Or is a hobby just not macho enough unless it needs some hardcore sporting gear or a Black & Decker Workmate?
Josephine Myles: Jamie knows I have a major soft spot for men doing “girly” crafts like knitting and sewing, which is why she chose this title. To me, there’s something incredibly attractive about a man who feels secure enough in his masculinity to go against all the cultural expectations of how he should spend his spare time.
That isn’t to say, though, that I don’t appreciate the sight of men doing more “macho” hobbies like woodworking, welding (is welding a hobby?) or mechanics–especially when they’re covered in grease and sweat. I can do without the noise of power tools, though.
What do you think, Jamie: are the less macho hobbies more appropriate when writing gay characters, or are we falling into another kind of cultural stereotyping? And how important is it for characters to have hobbies, anyway?
JL Merrow (Jamie): How important is it for characters to have hobbies? Okay, now I know you’re deliberately being provocative! A man without interests beyond his job, I would have to say, is a man who shouldn’t be anywhere within the pages of a romance novel. Unless, of course, he’s the soon-to-be ex whose only reason for existing is as a barrier to our True Lovers’ happiness – but even there, I’m sure a good author could find more interesting ways to make a guy dumpable! Unless of course your idea of a HEA is vegging out on the sofa to watch game shows on TV….
I have to say, from what I’ve read in the m/m genre, there seem to be fewer characters with less macho hobbies than elsewhere. Perhaps authors are bending over backwards to show that their guys may be gay, but it doesn’t mean they’re girly?
Jo: I think you’re probably right. I suspect much of it is authors realising that they need an explanation for why their guys are bursting with muscles, decide that being a steroid munching gym bunny isn’t all that appealing, and therefore have to come up with a rugged, outdoorsy sort of hobby. White water rafting, for instance, or rock climbing.
There can be a fine line between hobby and job, though. I’m not sure Josh, my narrator in The Hot Floor, really has anything you could call a proper hobby. He makes glass for a living and gets his creative urges fulfilled that way. Outside of that, his only real activities seem to be getting drunk with his best mate and watching porn. Of course, he does develop a real interest in playing cheesy 70s games like Kerplunk, but that has more to do with the company he’s keeping.
What about your characters’ hobbies?
Jamie: Well, in other books they’ve been into karate, which I think is fairly macho, although I poke some fun at it in the current WIP. On the other hand, Tim from Hard Tail loves pottery dragons and Agatha Christie novels, so we’re tipping the scales a bit there.
Tom from Pressure Head is more your average bloke. He’s not sporty, due to a childhood injury. His cats’ names hint at a little closet geekiness, and he cooks, but in other respects he’s really more the average, blue collar pub-going bloke. Which led to a bit of a depressing moment for me, when I realised he was totally a football fan… That’s soccer to the US peeps, and it’s a subject I see and hear far too much about in real life. But characters like what they like!
Talking of real life, do you have a lot of men in your life who aren’t ashamed to buck the hobbies trend and knit on trains, for example?
Jo: Ah, you remembered! Yes, I have a knitter, a tailor, a fire dancer, and a geeky sci-fi fan. I also had the recent disturbing realisation that one of my characters was into football. Of course he was, the inconvenient bastard! I have the same problem with games consoles. Not remotely interested myself, but some of my characters are obsessed by them, and then I have to go researching which games certain age groups/subcultures are into, and which of the various consoles they’re likely to own.
I think my favourite esoteric hobbyist, though, is Rai in The Hot Floor, who is obsessed with collecting retro tat, particularly macrame, spider plants and owl figurines. It’s totally un-macho, but it works for him and the moment I realised that was what he was into, his whole character sprang to life and demanded voice. I love it when they do that!
Jamie – I refuse to hear a word said against owls and macrame! *glares sternly*
Jo: Ah yes, I should mention here that beta reading The Hot Floor had an entirely unexpected result for Jamie, as it inspired her to take up macrame again, and she’s become obsessed with making owls. Obsessed, I tell you! She sends me photos of them and everything, and has even created one as part of the grand prize for this tour. I’d never get that obsessed. Nope. I’m definitely not planning an embroidered and appliqued owl wallhanging, or anything.
Hobbies: I’ve come to the conclusion they’re highly contagious!
Jamie: *mutters* I could give it up any time I wanted to…
Readers, what do you think? Do real men knit? Or knot?
Comment to win! Jo and Jamie are both offering a choice of a book from their backlist to one lucky commenter on this post, and all commenters will also be entered into a draw for the grand prize (details here), to be announced on 8th October.
About the books:
Some secrets are better left hidden.
When Tom, a plumber with a talent for finding hidden things, is called in to help the police locate the body of a missing woman, he unexpectedly encounters a familiar face. Phil, Tom’s old school crush, now a private investigator working the same case.
Tom’s attraction to the big, blond investigator hasn’t changed—in fact, he’s even more desirable all grown up. But is Phil’s interest genuine, or does he only want to use Tom’s talent? Meanwhile, the evidence around the woman’s murder piles up…while the murderer’s trigger finger is getting increasingly twitchy.
Two plus one equals scorching hot fun.
Every time Josh overhears his sexy downstairs neighbors, Rai and Evan, having loud and obviously kinky sex, Josh is overwhelmed with lust…and a longing for a fraction of the love he’s never managed to find. On the night a naked Josh falls—quite literally—into the middle one of Rai and Evan’s marathon sex sessions, the force of their mutual attraction takes control. But just as Josh dares to hope, he senses a change. Leaving him to wonder if the winds of love are about to blow his way at last…or if history is about to repeat itself.
About the authors:
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read Natural Sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab ever again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.
She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance and the paranormal, and is frequently accused of humour.
Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com/
English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
For more information about Jo’s published stories, regular blog posts and saucy free reads, visit JosephineMyles.com
Boxer picture courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Welder picture courtesy of StockXCHNG