OK – so I don’t get a SACK full of readers’ letters but I do get a few a week.
This entire concept is still — even after five years — hugely new to me and each one I get is a source of amazement and delight. I admit to being extremely vain and keeping them all in a folder because they are probably the best way to remotivate oneself when all is doom and gloom and you’ve simply gone off the boil with your latest WIP.
But what really delights and continues to surprise me with each one that comes in is simply this:
Nearly all of them are from men.
Now, I’m assuming they are gay men. I’m so militantly against anyone making a big deal of my sexuality standing in bafflement as to why anyone thinks that defines me as a human being or a writer, that the very last thing I would ever do when I reply to these letters is to refer to the writer as a gay man in any way. They are from men, and that’s the end of the matter.
But why are they all from men I wonder?
Now I have a theory: I think it’s because most women who read gay romance, have, in one form or another, been reading hetero romance and don’t think of it as a big deal. It’s just another book. Read: enjoy: (or not) move on. Rinse and repeat.
What I’m getting from the readers’ letters is that men are discovering the genre for the first time, which makes me smile. They say that they’ve picked the books up by chance; or that someone has recommended them’ or they’ve had them passed on by someone else or they’ve popped up on the gay list on Amazon and, having enjoyed historicals they thought they’d give them a try. Most of them definitely seem to have had them as their first experience of the gay historical genre, and just about all of them ask for further recommendations.
What’s great is that, having “discovered” something “new to them” that they take the time and effort to write–sometimes only a line or two, but sometimes really long, chatty friendly emails. And yet, almost nothing from women!
I’m not complaining–as I say, I think that women take the genre more for granted–some of them have been around fandom for years and gay romance is nothing new at all, and I’m just as happy to have a letter from a woman reader as anyone else of course. But seeing as how I deliberately set out to write gay romance because I was convinced that there was a gap in the market, getting these letters from men warms me hugely.
I have to admit that, all my life I’d never, until recently, written a letter to an author. This is mainly because most of the authors I read before I started to write myself were dead. There was absolutely no point penning:
Dear Mr Dickens,
I so enjoyed your Nicholas Nickleby and the bromance between Nicholas and Smike was truly touching. Any chance of a sequel?
But when I started to get letters myself I found it so wonderful that I made a vow always to write to authors (unless, like Mr D, they weren’t going to care much) and tell them how their books have touched me. In doing this I was not only passing on The Happy, but I have made some good correspondents over the years. My claim to fame is a several email correspondence with the lovely and charming Jamie O’Neill (At Swim Two Boys) who was graceful and welcoming and a Really Good Egg.
There’s no real point to this post–I wanted to point out to the world that men were reading and loving gay romance, and gay historical romance but of course we know that already–but I also wanted to say that if you really liked a book, don’t stop at leaving a good review on your blog, or on Amazon. Track down the author and be brave–send them a short line too, because I guarantee you will make that author’s day. Royalties are nice, but we ain’t getting rich in this genre yet. Good reviews are great, but there’s nothing quite as nice as finding a little something cheery in your inbox in the morning.
Have you ever written to an author? Anyone famous? Did they respond? What do you feel about people like Robin Hobb who don’t want to be bothered by fans?