Thursday, June 22, 2006

Ann Herendeen: Why I Wrote A Bisexual Regency Romance


Why a bisexual hero? Because gay guys are the absolute hottest! With all the “slash” and fan fiction out there, I know I’m not the only woman turned on by the idea of two men together. Of course, these days there are romances that feature two men instead of a man and a woman. There’s only one problem: they’re not interested in women—in us, the readers (and writers). But if the hero’s bisexual—problem solved.

Lovely as it is to think about two hunky guys making out, that’s not all we want from a romance. We want to imagine ourselves into the story, which means we want at least one of those hot, sexy men to desire us, or at least our stand-in, the heroine. For me, and for readers like me, a romance with a bisexual hero is a way to have a double slice of (beef)cake and eat it too, so to speak

That’s why I made my hero, Andrew, primarily gay in the beginning of the story. The gay/bisexual hero is an excellent excuse to take that same old domineering alpha male we all adore and make him more acceptable to independent, intelligent, 21st-century women readers. I didn’t think I could get away with having an old-fashioned, bodice-ripping, arrogant “top” for my hero—but make him a domineering, supercilious, pantaloon-ripping gay Regency buck and—wow! Smelling salts, please!

Most of us readers of romance novels like masculine, sexually active men, the rakes who conquer every attractive body, until they are finally conquered in turn by that one woman who inspires the previously unthinkable emotion in them—love. My bisexual hero is a rake—but with men—who discovers during the course of a marriage of convenience that he can love one woman—his wife. It’s a twist on the usual dilemma of the rakish hero’s having to scale back his amorous lifestyle to accommodate marriage. Here he’s expanding his considerable sexual repertoire, not diminishing it. And showing him to be an experienced Don Juan with men but clueless with women provides the necessary touch of light comedy without detracting from his virility.

Besides his obvious physical charms and his aristocratic hauteur, Andrew’s greatest romantic asset is his honesty. He’s upfront about his preferences from the beginning, which is why this MMF situation can become a love story. But it’s essential to find the right kind of wife for a bisexual man, and in the character of Phyllida I felt I created Andrew’s soul mate. Her innocent sensuality, along with her spirited self-respect and rational outlook are the perfect counterparts to his domineering masculinity, his integrity and sense of honor. Like all of us women whose hearts beat faster when we see our ideal man kissing his sexy boyfriend, Phyllida delights in knowing that, whatever he gets up to with men (and she, and we, can be sure it’s a lot) her husband will never betray her with another woman.

A word that keeps coming up in discussions of my novel is “ménage”—and that can sound a little scary. Because it’s a bisexual romance, ultimately my hero meets that one special man as well as woman. Now, there are many ways of being bisexual; and many bisexual people have relationships with only one partner at a time. The reason I chose to have my hero involved with both a man and a woman simultaneously is that, for some of us, the MMF situation is the ultimate fantasy: being that one special woman in a relationship with two men. I don’t like to give away the extremely happy ending, so I will only say that “Phyllida” isn’t too scary; there are no three-way romps and, strictly speaking, the arrangement is not a triangle. At the end of the story there’s just enough unresolved sexual tension to keep our hero’s marriage(s) interesting and vibrant.

Finally, making my hero bisexual adds an element of danger and a humanizing touch of vulnerability. Sodomy was a hanging offense in 1812, and even “attempted sodomy” brought a stint in the pillory—not as much fun as it sounds. All my gay and bi male characters are in danger of paying with their lives merely for expressing their sexuality. For these men, members of the moneyed upper classes (the traditional subjects of the Regency romance), used to doing precisely as they please and apologizing to no one, this one “weakness” makes them more sympathetic to us modern readers.

59 comments:

amy*skf said...

I am enthralled by the idea of a bisexual romance, Anne. I've read one, Emma Holly's Strange Attractions. But a regency--well, we do love us a regency.

I'm interrested in reactions you've gotten so far.

Also, where can I buy the book? And what are you working on now?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Ames! I know, the whole gay hero thing is intriguing enough when it's simply used in erotic settings.

In Ann's novel, we get a fully-drawn man with a history and feelings. A total Regency guy who's just like the straight alphas we love so much. Except he loves men, then finds out he digs women, too. At least one in particular.

Sheesh. I have the longest word ver known to man.

Julie in Ohio said...

Although I'm still on the fence about this, I will concede that I am intrigued.

Ann, you said the four most important words to me: romance, extremely happy ending.

Those are the only requirements I make for any book that I read. The fact that it is Regency based is definitely a point in "Phillida" favor. I love my historicals.


I can't wait read everyone elses comments.

Vivi Anna said...

Hmm, nope, I'm just not into that. The idea of two men together without me in between them, does nothing for me. In erotic/romance, the m/m plot line is really growing, and I can't understand it.

Somone please explain it to me!!!!!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

I'm shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, Vivi, to read your comment. But remember, this isn't erotica, it's a love story, and there's not a jot of sex in the thing that doesn't belong. But we're also getting mostly the story of Andrew and Phyllida's feelings developing, which is why I think the book works for me. That way, the passion and homoerotic imagery is cool, but not the center of the story. It just is. It's important, especially cause men are such sexual beings. Two men in a relationship really cuts out all the crap that's involved in the m/f courting/mating ritual.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

And, JulieO, I love how open-minded you are about this. That's what I wanted for Ann -- the chance to have a group of romance lovers look at her novel as a romance with a twist, and to look at it in a fair-minded way.

ann said...

Hi, everybody. I'm getting my late start as usual (we Regency ladies love to sleep in after our late nights and have our maid bring us coffee in bed...I wish!)

To amy*skf who asked where to buy my book: It's available through all the usual on-line sellers like amazon and barnes and noble. It's also available through my website:
www.annherendeen.com
If you prefer a physical store, any store can order it for you, but the only one that (so far) has it on the shelf is Bluestockings in New York City on Allen Street (downtown).

ann said...

OK, now to interesting stuff.

To follow up on amy's questions, I've had all sorts of interesting reactions to my book, more than I can encapsulate here. But I would say one of the biggest divides is within that group of readers who love the bisexual story.

Among these readers, there are a number--surprisingly, both men and women--who are extremely disappointed that there is no three-way sex involving Phyllida, Andrew and Matthew, Andrew's eventual male partner.

On the other side are readers who feel (as I do) that three-way sex would ruin the delicate balance of the characters' relationship as it is left at the end of the story.

I chose not to have any three-way activity, based purely on my feelings as the "creator" of this little world about what was right for these particular characters.

I was also very aware as I was writing this story and afterwards that, for many men, the threesome is the most exciting idea of all, and I saw Andrew's desires developing in that direction as the story progressed. Once he realized that he wasn't exclusively "gay," he became extremely turned on whenever he was in the company of his beautiful, sexy wife and a male partner. It was a perfect example of a character "taking over" from the writer.

I made the decision to "disappoint" him, frustrating (at least for now) his desire to enjoy his wife and his boyfriend simultaneously, because of my sense of what was right for the long-term relationships.

As a result, there is a huge amount of sexual tension left at the end of the story that these characters will have to resolve in their own way. I felt it was a nice place to leave them: in love, happily married, but with all sorts of exciting issues to deal with in the years ahead. The best thing about it is that each reader can decide for her(him)self, based on her/his own level of comfort, just how far the characters go in working out their different desires.

Amie Stuart said...

I don't quite get it either, but I've written bisexual heroines and I loved Emma Holly's erotic regencies soooo like Julie I'm intrigued.

MaryKate said...

This idea intrigues me. I'll probably end up picking it up, although I never order online, only because shipping costs make me want to urp. Ann, I think you're incredibly brave to have written this story, and since I fall in the "shockingly liberal when it comes to sex" category, I fall completely on the side of MFM or MM or FF sex not being a problem. Emma Holly is one of the few writers for me that writes amazing erotica and also puts in an HEA that I can completely buy. I realize that this is straight romance, but I've never read one like this, so I'm trying to draw parallels between what I know and what I don't.

Can't wait to read it. Michelle, I think we should blog about this again in a few weeks so those of us who have read it can talk about it. Maybe convince some of those who aren't feeling quite as adventurous...

ann said...

Next great question. What am I working on now? Are you ready?

The bisexual Pride and Prejudice of course!
I'm calling it, naturally, Pride/Prejudice.

Why? Because I feel that P&P actually does contain the hint of a bisexual love story between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley. All I'm doing is bringing to the surface what is lurking beneath in the original. I do not feel that every work of Jane Austen's has a bisexual story in it, and I don't have a desire to put one where it doesn't belong.

So after this I intend to go back to writing original bisexual stories. I just couldn't resist this one. P&P is one of my all-time favorite books, and it feels so very very bisexual.

Vivi Anna said...

Ann, thank you for your explaination. I respect you for doing something different in your book! Kudos to you!! I figure whatever makes your bum hum is good enough for me.

ann said...

To marykate, who said "shipping costs make me want to urp": I totally agree. I simply had no other way to publish this book.

You also complimented me on my bravery. Thank you. Yes, it's been diffcult. Interestingly, I had much more positive feedback from the mainstream publishers, who liked my writing but were "not ready for bisexual romance" (a dirsct quote from a major publisher), than from the gay and lesbian press, who distrust bisexuality in general and who don't want to publish genre fiction (like romances).

About shipping costs, and avoiding them: By now you can find some discounted or secondhand copies on amazon with truly minimal shipping costs. I've bought books this way and they have all been in good condition and were delivered quickly.

Another option is to buy it full price on amazon with something else you want and get free shipping with any order over $25. Yes, it's a way of sucking you in to buy more and spend more, but I'm one of those people who are willing to pay more to get "something" (like a book) but who hate to pay for "nothing" (shipping).

Julie in Ohio said...

Mary Kate, you are missing the positive of buying online. If you spend $25 shipping is free. Which of course means you have to get more books. All in all, you save $$. :o)

Manda said...

Okay, I had a great response all typed out and the computer ate it.

Long story short:

Hi, Ann. I really enjoyed your book. The period detail was very well done and characterization of both major and minor characters was stellar. I especially liked the parallel relationships between various minor characters.

Like Vivi I prefer MFM to MMF, but I respect your reasons for letting the relationships develop as they did. And the way you've explained it, the arrangement makes sense and I feel better about it.

amy*skf said...

Bingley!

Ann, I can see that, I truly can.
And any book where I can read about Bingley is endearing to me.

Marykate, I love it that you call yourself 'shockingly liberal' as far as sex is concerned--I believe that's where I anm also.

Vivi--I am as shocked as Michelle, but I think I understand.

Ann, without having read the book yet, I think you made the right decision about no three way, especially for the times. Regency, that is. Also that you dissapointed your character in not going there on the written page, but we can chose to visualize it if we wish--which we probably do.

ann said...

Well, the computer just ate my last comment, too!

I was responding to amy, and I was delighted to find another fan of Bingley.

I feel the recent film adaptations have treated him terribly. They all portray him as some sort of lightweight silly goofball. Austen tells us that he is reasonably intelligent and nice looking. He's just sweeter-tempered and not as "clever" (Austen's word) as Darcy.

I imagine him lithe and dark, contrasted with Darcy's tall fair (light brown, not Nordic blond) muscular domineering masculinity--stop me before I get too excited for early afternoon...

ann said...

Now, back to Phyllida.

That is such an interesting and important distinction between the MMF and MFM romance. For me, it's a matter of being so turned on by the idea of two men together, that I always want the M-M element in my story. So that leads naturally to the MMF romance.

But the idea of the heroine being involved with both men is extremely appealing, too. Which leads to the MFM romance. The big issue for me is that I would only be interested in writing that if the two men were sexually involved also. That can lead to a triangle situation, although there doesn't have to be three-way sex. The people can still interact as couples, just in all these different configurations.

Interestingly, this is another idea I have, for a prequel to Phyllida, set 50 years earlier. Those who've read my book know that there are three old people in it, the two founders of the gay club, the Brotherhood of Philander, and the wife of one, who is also the lover of the other man, her husband's partner. Got that?

I would like to write their story as young people, when they were in their twenties and finding their way to their happy MMF and MFM romance.

ann said...

To mandacoll:
What can I say except I'm delighted you loved Phyllida. Thank you so much for saying so. Writers adore hearing it.

Yes, it was fun for me as I was writing the story when so many of the minor characters began evolving their own parallel bisexual relationships. I don't think I planned it that way--it just became a natural part of the story.

It's an example of what I enjoy about writing fiction: not having a detailed outline, and "making it up" as I go along. I always start with an overall big idea--the three main characters and how their relationship(s) will begin and end up--but it's so much more creative and fulfilling to figure out the smaller details as I write.

Manda said...

Ann, completely agree with you about film treatments of Bingley. He gets progressively sillier with each film adaptation of P&P. I'd love to see a Bingley of sense for a change.

Julie in Ohio said...

Ok, remind me. Bingley is Darcy's friend who supposedly marries Elizabeth's sister, right? Or have I got the wrong person.

MaryKate said...

Julie - Yes, Bingley marries Jane.

Ann - I'm not sure what to think about a rewrite of P&P. I'm just such a purist about the book and am a little taken aback at the idea of a slash relationship between Darcy and Bingley. Dunno about that. Which has nothing to do with a MM relationship so much as well...messing with that particular male relationship. I just am a little horrified at the idea of it.

ann said...

One issue I haven't dealt with so far is that of people who "don't get it" or who only want the two men together if the woman is in the middle.
To these people I say: Yes, you're right (for you). It's whatever turns you on that works--or as vivi anna says, "whatever makes your bum hum." (Cute!) We don't all like the same things.

However, I will say that it's sometimes possible to lie back (so to speak) and enjoy a good story if it's told and written well, despite not being into the particular fantasy beforehand.

In thinking up this story, it was essential for me that my hero be "authentically gay" to begin with. That means a real "man's man," very much like today's men, who has a strong sex drive that he must relieve with lots of casual sex.

I don't like--speaking purely as a romance-writer, not as a person with friends--the swishy, effeminate gay man that is too often shown to us, even now in 2006, as the "typical" gay man. That is simply not going to work as the hero of a romance novel.

This is why my hero starts out having MM relationships and continues to have them throughout the story. It's his nature. My challenge--and fun--as writer was to show that he could discover within himself the ability to love a woman in addition. But this could never replace his same-sex desires.

Monica Burns said...

Ann,

What type of research did you have to do to write your book? Would you characterize your hero along the lines of an Oscar Wilde "type" in terms of bisexuality?

I think it's great that there is romance being written outside the "normal" parameters of the genre. I think it's important for everyone to have books they can relate too, no matter what their sexual orientation, fantasy or desires.

Even though I'm an erotic romance writer, it's difficult for me to get my head around a MFM FMF sex scene. I've tried, but it's just not in my personal comfort zone. Probably because I want that one-on-one relationship development and not the intrusion of another romantic interest. That doesn't mean I think all books should be that way, just the ones I read and write. *grin*

What I find really amusing is how a LOT of men fantasize about two women together or themselves with two women. But the minute the guys see two men together they're running like mad in the opposite direction. Where's the logic in that? *grin*

The gay/lesbian romance industry is really breaking out, which I think is wonderful. No matter what one's sexual orientation we all need love and romance in our lives. It's funny, I have a couple of gay friends, and despite that fact, I would never be able to write a gay romance.

Your book sounds intriguing, Ann. I'm going to have to check it out simply because two of the chicas here have raved about it. That and the fact that you stated there are no threesome scenes. *grin* Thanks to Michelle for enlightening us about different books in the romance genre.

ann said...

To marykate (about the bisexual P&P):

I know, I know. I feel the same way myself sometimes. There's something about messing with a classic that seems--sacrilegious, I guess.

If it helps, I know that at least one other person has "rewritten" P&P, in this case by telling it from Darcy's point of view. There are three volumes in this series, slowly recapitulating P&P, and they are called "Mr. Darcy, Gentleman."

I don't want to "rewrite" anything. I like writing original stuff, not 5th-grade book reports, retelling an existing story "in my own words." What I'm doing instead is trying to tell the story "in the gaps." I'm thinking up the scenes that Jane Austen didn't show us. For example, she rarely writes scenes with only male characters in them, so this gives me a lot of scope for imaging what Darcy and Bingley talked about when they were together, alone. It’s like a mirror-image P&P.

Now, your problem is with making the relationship between these two men explicitly sexual. Sigh. Yes, not everybody is going to like that. What I've found in writing "edgy" stuff is that not everybody is going to like what I write. If I try to please everybody, I end up pleasing nobody, especially myself.

But Bingley will still marry Jane at the end. And Darcy will still marry Elizabeth. It's just that, much like the story of Phyllida, there will be this additional relationship going on.

amy*skf said...

Monica, so true about men and their FF fantasies. And as Ann said everyone has their own sexual comfort zone.

Marykate, maybe if you could dissassociate yourself from Jane Austen and think of it as something 'completely different'--which, I guess it would be.

However, I understand the Austen purist in you. I love Jane Austen, but I have no problem reading books based on her characters, or her

amy*skf said...

Ann, while I was toiling away on my comment, you answered Marykates.
And with much more eloquence than mine--You never get the male perspective in Austen, do you?

ann said...

To Monica:

So many interesting comments. For now, I'm going to answer your first two questions.

That was the pleasure of doing “research” for this topic. It was so much like the cliché of the person who goes to the gay bar, but only for “research.”

Really, what I did was read a wonderful out-of-print book called Mother Clap’s Molly House: the Gay Subculture in England, 1700 to 1830, by Rictor Norton. All the book’s content, and much more, is on his web site: http://www.infopt.demon.co.uk/

One of my big discoveries was just how similar this subculture was, two hundred years ago, to today’s, or at least until very recently, when things became more open. People even used some of the same slang expressions (rough trade, Miss Thing).

As to my hero being an Oscar Wilde type: actually, I see him as the exact opposite of Wilde. Wilde began his adult sexual life as heterosexual. He married his wife because he was in love with her and found her attractive, not because he “had to” or to pass as straight. It was later on that he became aware of his same-sex attractions. There was an excellent movie treatment of this a few years ago, called Wilde, starring Stephen Fry. This movie makes it clear that in his relationships with men Wilde was the “bottom.”

My hero, by contrast, has thought of himself as same-sex oriented from an early age, and has always been the “top.” He marries for the age-old reasons of property and family.
And only after meeting his bride-to-be, and kissing her, and… does he slowly become aware of the fact that he can not only desire a woman physically, but love her.

MaryKate said...

Oh, I have no problem reading other takes on Austen. I've read most of them. I dunno. I guess I need to chew on the idea for a while.

Ann, I totally salute you for taking chances and risks when it comes to writing. I'm just a little freaked by the idea. And in thinking about it, I think it might come from my perception that Austen novels are so...pure. And that's an inflammatory word, I know. It's just that to me, with Austen as a spinster, homosexual relationships would be so outside the scope of her perception that despite what might be inferred, it was never what she intended. And so the idea is a shocking to me. The other takes on P&P are less upsetting to me, but maybe that's because their more mainstream in their ideas.

I could probably be talked around to accepting the idea, it just gives me the shivers for the reason stated above. YMMV.

Manda said...

"However, I will say that it's sometimes possible to lie back (so to speak) and enjoy a good story if it's told and written well, despite not being into the particular fantasy beforehand."

Ann, this is what I was trying to articulate in my "lost" post. MMF and MFM are not my own favorite fantasies, but I can still enjoy reading a well-written novel.

And I am discovering that like Mary Kate and Amy, I can be "shockingly liberal when it comes to sex"--though I will add that this is in what I read only. In real life I am way too possessive for love triangles...

Manda said...

Okay, was that TMI? Sorry...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, Bellas. Just got back and holy cannoli what a great discussion.

Ann. Gotta tell ya. I really gave Linda Berdoll props for having the thangs to write "Mr Darcy Takes a Wife." And I kinda consider myself your biggest fan in romance (until everyone else gloms).

But the P/P thing struck me a little viscerally, gotta say. And I'm not an Austen purist. But in the past, I've seen Gay/Lesbian awareness promotions that pretty much claimed everyone important in history to have been gay (kinda the 'I was an Egyptian princess in another life' phenomena).

I think my gaydar is perty hi-tek, but i never felt any pull between Darcy and Bingley.

But, the lovely thing is IT'S FICTION! So you get to do anything you want and it'll be terrific. You will get crucified by Janeites and the like. But soldier on. I, of course, want a sequel to "Phyl." And a prequel.

Per Amyskf's "Bingley!" We once watched A/E P/P w/ a group of chicks and though Bingley was just so damn earnest, that we created a drinking game. Every time Mr B came on screen, we raised a toast and shouted, "Bingley!" in really bad British accents.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Never TMI, Manda! Don't you know I live vicariously through you all?

amy*skf said...

Never, Mandacoll.

Julie in Ohio said...

Manda, I, too, am way too possessive for love triangles. I have a hard time going into Hooters with DH because I know what he's thinking. *g*

After reading everybodys comments I guess I lean more towards the conservative side. I do enjoy the wild romps but I like my H/H to be monogamous.

On the other hand, "Phillida" has been called a romance which is really what matters. So really the ride doesn't matter it's getting to the destination that counts.

I'm still undecided. I guess I just need to read the book to see if it is something I like. That really is the way to find out.

MaryKate said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MaryKate said...

Mandacoll - I'm with you. I'm all about reading the dirty, adventurous, steamy bits ::wink::. But in reality, "You want me to do what with what????" Ummmm...no.

;-P

ann said...

Quick correction:
The "rewrite" of P&P from Darcy's POV I referrd to earlier is called "Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman." (Not "Mr. Darcy.") The author is Pamela Aidan.
From the reviews, it sounds pretty good.

CC said...

I agree with Mandacoll- "MMF and MFM are not my own favorite fantasies, but I can still enjoy reading a well-written novel." And that's why I enjoyed "Phyllida" so much. Even though it was the first bisexual romance (or bisexual fiction, for that matter) that I've ever read, that fact was irrelevant the second I began - I guess that's what happens when the characters are so well-developed; any preconceived notions about the genre head straight out the window.

I have a quick question for Ann- you mentioned in an earlier post that you'd consider writing a prequel to "Phyllida"- do you have any plans for a sequel? Also- you mentioned that you intentionally left off with Andrew having a seperate relationship with both Phyllida and Matthew. Now I didn't get a sense in "Phyllida" that Matthew had any sexual interest in women, but is that something that may evolve with Phyllida (should you chose to write a follow-up)?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

You know, Bellas. You're just reminding me of somthin. When I started reading romance, I remember a scene from a Madeline Hunter novel that shocked me. The hero admitted indirectly to just having come from sating his bloodlust with a wench. We'd already established the h/hn attraction. I was shocked.

I guess I don't have a prob with couples in erotica not being monogamous (sp?), cause I'm not so invested and, frankly, don't enjoy it so much. (but like someone said, can cert'ly apprct the skill in good writing)

But I rarely read a romance or erotic romance with anything but monogms (sorry) h/hn.

Ann wrote "Phyllida" very honestly, again, not for titillation, so I "understood" and felt the attraction of Ph for Andrew and Andr for Matthew and PH. But I never felt any of them was a "placeholder" for me.

Vivs: the m/m romance thing is very appealing to gay men. And there's xover appeal to women who get turned-on by the nature of that relationship. Maybe it's the raw sexuality of it, the natural aggression of men in sexual situations when it's not tempered by female sexuality?

Ann and I have spoken of this; perhaps she has a diff take or can just explain it better.

Youz Bellas are awesome, btw!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hey, Ann. CC's question is a good one. I smell sequel! Please?

ann said...

Oh, there’s so much to reply to I could write a whole book!!! I just wrote this, so let me post and then get back to the others.

marykate said:
Austen novels are so...pure. … It's just that to me, with Austen as a spinster, homosexual relationships would be so outside the scope of her perception that despite what might be inferred, it was never what she intended.

Well, I agree with a lot of that. However, I think the divide is slightly different. That is, I think that Austen, as a spinster in times very different (in that respect) from nowadays, knew that all sexual stuff was simply beyond her scope as a writer, and she very wisely didn’t try to do it. But I can be reasonably certain that she knew gay and bisexual people, simply because they have always existed (and, praise the gods, always will, until human nature becomes something entirely different).

So my "justification" for my take on the Darcy-Bingley relationship is that these characters, for whatever reasons, incorporate some bisexuality in their nature that Austen, probably unconsciously or subconsciously, picked up from people of her acquaintance and used in her depiction of them (especially Darcy).

And I think the "pureness" of Austen’s work was a reflection of the very real divide that was occurring in her time, between the way gentlemen spoke and behaved with ladies and the way they spoke and behaved with each other. It was not quite as extreme as it became in the next generation or two, at the height of the Victorian era, but it was getting there. I think that gentlemen spoke almost as coarsely and freely in all-male situations as they now. It was when they were with ladies (not just any women, but the ladies of their own class) that gentlemen refrained from using even the mildest of swear words, and of course there was absolutely no mention of any sexual stuff, much less any attempt to do it.

What this means to me as a writer now, in 2006, is that I have no problem writing very explicit sex scenes between men. But I have a very difficult time writing sex scenes in an Austen-based work involving a man and a woman. Austen couldn’t write any sex scenes, but I never for a moment believe she thought her male characters were sexless—she just knew she couldn’t write it.

In other words, I can write about the all-male world, including sex, that Austen couldn’t do. But I’m experimenting with trying to write about the male-female relationships in the “sexless” way that Austen did. Of course, I don’t think they were truly sexless—just kept very tamped down .Remember when Darcy proposes to Elizabeth and she "can’t look him in the eyes" while he speaks? Think about what the implications are if she had…

ann said...

About a sequel:
Phyllida actually is a sequel. That is, I was writing a different bisexual Regency romance in which Andrew and Phyllida (and Matthew, who had a different name then) were minor characters. And these minor characters were so much more fun for me to write about than the main characters that I just scrapped that book and started Phyllida.

Bottom line: it's hard for me to write another book in which these three are not the main characters and have them not take over. And it's hard for me to think about a whole book that features them later, after the "romance."
But that doesn't mean I won't keep on trying…I just can't promise when, if ever, I'll get a finished product I'm happy with.

As to whether Matthew and Phyllida will develop a relationship: That's a good point, cc, and everyone else who's noticed--Matthew is gay, not bi. However, as we've already seen with Andrew, there can sometimes be exceptions. I'm not going to say anything more; until I actually write a sequel, I want to leave it unresolved, with each reader making up her own mind.

If you're interested in my opinion (and remember, I adore bisexual relationships and this is only an opinion) I think Phyllida and Matthew will experiment a little, because she's very sensual and they really like each other. I also think they will try the occasional threesome, simply because Andrew wants it so very very much. But it won't be their usual way of being together.

ann said...

I'm still trying to catch up to so many interesting earlier comments.

To monica, who said that even though she's an erotic romance writer she isn't comfortable writing about three-way sex.

I have the same feeling. That is, I don't think a three-way is wrong, so long as all the people are consenting adults and are participating because they want to, not because they think they "have to" or because their partner "expects" it.

I just find it hard to imagine it and write it convincingly, as it is outside of my personal experience. Although, now that we mention it, I have to say that an MM sex scene is necessarily outside my experience (as a woman), but that doesn't seem to hold me back at all from writing it. Hmmm…

I agree that, personally and in writing, the intimacy of the two-person relationship is most appealing to me. I'm delighted if my husband (I'm speaking theoretically here as an unmarried woman) has a boyfriend but that doesn't mean that all three of us have to make love as a group. I prefer it one on one.

amy*skf said...

Mandacoll and Marykate and Julie, I don't know if I'm too posessive or if I just want to be the star of the show--in any situation.

The more this discussion goes on the more excited I become--no snickering--to read it.

Julie in Ohio said...

Ok, Amy, no snickering...I'm LOL.

But I'm with you. I would like to see how it all works out...and I don't mean just the plumbing.

Monica Burns said...

And consent is what's all about isn't it Ann. Consent from the characters, the writer and the reader. As far as I'm concerned, I can't do it, but I applaud those who can write outside of the box and produce a work that is a good read. That's what it's all about. A willingness to stretch one's self.

As for writing MM scenes, exactly HOW does one do that when one isn't male? THAT has got to be really tough to do, and has to stretch you as a writer I think.

ann said...

That's something I wanted to address: possessiveness.
Thanks, amy, for reminding me.

This is one big objection to the bisexual romance that kinda, sorta, makes sense to me. Now, we've all, most of us, written in somewhere along the line today saying that romance in general and this one in particular, are all about fun and fantasy and so on, doesn't mean we actually do whatever it is, or want to.

But still, it's more fun if we can imagine it positively. As in, I might like to try that someday, or at least think about it.

For me, the whole thing works because my hero's partners are of two different sexes. I know not everybody feels the same way, but for me, that's what makes it, not just acceptable, but a deeply enjoyable fantasy.

I don't see a man as competition to me. (And yes, I'm very much writing from the point of view of my heroine, Phyllida.) I know the answer to the question: "What's he got that I don't?" and that's fine. I am very confident in my femininity, so that I can also answer the question: "What have I got that he doesn't?"

But if my hero were to try to have another woman in addition to his wife, this would become a murder story, not a romance. And not a mystery either, as we'd all know who done it. But that's just me...

ann said...

How do I write MM scenes?
Very carefully.

Seriously, I could never have done it without the help of all the wonderfully open and honest gay friends I had back in college and since. Perhaps because I'm a woman and non-threatening, they told me everything. I mean everything. And since I (in my perversity) enjoy hearing it all and have made it clear that I do, they keep on telling me.

In writing, I use all of this knowledge and put it together with my own experiences, and it just doesn't seem that difficult. In fact, I actually had to tone down some of the MM scenes in Phyllida, because I didn't want to shock anybody (*grin* as they say).

Here's an example for those of you who've read the book: the scene where Andrew meets Matthew and invites him home and they "almost didn't make it upstairs to the second floor in time."
One of my friends told me about a similar time where he and his new partner didn't make it upstairs, but did it on the stairs...

Julie in Ohio said...

Ann, what you said about there not being competition so much if it were a man instead of another female made alot of sense to me.



"But if my hero were to try to have another woman in addition to his wife, this would become a murder story, not a romance. And not a mystery either, as we'd all know who done it. But that's just me..."

I am the youngest in my family. I never developed an ability to share. :o)

ann said...

We've touched on the issue of how (straight) men get turned on my FF ("lesbian") sexual activity. And how these same men run like hell at the thought of MM sex.

And Michelle said:
…the m/m romance thing is very appealing to gay men. And there's xover appeal to women who get turned-on by the nature of that relationship. Maybe it's the raw sexuality of it, the natural aggression of men in sexual situations when it's not tempered by female sexuality?

What I left out of my original post was the thought that women's interest in the m/m romance is similar to (straight) men's in the f/f. What's interesting is that for women, it isn't all restricted to straight women. That is, there are lesbians who find m/m sex exciting. I kid you not.

I think it has to do with what Michelle said, the "raw sexuality." Or, as a (bisexual) woman I know said, "gay men are hot!"
Which is why I began my post as I did.

And, like the straight men, we don't have to infer anything about our own sexuality to enjoy this fantasy.

ann said...

It's a little late in the day, but it occurred to me that I had not actually mentioned the title of my book in my original post:

Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander: A Bisexual Regency Romance

Since Michelle so generously discussed the book in last week's blog, I forgot all about the idea that it might be good to mention it, especially as it's not the easiest to remember or spell...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

OMG, I'm LMHeterosexualAO at some of this stuff (when I'm not being stunned and impressed by your embracing this content and book as it deserves to be embraced). (did I just create another acro for the lexicon?)

Ann,I loved your comment re: were the trio FFM, it would turn into a murder story.

You know, I think what women misunderstand about guys' m/f/f fantasy -- as I understand it -- is that it's not a lesbian fantasy, per se. Straight guys wanna imagine straight women in the throes of passion because those women are so turned on by servicing the guy -- and what he's doing to them -- that they can't help but go at each other.

And guys fantasies have more to do with face/body/availability/willingness of fantasy chick/s. Chicks dig some kind of strong emotion, whether the fantasy is, ok, warlord/virgin or non-con.

So guys' ideas of trio is not so much the emotional lovefest that we might be talking about in a m/f/m relationship such as Phyl/And/Matth.

ann said...

One of the most recent topics in this discussion, about MMF and MFM being acceptible in erotica, but in romance we want monogamy, makes a lot of sense to me. I'd be very curious to see how other people feel after reading Phyllida.

Obviously, since I wrote it, I think it's possible to combine MMF and romance (love). But I'm eager to know if I did a convincing job for others.

I would like to second marykate's suggestion that we blog again after more people have had a chance to read the book.

Yes, I'm the author and therefore biased in favor. But please, Michelle? Pretty please?

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

You've got it, Ann!

Anybody reading Phyllida: let me know when you're done and we'll have another discussion day. Ann, can you invite some of the readers who've contacted you, too? It'd be great to get some of the history community into the discussion in that way; they could give us their perspective, and we could help them understand why smart chicks read romance. :)

ann said...

That's great, Michelle! I can't wait.

And I want to thank you for being such a gracious and generous hostess, inviting this newcomer into the discussion and giving me your support.

I'm especially impressed at how you stood up for my controversial new project, the bisexual P&P, depsite your own "visceral" reaction. You're a gutsy lady, and I salute you.

As you said, it's "just" fiction--and what a wonderful genre that is.

Stacy~ said...

Wow, what a fascinating discussion I've missed! I'm impressed by the opinions and acceptance of everyone here, even if it's not their thing.

A few quick things: welcome Ann! Your book really does sound intriguing, and while I reside in the m/f/m camp, I will admit to having read passages (mostly from Emma Holly) with strictly m/m action, and yeah, it worked for me. There is something very raw, very masculine, and rather hot about 2 guys together, but only if they are mot the typical effeminate types that are most commonly associated with gay men. In fact, the men don't even have to be gay - they might just be very open to sexual encounters of various kinds. I personally wouldn't define that as being gay. Some people believe that we're all capable of having satisfying sexual encounters with same sex partners as well as opposite. I don't personally agree because I've never been attracted to another woman, but I can appreciate people's open-minded natures.

I've never really tuned into any bisexual feelings between Bingley Darcy, but even if there were, it's completely Austen's story, imo. I respect writers and the stories they want to tell, but for me, it ended with that book, and that version is the only one open to interpretation. I am not much of a fan of any stories that take Jane Eyre or P&P or Gone With the Wind to the next level or interpretation, no matter how well they are told. Sorry.

Julie, I agree on the sharing issue. I don't share well. If I were ever to be involved in an m/f/m situation, it's gonna be all about me LOL.

Anyway, I think I'm gonna have to find this book since so many people raved about it now. Thanx for blogging, Ann :)

ann said...

Hi Stacy,

I wish you'd been part of the earlier discussion. But I hope you'll be able to join us for the next one we'll be having after more people have had a chance to read Phyllida.

Based on your description of what constitutes hot MM sex, I would say we're on the same wavelength. I agree, the men have to be extremely masculine, not stereotypically "gay." I populated my fictional gay club in 1812 London with a variety of types, but my hero and his boyfriend are very masculine. It's what turns me on, and it's what makes the whole idea appealing (I think) to other women.

I don't think everyone is or can be bisexual, but I do think that people can occasionally have impulses outside of their usual sexual orientation. In Phyllida, the hero discovers an atypical attraction to a woman. It doesn't change his fundamental m/m nature, just expands his range.

As to my work in progress, I think we'll just have to agree to disagree. But I do think that whatever I end up writing or not writing, nothing can change or take away from Jane Austen's work, or any other great work of literature. Her book is what it is, and my work will merely be a novelistic version of the many nonfiction academic papers or interpretations that take a certain point of view or another.

As to whether Darcy and Bingley were "really" bisexual or what Austen intended--well, that's why my name will be on my story. I felt a very strong bisexual connection between them when reading P&P. Some other readers did not, apparently(!) So I'm writing my book to portray it the way I see it.

It's meant to be entertainment, and if it turns you off or you just don't want to think about it--please, don't read it. Read Phyllida instead!

I certainly enjoyed this blog, and I look forward to doing it again soon.

Stacy~ said...

Thanx Ann, for your response. I also look forward to your next visit :)