In the last installment we talked about the number of men who read romance, wildly estimated, but Adam Bowman brought up a good point regarding the marketing of romance novels specifically towards women--almost as if publishers have given up attempting to market to men at all.
I love the following quote by Greg Herren: "The great irony is men already read books with romance in them — they just aren’t called romance novels. If you take Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity, flip it and tell it from the woman’s point of view, it would have been published as a romantic suspense novel and would have had a completely different cover, a different marketing plan... but really, Jason Bourne meets a woman, she goes along on his big spy adventure, and they wind up together, with a happily ever after on a Carribbean beach at the end.... "
So, what is it about romance novels that specifically turn men off? Is it the men on the covers? Is is the flowery titles? Is it the terms 'romance novel' entirely? Would busty women be more acceptable? What about titles like 'Sex, Guns, and a Good Scotch'? What if the genre were called 'Sexy Books' or 'Hot Couples Getting It On Books'? Would any of these solve the problem?
Enjoy romance reader Jake Farrell's answers as he touches upon subjects like being a gay man in the romance community, being a writer and reader of the genre, and being bold about your reading choices!
Romantically Inclined Reviews: What age were you when you first began reading romance novels? What led you to pick up that first book and, if you remember, what book was it?
Jake Farrell: I was about fifteen years old when I first began reading romance novels. I remember the first novel that got me into the romance genre was a historical romance by Maria Murphy titled For the Love of Martha. At the time, I was really into Irish historical fiction, but what piqued my curiosity was the cover art. It was of this woman running up a pair of stone steps, with her gown flowing behind her and everything about the cover seemed to suggest an intense, almost heartbreaking atmosphere which made me curious.
I bought it solely to see what it was about, at the time I didn't care much for the romance aspect of it at first, but looking back on it I can safely say that the switching of time periods, having one love story set in a modern-day and the other set in the past was really unique to me and both I felt were handled incredibly well. Eventually I picked up more historical romance novels before just preferring romance novels all together.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Do you think that the romance community is welcoming to men? If no, what could we do better as a community to encourage male readership? If yes, what are some ways in which you have felt welcomed?
Jake Farrell: In my personal experience, I think it's quite the welcoming community. I've never received any form of harassment for reading and writing romance from other authors or avid readers of the genre. When I first started my Instagram account I had no idea what I was doing and, honestly, I was so surprised that professional authors started following me of all people--someone who didn't have a clue what he was doing at the time. I've met other wonderful writers, both in Ireland and abroad, as well as amassed a small following of people who are so encouraging of my work.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: In your personal opinion, what do you think are some reasons that men either choose not to read romance or choose not to admit that they read romance? Do your friends and family know that you read romance novels?
Jake Farrell: In my personal opinion, on such a subject, I can't help but feel that there's this stigma around men who choose to read and write romance being thought of as homosexual. I believe that, in a way, society is to blame for this as from a young age I was always taught that science fiction and crime stories were more of a man thing and romance was for women. Which is entirely wrong. As for my family and friends, they do know that I read and write romance novels in my spare time as a college student.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Have you ever experienced negative reactions to sharing that you’re a romance reader with friends/family or strangers? Have you experienced a positive reaction?
Jake Farrell: I feel like negative reactions are almost a guarantee when it comes to telling others that you're a male romance reader or writer. Often their first assumption is, "Oh? You read romance novels? So, you're gay", which, as a homosexual man myself, it can be a bit infuriating that some people believe that literature taste comes down to sexuality.
Another example that comes to mind is when I was looking for beta readers. I'd reached out to a few friends first--you know, as you do--and I'll never forget this for as long as I live...one of them turned around and asked if it was an LGBT romance, solely because of my sexuality. As an individual I firmly believe that sexuality has nothing to do with taste in certain genres or one's capability to tell a heartfelt and gripping story. Personally, I prefer to write straight romance solely because there's a bigger market for it and, in some countries, LGBT literature is outright banned altogether.
That being said, I have experienced a lot of positive reactions, too. In particular, I have a friend who went into beta reading my book The Cypriot Aisle which will hopefully be released sometime this coming March in time for the summer season, and she absolutely loved my writings, which made me feel delighted as while writing it I always questioned myself as to if I was doing a good job, and even at one point planned on deleting all trace of my current work in progress. Thankfully I didn't, and truthfully, my friend's reaction to the story I wrote encouraged me to continue down the romance writing path.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: What are some of your favorite romance novels? Do you have a favorite author or two... or three... or eleven?
Jake Farrell: Some of my favorite romance novels include pretty much anything by Danielle Steele and Nicholas Sparks. For the Love of Martha by Maria Murphy still holds a special place in my heart and My Mamma Mia Summer by Annie Robertson to name a few. As for my favorite authors, they're pretty much the same as listed above, except I love Mandy Baggot's novels, in particular my favorite would have to be hands down, One Last Greek Summer.
Romantically Inclined Reviews: Anything else you’d like to add, i.e advice, a funny story, other recommendations?
Jake Farrell: When it comes to recommendations, I would suggest if you're a lover of historical romance to give For the Love of Martha a shot and if you prefer something more comedic and yet heartfelt, definitely pick up either My Mamma Mia Summer or My Last Greek Summer, trust me you won't regret it.
In regards to giving other male romance readers and writers advice, truthfully, you'll always find that one person that can't be reasoned with and who will only try to bring you down, my advice is to simply block and ignore them. They have no right to tell you what you can and can't read or write. If you're passionate about anything, even if it isn't related to romance, don't hide it, show your love for it regardless of what people will say, you've a right to love what you love!
One thousand thanks to Jake Farrell for his wonderful comments relating to both reading and writing romance. If you're interested in following his romance reading/writing journey you can follow him on his Instagram.