From Thea: When I first set up my blog, I posted a series of interviews on Men Reading Romance. I loved the different take on the romance genre by male readers, and had a great deal of fun setting it up.
One of the men who generously gave of his time was author Myke Cole. I was delighted when Myke approached me again and asked if he could guest with another post – about actually writing romance.
Here’s what Myke has to say about his writing journey over the last two years:
Love’s a Thing Worth Working For
A couple years ago, this site was kind enough to host me at the start of my career. My first novel, CONTROL POINT, did pretty well. I guess it had the right combination of explosions and internal conflicts. It was a high-octane story that mixed magic and the military, sending Harry Potter off to train with Delta Force instead of to Hogwarts. The action rode on a layer of deeper issues: the constant tension between security and civil liberties, the price of the sprawling bureaucracies we rely upon to govern our use of deadly force.
I spent a lot of time fretting over the characters, doing my utmost to get them exactly right. This is because I firmly believe that character is the heart of any good novel. We’re herd animals, us humans, and we are infinitely interested in the thinkings, sayings and doings of our own. A plotless novel with dynamite characters is a fantastic book, but it doesn’t work the other way around.
But it was my debut, and I expected it wouldn’t be perfect. But I was crestfallen when the complaints about character rolled in. I was prepared for my craft to be flawed in some areas, but not that one. I had to get that one right. When I cast about looking for ways to learn, to improve, I sought out a genre where character rose above all else, where the intertwining of human beings was the absolute core of the story.
I am, of course, talking about romance.
I began reading the genre like a scout/sniper on a recon op. I was going to get in, learn the target, then get out and hit it.
See, here’s the thing with scout/snipers. They don’t usually get the drop on the target, decide they like it and then stick around for dinner.
But that’s what happened.
Outlander, anyone? Nalini Singh? Hell, even that Ellora’s cave anthology I picked up at the Nebulas. Y’all can write.
When I came on this site last time, I was boiling with righteous fury. A friend had told me that men generally couldn’t write romances under their own names, I was determined to break that barrier.
I had always pictured my efforts bearing fruit in a separate novel, a discrete foray into the romance genre that totally strayed from my established mode.
So, imagine my surprise when I typed THE END at the bottom of my third book, BREACH ZONE, and realized I had written a love story.
This is the thing about learning, it has a way of sneaking up on you. Remember learning to ride a bike? All that falling over. All those scabbed knees. All the frustrated crying and telling your dad that you weren’t getting any better. “You’re improving,” dad said, “you’re just too close to see it. Have some patience.” And then, one day, suddenly you’re balanced and moving under your own steam, the competence so shocking that you forget to smile for the first spin around the block.
Reading romance did that for me. It subtly taught me the intense complication that plagues all human relationships, and the delicious tension that it evokes in a narrative. It taught me how to convey emotion without painting it on. It helped me breathe life into my characters until they refused to follow my plot lines, giving that sublime authorial experience: watching one’s characters become so fully realized that they begin to dictate the path of the story.
And just like riding a bike, I was so amazed that I forgot to smile. And just like riding that bike, my first trip around the block was tentative, convincing myself that the balance was real, that I wasn’t about to pitch forward on my face. And once I had the confidence, it was time to push the envelope.
My fourth novel, GEMINI CELL, is another high-octane military fantasy, and that’s undoubtedly how it’ll be pitched. But it is absolutely and undeniably a romance. At its root, GEMINI CELL is a story of a love so powerful that it defies death itself, of a man so deeply in love that he will not rest until he has found his way back to the woman who anchors his soul.
Can I brag for a minute here? It’s the best thing I’ve ever written.
That’s because it’s about character. That’s because it’s about love. That’s because it’s got hot sex (and hot sex between married people, no less!).
Reading romance taught me how to do that.
So, I guess this post is two things. The first is this: I told you I was going to write a romance, and I wanted to come on here to tell you that, by god, I did.
The second is to say thanks. This genre has taught me about my craft. More importantly, it has taught me about myself.
I’ve still got a long way to go. There are many long miles before I can even come close to producing work that could go into the ring with Gabaldon or Aguirre.
But I will work as hard as it takes for as long as it takes.
Because love is worth it.