A Certain Romance… (or, Love and Writing in the Time of Quarantine)

If you’re reading this during the mythical time someday in the future when I am actually ready to promote my work and not just toil quietly and occasionally muse about it, you may recall that early in 2020 we as a society all had to enter a prolonged period of “social isolation” in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. For different people, this meant a lot of different things. Uncertainty, anxiety, wariness, lots of handwashing. Some decent memes. Something called “Tiger King” (I still haven’t checked it out.) A lot of people in the service industry lost their jobs – not all that long ago I would have been one of them. Instead, I am in the “Work from Home” Bucket. Every morning I report to my kitchen counter to perch on a decidedly not ergonomic stool and access my company’s VPN.

For some people there has been a glut of free time and energy, and while I wouldn’t trade my steady income for that, I envy those who have to think “Should I work on my art, or just exist in my despair?” For me, I have no more time to put into the writing I want to do than I did before, and perhaps less. But that doesn’t mean I’m doing nothing.

I’ve written a couple of minifics, am circling the endings of two longer stories, and just started a third, with new ideas still coming all the time (I promise, very few of them are about plagues and apocalypses and isolation.) I daydream constantly, which is kind of like writing. I think about my writing a lot these days, and am revisiting it often.

One thing I’ve noticed about myself over the years is that when I write, there’s a lot of concentration on romance. This isn’t a good or bad thing, it’s just my thing. he same way some people love to write problems to be solved and some people love just to write thrillers or mysteries, I find that if I don’t actively avoid it, I am always writing relationships, emotions and psychology.

Romance has always been big in my world, from when I was a lonely, yearning teenager, to today when I am a happily married man. I may not be a natural romantic (too analytical for that, I think) but that doesn’t mean it’s not something important to me. I enjoy reading cheesy romance novels to my wife and watching the characters play out the usual tropes of lust and attraction, misunderstanding and doubt, before getting together in the end. So, it forms the thrust of a lot of my work. To me, the idea of gender-change fiction lends itself to this in a very unique and fun way. The stories I like to read, and thus write, feature characters falling in love with people they shouldn’t, or didn’t expect to, sometimes despite themselves.

You’ve probably read some of my work over at The Trading Post – any entry authored by “A.M.” is me. My characters are always the ones looking for love without knowing it, dreaming of a way to end the loneliness of their existence and find themselves unexpectedly charmed by the attentions they get in their new lives. Sometimes its agonizing and horrifying and yet, it usually gives way to delight. I think I’ve written a couple of good ones.

I love love: the pursuit of it, the embrace of it, the destruction of it. Heartbreak is great for writers.

It’s also the best way to get to the sex.

When we finally get to posting my writing, you’ll find there definitely is sex in there. Not too much, I don’t consider myself raunchy or over the top, although at times I can let myself get quite graphic in what I describe. There are some of shy away from it – maybe they’re bashful or there isn’t a need for it in their stories or they’re just not up to writing about it. For others, that’s the whole point, and that’s fine if that’s your thing. Erotica is a great subgenre.

For me, sex is just part of he story, as it is in life – it reveals us, helps complete our experience, and acts as a great focal point for drama. Not all writing needs sex (there’s virtually no sex in the Harry Potter series, and those sold pretty well) but writing as a whole needs it. I love writing sex scenes, but I also love writing what comes before and what comes after (pun intended?) Since it all reflects life, I don’t then consider myself a “romance writer” either. It’s just one seasoning I use heavily in my work. It would be wrong to suggest that all my work fits into this category, but importantly the stuff that doesn’t, I have to deliberately bend myself to do differently.

I said earlier, that those were the stories I liked to read, and thus write. That’s true. That’s what grabbed me as a young writer, the romance and the heart. But today, I so admire writers who can do things I can’t, or don’t. I don’t know if I’ll ever write a truly great mystery or thriller, and when I see these done well I am often full of awe and admiration. I you are a writer reading this, my advice to you is to figure out whatever it is that drives your writing and cultivate that. Then once you know what it is and how to do it, you can play with it, or ignore it when you want to try something different.

I hope in my stories you’ll find some real substance, heart, things that ring true, things that intrigue and surprise.

Here I am, talking like someone who’s done something. Well, maybe I have.

Until next time


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