Monday, September 10, 2012

Old Farts and Romance Fiction

Oliver and I continued to stand just inside the back door, our hands on each other’s waist. We looked into the eyes whose language we’d learned decades ago, the faces we’d come to adore. In a way, we were oblivious of the changes age had wrought. In a more significant way, we treasured those changes.

Not even Elizabeth Barrett Browning could've defined the scope of our love. Those electric melty tingles still hit us, although they’d moderated over the years. We didn’t mind too much. The keen thrill of skin pressed to skin had mellowed into the deeper gratification of heart bonded to heart.   

Ned Surwicki and Oliver Duncan are sixty years old at the end of my novella Electric Melty Tingles. They paid plenty of dues to be able to reach their golden years together. It's one of the reasons I love this couple, and their story, dearly.

BUT . . . do older characters generally get short shrift in romance fiction? Is this especially the case in m/m romance? If so, why? And what about older writers? Do they quail from divulging their ages or posting current photos of themselves for fear of losing credibility or making readers recoil? Is this particularly true of female authors? Has the Culture of Youth dictated our standards for fictional depictions of love and sex, as well as the people who write about them?

Many of us who create m/m romances, even of the erotic variety, are over fifty. Or sixty. Or seventy. The braver in our ranks have written older protagonists into their stories (and I mean "older" from the first sentence to the last, which takes considerable courage) and have even been forthcoming about their own ages. So, in an attempt to answer the questions I posed above, I've invited some of my peers to offer their opinions and share their experiences. They are indisputably talented authors -- male and female, gay and straight -- who, like me, ain't no spring chickens.

Stay tuned for the exact date of the post (or series of posts). This should be an interesting discussion.


Tam said...

You must be in my head. LOL I was just thinking yesterday, am I going to be the 85 year old blind woman listening to porn on audio books? LOL Wasn't Barbara Cartland in her 80's or 90's and still churning out m/f?

The only book I've read with older characters all the way through was The Tennis Partners by Allison Bailey of Less Than Three Press. I gave it an A-.

Tam said...

Forgot to say looking forward to the posts and the different perspectives.

K. Z. Snow said...

Oh no! Let me out! :-D

I think women like Barbara Cartland and Nora Roberts (not that she's ancient) and other het-romance writers can skate by the age issue -- first, because they're m/F authors; second, because they didn't/don't write super-explicit sex scenes; third, because they have huge, loyal followings.

I'm looking forward to this too. Don't know what my guests are going to say!

Val Kovalin said...

I've wondered about this, too. Maybe it is offputting to readers to buy a gay romance book and see from the author photo that the author is female and looks like their mom or grandmother. It might shake the whole "gorgeous gay man" fantasy. It shouldn't (because it's fiction) but it might.

Authenticity seems to be highly valued in even in fictional (not memoir) entertainment. I mean, put "based on a true story" under a movie title, and you'll sell way more tickets. Unfortunately, older straight women are seen as about as opposite as you can get from the young gay male experience.

I'm looking forward to reading the posts on this! :)

Chris said...

As someone who's rather tired of reading about college boys (you're so unformed and uninformed in college - BORING!), this will be an interesting series of posts to follow.

The "older" characters book that I can think of immediately (and I think they're just in their 40s or 50s) is And Call Me in the Morning by Willa Okati.

K. Z. Snow said...

Exactly, Val. Especially this: "Unfortunately, older straight women are seen as about as opposite as you can get from the young gay male experience."

And you know what? It's largely true! However, this mindset doesn't take into account many important factors, e.g., the fluidity of sexuality, the details of individual experience, the power of empathy, the fertility of the human imagination.

Female authors, whether straight or bi or lesbian, have already been slapped with the charge of having inauthentic voices. Add age (and perhaps weight and looks) into the equation, and it's something of a wonder we have any readers at all.

Yep, it's a fascinating topic all around.

K. Z. Snow said...

Chris, I'll have to look up Willa's story and the one Tam mentioned. I've had a hankering lately for characters who are somewhat out-of-the-ordinary.

Susan said...

I'm with Chris. College age or below is a stretch. I want older characters. I also prefer maturity on my characters, whether m/m or m/f. Not that I read much m/f anymore these days.