I have the distinct pleasure of having romance author J.J. Murray take time out of his busy schedule to answer some of my burning questions. I wanted to know why there aren’t more men reading romance novels. Since he is a man, and, even better, a man who writes romance novels, I wanted to get his perspective.
1.) How long have you been writing and published?
I have been writing since I was six and publishing since 1986.
2.) What is the genre that you currently write?
Primarily Interracial/Multicultural romance and romantic comedy.
3.) Did you read romance novels before writing it? If so, who were your go-to authors?
I read pieces of the romance novels my mother (Harlequin junkie) left lying around, and I thought they were hilarious, especially the bodice rippers. Those sounded best out loud. I can’t remember the names of any of the authors. I only remember Fabio on the cover.
4.) What attracted you to read romance novels when you read them (if you read them)?
As a lad, I devoured the true romances that involved heroic quests like the tales of Arthur and his knights, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and every version of Tristan and Iseult (the original Romeo and Juliet) I could find. I enjoyed and still enjoy the adventure, trials, and tribulations inherent in the quest for true love.
5.) Did you always write romance, or did you write another genre?
No matter what I write, romance elements abound. I suppose I can’t help it. I blame those Harlequins. I have written crime comedies, ghost stories, spy thrillers, and murder mysteries that have love stories central to their plots.
6.) Why do you write romances?
Most folks assume that romance writers are “good” at love, relationships, and romantic endeavors, but it’s the opposite for me in many ways. I have endured countless dysfunctional relationships (see Kicked to the Curb) that have given me plenty to write about. I enjoy writing about the struggle and the chase and the ages old conflict between man and woman. Though my heroes are only somewhat knight-like, they slay modern dragons in their attempts to win the damsel, who is never really in any distress. I suppose I write to keep chivalry alive.
7.) Who are your readers, what group(s)?
Most of my readers are women of color ages 13-99 (!).
8.) Do you have a lot of male readers?
I only have a smattering of white male readers.
9.) If not, why do you think that is?
In matters of love, most men are as clueless as I am, and you would think men would read more romance to help them figure out this thing called love. If romance novels were marketed as how-to and how-not-to relationship manuals touting the do’s and don’ts of courting a woman, maybe more men would read them: “Hey, man, read romances so you don’t make so many mistakes with women.”
10.) If you’ve done in-person author events, do you get any feedback from men?
The only men I interact with are those who want me to sign books for their wives or girlfriends. “You’re her favorite author,” they say … and that’s about it.
11.) Why do you think men don’t read as many romances as women?
Could it be that men are afraid to get in touch with their feminine sides? That by reading romance their testosterone levels will drop? That other men will consider them “soft” if they’re caught reading a romance?
12.) Nielsen reported a couple of years ago that 84% of romance readers are women and 16% are men. Do you have any suggestions to bump up the male readership?
The stereotypical reader of romance is a woman, and publishers fiercely target women with romance novels. Perhaps if publishers made an active, sustained effort to target men, more men would read them. And if more romance writers would focus on the adventure (and even the danger) of love, more men might tune in.
13.) Have you done anything to snag more male readers? If so, what did you try? If not, why not?
Most of my heroes are not the brooding and often brutish Alpha males with testosterone oozing from their pores. They’re average guys like me. I will occasionally create a he-man that is perhaps a man an average guy would like to be, and men seem to read those novels more. Women these days seem to desire an Alpha male in public–who will also cuddle with them in private.
J. J. Murray
Author of Renee and Jay, Renee and Jay 2, Something Real,