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A Writer On Writing: Can Men Write Romance?

Columnist Sally Jenkins wonders whether a man can describe the emotional roller coaster women travel when they think they have found "the one''.

Can a man get inside the mind of a woman as she falls in love? Can he describe the emotional roller coaster we women travel when we think we’ve found ‘the one’? If, as many believe, men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then how can a male know what goes on in the female mind?

I started thinking about this after reading the latest issue of Romance Matters (the magazine of the Romantic Novelists’ Association) http://www.rna-uk.org/. It features an interview with Roger ‘Gill’ Sanderson http://www.millsandboon.co.uk/books/authorzone.htm?author=Gill%20Sanderson. Roger writes medical romances for Mills and Boon and has published 47 books since 1996. He says, ‘Love is a universal emotion. If you’ve been in love you must have sympathy with women.’ However, he does admit to asking for help occasionally, especially in the area of women’s clothing!

Roger isn’t the only man writing romance. Bill Spence http://www.jessicablair.co.uk/ is also a member of the RNA and writes historical sagas as Jessica Blair. He served in the RAF during World War II and started his writing career with Westerns before moving on to sagas in the early 1990s.

Michael Taylor http://www.michaeltaylorauthor.com/ is another British author who has found success in writing about love. He came to talk to my writing group a couple of years ago and was as far from the pink, fluffy Barbara Cartland image of a romance writer as you can get. His books are set in the past and he spends a lot of time researching his novels.

Michael says, “Men are at least as capable as women of feeling emotion, and are no less as vulnerable in love and out of it.”

He says that he found the romance, ‘Lorna Doone’ (also written by a man), moving and sensitive and one of the inspirations that started him writing.

In fact in 1906 ‘Lorna Doone’ was chosen by male students at Yale as their favourite novel – perhaps showing that men and women are not as different as we might think.

I haven’t yet read any of Roger’s or Bill’s books but I have read ‘Clover’ by Michael Taylor. I enjoyed the well-drawn characters and authentic period setting but I think it might have turned out to be quite a different book if Michael had been a woman. One of the main protagonists is Ned Brisco, who is trying to build and fly an early aircraft. If the author had been female, I think more emphasis would’ve been given to the heroine trying to make her mark on the world and less on the technicalities of this invention.

But it’s not possible to say which would have been the better book. Men and women can both write well about love because it is a universal emotion. However, the two sexes will give a different emphasis to other parts of the supporting story depending on their own interests and outlook on life.

Variety is the spice of life so - Vive la difference!


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