Guilty Pleasures discussion

Women writing about gay men . . . thoughts?

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message 1: by Lisa (last edited Dec 21, 2007 09:48PM) (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Hey all,
I'm new to this group and have a couple of questions. If you are a gay man, how do you feel about a woman writing literary fiction where the main characters are gay men? Does it feel offensive to you? The novel I'm shopping around is first person narrative and editors/publishers I've pitched to seem so taken aback that I'm female, they don't know how to respond.
I'm trying to come up with a list of women who write about gay male characters (not straight characters who have a gay sidekick blah blah blah), and this has been difficult. I just read Poppy Z. Brite's "Drawing Blood" and she apparently has had the same problem. Both of us seem only to write gay male protagonists. Horror is not my genre, but I'm interested in anything that fits what I'm looking for. It's a wonderful book btw, too bad it got relegated to the genre, it should have a wider readership.

Thanks in advance.


message 2: by David (new)

David Rappoport | 2 comments Good question, but I wouldn't worry about it. It seems to me that the duty of a writer is to capture and reflect their truth as accurately and artfully as they can. If you do this, you will almost certainly offend someone -- and that's a good thing :)

message 3: by Ghym (new)

Ghym | 3 comments I am also writing a book about a gay man. I worried about it at first but there are women and straight men writing about gay men. Kate Christensen wrote Jeremy Thrane, about a gay man. Call Me By Your Name, listed by some as one of the best gay books of the year was written by a straight man. And Allison Burnett (think that's his name) is a straight guy who has written a SERIES about a gay man. A lot of times editors get taken aback by things like that. But they can be taken aback by anything. Keep perservering and let the group know when your book comes out!

message 4: by Karl (new)

Karl | 5 comments Also: Patricia Nell Warren, Patricia Highsmith, and Marion Zimmer Bradley all immediately come to mind as women writing gay male main characters. As a gay man I am most definitely not offended.

message 5: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Thank you, everyone, for your supportive comments as well as your author suggestions. It's amazing how difficult it is to do searches, even on Amazon, which will pull up what you're looking for. So, I've sent off for a couple of things (Merry Christmas to self ). And Ghym, good luck with your own book. I'd love to know more about it!


message 6: by Ghym (new)

Ghym | 3 comments Thanks, kd. Glad we could all be of help. My book is changing every day at this point, so even I don't know where it's going. But it's good to know women are writing about all different things these days, not just chick lit.

message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

As a gay man who has read a lot of gay fiction I can tell you one of my favorite books is The God in Flight by Laura Argiri. Fabulous book and some of the hottest gay erotic love scenes I've read. Good stuff.

message 8: by Charles (last edited Feb 07, 2008 07:40AM) (new)

Charles | 4 comments Mary Renault did it. So can you! And I've heard that the author of Song of the Loon and the whole Loon series was a woman. Can anyone confirm this?

message 9: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) I wrote a story about a gay man called "Ants." (If I can figure out how to post a link I will). I've been told by several gay male friends that it rings true. I also wrote a story, "Little Bitches" which is a sort of coming out story for a lesbian, which a gay girlfriend told me I got just right. I'm not gay myself, but one should not underestimate the writer's most powerful tools: empathy and imagination. Along with the artful use of language, these are essential.

message 10: by Karl (new)

Karl | 5 comments Richard Amory (the pen name for author Richard Love)author of Song of the Loon and its two sequels was definitely a man. Check out his profile here on GoodReads.

message 11: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Hey Jessica,
Thanks for your comments. And I would love to read your story:-)


message 12: by Jessica (new)

Jessica (jesstrea) hey thanks Lisa/kd. I'll try to copy the link to post it. Btw, "Ants" is actually based on someone I knew (years later he googled me and found me, I sent him the story, and he said he loved it, that "it was all true." Funny since I'd made up much of it...but then, there's the issue of truth vs. facts, i.e. emotional vs. factual truth. Okay, let's see if this works:

if it doesn't go to and click on my book, and then on "read an excerpt"

Btw, an "old" story! written in the lates 80's, early 90's...
oh, feel free to send me something of yours!

message 13: by Mimi (last edited Feb 12, 2008 06:13AM) (new)

Mimi Monstroe | 2 comments Also check out Carol Queen's "The Leatherdaddy and the Femme" if you like it explicit.

message 14: by Alex (new)

Alex (alex_beecroft) I write gay historical romance, (my first book came out on the first of January and it's a gay romance set in the 18th Century) and in my experience the majority of people writing gay romance are women.

It still is beneficial to have a masculine or gender neutral pen name, however, because there are gay readers who deliberately prefer not to read stuff written by women. You may find, though, that your largest audience is other women.

message 15: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Thanks for your comment, Alex. And I'd love to know what your book is titled. I'll check it out!


message 16: by Hiram (new)

Hiram | 12 comments Mod
One of my favorite novels of recent years: Monique Truong's The Book of Salt. Highly recommend.

message 17: by Alex (new)

Alex (alex_beecroft) Yay! Thanks Lisa :) My book's called 'Captain's Surrender' - which, contrary to what you might expect from the cover, actually refers to a battle at sea ;) If you just click on my name it'll take you to more details. I've also got some of my favourite female authored m/m fiction up on my shelf; I recommend Erastes, Lee Rowan, Ruth Sims and Fiona Glass for a start :)

If you're interested in the genre you might find
for gay historical fiction and
for everything else a good place to start looking.
Heh, and while I'm doing links, this is mine

message 18: by Alfredo (new)

Alfredo | 1 comments Well, one famous case even if not exactly high letterature: Anne Rice, all her vampires are gay.

message 19: by Stephen (new)

Stephen (havan) | 5 comments KD

I'm really suprised that the publishers that you've met are shocked. Women writing about gay male main characters is very common.

Some of my all time favorite gay reads were written by women.

Magic's Pawn/Magic's Promise/Magic's Price were written by Mercedes Lackey.

The Catch Trap was written by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

The Front Runner was written by Patricia Nell Warren.

My Gorgeous Life was written by Dame Edna Everage... No wait... just kidding about that last one, possums.

One of the most interesting things that I find about reading (and writing) is that you can explore ideas and personas that you can't explore in real life.

I've been working for a while on a novel and while my main character is meant to be a bit like me, I keep finding that my writing is hijacked by a secondary character who is unlike me but just plain fun to write about.

If you'd like check out the two chapters I've posted under my writings and let me know if you can tell which character I'm talking about... No, it's NOT the dog.

message 20: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Hey Stephen! thanks for your post. I will check out your chapters, although I am already disappointed it's NOT the dog LOL.
Regarding the women writing gay male characters thing, it appears to be much less of an issue with "genre" fiction such as fantasy, historical, romance etc., but much more of an issue with what I write, literary fiction. some of the authors who have been mentioned, who do indeed write lit fic, are either straight men, and straight men have ALWAYS been given the latitude to write whatever they chose, or they are women, Patricia Nell Warren for example (The Front Runner was a changing experience for me when I read it at age 12;-), but they are no longer writing, or they are, but no one ever hears about it. Ms. Warren actually wrote an article about the dismal chances of getting gay fiction (not genre fiction) published at all. It gets relegated to the underground where it shouldn't be. And one "major" seller like Call Me By Your Name, is great, but doesn't indicate a trend, unfortunately. And it was written by a man. Having said all of that, whew, I went to the San Francisco Writers Conference in Feb and pitched the novel to an editor and two agents. The editor requested I send her 10 pages (after stating she doesn't handle things with male protagonists), and the NY agent asked to see 50 pages! I don't actually think anything will come of either of those, but I am doing my final edit and will be giving it a shot. It's looking a lot more hopeful now. And if there is anyone out here who would be interested in doing some reading and giving feedback, I am looking for readers. Of all kinds, but specifically I am looking to find more gay male readers as I want to get it right!
Thanks for your patience with this looooog post. And I wrote all of it without caffeine LOL.


message 21: by Calilibrarian (new)

Calilibrarian (rochelles) | 1 comments I'm so glad you brought up Mary Renault!

message 22: by Courtney (new)

Courtney Stirrat | 13 comments Ok. I am desperate for some good recommendations for well-written, modern lesbian fiction/essays. Less romance (although I enjoy one immensely and therefore have HUGE stack) and more literature. I could even suffer YET another BAD ending (ala everything but The Book of Salt written before 1995), if the writing was wonderful.

Basically, I am looking for a lesbian Maupin or Gurganus (whether he is or isn't, I am not 100% positive, but I loved Plays Well With Others) or at this point I would gladly take Sedaris. Something well-written, thoughtful and at times sassy and fun and relevant.

Could someone PLEASE help a girl out? There are only so many times one can read Rubyfruit Jungle before thinking that trying a new author once in awhile might be ok?

message 23: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Hi Vincent,
Thank you so much for your kind words. I still don't know how close I am to getting it published, but I am finding more people to read sections of it who are enthusiastic in their reaction (in a good way LOL). And I've had a few gay men read it who've all said it sounds like it was written by a gay man (I wrote it in first person) and I've had an English person read it who thinks I'm English (I'm not, but my main character is), so it's looking good! Now, I just need to find a few people who went to acting school (preferably in the UK) and I'm all set (it's set outside London at a school of dramatic arts.)
Anyway, thank you again, it gave me a lift this am.


message 24: by Christopher (new)

Christopher | 2 comments And of course Brokeback Mountain-seeming to be one of the most acclaimed gay male stories ever (and the movie of course)-was written by Annie Proulx.

message 25: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments You're absolutely right. I was completely shattered when I read that short story.

message 26: by Keith (new)

Keith (zolty69) | 1 comments Great question. I thoroughly enjoyed Mary Renault's the Persian Boy and one of my favorite love stories is Maria McCann's As Meat Loves Salt.

message 27: by Robin (new)

Robin (therobinreardon) | 15 comments Lisa – Keep writing! I’m not only a woman, but I’m also straight, and I have two published novels with gay male protagonists: A SECRET EDGE, and THINKING STRAIGHT. I have a third novel that my agent is currently shopping to publishers, and a fourth that I’m about half finished with, also with gay male protagonists.

For me, the key was to find something special for each book to center around. SECRET EDGE looks on the surface like a coming out story for a 16-year-old, but it also contains themes around non-violence, Hindu philosophy, and a few other topics you don’t see in every book. THINKING STRAIGHT tells the story of a Christian gay teen whose parents put him into an ex-gay camp to straighten him out, and instead of making it a story about how terrible a thing this is (which it is, no debate), the protagonist finds a way to live his religion and be true to himself, and he helps others do the same.

No one I contacted – from finding an agent to shopping publishers – ever expressed any concerns. Some of them may have been surprised, but if so they didn’t say that to me. Many reviewers of my work still think I’m a gay man (the name probably fools them). I’ve had a couple of interviewers who have expressed surprise.

My advice is write what you need to write. And if you are a woman writing about gay men, just be prepared with your elevator speech as to why. Here’s mine: “My mother taught me to hate injustice. Besides, there is no rational reason to fear homosexuality, and yet so many people do. Psychology, social conditioning, fundamentalist religion – this is rich territory for an author.”

Good luck!

message 28: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Not that many people seem to have read As Meat Loves Salt, but it was my favorite book the year I read it. An amazing and fascinating book. I read that McCann is a professor and worked on this novel before her first morning class. I cannot imagine being in her protagonist's head every morning! Or wanting to be! I can't say enough wonderful things about it. Definitely not a book for everyone, but so worth it!


message 29: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Thanks for your support, Robin (and congratulations on your success! I'll be looking for your books!). I've been showing the MS of mine to various people and am getting really good responses (even from people who don't know me, which is even better), so I'm feeling a lot more confident. I think your advice about being prepared, both regarding the elevator pitch and the query, is well worth taking. Thanks again.


message 30: by Larry-bob (last edited Jun 10, 2008 09:00PM) (new)

Larry-bob Roberts (larrybob) | 1 comments Marguerite Yourcenar is another example - in some ways similar to Mary Renault in being a lesbian writing historical fiction set in the classic era about homosexual men.

message 31: by Martin (new)

Martin Brant (martinbrant) Hi Lisa. As the previous replies have stated, there are many women who write about gay men. In most cases, if you didn't know the author was female, you would would assume she was a gay man. I second the recommendation for Lee Rowan's "Ransom". I read it and enjoyed every page.

Good luck on your book. I'm looking forward to seeing it published.


message 32: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Thanks for the support, Martin:-) I'm currently reading Kate Christensen's novel "Jeremy Thrane" which I think was recc'd by someone here. Haven't yet got round to "Ransom", but I will. I read in your other comment re: "Call Me By Your Name" that you have a published novel, sometimes paired with that one. What is it called? I'd like to check it out.


message 33: by Martin (new)

Martin Brant (martinbrant) Thanks for asking, Lisa. I have four gay or bisexual themed novels: "A Song in the Park", "The Partisans", "Five Married Men", and most recently "The Strange Haunting of Johnny Feelwater." There are unedited excerpts on my site at . I love to hear what you think of my work.

Hope you don't mind me adding you as a friend.


message 34: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Hi Martin. I'm very happy to have been "friended" by you:-) And I look forward to reading your work! thanks for the link.


message 35: by Kate (new)

Kate | 12 comments Great discussion. I was in a writing class once with Al Young, who's now the California Poet Laureate. He was encouraging us to write from a position that was very different from our own. A white woman in the class said to Al (who's African American), "Are you saying I should try to write from a black man's point of view?"

He said: "Sure, why not!"

She said: "What if I get it wrong?"

He said: "People will let you know."

By the way, my novel (For the May Queen) that's coming out in 4 days (yay!) has a gay male character in it.

Also, I wrote short story from a gay man's point of view ... it has 3 gay men in it ... it's posted on goodreads:

message 36: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Men have written from a woman's perspective for eons, when the only acceptable writers (who could get published) were men. They certainly didn't question their ability to do so. Flaubert famously said "Emma Bovary, c'est moi."
I think how difficult the task to write from another's perspective wholly different from your own is often dependent on the genre. If your novel is very plot driven, you can get away with much more than if you're writing a historical novel - which also has to take into account culture and time in a front and center way, or literary fiction which is more character driven and psychological.
I almost never write from a woman's perspective, I'm just more "at home" writing about men, gay men in particular. My current novel is in first person and the character is a 29 yr old gay man in acting school in England. I'm not a gay man and I'm not English, but I really liked being in my character's head for a year. I also did an enormous amount of research on the English including culture, vocabulary, slang, and speech patterns. After a while, it becomes like a sweater (or jumper *g*)you can slip on and not think about.
Sorry for the long-windedness of this post!

message 37: by Louise (new)

Louise Chambers (louisec303) I agree with Lisa and others. Men have been writing in women's voices for eons. If authors stuck with characters only of their own gender or sexuality, there wouldn't be any books. *smile*

message 38: by Jan (new)

Jan (jansteckel) | 16 comments Hi Lisa,
My story "Mixing Tracks," whose narrator is a man in love with another man, won the 2008 Gertrude Press Fiction Chapbook Contest for LGBT writers. It will be coming out as a chapbook in 2009 from Gertrude Press. Don't sweat it -- those editors who were taken aback just need educating, and other editors will love your work.

message 39: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Hey there Jan,
Congratulations on winning the Chapbook Contest, that's something to be really proud of. And thank you for your support. It's interesting to look back and see that I started this thread just over a year ago. And since then, the economy has tanked and the publishing industry has had many, many layoffs of their own. Restricting the number of titles planned for the coming year. Truly, I don't think I could've chosen a worse time to pursue representation. I so appreciate all the support of this group - and I'm probably going to take a deep breath and ride out this wave of economic disaster. It's unlikely that I will get representation for this book; I'm up against too many negatives. I'll continue to write (with gay main characters, natch) but a shorter, more salable story. My current novel is a "just can't get there from here" situation, I fear.


message 40: by Jan (new)

Jan (jansteckel) | 16 comments I'm sorry to hear that the economic situation is putting your dreams on hold, Lisa, but I wish you the best of luck with the shorter story. Thanks for your congrats!

You know, one of my facebook friends, J.M. Snyder, writes gay romance and erotica, books about love between men, yet I'm pretty sure J.M.'s female. You might want to take a look at her website,, to see who has published her. It looks like while her novels are self-published, she's had short stories published and anthologized by outfits like Cleis Press and Alyson Books. Have you considered submitting your novel directly to those smaller publishers instead of going through an agent?

message 41: by Ross (new)

Ross | 4 comments My favourites have been written by women. You could always do what women writers have done for ages to have their work accepted and use a gender neutral nom de plume

message 42: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Hi there Ross! Glad to know that women have helped with your reading pleasure;-) At this point, being female is the least of the novel's problems in terms of getting published. I had originally chosen the pen name kd jameson, but for various reasons won't use it if published. The current state of the publishing industry, which mirrors that of the economy generally, has made likely interest in my novel miniscule at best. It's literary fiction, which is the worst seller to begin with when comparing all types of fiction; the main character is gay - again narrowing possible interest; there is explicit sex - this will turn off some straight male readers; it takes place in England with the expected English vocabulary and slang; and it's too long for acceptable novel lengths these days, by about 30%. So, there you have it, sad but true. "Call Me By Your Name" notwithstanding, there just isn't going to be much interest in this.


message 43: by Ross (new)

Ross | 4 comments Going by you description, I would read it. Sad to hear

message 44: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments Bless you, Ross:-) I do have the summary and 1st chapter of "Exit" posted here on GoodReads, so feel free to take a look and let me know what you think.


message 45: by Ross (new)

Ross | 4 comments I'll have to track it down. Any clues to it's location? But then a literary easter egg hunt might be cool :-)

message 46: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Frankfort | 29 comments If you go to my profile, there's a category "writing". Click that and it should come up.


message 47: by Jan (new)

Jan (jansteckel) | 16 comments I really liked your first chapter, Lisa! It reminded me a little bit of two of Nick Hornby's four narrators in A Long Way Down.

message 48: by Ross (new)

Ross | 4 comments Yep...I found it last night. I would like to read more! On what I did read I quite liked it.

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