In the Company of women
I have always been a guy that gets along better with women than men. It’s not that I don’t like hanging out with men; I have always had a number of male friends. I just prefer the company of women. Many people talk about their spouses as being their best friends. In my case, that was literally true. My wife was my best friend for years before we ever became romantically involved. Therefore, when it came time for me to write my first novel, it seemed entirely natural for me to write one that mostly women would read.
Since I was a kid, I’ve always been fascinated with relationships, with the way people interact with each other, and with the emotions behind these interactions. When I was in high school, my closest friend was a guy I could talk to about these things. Since then, though, I’ve found that I rarely have these conversations with men. I’m not saying this to promote the tired cliché that most men don’t like to talk about their feelings. That isn’t true; they just like to talk about different feelings. No, not football (well, not just football). I’ve had great conversations with men about what we’re doing with our lives, about the passage of time, about dreams for our kids. But about the emotional interplay between human beings? Not so much.
I knew that writing my early novels, The Forever Year, Flash and Dazzle, When You Went Away, and Crossing the Bridge, was going to put me in a world where most of my fellows weren’t, well, fellows. Not only is this not an issue for me, it’s actually a tremendous amount of fun. I’ve been to romance conventions where I’ve been the only male in the room. It’s difficult for me to imagine a scenario where that would be a bad thing. At these conventions, and at other places where I’ve talked about my work, I’ve gotten into fascinating conversations with women interested in the perspective I’ve chosen to take. I know other men write romantic novels; few, however, seem willing to write then from the viewpoint of a man.
It was important to me in writing these novels that I not try to present them as the models for how every man thinks. That would have been profoundly silly. What I did instead was try to write with as much honesty as I could about the situations my characters were going through. Since all of those early novels are first-person stories with a male narrator, that meant offering a distinctly male point of view. I don’t know how many other men will agree with this perspective, and I doubt that I’ll ever have enough male readers to gain much of a consensus. Regardless, though, I’m in a place that feels very comfortable to me.