A Pen By Any Other Name Would Still Sell?
Yes, I’m trying to be clever here, playing off the Shakespeare quotation. Taking on another pen name is something that I’ve been contemplating for a while now. In fact, this blog post was originally going to be about sex in M/M stories, only it seems that topic has mushroomed in the hive mind of writers lately and everyone is blogging about it! I don’t know as I have anything interesting or new to say along those lines. The general consensus seems to be that you should include as much sex as your characters and the story itself demands, and that you shouldn’t concern yourself overly much with reader expectations as you can’t please everyone.
Sounds like good advice.
But the upshot of reading all these blog posts got me thinking about the kinds of stories I write. Let’s face it, M/M romance, while becoming decidedly more popular, is still a niche genre. And I find myself wondering if I will still have stories I want to tell along these lines ten or fifteen years from now.
I’ve been contemplating branching out into other genres for some time now. I’ve even gone so far as to select a pen name, create social platforms—heck, I’ve even had some head shots done! Part of the reason I’m dragging my feet about writing a M/F romance is because, well, frankly, I love M/M romance. I love reading it. I love writing it. I love the dynamics between two strong leads that is unapologetic and does not feel the need to explain itself. I love the built-in conflict that often keeps the leads apart without stretching the point of believability.
I love men.
I like writing from a male viewpoint. I’m not a hearts and flowers kind of girl; in fact, one of the complaints I’ve received in the past is that I didn’t have my characters declare undying love for each other at any point in a story. Well, I’m more of a ‘show me’ than ‘tell me’ person in real life, too. I love the fact that when I write male characters I get to explore certain aspects of my own personality without straying too far into self-insertion into the story. Most of my stories start as self-insert ideas—I think that’s true of any writer. The key to making your characters real is to take that one step further and make them individuals as distinct from yourself—and yet carrying a piece of you in them.
When I announced to the boyfriend that I was seriously considering writing a heterosexual romance, his response was, “But however will you write from a woman’s point of view?”
I punched him on the shoulder. Lightly.
The point is, I don’t just have male-male romance stories within me waiting to get out. Part of me would really like to write a heroine that I don’t want to slap silly twenty pages into the story for being such an idiot. I’d like to write a heroine that I can admire, one that I’d enjoy having lunch with. But part of the reason I haven’t done this so far is that I fear I will cave into writing what I know: that is, I will unconsciously depict my heroine with all the tropes and conventions that most of us grew up reading our entire lives.
You know what I mean. She’ll be feisty, smart, independent, and impossibly beautiful. Her hair will either be the color of sand or jet black. Her eyes will be either pale violet or sapphire blue. She will never need to watch her weight or pay attention to what she eats. She is unaware of how gorgeous she is and she never needs makeup. She will always have no less than two men interested in her at any time. And all her brains and independence will go out the window as soon as she falls in love.
See why I read M/M romances? I just can’t deal with that sort of heroine. I know there are others out there believe me, but most of them aren’t in romances, and romances are what I write. I also know you recognized this pinnacle of perfection when I described her, didn’t you? Admit it.
The other reason I haven’t pursued this venture yet is because I’ve been working very hard making a name for myself as Sarah Madison, author of M/M romances. Hot Men in Hot Water. To change gears now is to lose momentum. To have to start all over, building a new platform, making a new name for myself. In theory, it should be easier the next go round, as I should know the ropes, right? But the truth is, it feels like I would be subdividing my time and making my identity even smaller, and lessening the chances of either pen name being the success I would like it to be.
I feel it’s necessary though. I’m not trying to hide one style of writing from another audience by choosing different pen names. Sarah Madison is not ashamed to know Madison Dean, and vice versa. It’s just I think I need to make it easier for the reader who wants to pretend that the other genre doesn’t exist—and for someone to know that when they pick up a title with one author’s name on the cover, what they are going to get.
I love the novels by Elizabeth Peters. If you haven’t read Crocodile on the Sandbank, run out and get it. It is a delight to read and you will love Amelia Peabody and Radcliffe Emerson (and quickly devour the rest of the series). I don’t really care for Barbara Michaels as an author. But they are the same person. EP writes very different stories from BM, however. I know when I pick up a book by Elizabeth Peters what I’m going to get. And I’m cool with that.
In the meantime, I’m continuing to write as Sarah Madison because that’s where my heart is at the moment. But Madison Dean is taking shape, for that time in the future when she’s ready to launch her debut.
You can find Sarah Madison (and all her links) on her website at http://www.sarahmadisonfiction.com
Her latest release is The Boys of Summer , now available on Amazon.
Blurb: Working for a California-based film production company, David McIntyre is the go-to man for matching the right location to the right project for the right price. On an extended trip to Hawaii, he hires Sutton’s Air Service to cart him all around to some of the most exotic locations in the South Pacific. During one of those trips, a freak tropical storm forces them to make a crash landing, leaving both men stranded without a radio and with very little in the way of food and water. Rick Sutton’s injuries make it imperative that they be rescued soon, and David finds himself calling on all his professional skills to keep both of them alive.
It takes a vivid dream about WW2 however, to make David realize that he has real feelings for Rick—more than just his natural concern that both of them get out of this mess alive. But putting his heart on the line might be the greatest risk David has ever taken—does he have the courage to make it before time runs out on both of them?
*** Contest: ***
Just leave a comment and contact email address for a chance to win a free eBook copy of The Boys of Summer. Contest ends June 25th and winner will be notified via email.
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