Monday, January 29, 2018

Eleanor Harkstead & Catherine Curzon: The Gay Romance Market – A Woman's Perspective

Today we welcome Eleanor Harkstead and her writing partner, Catherine Curzon, to the blog to talk about writing for the gay romance market and their recent and forthcoming publications. Over to Eleanor first...

When it comes to romance, or in fact any fiction, I love a story which has cracking characters in an interesting scenario. I want to laugh, I want to cry, I want to perch on the edge of my seat in suspense. And it doesn’t bother me if the protagonists are straight or otherwise.

As a genre, gay romance is dominated by stories about same-sex male couples (known as m/m). And although plenty of gay men read and write it, a huge number of women are both fans and authors of m/m romance too. Is that an anomaly? Why should women be so interested in what gay men get up to?

Maybe, being attracted to men, straight and bi women simply want to read a story where not one but two men get saucy – and there’s nowt wrong with that. But there are gay women who enjoy m/m fiction as well. I think it’s the relationships and the characters which attract women to the genre, just as much as they might be attracted by the muscly chaps on the covers. In fiction, a woman can see an emotional moment between men but might be unlikely to in real life.

Readers of genre fiction have certain expectations, and while sweet romance with a gorgeous kiss will please some, many readers of m/m want raunch. But how can a woman write a convincing love scene between two men?

Well, if one might be frank (though not actually Frank), quite a few women writers of m/m romance have been to bed with a man at least once and have a vague idea of the male anatomy. Even so, if I’m rooting for the characters and want them to get together, I don’t really need eye-popping detail. As long as there’s enough for me to picture what’s happening, I’m happy to be taken into the minds of the lovers as they enjoy and explore their emotional connection with each other.

Bedroom action isn’t the only place where women authors of m/m might struggle with realism. When writing a character who’s a gay man, it’s best to avoid him coming across as either a shallow stereotype or, basically, a woman. Whatever sort of fiction you write, you need to be conscious of stereotyping. Making your characters living, breathing individuals is part of your job when you create realistic characters who your readers will embrace.

The gay romance market is more niche than straight romance, with fewer publishers. It has certain sub-genres, such as male pregnancy, which you either don’t find in straight romance, or are more popular with fans of m/m romance than straight. But if you’ve even been curious about reading gay romance, there are all sorts of stories out there waiting for you. And if you’re tempted to write gay romance, then why shouldn’t 2018 be the year you give it a whirl?

Thank you, Eleanor for your interesting insight into writing for this genre. Now over to you and Catherine for our interview:

Your short story, An Actor’s Guide to Romance, has just been released, congratulations and the cover is gorgeous. Where did the inspiration for using actors and the theatre come from?

Catherine: Theatre is a passion of mine and has been for as long as I can remember, so using the theatre as a setting was something I’d wanted to do for a long time. There is such a rich tradition of rivalry in the theatre too that the idea of feuding actors forced to share top billing and a love scene was irresistible. The story pretty much told itself once Adam and Thomas started bickering.
Eleanor: Pride’s covers are gorgeous, and the one for the Actors brilliantly conveys the story's atmosphere.  As for writing about Thomas and Adam, during my time in Little Theatre am-dram, I overheard – and, I am sorry to say, participated in – the occasional luvvie spat. Few performances are quite as spectacular as those staged by arguing theatricals.

In April, you have the first in a series of ‘Captivating Captains’ due out: The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper. Each book will be a stand-alone novel with new characters, set in a different time period. Does this add another element to the dynamic of co-writing or is it a challenge you both relish?
Catherine: Because each book is a completely standalone novel with a new setting and a cast of brand new characters, it’s a treat rather than a challenge. We can’t wait to introduce readers to captains of all sorts, from cricket to cavalry and beyond, from a huge range of eras. The joy of the series that we’re working on with Pride is the sheer scope it offers. We really hope readers enjoy meeting the captains as much as we have!
Eleanor: One of the great things about writing together is that we can pool our ideas and bounce them off each other. As soon as we start to discuss time period, location, what type of captain he'll be and who he'll be paired with, we're shaping ideas about character, setting and plot. We write stories together that we wouldn't come up with by writing on our own. And when you see characters talking in our stories, it really is two people talking - Catherine and me!

An Actor’s Guide to Romance is out now and available from PrideAmazon Kindle and Kobo (and every other ebook platform known to humankind as well…!)

The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper
Captain Robert Thorne is the fiercest officer in the regiment. Awaiting the command to go to the front, he has no time for simpering, comely lads. That’s until one summer day in 1917 when his dark, flashing eye falls upon the newest recruit at Chateau de Desgravier, a fresh-faced farmer’s boy with little experience of life and a wealth of poetry in his heart.

Trooper Jack Woodvine has a way with strong, difficult stallions, and whispers them to his gentle will. Yet even he has never tamed a creature like Captain Thorne.

With the shadow of the Great War and the scheming of enemies closer to home threatening their fleeting chance at happiness, can the Captain and the Cavalry Trooper make it home safely? More importantly, will they see peacetime together?

Available to pre-order from 20th February.

About the Authors

Catherine Curzon is a royal historian of the 18th century. She has written extensively for publications including, the official website of BBC History Magazine, Explore History, All About History, History of Royals and Jane Austen’s Regency World. 

Catherine holds a Master’s degree in Film and when not dodging the furies of the guillotine, she lives in Yorkshire atop a ludicrously steep hill.

Eleanor Harkstead likes to dash about in nineteenth-century costume, in bonnet or cravat as the mood takes her. She knows rather a lot about poisons, and can occasionally be found wandering old graveyards. Eleanor is very fond of chocolate, wine, tweed waistcoats and nice pens. Her large collection of vintage hats would rival Hedda Hopper's. 

Originally from the south-east of England, Eleanor now lives somewhere in the Midlands with a large ginger cat who resembles a Viking.




Lisa writes contemporary romance with a light-hearted tone.  What interests her most is people, their interactions, emotions and relationships.  It’s probably why her career to date has been based in property; she confesses herself that she is ‘naturally curious’. Her first encounter with a romance author was chats over the garden wall between her father, Godfrey, and Mrs Cooper from the neighbouring village of Bisley.  It came as quite a surprise in later life to find that Mrs Cooper was in fact Jilly Cooper!  Lisa’s writing inspiration now comes from other Cotswolds' authors including Jill Mansell and Katie Fforde. 

Lisa is a graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme and attributes this supportive and informative scheme to her winning the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition 2016 with her debut novel Meet Me at Number Five.


Mollie Blake said...

Interesting post. Thanks for sharing. I have always found m/m sexy and confess to often not knowing whether it was written by male or female. I love the idea of any people being "in love" straight/gay/bi. Good luck with your new series x

Eleanor Harkstead said...

It was lovely talking to you, Lisa!

Should anyone who likes warring luvvies be interested in a free copy of "An Actor's Guide to Romance", there's a giveaway for one over at The Review. You just need to comment to enter. The draw for the winner is this week.

Eleanor Harkstead said...

Mollie - yes, that sums it up very well! Stories about people being in love.

Thanks - we hope readers will enjoy them! :)

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