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.