Industry giant Harlequin Mills & Boon, the home of romance publishing, publishes a huge variety of fiction, much of which is read predominantly by women.
Unusually for a publishing house, Harlequin M&B, also has a largely female author base. But they now boast several male authors, of which I was the first. My name is Trevor Williams and I write under the androgynous name, T.A. Williams.
Why keep my gender a secret? Well, mainly for commercial reasons. Everybody seems to agree that women buy and read more books than men. One of my (female) characters suggests the imbalance is due to the fact that men spend too much time getting drunk and watching football. Speaking personally, they may have a point there. Male or female, it is a privilege and a challenge to find myself part of such a famous writing stable.
My first book, Dirty Minds, is billed as Women’s Fiction and General Fiction. I write about love and romance in the context of a group of writers trying to emulate the astronomical success of Fifty Shades of Grey. The idea for the book came from very close to home. Not my home: the home of We Love This Book. Just over a year ago, I read an article in our local newspaper quoting editor Cathy Rentzenbrink. She predicted that erotica would continue to do well in 2014, and historical erotica in particular. As I had spent the last 20 years of my life writing historical novels, I reckoned I had the background. As for the experience of erotica, that was a very different matter. It involved a lot of research, but that’s another story.
There are so many clichés about the differences between the sexes. Women are not one-dimensional chocolate-obsessed baby factories. Similarly, I see no reason why men should always be considered emotionless robots, incapable of talking about their emotions. One of the things my (female) editor has always said she likes about my work is the way I write convincing characters of both gender, only relying on stereotypes for comic effect or to subvert them and make a particular point. And when it comes to sex, our instincts and desires are not as different as some would have us believe.
I have spent almost all of my working life among women, I have been married to a woman for over thirty years and we have one daughter. The dog was male, but overall, I have been pretty well exposed to the female of the species. Getting inside the heads of my female characters seems to me no more difficult than thinking myself into the mindset of a medieval Pope, or a present-day Detective Chief Inspector. Men and women more often than not think the same way. I’m not talking about explaining the offside rule or pearling, casting off or whatever else is involved in knitting; I mean in terms of our reactions to events. The same stuff generally makes us happy, sad, excited or afraid.
My wife has always been my main sounding board and mentor. She has grown used to my suddenly appearing with a question about front-fastening bras or how visible a four months pregnant woman’s bump would be. I’m pleased to say that I’m getting positive reviews from male and female readers so far. I hope it continues.
Dirty Minds and The Room on the Second Floor are published by Carina UK. For more information visit T.A. Williams' website.