Today we talk with male author Henry McLaughlin who has just released his inspirational historical romance, February’s Journey to Riverbend. This novel got an RT Top Pick! from Review Patsy Glans who praised McLaughlin’s multidimensional characters. Now McLaughlin answers our questions about what it’s like to be a man writing in what is classical considered “a woman’s genre”.
What type of romance do you write? Western/historical
When did you first get published as a romance author? Journey to Riverbend is my first published novel.
Do you write in any other genre(s)? Which genre(s) were you first published in? This is my first published novel. I have completed two manuscripts. One is a sequel to Journey to Riverbend called Riverbend Justice. The other is a contemporary novel, Mr. Latham’s Lincoln, about a wife who disappears. These will be submitted to my agent shortly. I also have notes for speculative fiction novel among other projects.
How did you first start writing romance? Kind of by accident. Journey to Riverbend started as a Western. Feedback from critique groups, mentors, and editors advised me to bring out more of the romance element. Editing the book for publication gave impetus to fine-tuning the main characters and developing the romance between them.
How would you describe your writing style? This question stumps me because I never thought of having a style. I asked the three critique partners who have worked most closely with me for their opinions. By the way, all of them are women. Here they are:
1. For being a non-native, I think you write remarkably like a Texan talks. Laconic, dropping the unnecessary words while maintaining clarity and evocative description. Your characters have really strong voices, and you're great at making each of them--even the ones you do such a good job of making the reader dislike--someone that it matters what happens to him. Your humor shines through in the dialogue.
2. You have a straightforward delivery punctuated with effective sentence fragments that add emphasis and tension. This has unfolded little by little as you have continued to write, and is now a distinctive style.
You are known for short leads, dense with meaning and emotion. These show up in chapters as well as in initial leads in novels.
Your writing is tight, your descriptions vivid.
Humor packs unexpected punches. When the reader is all wound up in matters of life and death, a character says something that causes a smile.
Twists and turns seem to flow with ease. They often build on one another until the tension is stretched to the breaking point. Characters have distinctive voices and mannerisms.
3. Smooth and honest-- flecked with pungent detail.
How does your gender affect your writing? Do you deal with different themes, is your dialogue different, what about characterization, etc.? I think it most affects in the areas of characterization. I have to pay attention to my female characters so that they are fully developed and not just stereotypes. One of the minor characters in Journey to Riverbend is the pastor’s wife. In the early drafts, she was not a believable person. In subsequent drafts, she came to life when I gave her the character quirk of having a smart mouth. This made her more real and allowed her to stand out uniquely.
The lead female character was flat and had no character arc in the early drafts. It wasn’t until I sat down and interviewed her that she showed me who she was and what she most desired. Her feisty, independent spirit, coupled with her, at times, conflicting needs for independence and love came across more strongly.
Is there anything that you purposefully change about your writing (voice, plot, characters, etc.) because your audience is primarily women? I don’t think so, other than what I’ve described above about paying more attention to my female characters.
Do you believe that writing romances has given you a different perspective on real-life relationships? I don’t know. I think my perspective on real-life relationships helped me to be more realistic in my writing, including the romance elements.
What reaction do you get from fans regarding your gender? So far, so good. Women who have read the book tell me they enjoy it. One female reader commented, “Just finished Journey to Riverbend with a tear and a smile.”
Do you believe that it is becoming easier or more difficult for men to get published in the romance genre? I’m not sure there has been much change. I did not specifically set out to get published in the romance genre so I may not be a good example. I think men can bring a unique perspective to the genre that will broaden the readers experience and open their eyes to different ways of seeing things.
Any advice you have for men who want to write romance? Pray. Study. Learn. Develop your craft. If you want to write, write what’s in your heart. Follow God’s leading and trust Him. Be true to your story and be willing to work on improving it.
Is there anything you want to tell female readers who might be skeptical that a man can write a satisfying romance novel? Trust us. Give us the opportunity. Maybe read a little further into the book than you would for a female author. I think you’ll see we can connect all the dots and give you a satisfying read.
Henry McLauglin’s debut novel the inspirational historical romance, A Journey To Riverbend is available now. For another look into the mind of a romance-writing man, be sure to stop back for tomorrow’s interview with author Wayne Jordan. And incase you missed them you can also check out Monday's interview with Leigh Greenwood and Tuesday's interview with Nico Rosso.