Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Maturity and M/M Romance, Part I

Victor J. Banis,
with only a fraction of his output.

I asked the esteemed gentleman above as well as other writers for their opinions on older authors of, and characters in, m/m romance fiction. Is there an unspoken prejudice against one or the other or both? Are female authors more sensitive to the issue of age? My September 10 post will give you more specifics on what I was angling for, but I pretty much let my guests decide how they wanted to approach the topic. Here's what they had to say. (And I apologize for any wonky formatting. Blogger does not like absorbing various blocks of text that aren't all the same, and I'm afraid I don't have the tech skills to correct that!)

I think the reason we have youthful heroes in romances is one simple factor—most people don't want to read about someone, of a similar age to their parents, having sex? Hence, we have young, super attractive men in every romance novel. I do like to read about men with a bit of snow on the roof as well.

As a writer, I tend to keep my age to myself because I don't believe it makes any difference to the reader, or it shouldn't. For me, the age of an author makes no difference, so that translates to the way I handle the revelation. I'm not sure how I'd lose credibility as a writer if someone knew my age. To me, logic tells me the opposite. More experience, etc.

I've written explicit sex scenes featuring men over forty and will continue to push that dynamic. I write for Boxer Falls, the Gaytime Drama, and my favorite characters to write for are all over 50 or nearing it. There is a maturity and less superficiality with men that age. They aren't so worried about their hair or their abs, and more concerned with their partner. I find that enormously liberating as a writer.

I suppose I've never made an issue of revealing my age, because of the subculture of youth in ebooks in general. Attending Gay Rom Lit last year showed me that my entire thinking process on the subject was off, because there were more people there who looked like me, than not. I have gray hair and have some pounds on me that I wish weren't there. Those were the two factors I was most concerned about (to the point of coloring my hair before going to New Orleans), not about the number of years I've walked the earth.

As I say to anyone who asks, I've lived every minute of those years. If my age precludes me from writing what I write, I haven't seen that rule written anywhere. As my mama used to say, "I might be old, but I ain't dead yet." The interpretation of old is in the mind of the beholder. I'm not old 'til they carry me away. LOL

My newest release, For Men Like Us, is available at Dreamspinner Press. 

Email address: Brita@britaaddams.com
Twitter: @britaaddams
Fan Page

Kayelle Allen

When KZ asked me to write about ageism in MM Romance, it took me a few days to decide which angle to use. At first, I considered writing about hiding my own age as a beginning writer to prevent a prejudiced view of a grandmother writing erotic fiction. Instead, I decided to discuss the aging character I know best: Luc Saint-Cyr.

Luc is sixty-three. He's been a character in six books, and the romantic hero of two. In the interest of full disclosure, Luc is also immortal. A created being called a Sempervian, he lives, ages throughout a normal lifespan (about 120 years in his universe), and then dies, only to be "reborn" in his early twenties -- the prime of his life. He's lived over twelve thousand years. If any man could claim he was old, it's Luc.

Unlike his fellow stimulus-craving immortals, Luc prefers calm. That's not to say he doesn't desire sex. His stamina is legendary, even among peers. Sex and the performance of it has never been an issue. What he does suffer from is an opinion that he's too old for a mortal to love. He must hide his real age or face retribution from fellow immortals who move among humans as part of a plot to rule them, but a few select mortals know. This hero's age separates him from others. He must hide not only his age but also his nature. Small wonder when he meets a newly created immortal who falls head over heels in love with him, Luc doubts the younger man knows what he wants. Luc experiences ageism in reverse. He has issues with his lover's youth. He believes that a younger person cannot know his own heart. In the book Surrender Love, Luc must face his own prejudices about age, and overcome them to find love.

Writing a gay hero in his sixties who falls in love with a twenty-something made me look at my own beliefs and ideals. Could I do his younger hero justice? I knew I could show Luc's strength, but could I show his fragility without making him weak? The book won the 2010 EPIC award for Erotic Science Fiction Romance, and has been a best seller. Three years later I still get emails asking when Luc and his young sweetheart will have another book. I think I did him justice. I think readers crave a hero who knows his heart and is willing to embrace and overcome his doubts -- no matter what his age.

Kayelle Allen is an award-winning, multi-published author. Her heroes and heroines include immortal role-playing gamers, warriors who purr, and agents who find the unfindable--or hide it forever. She is known for unstoppable heroes, uncompromising love, and unforgettable passion.

Where to find Kayelle:
Homeworld http://kayelleallen.com
Facebook http://facebook.com/kayelle.allen
Facebook Page http://facebook.com/kayelleallen.author
Twitter http://twitter.com/kayelleallen

When I Grow Too Old to Dream…

Which is never going to happen. Interesting topic, though, especially for an old fart like myself. I do think ageism is built in but not unavoidable in romance fiction, and especially so in m/m romance. I think in hetero romance, as in movies, it’s okay for the man to be along in years. I don’t know if that is because women really do find older men attractive, or the folks making the movies (mostly older men) like to think that is so. And books today sort of follow the leader. On the other hand, I think Sean Connery is still hot. Ditto Catherine Deneuve, who didn’t really achieve beauty, in my opinion, until she was in her 50s. Likewise Barbara Stanwyck. Am I the only one who thinks Brad Pitt is improving as the years add on?

Sadly, I do think gay men are more youth-and-beauty conscious than straight women. I mean here, in terms of possible partners. Forget The Shadow, the real secret to invisibility is to reach the age of 60 and walk into a gay bar – trust me, no one will see you.
However, I have no reluctance to letting anyone know my age. They can take one glance and see I’m not Tinker Bell, so what difference does a particular number make?

As I writer, I take a certain amount of pride in writing about old men. In Cooper’s Hawk, I never specify the narrator’s age but it’s obvious he’s an old codger. The sex happens in his memories, and though not explicit, it is (I hope) romantic. In The Canals of Mars, one of the two men is in his 60s. (As a funny aside, an editor wrote to tell me I understand the viewpoint of an older man. Ha!) All the way back in the 60s, when I was in my twenties, I was writing about mature men – In Gothic Gaye, one of the C.A.M.P. adventures. I don’t think I ever exactly told the Baron’s age but it’s clear he is no “chicken”:

The carefully combed hair was nearly all gray, with only a few strands of a darker shade scattered here and there. The face smiling back at him… was a mature face… but the high forehead, the rugged cheekbones, the firm set of the chin and mouth, and the shockingly vivid blue eyes, were…ageless.

To tell the truth, age is one of those things I rarely think about. I grew up in a large, multi-generational family in which the generations always mixed. I’m usually flummoxed when someone asks me how old such-and-such is. I never know, and am terrible at trying to guess.

 I’ve known guys who were already cool at age 14, and guys who remained a-holes no matter the years. It’s just a number. It tells you about as much about a person as that number you pull from the machine at the deli counter tells you about the store’s roast beef.  Or maybe I should have said salami…

Just because I am an old fart, I figured it might be a good idea to take KZ’s suggested questions as a guideline for this post – short-term memory loss, ya know. Now, I can only answer these questions as just an old, lady fart, not an old, gay fart, and my answers are strictly my antiquated viewpoint.  So, on to the questions.

Is ageism a built-in, unavoidable factor in all romance fiction? 
I think so, at least, most romances in the traditional, het sense. That is, you may have an older hero, but, heaven forefend if you have an older female/heroine. Unless we’re talking "women’s fiction," I believe that female readers still feel more comfortable with the younger (20s to 30s) main characters. 

I don’t believe it’s as great a factor in m/m romance. I’d have to say as a reader, the age of the characters in this genre doesn’t impact on me in the same way. I find that having more experienced males actually appeals to me. Their life history involving Stonewall, AIDS, and massive homophobia in the media, gives them a more rounded personality and back story.

I’ve never hidden my age. Even though I haven’t personally endured what may have happened to gay writers/readers, I feel that my life experience adds to my credibility as a writer. I can empathize even more so with older, gay characters, writers, readers because I had/have friends and family members whose lives were affected by the events of the 20th century.  Because their lives were impacted, my life was also, to a degree, changed. As far as detractors go, I’ve never personally had to deal with this.

I would like to see more m/m romance featuring mature men, for the reasons stated above.

I suspect ageism is a factor in all romance fiction currently. Maybe it will get better someday--who knows? It doesn't seem quite as bad with m/m romance, but I’m basing that solely on the number of stories I’ve personally read involving older men who'd been married before, had raised families and were now starting over. And, yes, they were all, for the most part, surprisingly young fathers who looked amazingly good considering their not-really-that-advanced ages! Still, these books definitely outnumber the m/f romances involving older heroines that I’m aware of. This is part of why I enjoy writing paranormal. Age is a lot less important when you’re a vampire!

I didn't used to think about how my age or appearance—or gender—might affect my credibility as a writer. I started out writing romantic suspense. It never occurred to me I had to look like a killer in order to write them. Given how often I get stopped by airport security, however, maybe I’m overlooking something that’s obvious to other people.

At this point, I’ve grown used to the reaction I get when people find out what I write. Although, it’s usually not to the extent of one woman at a book-signing recently who went on for several minutes about how ordinary I looked—not at all what she was expecting. In retrospect, I kind of wish I’d asked her if I looked more like a serial killer than she’d imagined, but that might have just scared her more.

I wouldn’t say I’m secretive about my age or my gender, but it’s not something I go out of my way to mention, either.

Romance writing by its definition promises sex. Pause for a moment and imagine two older people whom you know having sex, or having sex with someone of the same gender. Difficult, isn’t it? This is why our heroes and heroines are young, beautiful, and all possess superhuman libidos.

Youth can be quantitatively measured in years, and so from that point only, I would say that it weighs more heavily toward gay men than straight women. Beauty on the other hand is entirely subjective regardless of age. My opinion is, that if a poll is limited to the question of beauty it would be split pretty much equally. However, my answer here does not address the areas of ethnicity.

Are you wary of divulging your age for fear of losing credibility as a writer of m/m romance?
The thought has crossed my mind, but I’ve never hidden my age.

Have you written, or read, sex scenes involving men over 50? Were they explicit, romantic, or fade-to-black?
No to both the first and second question because there are so few available that I haven’t come across any.
Would you like to see more m/m romance featuring mature men?
I’m completely neutral on this point.

~ ~ ~

Please return tomorrow, 
when my guests will be 
Lynn Lorenz, Belinda McBride, Neil Plakcy,
Michael Rupured, Tali Spencer, and Lex Valentine.


Kayelle Allen said...

I'm delighted to have been included in this group of authors. Thank you for gathering my peers around such an interesting question.

Kage Alan said...

I found this post quite fascinating. Though I'm only in my early 40s, I already see younger readers who question if someone my age can write something that will interest theirs. And these attitudes are only going to increase the older I get.

All of the guests featured here offered wonderful comments. Looking forward to seeing Part 2.

Kayelle Allen said...

Kage, age is a physical fact, but how we react to it is not. As a teen, I thought people in their 30s were old. Now I think how young they all look. ^_^

Tam said...

Very interesting. I confess I am closer to 50 than 40 (ack - runs screaming into the night). I tend to write younger, maybe because I feel younger? Although what a late-40 something feels like I'm not sure. Maybe like a thirty year old. :-) I don't disguise my age, it is what it is, my hair is prematurely gray, I gave up coloring it years ago, I think I'm still cool. :-)

I think there is also an assumption (probably coming from the hetero-normative perspective) that once you get to a "certain" age you are already paired off. That finding a mate is the purview of the young. Of course given divorce rates and the number of singles, this is not necessarily the case, but truly there are more single 25 year olds of all sexes and sexual persuasions than there are single 45 year olds. Just a fact, so your creative fictional dating pool is bigger and there seems to be more focus on finding "the one" when you are young (and probably a bit dim). Plus the blush of young love, first love is always fun to write/read about for me personally. I find once you get older, you tend to be more pragmatic about the whole thing, or maybe that's just me. ;-)

Lex Valentine said...

I really love this topic and I'm so glad someone had the guts to broach it! Great job!

Carolyn said...

I am fifty. My SO is 27, and we've been together for many years now. Age isn't something I tend to worry about much, other than being aware of taking better care of myself now than I used to. Up to now, I *have* written younger characters, but this article encourages me and revs my engines up to get cracking on this new story idea I have starring an older hero (mmm silver fox!). Great article and thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. :)

Brita Addams said...

This is such an interesting topic and I'm so glad to have participated in it. Thanks K.Z. for having me.

Age is physical and mental. I'm good for as long as my kids tell me to "grow up." Slim chance of that happening, frankly.

To all the participating authors today--I read your answers with great interest.I'm looking forward to tomorrow's installment as well.

Kayelle Allen said...

Same here. I'll be looking forward to what the others say. I've heard that age doesn't always come with wisdom. Sometimes it arrives all by itself...

Kayelle Allen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K. Z. Snow said...

Hi, everybody, and thanks for stopping by!

Obviously this subject has been nettling me. I think it started when I was writing my recent Loose Id release, Carny's Magic, because a central figure in the novel is my most longstanding and beloved character -- an urban wizard. He's in his early forties now (certainly not old by my standards!) and I began wondering if I'd have to put him out to pasture soon.

The thought bothered me. A lot.

I've also gotten the impression that male writers in the genre are more likely to be forthcoming about their ages, and more likely to be esteemed as they age. Female writers? Maybe not so much.

Anyway, I've loved reading other authors' take on the issue. Great insights, and more to come!

Vivien Dean said...

Great post. I'm looking forward to reading more tomorrow. :)

I'll admit, this is one of the romance conventions that drives me insane, even though I understand the appeal of reading of the younger generations. Romance readers are usually looking for an escape, a fantasy. Most fantasies tend to be idealized, and it's superficial, but physical beauty is part of that.

But I do think there's an audience for older heroes. Smaller, sure, but there.

Kayelle Allen said...

We can't escape aging unless we're a paranormal character with some special ability or magic. Even my immortals age. Perhaps we will be the ones who create a new standard. Kiernan Kelly has two older heroes in one of her books, and I find that refreshing.

Jeanne said...

Thanks, KZ for including me in this group of writers. Victor Banis and I share the same birthday, btw, although I am a little bit younger old fart than he is! lol
Looking forward to reading tomorrow's comments

Adriana said...

Thank you for an intriguing, reflective set of comments. My husband and I are baby boomers (and not among the youngest, at that), and we do write older characters, often in their forties or fifties. I think we've created at least one over sixty. Part of what we both hope to celebrate is keeping young in spirit, personally, and in our erotic romance writing.

Cornelia Grey said...

This is a very interesting post, especially since I'm about to write about my first character around 50 years old. What I'm finding very challenging is... well, I'm in my early 20s, and I have no idea if I can muster up the maturity to sound like a 50-year-old, or if my character is going to end up sounding juvenile. I mean, I can think I've seen it all and I'm as mature as I can get, but I suspect that is quite far from the truth... :)

K. Z. Snow said...

". . . but I suspect that is quite far from the truth."

It is. Believe me. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I've thought about this topic a lot, so this was really interesting for me. I am very conscious of the fact that the majority of my characters are men in their 20s and early 30s, and it bothers me because I know several men who are with partners significantly younger or older than themselves. Perhaps my view is skewed because of that - the general viewpoint I've had in my own circle is that gay men care less about age, not more. I guess like everything else it's not all one way or the other, and that's why I want to have more variety in my character's ages.

Moria said...

Really fascinating topic and some great thoughts from these 'old farts'. (I have to count myself in there ;p) I really am looking forward to the next posting.

H.C. Brown said...

This post was very interesting, especially as I have just finished writing a story out of my usual age comfort zone. In honesty, I found writing about an older man's fears of rejection by his younger lover was a tender angle for my story, Night Games.
I think as we grow older we all suffer the invisibility syndrome and bringing that fact to our readers attention is a good idea.
Great posts from some great writers.