybe … but then there’s Rick Reed, whose fiction ranges from gritty to deeply emotional. The work of gender-queer writers is by far the hardest to define, because there are so many gradations of g-q! Some straight female writers who are only a teensy bit g-q (if at all) are heavily into explicit and/or BDSM sex, while other straight female writers who are further along the g-q scale (like me, perhaps) are more into internal conflict and relationship development.

    What I’m basically saying, I guess, is that writers are people and people are individuals, and I have a hard time making sweeping generalizations based on gender and orientation “categories.”

  23. Angelia says:

    My name won't be coming up on this one. I find the “two people having in-love issues” incredibly dull. (I have hurled more than one Anita Blake because all she did was have sex and angst about having sex)

    I'm not sure who I would say are the romantics of the field. doubt I read enough.

    Meet cute, fuck like bunnies (or just pant about it), big misunderstanding, more sex, happy ending=romance. And I prefer more of a story, no matter what genre I'm reading.

  24. Matthew says:

    @Kris: It's definitely my preference. I think a conflict propels the story. It doesn't have to be an open conflict between two MCs or other characters. I mean a conflict in broader sense – it can be a tension in the family. Peer pressure. Society's expectations. Even the Big Misunderstanding is a conflict.
    I think I read enough stories to not make assumptions on anything. Unless I come across a story that screams “The author has never spoken with a man and writes about chicks with dicks!” Then the author's gender is pretty much clear.
    It's been a rough day and I can't get my head around the you/Sean thing. Everyone knows Sean is a twink in blue mesh.

  25. Sean Kennedy says:

    Kris IS a twink in blue mesh.

  26. Kris says:

    Tish: I hadn't really thought about it that way, but, yes, seeing two fall in love and live with it is romantic. 🙂

    “He says he's not Simon but I have a strong suspicion he actually is and is in denial ;-)”

    No comment.

    Nic: “I notice that most of the authors on my bookshelves are women (or identify as women), but I think that might have more to do with how many women authors there are in this genre and not that they write better romances.”

    Interesting. Very interesting. I need to think on this point a bit more. Thanks Nic.

    Oh, and in case it wasn't obvious, yes it made sense.

    Jen: “I think it's actually quite limiting to say that men can't write romantically and that women are better romance writers.”

    I absolutely agree. Unfortunately I do think it likely people will suspect the male author to be female when his style/tone changes.

    One wonder if it would be better for him in the long run if he makes a big announcement to his readers that he's going to be writing more 'romantically'? Maybe Sean needs to start labeling himself as a 'romance writer' so as to make it obvious he's not with all those 'other' male or erotic authors? It all seems so ridiculous.

    BTW, my handwriting is heaps better than Sean's chicken scratches. 😛

  27. Kris says:

    Richelle: 'Most romancey' is a good way of explaining what I meant by 'best'. Also, I'm stealing it.

    “If the question is does a person's gender affect their ability to write romance, I'd say no.”

    That is the question. I wonder, though, if we might be in the minority on this issue. Perhaps I can ask the mods at several of the m/m groups at goodreads to put up some polls. The results of those might be interesting.

    Oh, and I've written myself a note to blog about conflict in romance.

    KZ: “Beyond that, I find it virtually impossible to pin certain sex and romance levels to specific genders and orientations.”

    Yet readers do seem to make generalisations about this. That's it. I'm definitely doing those polls.

    Angelia: “My name won't be coming up on this one.”

    🙂 I doubt it as well. Having said that, I think there would be readers, including myself, who would argue 'Alive on the Inside' was deeply emotional and romantic on a whole other level.

    It's all about a reader's interpretation of 'romance' as well.

  28. Kris says:

    Matthew & Sean: Maybe I AM the blue-meshed twink.

    Maybe Sean is really who he says he is – a complete and utter sap who writes romance, and I'm some twinky kid who has taken on a bitchy chick persona.

    Stranger things have happened in m/m.

  29. Emilie says:

    I've read fine books by authors all across the various spectrums. I think the books that have some “Man vs. Society” conflict in them are more realistic. I've found many female authors who empathize well. I'm pretty sure I'm more political about GLBT topics than some readers and writers are. I don't think it's any one type of person who can write more romantic books. I think it's an individual thing.

  30. Sean Kennedy says:

    My handwriting shows character.

  31. Kris says:

    Em: “I don't think it's any one type of person who can write more romantic books. I think it's an individual thing.”

    Yup. I think the idea that women are able to write 'better' romance is probably due to them being the traditional or being perceived to be the traditional authors of romance. I'd also suggest it had to do with society's ingrained belief that women are softer, insightful and touchy feely, thus they're all about romance.

    *rolls eyes*

    Sean: Your handwriting is crap. The end.

  32. orannia says:

    The book I'm currently reading (Jane Davitt & Alexa Snow's Accidentally In Love) is all about the relationship and falling in love. For me, the second half of the book is…dragging slightly. Maybe because it is lacking in conflict. Not everyone rubs along smoothly all of the time. I like conflict. It's…realistic. It doesn't (oh please no) need to be a stalker, or a suspense. Internal conflict works better than societal conflict because I like following the growth of the characters. As to who writes them better? IDK. I never really know who it behind the author name.

  33. Kris says:

    Orannia: I just finished a story with a stalker a couple of hours ago. It reminded me of the glory days of 2009 and 2010.

    And, yep. I'll definitely be doing that post about conflict now.

  34. Matthew says:

    OK, you two twinks, shut up! My poor simple brain just can't deal with that many identities!

  35. Kris says:

    But that's the whole point!

  36. this is what happens when i disappear after having a baby for 10 months O_o

  37. Kris says:

    Who the hell are you again??

  38. angel flower says:

    I'm new to your blog, just stumbled upon it today, but thought I would comment. I'm a little confused here after reading all the comments but hey lol I have only been reading the m/m genre for a few months now and I don't think I have read anything yet by a male author. My opinion though is that I don't think it matters if you are male or female. I don't think one gender makes a better romance writer than the other. I think it has more to do with your personality and your way of thinking. Either your a romantic or your not. Now that doesnt mean you can't write romance if you are not a romantic, but I think it would show in the style of the writing to a point.

  39. Kris says:

    Hey hun. Welcome to the madhouse! Confusion is pretty usual when you read the comments here. 🙂

    “Now that doesnt mean you can't write romance if you are not a romantic, but I think it would show in the style of the writing to a point.”

    Excellent point, Angel Flower. I think it is very true to say that your personality and interests would come through in the style of your writing and in the story building as well.

    While gender and/or sexuality may have played a role in the development of your personality, it doesn't mean that you actually write with your genitalia, etc.

  40. Matthew says:

    @kris: “it doesn't mean that you actually write with your genitalia”

    ROFL and amen to that!

    Although there are some books out there that seem to be written by genitalia. And some of them obviously didn't have the rest of the body attached.

  41. Kris says:

    *snort* True that.

  42. angel flower says:

    Just wanted to add a thanks for the welcome Kris!

  43. Kris says:

    I always welcome new minions, hun. 😉

  44. Anonymous says:

    I think there are different kinds of romantic. To me, Andrew Grey's type is a sweet-enough-to-cause-insulin-shock romantic. But lots of people like his books. Aleks Voinov's type is uber-masculine romantic, i.e., they are vulnerable to their emotions but tough as nails and don't really want to admit it even though they crave the feelings. Sean's type is the romance of everyday, the can't-believe-it's-happening-and-reciprocated type. I could go on, but you get the idea.

    None of these approaches line up with gender identity or sexual orientation to me; they're more about personality and emotional psychology, as I see it.


  45. Kris says:

    Sunita: “… they're more about personality and emotional psychology…”

    As I put it so delicately to Angel Flower, you don't actually write with your genitalia – with the exception of body painting which is its own form of self-expression.


    So, yes, personality definitely has an integral role in the writing of romance and indeed in any form of self-expression.

    Interestingly, my psych was telling me today that it's increasingly believed personality is a major factor mentally and emotionally. Nice to be able to put it to an example other than the workings – or lack thereof – of my own brain. 🙂

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