by Jonathan Charles Bruce
The biggest challenges I had were internal, and probably not in the way one would expect. You see, I consider myself a fan of the genre. I am fully aware that I am not the intended audience of such works, and that’s okay. It’s part of the reason why I find the works so interesting. A diversity of perspectives makes life so much more enjoyable and allows readers and authors a way to connect on a powerful emotional level. I find material coming from my position—a white, straight, cis guy—to be underwhelming as a whole.
So I came at writing this genre as someone who appreciates it, and I think that’s critically important. Improbables started life as a short story called I’m So Bad at Paranormal Romance You Guys (You Don’t Even Know). If you’re interested, here’s the link: http://bit.ly/1sdUae1. If you read it, you’ll notice that it tends to get a little… well… mean spirited. Even though I’m writing as a fan, it was still filtered through an uncomfortable filter of “Oh, isn’t this genre just so silly?”
I had a hard time getting started because I didn’t realize that’s the subconscious direction I was going in. My social conditioning was so strong that, despite the hours of entertainment I’ve gotten from paranormal romance, I couldn’t seem to write something that respected it and, by proxy, its audience. And it never sat well with me. Once I figured out what I was doing, I found myself in a position to write more frequently and in a way that was earnest and respectful of the authors who have provided me with so much.
So that’s that hurdle. I’m actually really embarrassed that such a thing was holding me back. Men are taught that anything coded as feminine is automatically frivolous and not worth their time. I pride myself on being slightly less garbage than that, but when you confront a face full of evidence to the contrary, you admit to it and dedicate yourself to being better.
There’s a second part of this question, too: I was asked to consider why it’s important for men to write romance. It seems like there’s such an obvious answer, too—maybe more people will open up to diverse experiences. I mean, I had my own epiphany, so it would naturally follow that others would do so as well, right?
Well, I’m not sure that’s the case.
I feel that if anyone were to sound out the clarion call for more male authors to write in traditionally female dominated genres, you’d end up with a situation where people who don’t value it or the audience flood the market with insincere works. In other words, such a request would be viewed as a trend to be capitalized upon rather than a way of developing discourse. I think the more important thing to get male authors to do is sit down, shut up, and read the damn genre. Then, find a woman who has read the same book, and listen to how she responded to it. Not “discuss” or “talk at”, listen.
It’s really only with a dedicated effort and understanding why these books are important, why they entertain, why they’re worthwhile, and that their audience is equally important that we can begin to talk about encouraging more male authors. If a male author wants to write in the genre, they’re going to have to do a lot of internal work of questioning and examining the biases that they’ve long understood not as biases, but as just the way things are. I think the bigger issue is teaching those with a plurality of voices to become better allies to those communities who are underrepresented across all genres.
He has a Master’s Degree in History, thanks largely to his thesis focusing on MUSIC, a Milwaukee-based school desegregation campaign during the 1960’s. He also enjoys discussing/making fun of pop culture of the 20th century and reading books of a non-historical nature. In his off moments, you can catch him writing for fun or making inane movies about nothing in particular.
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Jonathan's Newest Release: Improbables
Then, on a snowy night in December, Abigail catches a glimpse of what could only be described as a werewolf. Enamored with the possibility, her investigation leads her to discover a paranormal population—improbables—harmoniously living in the midst of humanity. Between making eyes at a perpetually grumpy werewolf and hanging out with a vampire with a lust for life (and liquor), Abigail’s life takes a shaky step out of the ordinary and into the fantastic.
Just outside of the sleepy town of Whitewater, however, a force of rage is building. Born of hate and delusion, a living cataclysm threatens to devour everyone in its path—human or improbable.
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