Men Writing Romance: A Chat With Historical Romance Author Leigh Greenwood

This week we chat with four male authors who are penning tales of love, lust and passion for romance fans. Author Leigh Greenwood has been delighting romance fans for years with historical romances and series romance tales. The author is a master of longing glances, stolen moments and love stories that touch the heart. But what some readers may not know is that the author behind these books is a man. Today get a special look into the mind of author Leigh Greenwood!

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What type of romance do you write? I write primarily western historical romances.

When did you first get published as a romance author? My first book came out in June of 1987. I’ve written over fifty books since then.

Do you write in any other genre(s)? Which genres were you first published in? I wrote four historicals which are not westerns. I also wrote seven contemporary romances.

How did you first start writing romance? I was trying to get my wife to write a book. Instead, she challenged me to write one. 

How would you describe your writing style? I have a general outline of the plot (this is necessary when you’re writing a series), but I’m pretty much a “seat of the pants” author.

How does your gender affect your writing? Do you deal with different themes, is your dialogue different, what about characterization, etc.? I don’t think of myself as a “male” author. I just write the way I feel my character require. I have built my three series around the “family” theme, but each series looks at it from a different point of view. In the Seven Brides, the men are all brothers who have been brutalized by their father. They are dependent on each other, but they aren’t close. In the Cowboys, almost everyone of the lead characters is an orphan boy who has never been able to fit anywhere. They don’t trust anyone. In the Night Riders, the men were in an army troop that was betrayed. They band together to bring the traitor to justice for those who died. Because I write westerns set in the second half of the 19th century, I tend to color my dialogue, but I reserve that for secondary characters. I find unfamiliar language from the main characters keeps the reader off balance. My characters are basically “any man” and “any woman.” I’m writing for a modern readership who must be able to identify with my characters. Only the setting is unfamiliar.

Is there anything that you purposefully change about your writing (voice, plot, characters, etc.) because your audience is primarily women? Obviously I don’t write the kind of sex found in many books aimed at the male audience (that includes “adult” westerns), but I don’t consciously change things. I personally don’t like a lot of violence and offensive language, but I wouldn’t put raw sex and foul language in any book I wrote. So the answer is probably no, I don’t change anything because my audience is primarily women. I believe the reason I’ve survived this long is that my natural style fits with the readership.

Do you believe that writing romances has given you a different perspective on real-life relationships? Definitely. I think more carefully about many things I would previously taken for granted or not noticed at all.

What reaction do you get from fans when they realize your gender? All I’ve heard has been very positive. Most likely those who reacted badly didn’t bother to write.

Do you believe that it is becoming easier or more difficult for men to get published in the romance genre? It’s probably easier for a man to get published today, but it’s definitely harder to stay published. There are too many people chasing too few openings and making too little money. Instead of a few hundred writers all making $50,000+ thirty years ago, you have thousands of writers with a small slice at the top making millions each year and a large group at the bottom trying to make it on e-book sales. For those in the middle, lines have become more diverse, but readerships for individual lines has withered. All of this is influenced by the fact that more people are spending more time with other modes of entertainment. There just aren’t as many readers as there used to be. 

Any advice you have for men who want to write romance? Don’t write to make money. Don’t even write to make a career. Write because you can’t NOT write. That way you may have a chance at a career. You may even make some money.

Anything you want to tell female readers who might be skeptical that a man can write a satisfying romance novel? Men have been being successful partners in marriage since Time began, but not every many can write, wants to write, or can find the time to write. There are many other hurdles to be overcome, most of them financial, but it is possible. I’ve managed it for nearly twenty-five years. Nicholas Sparks is a national bestseller whose books have been turned into successful movies. And there are men who have become successful writers who haven’t revealed their gender. I don’t mean to sound chauvinistic, but men most often are the main breadwinners for the family. With this comes the all important benefits without which no family can survive today. It’s just too dangerous for most men to take the risk of leaving a job and hoping to build a writing career. The odds are against it, it takes too long, and it comes without benefits. You have to make at least twice as much as a writer just to stay even. All of this is just to explain why so few men attempt to become romance writers. If the number of men writing romance equaled the number of women, I’m certain you’d find several of them among your favorite authors.

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With insights like this about his own writing and the romance genre, it's no surprise that Greenwood has been pleasing female fans with his romance novels since the 1980s. Check in tomorrow when we talk to a male author who is new to the romance scene, Nico Rosso. And if you are looking for more of Leigh Greenwood's attitudes about romance, you can pick up his latest novel No One But You in stores now. 

Blog Update 3/1/2011: We interview Nico Rosso and get his take on being a romance-writing man.

Blog Update 3/2/2011: We interview Henry McLaughlin about being a male romance author.

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