Tuesday 20 October 2015

Why Nightingale is not a romance

I'm not one for false advertising - so just a few words about Nightingale and where it fits on the bookshelf.

"M/M Romance" has come to mean a very specific thing; basically lots of sex, no cheating, kink very welcome (and encouraged), and historical m/m romance tends to be light on history (sometimes very light - up to the point where it's largely modern people fucking in costumes) - exceptions prove the rule. M/M Romance has by now spawned a million sub-sub-genres (m/m/m & menage, BDSM, slavefic, etc), and readers have certain expectations.

And that's fine, because I have written "M/M Romance" and will very likely write some more of that - in fact, there's a co-written book that's most definitely a historical m/m romance (though heavy on the history) in the wings.

However, Nightingale is not an M/M Romance. It's a gay historical. It's actually interested in the history of a gay person - one who's problematic and makes mistakes, and is conflicted and very much like a real person, not a "romance lead". I'm a lot more interested to explore the history than the romance. let alone "Romance" as defined by reader expectations. (Reader expectations are all well and good - I'm writing this whole entry to manage expectations - I WANT people to find the books they want to find and save their money for those.)

The difference is ... the focus is not on the romance. There's no evil ex. People have very different reasons to have sex, it's not all LURVE. In fact, the whole book (circa 85,000 words) contains two sex scenes, one of which is so very not erotic. There's no kink. The characters don't spend pages and pages exploring their emotions for each other. For much of the book, the lovers aren't in the same room.

And yet, of course, there's a love story, because my gay character falls in love with a guy and interacts in the very queer entertainment scene of Paris in the 1940s. On a certain level, it's enemies-to-lovers, but it's a "new" take on the theme - I'm a lot more interested in mutual perception and pre-conceptions and prejudice than people holding knives to each others' throats (though that can be fun).

Many people will find Nightingale romantic. That's awesome. I think it's one of the most romantic stories I've ever written. Apart from Return on Investment, it's most definitely the most personal, most "me" story. Somewhere in those pages, you'll find me - this is me unmasked. The book has terrified me for four years because it's just so damn personal, and THAT part has nothing to do with Nazis and Paris.

Mostly, along with Return on Investment, it's a sign post of where my writing is taking me, now that I've largely overcome the fear of following the crazy stuff. The next one along that path will be my book set in 1820 that I'm currently researching.

Nightingale is not a romance, but it's a love story. I'd call it a historical novel first that happens to have a gay protagonist. It's the best thing I've ever done. No competition.

By the grace of Apollo and the Muses, I hope to write several more of these, if I can find the courage.

Eventually, I will write classical "Romance" again, because those are fun. For the moment, my solo work is going down a very different path. But if you liked Return on Investment, Nightingale might be for you, too. For me, it's another very big step forward, and I'm excited about where it's taking me. 


  1. Very much looking forward to it. Despite the War setting :) Especially if you compare it to Return on Investment.

  2. I am so excited to read this book.For a number of reasons but first and probably most important is is because you wrote it and it wouldn't matter what genre. It wouldn't need sex or romance.
    I find it curious the management of reader expectations. Because most readers I know are like myself - we read a lot of very differernt stuff.
    What I am looking for is - well written, great ideas (esp in SFF), a good story with subplots.A narrator's voice that engages me.
    A lot of humour (not your thing).
    Well researched insight into a different life is wonderful.
    Personally, I like happy endings and don't like people dying.
    I like books that make you think and question this on many levels (as Sf often does).

    I read on the interweb that some readers only want one formula and they want to read books over and over that fit that pattern. Such that they complain if an author delivers something different,
    I just don't understand these readers.

    The pleasure for me is to turn the pages and NOT know whats going to happen but know it is going to be an excellent book.

  3. Really looking forward to this xxx