Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Tim's turn (Tim Jones, that is)

Although I haven't met Tim face to face,  I first noticed him online as a dauntless advocate for NZ writing, that of others as well as his own poetry and fiction. In fact, he quickly introduced me to several of our slightly peculiar writers when I told him I was planning this collection. Besides that, he sent me a story that was sly, funny, and irresistible. Thanks, Tim.

Rugby, Racing, and Romance

So, I'm a straight Kiwi male who's written a lesbian love story that is appearing in an anthology called Slightly Peculiar Love Stories. And, a week or so ago, I was the only man (as far as I know) taking part in an online book chat about romance.
            It was made evident during my Southland childhood that it was all supposed to be about rugby, racing, and beer. What's going on?
            Let's start with the love story. I started out (bitter, twisted author that I am) planning to write a little satire about literary funding in New Zealand, and about the factors that influence who gets it and who doesn't. My story would require two protagonists, one favoured by fortune and funding, the other not.
Two dimensions of the literary funding debate here are ‘men get proportionately more funding than women’ and ‘North Island authors get proportionately more funding than South Island authors’. I suspect that both of these are true, but I didn't want my story to focus on either, so it required two protagonists of the same gender living in the same city. The first character I came up with was she of the grants and residencies, and so it made sense that her antagonist should be she of the poorly-attended poetry reading in Lower Hutt.
But then, of course, they fell in love — and it was well for me that they did, because the story thereby qualified for inclusion in the present anthology.
This isn't the only love story I've written. There are several others in my 2008 short story collection, Transported, and if you were to suggest that the embarrassing moments they contain were in any way based on my own experience, I'd be forced to issue a strong denial.
So, I'm a straight Kiwi male who writes love stories: nothing peculiar about that. But can those stories be categorised as romance?
Every Thursday night at 10 p.m., I conquer my profound distaste for Twitter (as evidenced by the 9,627 tweets I have sent since joining it) and join the online South Pacific and Asia Book Chat under the hashtag #spbkchat. The chat, which has moderators in Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, covers a different topic each week, and last week's was romance. The funny thing was that, at least to judge by people's avatars and descriptions, I was the only male taking part.
But I greatly enjoyed this venture into alien territory. I learned that romance as a genre isn't purely a marketing description, but refers to love stories which have a happy ending — thus, Anna Karenina, which I'd always thought of as a romance avant la lettre, isn't one because (spoiler alert!) it doesn't end happily. I learned that there are male authors who do write romance, even if it isn't always labelled as such. I learned – or rather, had my knowledge reinforced – that there are many very successful New Zealand romance authors, both of 'core' romance fiction and in the wildly successful newer genres of paranormal romance and its close cousin, urban fantasy.
And I learned there was nothing to be scared of. It may be the case that, on average, men are more likely to read Tom Clancy-esque thrillers about the size and explosive capacity of warheads, while women are more likely to read romance; but why not spread one's wings and soar over such genre boundaries?
So, I'm proud to have a story included in Slightly Peculiar Love Stories, and I am looking forward to all Rosa Mira Books' cunningly-timed teasers coalescing into the book itself.
I have been slightly peculiar lately. I plan to be slightly peculiar again.

Tim Jones links:


Mary McCallum said...

Nice post Tim Jones! You are a honey - in your generous promotion of NZ writers and the fun you have with writing. Looking forward to reading your Slightly Peculiar story - I am loving Transported. Hey and good luck with the book, Penelope.

Penelope said...

Thanks, Mary. Hope you enjoy Tina's pensive offering today.

Grace Dalley said...

Nice one, Tim! :-)