Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Liam Livings: Men and the RNA

Today, we are delighted to welcome new member, Liam Livings. Liam agreed to answer our questions about being a male member of the RNA and what he thinks of the association.

Are male writers welcome within the RNA?

I’ve found two other male members of the RNA: Bill Spence, writing as Jessica Blair, has 23 novels to her name, is more regularly borrowed from UK libraries than King or Le Carre, and was shortlisted for an award at the RoNAs on 17th March. Andrew Shephard, who uses the pen name Robert Fanshaw, said, ‘The RNA is a useful source of information and contacts. I went to the conference in the summer and met loads of fantastic, experienced writers who made me feel very welcome. A man attending the Conference is in a small minority, but a shared interest counts for more than a shared gender.’

I’ve always worked in mainly female workplaces: nursing homes, hospitals, so am well used to being outnumbered by women. I’ve been to five or six RNA London chapter meetings, and every time, being the only man hasn’t really been an issue.

I was welcomed very warmly into the RNA. At the first meeting, one of the women said they used to have a man coming to the London Chapter meetings, ‘but never a gay man, although we did have a gay women once before, if that’s the correct term.’ Some people may have come over all how very dare you at that, but I’ve received enough genuinely hurtful comments to recognise a benign one when I hear it. Another author, during a conversation about Nanowrimo, said that of course I didn’t mind being the only man there did I because I liked the attention? I agreed, and she nodded knowingly with a wink, and we continued our conversation about to plan or not to plan, and how I’d written so much during Nanowrimo. Conversations like that are what going to writers groups are about, not one's sexual persuasion. 

Can men write romance?
I write a niche genre within romance: male/male fiction. Within that niche, as a male, I am a minority. I’m often asked how that makes me feel, being a minority in a genre about gay men, of which I am one. Good writing is good writing, and bad writing is bad writing, whichever gender you are.

I’ve read some awful schlocky romance by both genders. And some marvellous romance by both genders too: men can write romance just like women can write crime/horror.

I’ve also read some great male/male romance by both sexes, as well as some dire male/male romance by gay men and straight women.

It’s about how that writer tells the story, and whether their voice appeals. There are some writers who could write about taking their mum to buy a new fridge, and I know I’d be enchanted by the story and voice. There are others who, despite filling four hundred pages, failed to actually tell me the story, or make me smile, cry or laugh. That skill isn’t determined by gender. More women write romance than men. There are more female midwives than male, by 99 to 1, but it doesn’t mean the male midwives are any worse at midwifery than their female counterparts. 

How have you found the RNA since becoming a member?
I’ve found the newsletters informative, and am looking forward to the RNA conference in summer. I’ve read Robert Fanshaw’s blog about his experience as a man at that conference in 2013, and am looking forward to joining his small minority of men in 2014.

I believe writers need other writers and the RNA does a great job at connecting them, in real, face to face life. I’m all for social media, but there’s something wonderful and human about making connections in real life. And that’s why I come back to the meetings.

Twitter:         @LiamLivings

Thank you, Liam. We hope you enjoy your first conference.

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Charlie Cochrane said...

Excellent post, Liam!

Unknown said...

Great to hear your slant Liam. You're right of course, it's about engaging readers with the story and none of us are going to please everyone! Good luck and look forward to seeing you at the RNA events.

Jean Fullerton-East End Girl & Author said...

Fantastic to see you there with such a refreshing take on our organisation.

Rachel Lyndhurst said...

Great post, Liam!

Anonymous said...

I agree with all of the comments, the RNA is a great organisation with a wide age group and you are right Liam when you say there are lots of jobs that employ predominately one gender, thankfully writing isn't one of them. Elaine Roberts