Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Guest Post and Giveaway: Incendium by Derek Bishop

Every woman who writes male/male romance seems to have done at least one obligatory blog post on not only why they write in the genre, but also why it appeals to so many female readers. Since my M/M fantasy novella, Incendium, has just come out from Storm Moon Press, I thought I would do my part. Here's the thing though: I'm not a woman. I'm a straight man.

Now, I don't want this post to come across as a cry of "no homo!" I don't mind being mistaken as gay, and I frequently identify as queer, or choose not to identify, because I don't think that a person's sexuality should really matter unless you want to have sex with them. My point is, I'm not writing this post because I want to make sure everybody knows I eat tacos, but because it was an interesting (and very enjoyable) experience to be a taco connoisseur and write an erotic love story about two dudes who really dig sausages.

So, if I'm drawn to people packing vaginas, what business do I have writing gay romance fiction? Well, it was mostly out of necessity, but if I'd known how fun and fulfilling it would be, I would've done it anyway. A writer friend of mine encouraged me to send a story in for an anthology call. The rules were that it had to be gay romance and that one of the two lovers had to be a dragon in some form. An idea took root, I went at it, and it ended up being the best work I've completed to date. Full disclosure though: I'm using the term "Romance" very loosely as my novella has a bittersweet ending instead of the typical HEA.

Admittedly, my first draft sex scenes weren't that great. My editor eviscerated them, calling them too technical and detached. As I went back and reviewed them, I realized she was right. I had written from the point of view of a third person watching the sex instead of someone actually taking part. All I was doing was describing choreography. I had to get into the POV character's head and imagine what the sex would feel like, both physically and emotionally, to someone who passionately desired that type of connection, that type of experience.

This shift in perspective reminded me of another I underwent during my freshman year in college. I was cast as a gay character in this play adapted and directed by my friend David Garret, who went on to become a brilliant playwright and performance artist based in Virginia, and if you ever get a chance, you should definitely see some of his work. I was coming from a Southern Baptist background (don't worry, I got better), so my understanding of what it meant to be gay was... somewhat limited. I cringe now to think of the stereotype-ridden performance I gave at my audition. Somehow, I was lucky enough to get the part anyway.

Working on that character, learning to become him, showed me how narrow a view I had of the world and the people in it. I hadn't really given much thought to how gay men felt attraction and passion. I just assumed they were only looking for emotionless sex. Working on that play gave me an understanding of what it was like to be a man in love with another man. The experience taught me the joy of empathy, of that epiphanous click when your perspective shifts and you realize you're looking through the eyes of someone who sees the world in a fundamentally different way.

I went through a phase several years after that where I became enamored with lesbian literature. My favorites were books that centered around the late 19th century. I tore through contemporary classics like Radcliffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness and Renee Vivien's A Woman Appeared to Me. I was especially fond of Sarah Waters's historical novels. I loved reading about the social scene on the left bank of the Seine during that time, about the Parisian salons of Natalie Barney and Gertrude Stein, of the tempestuous romances of Barney and Vivien, with each other and others.

To say that this phase ended would be inaccurate―I still love to read lesbian fiction and history—but it's died down somewhat. While it was at its peak, I would often feel guilty about my taste for this type of material. I wondered if I was not performing some sort of phallocentric invasion of perspective. What was the underlying source of my enjoyment? Was it something insidious and exploitative?

After thinking about it, however, I knew I wasn't reading these stories for the same reason straight men watch "lesbian" porn. (Also being an expert on that practice, I was in a good position to judge.) After all, it was not as though I was reading erotica―the emotional connection was the focus of these works. Though I'm not going to lie; Sarah Waters can sure write some steamy sex scenes.

What appealed to me was the negotiation of roles in the relationship. Lesbian identity, especially back then, did not have the defining cookie-cutter molds that heterosexual romance had developed over millennia of human culture. There was not an assembly line of society manufacturing its accepted models. Women who felt these feelings and desires had no set of rules on how they courted or how they acted once they were together. They had to figure these things out as they went along, combining some aspects of heterosexuality with dynamics from other female-female relationships such as friends, sisters, even mother-daughter to some extent.

The appeal of this negotiation stems in part from my dissatisfaction with the standardized heterosexual roles I'd been bombarded with all my life―the man acts this way, a woman does this, and they achieve happiness once they've met criteria A, B, and C. There's something refreshing and even arousing about vicariously experiencing sex and intimacy as a different type of person in a different type of way. So when I first became acquainted with the M/M sub-genre of Romance fiction, and it's large following of women, I could sympathize.

I think straight women love M/M for the same reason I love lesbian fiction. We get to see the type of person we desire in an unconventional role. Through M/M love stories, women can explore different dynamics in a romantic relationship than the traditional ones they've been conditioned to. This is not to suggest that fiction depicting homosexual romance only has a use to straight people. Obviously, gay people would enjoy gay romance for the same reason that straight people enjoy straight romance.

The question is, does this trend reflect nothing more than an escapist pleasure? Or is it a sign of a more transgressive shift in our culture? Is there a desire to redefine how romance operates and how we find happiness through it? Do all the dynamics of the male/female gender dichotomy need to be brought into a heterosexual relationship? Are we willing to throw out the rulebook on love and figure things out in our own way?

I don't know, but I'm curious to find out.


Thanks for joining us on the Incendium blog tour! Be sure to take part in our giveaway! You have several options to be entered through our Rafflecopter, but you get the most entries by leaving a comment on this post! Today's question is...

How do you feel about authors of varying sexes and gender identities writing GLBT romance? Does knowing that information about an author influence your decision to read their books? (Just keep it civil if you discuss, please. Differing opinions are expected on this one.)

Enter Derek Bishop's Incendium Rafflecopter Giveaway HERE

Derek Bishop grew up in a small Virginia town along the Blue Ridge Mountains. He was raised on Southern Baptism and Star Trek. The Star Trek was the one that stuck. His parents were both teachers and imparted a love of literature and wilderness exploration on him. He went to school at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia where he learned the joys of studying feminist theory, dancing to techno music, and grocery shopping side by side with colonial costumed re-enactors. He left one class short of a Gender Studies major and several classes too far of an English major.

His latest work, Incendium, is now available from Storm Moon Press.


  1. Actually, I think it's pretty cool of you! I remember an erotica editor somewhere long ago saying that he was straight as an arrow in real life, but that he enjoyed the m/m scenarios he read best. I think m/m scenarios are more compelling in the first place, because they aren't as overexposed as the other configurations and the gender roles aren't cliches.


  2. Please count me in, thanks.

  3. The reasons you state for liking lesbian fiction is the same reasons I like m/m. I however prefer my stories to have an HEA or a HFN ending at least. However, your story intrigues me as I like dragons and fantasy. I may have to break my no sad endings rule and try it :D

  4. "What appealed to me was the negotiation of roles in the relationship."
    THIS is why I like MM. A far wider range of possibilities and combinations (no, not THAT kind, you dummy ;-) )
    As for the topic: Back when I started reading this genre and learned that such-and-such author was a het, cis female, it sometimes lead to some funny faces. But I got better, too!
    The variation of style and storytelling in this genre sometimes makes it difficult, if not impossible to tell whether the author is male or female. And I like that.
    Anyway - isn't it a bit like actors? Benedict Cumberbatch has definitely never been a real, live dragon - yet he plays one 'on tv'.... It's all about imagining and then bringing it to others

  5. I can honestly say that the gender of the author has never influenced whether I pick a book up or if I find value in the work. There are authors that I enjoy their work and have no idea what gender they identify with nor do I feel that it has any bearing on their style of writing.

    Plain and simple, I enjoy reading MM because *whispers* I think men are hot and the only thing better than one man is more than one >.<

    I have found that I enjoy the variety that is in MM, as well as, being able to see men in so many various roles within a relationship that you just do not get to see in het stories.

    Reading gay literature has help me expand my understanding of a culture I have had minimal contact with and has offered me the opportunity to learn what it is to see the world from various perspectives that I would have otherwise not come into contact with in my life.

    I have also met some fantastic people, authors and fellow readers alike, that I doubt I would have crossed paths with if I had never picked up that first MM read.

  6. Your post was so intriguing to me due to your unique perspective. If an author has the ability to write and imagine, then it should not preclude them from writing a story despite their gender, orientation etc.
    strive4bst(AT) yahoo(Dot) com

  7. Well I don't think it matters whether or not you practice what you write in your stories. I mean a lot of things in books are researched or just coming from an authors imagination. I don't think your sexuality has to play a part in it unless you make it a point to, unwittingly or not. I don't know if people are particularly knowledgable about this but there are male mangaka who aren't gay who draw yaoi. It's not a big thing really, there are also male mangaka who draw and plot out really good shoujo manga, not to mention females who draw really great shounen stuff.

    humhumbum AT yahoo DOT com


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