Biologically, men are men, and well, I am a biologically a woman — as is my co-writer. So, one of the more fascinating aspects of writing this series has been the opportunity that Rae and I have had to explore the myriad of voices that live inside our heads. Writing male identities as a woman is hardly a new experience for us, as we have both created and developed male characters in our role play experience prior. But it has always been interesting to examine how we choose to interpret and explore masculinity in the development of our heroes and their relationships with our heroines.
To each her own
I have always found myself drawn to the way that Rae writes her men, and I’m a hopeless fan of Lian, even with all his flaws. Rae likewise has little reservation in sharing her affection for Dorian, who is one of my primary male characters. There are other men in the series who captivate our hearts and hopefully those of our readers as well. But what is it about our men that makes them so appealing to read and write?
For Rae, gender has never been a focus or filter in our storytelling. As she says, “I just want to write the sort of love stories that I’d have wanted to read.” It is the ‘story’ she falls in love with, as much as its specific characters, male or otherwise. As a result, there is a subtlety and almost androgenous complexity to many of her men that definitely lends itself to Fantasy more so than to the classic, contemporary romance alpha male.
I suppose in speaking for myself, that I often write the soul of the man who would be my own dream lover. As a middle-aged married woman, in many ways, my men are a picture of my own psyche. My wants, my desires and fears, and even my insecurities as a woman.
Dorian as a result, is a picture of my own preference for a dominant male counterpart and an echo of my own complex relationships with men over the years.
In a patriarchal society, there are definitely still spoken and unspoken taboos for women, and being able to explore the world from a place of social dominance — especially in a world as governed by social rules as Regency England, or as wild as medieval Britannia — has been liberating.
No perfect men
That being said, I don’t know that our men can be entirely what we deem perfect, or they would be quite boring. Our men are capable of causing pain as much as they can be a source of pleasure for our women. Ironically, I think that they sometimes cause more of the former than the latter, at least at the starting point of their relationships. That fact, I am sure would make for an interesting feminist reading of the stories.
To be fair to them, a few of our characters may have suffered for being our ‘first born’ souls as novelists, especially having been born into a world and cannon that had not been entirely fleshed out in the first incarnation of the series. The World of the Elysians has quite literally come to life organically as we write. We often had to go back in the editing phase to revise prior content to reflect what a character grew into, or to bring to bear some new cannon that evolved in the storytelling. It was all part of our learning curve as first-time novel writers.
Take Two… or Three
We eventually had to hit the pause and reset button, return to our roots and hammer out the nuances of the world and characters we wanted to grow — in many ways starting over from the beginning with a relaunch of the series. Several of the characters, including our men, got new beginnings for that reboot — changes that reflected who they had become by the end of their first writing. They were often changed for the better we like to think.
Conflict and complexity makes for a more interesting story. Rae is a lover of ‘the gray area’ when it comes to the morality of our characters, and in my opinion, she creates and writes some of our more interesting, layered souls. Even if in retrospect some of our men were framed in a harsher lens than they perhaps deserved for their eventual development, they have served the story’s cause and will have their new moment in the sun in our retelling.
Everyone loves a good redemption story anyway right? Or that is our hope, at least.