Welcome to my world! Today our topic is “Crossing Over with Brad Edward!” Well, not really – today I’ll talk about my first heteromance and the challenges of “crossing over” from M/M to M/F (or vice versa)!
Well, I’m nervous and excited. I’ve just published my first “heteromance,” A Great Prince. It’s been a long journey, let me tell you.
Wait. Let me back up. Okay, really, this isn’t my first time at this particular rodeo. I published a M/F romance back in the summer of 2014 as “Angelina Vance,” called The Cowboy’s New Bride (title choice not mine!). It, um, didn’t do so well. There were lots of reasons for this, but primarily, because it wasn’t a very good book. It so happened that I’d planned a month off from work (unpaid, as I was a contractor) to write this book…and the first day I was off and ready to roll, the mail order prescription provider that Anthem forces me to use drained my bank account by “mistake,” and I spent most of that month fighting to get the money back. So, yeah, I was a bit distracted.
But even if I hadn’t been, there was one problem – I was completely at sea writing a sex scene between a woman and a man. Fortunately, I had a female editor who informed me that a woman wouldn’t have an orgasm that fast, and that I’d forgotten about, um, moisture and such.
See? As a perfect Kinsey Six, I have no first hand knowledge of how a man makes a woman cum. And I know that showed in the story. I’d painted myself into a corner, too – the story was set on a Nevada divorce ranch in the 30s, and really, I was writing a script for an old black-and-white movie…only because of the demands of the genre, I had to have a sex scene at the end for the post-wedding HEA. How did I transform Clara, who was the “good girl,” into a wanton sex vixen? It was as if Norma Shearer greeted her husband at the end of “The Women” – and then they tacked on a scene with Joan Crawford taking over the role for a NC-17 aftermath.
So I was pretty gunshy about doing that again. But, I recently decided to make another foray into M/F. I had an idea that had been sitting fallow for a while. In January 2014, a friend of mine sent me an article about Netflix categories – which keywords were in the most popular searches. Here’s a snapshot:
So I cracked wise and sent an email back to my friend and said, “Obviously, Brad Vance's next romance has to be about a gay marriage between two European princes!”
Yeah, it’s that kind of crazy shit that suddenly gets the creative wheels turning… Next thing I knew, I had a sketch of the story that became A Great Prince.
There was just one problem. The royal gay marriage bit? Completely preposterous. I mean, so far out in left field I almost laughed it off the stage. (Note: every time you laugh an idea off the stage as too ridiculous for fiction, it’ll be tomorrow’s news headline.) Nevertheless, the characters stayed with me – they were believable, it was just the scenario I put them in that wasn’t.
Then it hit me. DUH. If Franz Albert became Francis Albertine, then I could get a working dynamic. Instead of them wanting to get gay married and their handlers and family opposing it, I could have a forced/arranged marriage that they resisted. Suddenly I had a plot with conflict that could really drive a story. If they were two dudes, then what you had was two guys in instalove, and the conflict is only about them vs. prejudice, in which case, what’s so special about them as royals, what’s different about that story from any other star-crossed lovers?
Now, there was one large issue I had to think about, as a gay man (cough) over 40. In the old days, there was an overriding tendency for Hollywood (and Publisher’s Row for that matter) to treat gay stories one of two ways. One, “we love this story, but can’t you make the other guy a girl?” Or two, one of the gay guys has to be murdered or commit suicide. (Seriously: Check out the appendix of Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet for a comprehensive list of dead gay characters in film, at least up through the 70s.)
As gay writers, back then, we had a responsibility to tell gay stories – to not give into the urge to “mainstream” them by turning a M/M love story into a M/F romance, never mind killing off “the gay guy.” If I’d done what I did with A Great Prince twenty years ago, I would have been betraying something fundamental.
But now? Now, thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster, we’re entering the “post-gay” world, at least in first world countries. Young people are more “flexisexual” and less concerned with coloring inside sharp gender and orientation borders.
And that’s made it not only possible, but attractive, for me to write a M/F book. Why should I fall behind the times, why should I be one of those “shorter bars” on the poll results – you know, when people are asked about anything LGBTQ-related, and the “approval” bar is like 50% in the 18-29 range, and 20% in the 49-60 range? Why shouldn’t I take down the walls of my own sharp borders? I revised my old opinions about bisexuals, which in the 1980s was, “they’re really gay but just looking for cover, so that when the Moral Majority rounds us up, they can escape.” I revised my old opinions about transgendered people, which in the 1980s was “who would ever want to lose their dick?”
So why shouldn’t I revise my idea of the kind of stories I could tell? Why should I be locked into writing “gay stories” forever?
And to be honest, the M/M genre is suddenly hosting a lot of very successful M/F authors who’ve brought quite a large segment of their audience with them. So, I realized, what’s good for the proverbial goose, etc., right?
To be honest, I was still a bit uncomfortable writing the sex scene at the end of this book. And as many of you know, I have absolutely no shame writing M/M at its perviest! But in the end I realized, I had to try. I had to stretch my limits, and to a large degree, I relied on my gift for sexy talk more than on my choreography skills.
And I’m enormously grateful to my female beta readers, who not only educated me about female sexual response, but called out things I’d never have thought of – such as, that a couture wedding dress wouldn’t have a zipper down the back!
I’m happy with the results. Even if the book tanks, I know that it’s good, I know that I took a risk that paid off creatively. Really, that’s what staying fresh as a writer is about. Dean Koontz wrote a great article about defying the market’s expectations, and refusing to write the same book over and over:
“Most publishers–not all–believe that a successful writer must produce always in precisely the same genre, delivering characters and plots and themes that are comfortably familiar to his readers, working reliably in a narrative voice that strikes the same note in story after story. This desire for sameness springs partly from the publisher’s need to develop and sustain a market niche for the writer, ‘branding’ him in the same sense that Campbell’s Soup or Log Cabin Syrup is a brand. In truth, however, it also springs from most publishers’ conviction that the reading public is composed of well-defined herds of sheep, each of which can–and must–be driven to the same pasture from which it has grazed previously.”
And of course Koontz defies his publishers again and again, doing something new every time…and striking gold. At this point in my career, I know who my core audience is – people who want a good story. Who’ll read a M/M if I write it, and who’ll read a M/F if I write that, too.
I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t felt like I could finally do it right. What I’ve heard so far from my beta readers has convinced me that I did. I hope you’ll feel the same!
QUESTION: Do you have a favorite writer who writes in both M/M and M/F?
Title: A Great Prince
Author: Brad Vance
Available on: AMAZON
He’s Niko: Orphan, street rat, gengzter in the biggest crime syndicate in the former Communist country of Danubia.
He’s Nikolas Almásy: Danubia’s last surviving aristocrat from the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
He’s Nikolas I, King of Danubia by the Grace of God: willing pawn of the oligarchs and gengzters who put him on the throne.
He’s Niko “The Punk Prince”: Bad boy, party animal, tabloid fodder, the meal ticket of every royal watcher in Europe.
She’s Francesca Albertine of Burgenland, Princess of the House of Hapsburg-Esterhazy. Daughter of a love marriage between a King and a movie star, born to privilege, and raised to do her duty. She despises the irresponsible brat across the border, who cares only for himself.
Never mind how devilishly handsome he is, how full of life and energy, never mind how much she envies him his freedom, to do anything he wants, take anything he wants, anytime he wants it…
Their two nations were one, before World War II divided them. Now the real powers behind their thrones plan to reunify the nations…and the monarchies.
To prevent a royal wedding neither of them wants, Nikolas and Francesca will have to work together, and risk it all – their thrones, their freedom…even their lives.
Niko must learn from Francesca – how to become a better man, a “Great Prince,” to save his nation, and himself, from this unwanted alliance.
And Francesca must learn from Nikolas – how to break the rules, live dangerously, act fast.
Together they’ll do anything to save their people…yes, even go through with a royal wedding, if that’s what it takes...
Connect with Brad Vance
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