Thursday 24 May 2012

#Romcom4all - The Big Secret

In keeping with the recent campaign #Romcom4all - which calls for men who love reading romance novels to ‘man up’ and admit to it and for publisher's and book stores to refrain from tagging Relationship Novels as gender specific - I asked internationally bestselling romance novel author Kenneth Rosenberg to tell us all his ‘Big Secret’!

Take it away Kenneth!
I’ve always loved ships.  Big or small, old or new, there is something about the romance of the sea that I always found irresistible.  When I see a ship I have to wonder, where has it been?  Where is it headed?  What adventures await whoever steps on board?

At one point in my life, I decided to finally put these questions to the test.  Like Hermann Melville and Joseph Conrad before me, I opted to sign on as a deckhand and go to sea.  My first big voyage was on a ship laying fibre optic cables across the Pacific.  I took two books with me.  Moby Dick and…  Bridget Jones’ Diary.
The first book was an obvious choice.  I was partly inspired to embark on the journey by Melville after all.  I took the second book because, well, I’ve always had a soft spot for romantic fiction.  I just can’t help it.  I suppose I’m a born romantic at heart.
The problem in this particular case was that the cover consisted of a woman’s giant red lips.  There was no question that this was a book for women, not for deckhands on a ship in the middle of the ocean.
Now I will assume that most of the readers of this blog have not been fortunate enough to work in the merchant marines, but you can probably imagine that by and large the other sailors were manly men.  Not the type who would read fiction in general, and definitely not women’s fiction in particular.
Every time I went to the lounge at the end of the day to read a little bit, I found myself doing my very best to hide the cover from anyone else’s eyes.  I loved the book, but I was embarrassed.  The last thing I wanted was for any of these sailors to see me reading a chic-lit novel!  I might never hear the end of it…
Now years later, I struggle with a similar dilemma.  I’ve written not one but two romantic novels myself.  One of these even has hearts all over the cover.  I can only guess what the deckhands might think of that.
When people ask me what types of novels I write, I still have to pause sometimes before saying romance, but I’m getting used to it.  I guess my point is; I can understand men being a little embarrassed to admit that they like romantic fiction.  I’m a little embarrassed and I write it!  But just because I still struggle sometimes to admit it, that doesn’t mean I enjoy romantic novels any less.
Perhaps the stigma will never disappear.  Men in our society are supposed to be tough and unemotional, but the truth is that everyone wants to fall in love, no matter your gender.
I have been fortunate enough to receive e-mail messages from some of my readers telling me that they enjoyed my books and several of those have actually come from men.  It always surprises me when I do hear from a man, first that they read the book and second that they bothered to tell me they liked it.
One came from a retired postal worker in a small English village, half a world away from me.  That one made my day, and I figure if he can admit he liked a romantic novel, perhaps the rest of us men should take a lesson from him!  And if not, then maybe keeping romance novels as a secret, guilty pleasure, isn’t so bad either.

Kenneth Rosenberg is a California writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Surfer Magazine and other publications. When he is not writing, Kenneth spends his time surfing, snowboarding and traveling the world on a shoestring. His next hotly anticipated novel 'Natalia' is available soon!

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Thank you Kenneth!
I'm really looking forward to reading everyone's comments on this post - so please do leave one before you go!