By AJ Llewellyn
There’s been a lot of talk and a lot of blogging in e-romance circles recently on the subject of men writing as women and women writing as male authors. Some bloggers are even suggesting that they would be devastated to know that their favorite authors are women and vice versa.
Some critics also claim they abhor authors who write under multiple names and suggest they can even tell if an author they are reading is…really someone else.
Does it matter? So many authors have been doing this for centuries. Newcomers to the art of pen and paper may not be aware that for centuries, women had to pretend to be men, or worse, use initials as Mary Wollstonecraft did when she covered the French Revolution beheadings for her St. Paul’s Row publisher.
As a pre-teen, my father sent me to Greece to visit the motherland and I had a very tough time. Three things saved my sanity that Year of Speaking Greekly. In an old bookshop, I discovered a dusty copy of George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss and I devoured it. It was written in English! I read and re-read that book and I can quote you whole chunks of it to this day – but don’t worry, I won’t. The other things that got me through were warped, moldy albums I discovered in my Aunt Sia’s attic of Suzi Quattro and The Carpenters.
All of this could happily explain my strange tastes in men, music and muses, but still, it was some years later that I discovered that my favorite author George Eliot was a woman! I was just getting over that shock when I fell in love with the books of S.E. Hinton – ACK! This writer of searing gang violence on Tulsa’s ‘Restless Ribbon’ was a fifteen year old girl!
So many romance writers write under many names. Wile other teenage boys I knew were getting into Guns & Ammo and Playboy, I was secretly stashing Harlequin Romances inside my text books. I was not a fan of the biggies at that time Georgette Heyer and Jean Plaidy. I adored Victoria Holt. Her lush depictions of foreign locales and love tortured until the very last page gave me that thirst for writing about faraway places. I was shocked to discover she WAS Jean Plaidy, whose books I did not particularly enjoy. In fact she wrote under eight different pseudonyms in her long, prolific career.
When I moved to London several years ago, I remember going to do a dinner party and the hairiest, scruffiest guy at the table turned out to be the biggest selling author of Mills & Boon romances. I asked him how he did it. How he managed to project the idea of heaving bosoms, doe-like eyes and all those other things those romance novels did so well.
“I’ve been reading them since I was a kid,” he told me, scratching his chin. Geez, he needed a shave.
So, the current crop of romance authors are not new. And who cares if they write under multiple names? I have been amused by the guessing games going on about gender identity and who writes under how many names…but to me, it all comes down to:
Can they write and do I enjoy reading it?
If it’s yes to both questions, they could write under any name and the rose would still smell as sweet….does it smell as good to you?