Wednesday, February 14, 2007

That's correct... HE writes romance novels

I "met" today's guest blogger several years ago when we reviewed for the same website. Then one day he surprised us all by announcing he'd received "The Call" from BET/Arabesque books. And even more surprising was the fact he'd written a romance novel. Now, I don't know why any of us should be surprised about a man writing romance. The romance heroes we all swoon over are men. Today many women are receiving bouquets of flowers from men. Who made the rule that men can't write romance?

Nobody, that's who, and Wayne Jordan has shown the world that a man can both read and write romance. His first book, Capture the Sunrise, was released in November 2005 in a 2-in-1 volume along with a romance by another male author. His second novel, Embracing the Moonlight, was released by Harlequin Kimani last September.

Wayne lives on the beautiful tropical island of Barbados, where his books are set. And yes, he has an island accent.

Wayne graciously brought us a load of beautiful white sand from his island to replenish our sandbox, so please sink your toes into the warm Barbadian sand and welcome Wayne to the Playground.



When Marilyn asked me to write this BLOG, I was excited. I love telling my story. I’ll definitely say it’s not a Cinderella story, but a story of a Prince Charming who wanted to tell the story from his point of view and who wanted to show that men call tell love stories too.

I started reading romance novels when I was thirteen years old (I’m 45 in May), and for the first few years, I hid in the male closet of romance, shamed that I found the sweetness of romance novels appealing. In 1980, I entered university to study for a degree in literature and was introduced to “proper” literature, but I still yearned for genre fiction (romance, mystery, suspense). I enjoyed the university literary fiction I studied but found it too intense and oppressive. When I came home at night after studying for the whole day, I wanted something different. I wanted to be a handsome sheikh rescuing a damsel in distress or a wounded cop who reluctantly became a beautiful woman’s bodyguard only to fall deeply in love with her. I continued to read romance and in the late 1990s decided I wanted to seriously write romance.

Today, Valentine’s Day 2007, I’ve published two releases with Harlequin Kimani Press and have two due this year -- the first two books in my KNIGHT FAMILY trilogy. ONE GENTLE KNIGHT will be released in July and TO LOVE A KNIGHT in 2008. Today, I feel a sense of accomplishment, but one that took me a long time to accept.

In October 2005, I met a friend who I’d not seen for several years. Of course, during the conversation I mentioned I’d signed as an author with a major US publisher and my first book would to be released in November of that year. And then the dreaded question popped up. “What’s the book about? What kind of story is it?” Deliberately, I told him that he’d have to wait until November to find out, since it would be in the local bookstores.

A few minutes later as I drove away from the mall, I realized the significance of my response. After thirty years of reading romance novels, I still felt ashamed about what I read and write. But how could I be embarrassed when many of my friends and students knew about my upcoming book. Yes, they knew, but still I experienced the same jolt of trepidation whenever the dreaded question “popped up.”

That night, after fulfilling my daily writing goal, I thought seriously about my reservations and fears about reading and writing romance and the answer was simple and clear. I wanted to write romance, but didn’t want anyone to see me as less of a man. I didn’t want to be some troubled persona who ached to be in touch with his feminine side, since I’m very much a MAN. I was somehow dealing with the same kinds of pressure I’d dealt with when my school mates ridiculed me for my reading habits and my father caught me reading a romance novel years ago and looked at me in the strange disappointed way. But even more, I was dealing with a deep-rooted inferiority complex that is far more disturbing.

I’m a graduate of the University of the West Indies with a B. A. in Literature and Linguistics and a M.A. in Applied Linguistics. I teach high school Literature and Theatre Arts and I’m sure that the literary world to which I wanted so badly to belong considers me a traitor.

Romance novels? What about the great Barbadian or West Indian novel? Don’t you want to be the next Derek Walcott or George Lamming?

HELL, NO! Lord knows how many times I’ve heard those words!

In 1999, I attended a writing workshop at the university and remember clearly the day when the workshop presenter, a noted English author, considered my work “too commercial.” At the end of the workshop, he made an interesting comment. “You write what you read. If you read trash then you’re going to write trash.” For some reason, I knew that he was directing the comment at me. At that time, I kept quiet, and bowed my head under the weight of his reprimand.

So why, after a background in so- called “proper” literature, and the not too subtle reprimand of a respected member of the literary fraternity, do I still read and write romance?

Again, the answer is simple and easy.

That night with a fire raging inside, I pulled out the first two chapters of a book I’d started to write and promised myself that I’d dance to my own drum. Six years later, I’m a published romance author, who no longer feels any shame at what I write.

Despite the earlier ridicule I’d endured, I know that the music of romance plays deep inside my soul and I want to be true to who I am. I want to write stories that spring from seeds I have watered with my tears and pain and watch them blossom with my laughter. For now, those stories are stories of strong honorable heroes and feisty modern heroines; of passionate kisses and throbbing manhoods; and of course, stories about the happily-ever-after.

One of my favorite authors, Judith McNaught, once said that if she makes the reader laugh and cry and then laugh again, she knows that she has fulfilled her role as an author. If I can do half the job that Ms. McNaught does, then I know that I too have fulfilled my role.

Recently, I read a novel by Kristi Gold, FALL FROM GRACE, a debut release in Harlequin’s EVERLASTING LOVE line. I won’t tell you what the story is about, but Ms. Gold has written a story that makes me proud to be a romance author. FALL FROM GRACE is a well-crafted novel with wonderfully complex characters in a heart-wrenching story of forgiveness and second chances.

It would be remiss of me, if I don’t mention that I write African-American romance and have been an advocate of the African-American romance from the time I held the first romance with a hero and heroine of my color. My feelings about segregation and non African-American romance readers who don’t read our books are well known, so I won’t talk about that here. I grew up on stories by Lilian Peake, Anne Mather, Anne Hampson, Violet Winspear and many more; my choice of reading hasn’t changed much. I don’t read romance because of the color of the hero and heroine on the cover. I read romance and write it because I love the same thing all of you do. A good romance! A good romance comes in all colors!

Have a wonderful Valentine’s!



P.S. One of today's commenters will be randomly selected to win a copy of Wayne's latest release, Embracing the Moonlight. And two others will get a handmade beaded bookthong with heart-shaped beads.

41 comments:

Rhonda said...

Wow, Wayne, what a story! I've gotten the old "When are you going to write a *real* book?" before, but honestly had never thought about what it must be like for a man who writes/loves romance. I wonder if Nicholas Sparks endured this sort of critism as well.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

Theresa N. said...

The story of why you write romance is so touching and passionate, I have no doubts that your books are too. It's wonderful you write what makes you happy.

Teresa said...

I think it's wonderful to have a male in the business. Loved reading about your story and keep up the great writing! Happy Valentines Day.

Problem Child said...

Hi Wayne and welcome! This is usually a estrogen-heavy site, so we're glad you're here.

I agree with Rhonda and Theresa--what an amazing story!

Do readers ever comment about your gender? I'd expect the same folks who ask female writers about their "real" books would have things to say about a man writing romance, but I'm wondering how readers react to a male author. I can see where some would think a man can't write books for women as well as a woman could. Have you come up against any issues like that?

Problem Child said...

There are snow flurries outside my window. I wish I was in Barbados....

Angel said...

Welcome to the Playground, Wayne!!! So wonderful to relax and play in the sand today (especially since it is snowing here in northern Alabama this morning!).

What an incredible story! Although admitting I write romance doesn't cause people to question my femininity the way they would question masculinity in a male author (why do people do that?!?!), I could totally relate to the feelings of embarrassment and fear of reprimand.

I, too, came home from college english classes craving a night curled up with a good romance. On top of that, I grew up in a strictly religious environment that looked on sexy books as "wrong" and "shameful." Romance was only acceptable if it was inspirational, with a fair dose of preaching inside. It has taken me many years to feel comfortable saying I write romance.

I remember when I first started writing thinking about the day I would become published, that there were very few people I would feel comfortable telling. Now, I can't wait for the day to come! I plan on sending announcements to anyone and everyone I've ever known. :)

Thank you for the inspiration this Valentine's Day!!!

Angel

Playground Monitor said...

I checked WeatherUnderground and it's 83 degrees in Barbados. I see snow flurries from my window. What a world of difference.

I am so inspired by your story, Wayne. I'd heard a bit of it before but not to the extent you shared with us today.

I'm about halfway through EMBRACING THE MOONLIGHT and enjoying every page. I won't give any spoilers but I'm as intrigued by Carolyn's story as I am about Lianne and Mason's. Nice to see an older character.

Rhonda mentioned Nicholas Sparks. Ahem... he doesn't write romance. He writes love stories but not romance because one of the major characters always dies at the end. Or at least they have in the books I've read. And a few years ago he had some critical things to say about romance that un-endeared him to me and a lot of other writers.

Anyway... can you send some of those warmer temps up here to go with the pretty white sand?

PM

Instigator said...

Welcome to the sandbox Wayne! We're realy glad you stopped by to share your story.

I loved hearing about your journey and the internal issues you've had to face along the way. It gives me hope that I'll be able to win out over my own as well.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Instigator

Kathy said...

It's so good to be able to share time in the sand with you on the playground today, Wayne! And on Valentine's Day, too. (Wink)

As a shiver of cold creeps down my spine and snowflakes cascade outside my window, I'm wondering how brightly the sun is shining down in Barbados. Enjoy the warm weather! (I'm completely envious)

As a man, you probably have a different picture of the romance genre. You've mentioned the stigma attached to reading and writing romance. My first introduction to men writing romance was when cover model Fabio co-wrote his first romance. Did books like these pave the way for you to follow your heart and write what you loved? And how have you dealt with rejections that might have been geared toward the writing or your sex?

Kathy

Smarty Pants said...

Thanks for coming by today, Wayne. I met you last year at the Literacy Signing in Atlanta. You were sitting next to Linda Winstead Jones and I was working as a author assistant for the next section. I kept making faces at LJ across the aisle and brought you guys water. Not much to go on, but I did meet you. :)

Some female authors say they have to work hard to write from their heroes point of view - to stretch and think like a man. Do you find writing the heroine in your books to be more difficult? They say women are complicated and hard to understand - have you cracked the code?

SP

Meljprincess said...

Hi Wayne,
It's really nice to meet you. Will you be my Valentine?
I'd love to win your book but if I don't I'll definitely pick up one written by you. You have a MySpace page?

robynl said...

Oh the warm white sand feels so good on my feet. Thanks so much for coming and bringing the sand Wayne. I love that you write romance and keep the books coming. I'd love to win the book or the book thongs; actually I can buy the book if need be but the book thongs sound fabulous; I think they are the neatest invention in some time.

Roxann Delaney said...

Hey, OSM!! It's wonderful to see you blogging! Your story of becoming a romance author makes me so proud. I know you're well on your way to being a huge hit for your terrific writing!

(Not to mention, ladies, that he's a really terrific guy, too!)

Hugs and kisses on this Valentine's Day!

Playground Monitor said...

Interesting question that Smarty Pants raised about writing the female POV and I'll be interested in your answer.

Now I'm going to ask a question that's been gnawing at me for a while. How difficult would it be for a writer to write AA or other multi-cultural romance if he/she wasn't part of that culture? Sheri WhiteFeather writes wonderful Native American romance but she has her husband to draw on for reference. And she's immersed herself in NA culture during their marriage. But what about someone who doesn't have access like that?

PM

Wayne said...

Ok, thanks for all the wonderful comments. I'll try to see if I can respond to everyone before the night is over.

wj

Wayne said...

Rhonda

I'm sure most men have to deal with this. However, because Sparks' "love stories" are considered 'literary fiction', he will be a lot more respected.

wj

Wayne said...

Theresa

I try to ensure that every story that I write is one written for the heart. If that equates to touching and passionate, then that definitely what I write.

wj

Wayne said...

problem child

I still get the comments, but not as often as before. I think people are getting accustomed to seeing me around. Here in Barbados most people think it's wonderful.

wj

Wayne said...

And yes, it's wonderful here on the island. A bit too much rain here and there, but helps to cool the heat.

wj

Wayne said...

angel

I no longer worry too much about what people think. I'm very comfortable in my masculinity.

And yes, I deal with my Christianity and writing romance too. However, I try to show love from a positive point of view.

Wayne said...

PM

I enjoyed writing Embracing the Moonligt. When I started, Carolyn was only a very minor character, but she definitely had her own story to tell and won't let go.

wj

Wayne said...

Fabio definitely didn't inspire me to write. I loved all genres of romance but when I discovered Lindsay McKenna with here military and I knew I wanted to write.

wj

Wayne said...

Smarty Pants

I definitely remember you and found you so kind and generous. There I was, newly publised and you treated me like an honored guest.

I hope you'll be in Dallas.

wj

Wayne said...

Melprincess

I don't have a Myspace page but my website is at www.waynejordan.com.

And you can always find me hosting the Kimani boards at eharlequin.com or posting on the Silhouette Romantic Suspense or Intrigue boards.

Wayne said...

ROXANNE!!!!

Wayne said...

Now I'm going to ask a question that's been gnawing at me for a while. How difficult would it be for a writer to write AA or other multi-cultural romance if he/she wasn't part of that culture?

Interesting question?

Give me a while to think about it, but I definitely want to respond.

w

Rhonda said...

Wayne, I'll take a good old fashioned romance over Sparks "literary fiction" any day. :-)

Kristi Gold said...

Hi, Wayne!
A couple of little chicks sent me here and I wanted to personally thank you for your wonderful comments on Fall From Grace! I'm so thrilled you enjoyed the story! And your story about why you write romance is incredibly inspirational.:)

BTW, I was invited to play here last month. What a great group! You're going to love it.:)

Have fun!
Kristi Gold

Lainie said...

What a totally cool story! Way to go for standing up against the naysayers and living your dream.

Must go find your books.

Lainie

alissa said...

Your story is inspiring and wonderful. I can hardly wait to read your novel. Best wishes.

Roxann Delaney said...

Wayne, you didn't think I'd stay away when I heard you'd be blogging here, did you?

Seriously, maybe I should explain to everyone else that Kathie DeNosky and I met you on line some 11 years ago in a now defunct romance writers chat room. We nicknamed you our Official Stud Muffin or OSM for short and had a blast nearly every day. I miss all the tropical fruit you brought us. *grin*

Congrats again on the two books out and the two coming up! My TBR pile continues to grow.

And, just a hint: If you're in Dallas in July, you just might get to meet a couple of people you've missed seeing at conference over the years. ;)

{{waving to Kristi}}

Emma St. John said...

Your story inspires me and makes me believe that I can succeed too. Thanx for blogging and hope your Valentines Day has been happy.

Emma

Wayne said...

Roxanne

Isn't it wonderful how our lives have changed. We met those many years ago to discuss book, You, Kathy and I, and now all three of us are published authors.

I'll definitely be in Dallas (as Harlequin author and eharlequin.com host), so I'll be wearing two hats.

I promise each of you (couple of people) we'll dance the night away at the H/S party.

Wayne

catslady said...

I think that's great that you know what you wanted and went for it and especially since it's not the norm. I'm looking forward to reading your books. As far as I'm concerned, a good story is a good story and I don't care if it's a man, woman, black, white or a purple alien :)

Wayne said...

PM asked: How difficult would it be for a writer to write AA or other multi-cultural romance if he/she wasn't part of that culture?

I think it would be difficult for any writer to write about a culture to which he/she does not belong. I think that any writer must do his/her research before she attempts to write any story within another culture.

It's always been easy for black authors to write story with white main protagonists as authors like Sandra Kitt did in the early days of Amercian Romance when she wrote for that line. I believe it is easier because in the white lifestyle was the lifestyle we watched on television and in the movies and read. Like many black readers in the 70s, 80, and early 90s, I grew up on Mills and Boon here in Barbados and then the Silhouette books came to the island. I became very familiar with the culture in those books.

The reverse isn't the same and I believe that's one of the reason, more black readers read white books that white readers read black books.

I've seen authors, like Brenda Samuels, write stories with black characters that rang true. I've also read several when everything felt so unreal.

However, things are changing. I believe that readers are more open to embrace romance of all kinds. As catslady said romance is not about black and white, but about a man and woman, hot loving and a happily every after.

wj

Playground Monitor said...

I never thought of it from the standpoint of television viewing, but that's a good way of explaining it.

Thanks, Wayne.

PM

Rhonda said...

PM, I hadn't thought of it that way either. It makes a lot of sense.

Wayne said...

Ladies

I really enjoyed sharing with you. Thanks for offering to pick up my story. I'm really excited about my upcoming releases ONE GENTLE KNIGHT (July 2007), TO LOVE A KNIGHT (November 2007) and ALWAYS A KNIGHT (2008).

To all those authors who posted, I feel honored that you took the time out of your busy schedule to drop in. Keep the flame going and always remember to write the stories of your heart.

wj

Jeanette J said...

Great story..keep writing from a male point of view

Angel said...

Awesome posts and comments today, Wayne!!! Thanks so much for dropping into the playground.

Roslyn said...

Wayne, I hear you about the way people can try to make you feel embarrassed about what you write. My French literature professor from UWI once asked me "Are you still writing those penny dreadfuls?"

Tell you what. Next time someone takes a dig at your book, ask to see theirs. That'll shut them up.