Don’t get me wrong, I have meltdowns—all varieties, for all the right and wrong reasons—but they are usually very private affairs. If life gets too much to handle, I have a close group of friends with whom I can whine and wail, pound fists, clutch my ample bosom and otherwise go off the rails in a spectacular train wreck way.
You know the kind of meltdown I’m talking about—the one where no amount of ‘there-there, sweetie’, no ‘buck-up-buckys’, no huggles and smoochies can yank you out of a funk so deep it rivals the Grand Canyon.
The Mariana Trench! Yes, that one!
So, you ask… now what? It’s reviews, isn’t it?
Is it the review that claims “she uses big words” or the one where a character was shorter than the other so that made him girly and the reviewer just couldn’t deal? Or the one where the guy is a jockey and the gal is 5’7″, yet they still manage to work out a satisfying accommodation—that one set off a Richter scale of naysayers among the M/F genre trope devotees.
Yup, I have a list, perhaps longer than most because I tend to (ahem) use words of more than two syllables on occasion, and I write transgressive (no guaranteed HEA or even HFN) using a challenging narrative structure. Not always, but apparently enough that it causes sympathetic meltdowns amongst some readers.
My favorite was the time when a self-styled mental health worker (not degreed, mind you, just “familiar with”) who went on an awesome rant about a character who repeated a mistake in judgment twice, who should have used communication to work out his issues, who should have known his relationship with a particular character was unhealthy… That review led to a follow-up blog rant (hers, not mine) of truly epic proportions.
That I didn’t write the book her way? Nope, that’s not my problem today (or any day as a matter of fact).
My issue is how too many female readers assume that the male characters in homoerotic lit should behave in ways that fit a feminine paradigm of being in touch with feelings, with being quick to clamor aboard the communication bandwagon, to ruminate ad nauseum over their inner angst to the exclusion of everything else (career, sports, male friendships) and who would never, ever jump into a relationship without carefully weighing the pros and cons of suitability or a host of other metrics that eschew passion, lust and the sheer entertainment value of a once and done quickie. I call it The Bella Syndrome.
My issue is that I’m accused of writing characters who are “too real” (as if that’s a bad thing) and, to be honest, I have no idea what to say to that. When did the literary equivalent of photoshopping a character into an idealized feminine image of alpha maleness take precedence over telling a story that simply resonates with one’s life experiences? When did we license and constrain a story about the human condition into one that narrowly defines and objectifies the male populace?
When did we lose sight of everyman? When did he become invisible and emasculated? When did he become housebroken and subservient to the cult of celebrity? When did yummy replace strong, when did talking replace doing, when did Mars go into retrograde and never re-emerge?
All I can do is listen to my characters when they tell me their stories. As a scribe, as an outlier to a community about which I care but can never fully embrace, it truly remains my honor to know there are those who appreciate my efforts.
This review for The Wrong Side of Right suggests I am on the right path:
“…this is not cookie cutter male-male romance. These are gritty, sensual characters who work hard for their pleasure, written about in the sublime language of inner turmoil, masculine ambition, and relentless sexual drive. It’s the wrong side of right, but it is oh, so right.” ~~Alex, Rainbow Book Reviews