Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Man Who Gets It

By Marc Nobbs (Guest Blogger)

First off, thanks to Lisabet for hosting me today. I do appreciate the opportunity to speak to you all. I want to begin with a quote :

Bottom line, this is a well written romance written by a man who gets it.

That’s what Acquanetta Ferguson said in her review of Kissed by a Rose for the San Diego Examiner.

A Man Who Gets it. I actually cribbed that for my website. You see, here’s the thing – there are an awful lot of women who simply don’t believe that men can write romance novels. Common consensus is that romance is a genre written by women, for women, and men should stay the hell out of it.

Okay, so that’s a stereotypical generalisation, but it’s true that the genre is dominated by female writers and female editors and that the vast majority of romance novel readers are women. The UK’s oldest and best know romance publisher, Mills & Boon, insist that all their authors use female pen names – even the very small number of men that write for them. And before their untimely demise, Black Lace even went as far as to refuse to publish books by men.

But you’re not really a man. You’re a woman with a gimmick.

Seriously, I’ve actually had e-mails to this effect. People who’d read one of my books and refused believe it could possibly have been written by a man. But I assure you, I am a man. I have a penis and everything. I’d offer to show you a picture, but, you know... I even have a ‘Man Drawer’ in my shed where I keep all my ‘Man Things’ –screwdrivers, pliers, the pump for blowing up my son’s football, that sort of thing.

You must be gay then. Or a closet gay.

That’s the other response I often get. Because, obviously, only gay men could come up with romantic plots and believable romantic interactions between characters. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I’m not gay either. Not even a little bit. I’m just your average, heterosexual, married father of one who happens to be a bit of an old romantic at heart.

Truth is, I sort of fell into writing romance. I certainly didn’t sit down one day and say, “You know what, I think I should write romance novels.” When I first started this writing lark as a hobby back in the late nineties, I wrote what I suppose a lot of people would have expected from a young, horny twenty-something bloke – sex stories. Simple, let’s get buck naked and f*** stories. I read loads of them in the old Usenet groups and figured “I can do that.”

The first few were pretty bad and had very little in the way of plot or characterisation. Those first few are so bad that I haven’t even put them on my website. And when you read some of the ones that I have put on my website, it makes you realise how bad those first ones must have been. Take a look at Heaven in Leather or Memorable Holiday to see what I mean. Both are ‘stroke’ stories – that is, stories that serve one purpose only, if you know what I mean. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, eh?)

But here’s the thing – these short stokers never felt very… satisfying.

I’ve always been an avid reader – from a very early age – and as such I’ve been brought up on great stories, great plots and great characters. So writing stories where the characters were stereotypes and the plot was little more than a series of events designed to get the characters naked and screwing as quickly as possible, was never going to be enough for me. It took me some time, but eventually I graduated from simple short stroke stories to longer stories where I took the time to develop the characters and make them more like real people. These stories had better, stronger plots that weren’t all about getting to the sex act. Try Claire, Sophie, or Phone Calls to see what I mean – they are all freely downloadable from my website. Although, be warned – Claire WILL make you cry. I guarantee it.

The stories still had sex in them, though. Quite a bit of sex if I’m honest. But they also became, over time, more romantic in tone. After all, that's what leads to great sex in the first place, right?

The other thing that happened the more I wrote is that I got better at the mechanics of writing. I joined an online smut-writer’s group and learned all that stuff I didn’t learn in all those creative writing courses that I never took. I learnt what to avoid and what to strive for. I learned that the sex in a story should be secondary to telling the story. I learned that a good story depends on great characters that the reader cares about. And I learned that if you, as the writer, don’t give two hoots about your characters, then your readers won’t either.

The culmination of all this learning was Reunion, written in 2004 and available to download for free on my website. It’s the story of a boy and girl who never quite got together as teenagers, and then meet up again ten years later.

It’s a decent story. Not perfect by any means – but it was certainly the best thing I’d produced up to that point – even if I didn’t feel confident enough about its qualities to submit it for publication. I fell a little bit in love with the heroine, Kelly, as I was writing her and I hope it shows. I tend to fall a little bit in love with all my book’s heroines.

Reunion has many qualities that have become my hallmarks. The hero is not your stereotypical alpha-male romantic hero – he’s just an ordinary bloke who’s following his heart and doing the best he can. The heroine is normally strong and independent – the kind of woman I’m usually attracted to. And the primary Point of View character is hero – not the heroine.

And that last point is, I think, the reason that Ms Ferguson described me as a “man who gets it”. I don’t try and copy what most female romance authors do. I don’t try and tell the story from the heroine’s point of view. I don’t try and get into her head and describe what she’s feeling. Instead I give the reader an insight into what’s going on in the hero’s head. I’m not trying to write “women’s fiction” or “out do” the huge number of excellent female romance writers. I’m trying to offer something different to the romance genre. Something fresh and exciting. And, I hope, I’ve achieved it.

To go back to Ms Ferguson’s review of Kissed by a Rose, she said...

If a woman had written this the male lead would have been an alpha male which most women love in fantasy. In this Marc knocks that fantasy on its ass. He writes his romance with a bit more realism, and quite frankly it is a refreshing change. As this is written from the male point of view, we as women reading this get to see how the other half of the human population thinks and reacts to love.

I am very, very proud of Kissed by a Rose. It’s a fantasy to some extent – I mean, how many guys ever meet their movie-star idol, let alone get to date them – but it’s also grounded with as much realism as I could cram into it.

I wanted to write a story where the reader was never entirely sure about the heroine and her motives and I think I pulled it off. I wanted to write a story where the reader would see the hero hurting and feel his pain, and given I had my beta-readers in tears at more than one point in the book, I think I pulled that off as well.

I recently re-read the book in preparation for its print release, and it still stirred in me the emotions I wanted in the places I wanted. And it still gave me a warm glow at the end. So yeah, I’m damn proud of it.

Romantic fiction, even Erotic Romance, isn’t a man’s world. Not by a long way. I’m one of very few men drowning in a sea of women (damn, now there’s an image to take to bed with me tonight) but I hope I’m proving to those who ‘take the risk’ and read my books that men, or at least this man, can write romantic fiction and can do a good job of it. But, I suppose, ultimately, that’s up to the romance reading public to decide.

So, what can you expect from a Marc Nobbs novel? Well, take Reunion¸ (did I mention you can download it free on my website?) which despite being one of my earlier works and not as ‘polished’ as my latest releases, does contain many of the traits I’ve become known for.

It’s got two very likable leads in Matt and Kelly – Matt was described as one early reader as the ‘nicest man in the history of smut, ever’, and while Kelly tends to split opinions for much of the book, ultimately readers love her as much as I do. It’s a passionate story, littered with hot sex scenes but in the end it’s just got a really good plot full of twists and turns that lead to a climatic (and happy) ending.

It’s also fairly dialogue heavy at times. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told that I’m ‘good’ at dialogue. Hell, I’ve even been told more than once that I should turn my hand to scriptwriting for movies – not that I’d ever expect any of them to ever get made. I can’t see Kiera Knightly wanting to act out some of the scenes I write. Although, if I could cast Sasha Grey...

But these are my hallmarks. The hero everyone loves. The heroine we have our doubts about. The twisty, turny plot that races towards the big ending. The passionate, heart-felt, loving sex scenes. The great dialogue. You’ll find them all in a Marc Nobbs novel.

You can learn more about me on my Website. I also blog regularly on topics ranging from my writing to what's going on in the world around me as well as hosting guest posts. And, if you tweet, you can catch me on Twitter where I'm @marcnobbs


Unknown said...

Hi Lisabet,

Thanks for hosting me today. I hope your readers get something out of it.


Jade Archer said...

A man that gets it...mmm...I'm not sure. I think anyone with your skill is just a damn good author that gets it. I enjoyed reading you post, but I think it wouldn't matter if you were a man, a woman or a hairy a**ed wombat, your characterisations and dialogue skills are to be admired! The fact you write romance...a very nice little bonus for us lovers of all things romantic! Thanks-you Marc for having a romantic heart and delievering a lovely, different approach to our bookshelves!

Nina Pierce said...

I'm not sure where it became "accepted" that men write action/suspense and women write romance. I've never picked up (or put down a book) because the author's sex didn't fit the genre. Good writing is good writing. An author who gets a visceral response from me when I'm reading definitely gets my "buy author's next book" vote. Good luck with your print release.

Kathy Otten said...

I think it's great that you write romance. I agree with Nina's comment, "Good writing is good writing." Leigh Greenwood writes romance and is a former RWA president. I think men who write romance just widen the door for romance readers and tell men that it's socially acceptable for a man to read a romance. Best of luck to you in your career.

Mary Corrales said...

Quite an insightful post. Thank you. I've never read a romance novel written by a man, at least not that I know of, but you've intrigued me to check out your book. Good luck!

Unknown said...

I enjoyed your post. I discovered years ago that a romantic novel I thoroughly enjoyed was written by a man who used a female pen name. I suspect there are more of you out there, but few enough to man up and admit it. :)

Although I don't question my husband's love, I doubt anyone would want to read a book where the attempts at romantic dialogue would be:
"Your thighs are a little larger than the other women I've dated," or "You look beautiful in the dark."
Yes, these are true statements from our dating years. As you can see, I had to dig around a little for the true meaning, or at least one I could live with. Did he really mean my thighs were bigger than the women, or bigger than their thighs...I settled on thighs as it was the least insulting.

Was he trying to tell me I looked lovely in muted light, or does he actually find me more appealing with the lights off. *lol*.

Thank God, I can read a good romance book and pretend I'm a heroine with a hero who knows all the right things to say.

Again...I enjoyed your post and I'll be on the lookout for your books.

Unknown said...

How wonderful to hear about a man writing romance and from the male POV. Like the above post, I may have read some under an assumed name but never knew it. My hat is certainly off to you, for I think men can write romantic interludes, and write them well. And we all like to know what is going on in their head at the time. Er, you know what I mean.
Your novels sound fascinating and like terrific reads. I'll certainly order one.
Thank you so much for sharing with us, Marc. You're also a sweet guy.

Lisabet Sarai said...

Hello all,

Yesterday I tried to post a comment welcoming you, Marc, but Blogger just would not cooperate!

Great comments, everyone! (Ginger, as usual you had me in stitches!)

Lorrie, you're right. He is a sweet guy.


Unknown said...

Jade, Nina, Kathy, Mark, Ginger, Lorrie,

Many thanks for you kind words. I know I'm late checking back in but I've had a busy few days since Wednesday. Personal issues on the one hand, and on the other my author copies of the print version of "Kissed by a Rose" turned up Wednesday afternoon! Coolness. Now I've got an excuse to read it all over again. lol

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