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  • Lynne Shelby

#mencanwriteromance - R J Gould - This Writing Life #18

It is a truth universally acknowledged that most writers of romantic fiction are female. Today, I'm delighted to host a guest blog from R J Gould, talking about his writing life as a male writing in the romance genre.

Over to you, Richard ...

R J Gould

Why the twitter hashtag #mencanwriteromance? I use it to wave a flag for the small number of males writing, and for that matter reading, Romance fiction. I’m one of only 1% of the members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association who are men.

Actually, I didn’t set out to be a romantic fiction author, I just got placed there because I write about relationships, with my novels character-driven, although of course plot is important, too. I use humour to describe my protagonists’ bitter-sweet journeys in pursuit of frequently second-chance romance, carrying cartloads of baggage as they struggle to balance the pressures of work, friends and families on their tragi-comic search for love.

Here’s a confession. My name is Richard and I’m a coward. An agent suggested I use a female pseudonym to increase my largely female readership. “No way!” I declared with bold pride. “People are going to have to accept me for who I am.” That evening I considered Rebecca, Rosemary, Rachel and Rita before opting for the cowardly compromise of using R J instead of Richard. In retrospect, I should have resisted the change because being a man writing Romance is worth shouting about in that it provides my predominantly female readers with interesting new insights into relationships.

Here’s another confession. I gave in to a suggestion for style of cover, a ChickLitty cartoony type which doesn’t really fit in with what I write – I don’t do lovey-dovey. Two novels later, I was pleased to work with my publisher’s design team to come up with the clean lines for Jack & Jill went Downhill. I’ve kept with the same style for Mid-life follies, the first novel I’ve self-published.

I believe that attraction to a cover is the vital first step the reader takes in deciding whether to investigate a novel further, so ultimately the test of whether my preference for untypical Romance designs is wise will be number of sale.

Many thanks, Richard, for a fascinating insight into your writing life. Wishing Mid-life follies every success.

Mid-life follies

‘When you look in the mirror, do you see someone young and vibrant like you used to be,’ Liz asks her husband, ‘or old and decrepit like you’re going to be?’

This question is the trigger for Liz’s decision to leave the comfortable family home in Cambridge after twenty-three years of contented marriage. A brisk walk to clear her head of the feeling of being trapped doesn’t work. On a brief escape to the seaside, a wholly out of character one-night fling makes things worse.

A baffled Hugh is left to figure out why his wife has abandoned him.

Is she suffering a mid-life crisis? Is he experiencing the same affliction?

A succession of twists and turns prevents a restoration to the normality that the couple increasingly crave as their children, parents and friends discover that immaturity is not solely the preserve of the young.

“This tale of self-doubt, adultery and forgiveness is shot through with humour and compassion. A most enjoyable read.”

David Lister, The Independent

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R J Gould is the author of four novels: A Street Café Named Desire, The Engagement Party, Jack & Jill Went Downhill and Mid-life follies. He is a (rare male) member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Having been selected for the organisation’s New Writers Programme, his first novel was short-listed for the Joan Hessayon Award. Ahead of writing full time, R J Gould led a national educational charity. He has published in a wide range of educational journals, national newspapers and magazines and is the co-author of a major work on educating able young people, all rewarding, but his passion is writing fiction. He lives in Cambridge, England.

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