Sunday, February 07, 2010

Smart Man: Rob Preece, PhD

Rob Preece: Do Smart Guys Read Romance?

I know what you’re thinking—those pink covers with girls in their nightgowns running out of old castles, titles that make you choke… like The Cowboy and the Diaper Pail or The Billionaire's Babe’s Secret Baby. Who’d want to read that? But maybe you haven’t really thought it through. Forget about those (frequently) awful covers and those (even more frequently) scary titles. Beneath the surface, what do we have?

For a start, we’ve got stories about people. Guy-oriented books tend to be about things and puzzles, which are great, of course. But when you come right down to it, people are what matter and romance authors know this in spades. So, they give us people struggling with human decisions, trying to see if they can be true to themselves while surviving in a world that doesn’t go out of its way to make that easy. And who can’t identify with that?

Not enough for you? How about this? Romance is huge. So big, in fact, that it’s got books for every taste, running from sweet and sappy (ugh, not for me) to sexy, dangerous, and mysterious (that’s more like it). Some of those stories can knock you off your seat and get your blood moving fast. The cool thing is, the women in the stories are getting to have all the fun and, despite what women think, we guys want women to have fun (with us, of course).

Then there’s the fact that ninety-eight percent (or so) of romance readers and authors are women. When they’re writing romance, what are they writing about, really? They’re writing about their fantasies, which happens to be exactly what guys would love to be, right? I see a lot of stories where the problems are resolved when the guy opens up about what’s going on in his head (but with a little tact, of course). Too often, guys think that women should be able to see our actions and get the idea (sort of like how women want us to decipher ‘I’m fine’). Well, how’s that working for you? Romance books are the keys to the code women live and talk by.

On a personal note, when I started dating my wife, a romance author, one of the first things I did was buy, and read, all of her books. She was flattered, of course, but I was smart. I had my hands on the user manual and knew more about what she was looking for than she probably knew herself. The user manual thing can work for you, too. (By the way, I strongly urge you not to refer to it as the “owner’s manual.”)

So, why do smart guys read romance? Because we want stories about people interacting with other people, rather than with machines or murder victims (only). Because we want to learn more about the other half of the world (and see what that other half secretly thinks about us because when they write romance, they’re assuming it’s a no-guy zone). Because reading romance is fun and different—like traveling in a country where they speak a language that’s close enough to English that you can understand if you pay attention. Who knows, maybe reading romance will help out in your relationships with the women in your life (or the women you’d like in your life).

Bio: Rob Preece runs, a small publishing house concentrating on novel-length genre fiction. When he's not editing other people's work, he's writing is own romance, mystery, science fiction and fantasy. He's won several industry awards for writing and was a 2005 RWA Golden Heart Finalist. He's also an accredited Bridge Instructor, certified Bridge Director, a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, holds a Ph.D. in Economics, and has taught bridge and economics at the college level (although not in the same class). A long-time resident of Texas, Rob now lives in California where he's renovating a Victorian house.


SiNn said...

Im so glad to hear a mans perspective on this genera never thought of it like that for you all since well obviously im a girl. I do agree about how this genera is a way to help some men know how their women think tho some men no offence r a bit clueless really they are but I seriously love this genera and all the different subgenera it brings im proud to know i can read and that i read romance

Brandie N said...

Owners MAnual :) You are too right! Yes we write the fairy tale we want and it's good to hear a guy's perspective...Hopefully one day more men will get the real point of romance :) LOL!!!

Susan Macatee said...

Wow, Rob! I found myself nodding to the statements in your post. Sure wish my husband would read my books, but he's not a reader. (Sigh)

Love your bookcover, btw! I don't like sappy romances either and prefer a lot of action and adventure in my historicals and paranormal romances. I'm also a big fan of science fiction romance and hope to write one of my own soon!

Rob Preece/ said...

SiNn, Brandie and Susan,
Thanks for the feedback. I was nervous about writing this. Once, at a Romantic Times Conference book signing, a woman walked up to me and said "I never read romance by men." Now, first, she probably doesn't know whether they're written by men, especially if she read in the old days. But second, what am I, at a book-signing, supposed to do? A sex-change operation would have taken too long to sell her the book. So, I smiled.

Romance is a way of making the world work right. It's hard to get better than that.

Rob Preece
So-called smart guy.

The Scarf Princess said...

That was very smart of you to read all her books. You probably got to know her a little better and you for sure got some creative romance ideas.

Karen H said...

Hi Rob,

Thanks for a very insightful post today. I have never read a romance book written by a man (or at least, I don't think I have LOL) but I think it would be a great experience to do so.

I read primarily historical romances but occasionally I enjoy a good mystery/suspense/thriller. The best and most exciting of those that I have read were written by men. While they didn't have a lot of romance/love/sex, what was there fit well into the story.

Jane L said...

Rob! Wow, What an awesome story! I love that fact that men are showing a presence in the romance world, besides the role of a cover model! LOL! As an aspiring writer, I am partial to my heros, I want them to be strong and believable emotionaly. With opinions and feedback like yours it helps me to be a better writer! This topic reminds me of the statement "grown men do cry" LOL! THANK YOU!!!

Unknown said...

Wow I am glad to here a guy admit he reads romance. Most guy I know would never admit it at all. They say they don't read that trash. Although I did send some paranormal books to a guy friend that where romance and he read every one of them.

Rob Preece/ said...

Unfortunately, many guys don't read at all. It used to be that Science Fiction was a male-only genre. Today, I think more women read SF than men. Which means, just as the romance genre has broadened, going beyond the Doctor/Nurse stories that Harlequin started, so too, many other genres are now opening to relationships in stories rather than simply the fastest spaceship or hardest-boiled detective.

KarenH, a lot of romances are written by men. Especially in the early days of romance, lots of hack-writers (male) wrote a lot of books. Jennifer Wilde was a huge success back in the 1970s (and male). Today, there aren't as high a percentage...perhaps because romance tends not to pay well for mid-list authors.

Rob Preece

chey said...

Hi Rob,
Great post! I totally agree with you that some guys don't read at all. A lot of the people criticizing what others read don't read themselves.

Anonymous said...

Every time I mention that I've only read romances by women, my husband says "that you KNOW of." Hmmm, perhaps he has a secret life. ;-)

I don't think of myself as having a prejudice against male authors, but I guess I tend to assume that male name /= romance.

Oh, wait, I have read a romance by a man - Indiscretion by Jude Morgan, IIRC. And it was great. -- willaful

Rob Preece/ said...

It's been a fun day. Thanks, TJ for inviting me to join your blog. Speaking of smart people, that TJ is pretty smart herself.

Yes, guys are different but that doesn't mean they can't tell a great story...or a story that appeals to women.


TJ Bennett said...

Thanks, Rob! I certainly appreciate you stopping by and helping to shatter stereotypes with me. :-)