Slices of Pi series author Elia Winters stops by to tell us what it was like to write male/male romance in the trilogy’s final book SINGLE PLAYER, out on September 26th from Pocket Star! Before jumping into this juicy story, be sure to read the first two books in the series: EVEN ODDS and TIED SCORE! Warning, the post is highly candid!
While I’ve read male/male romance, Single Player is the first novel I’ve written in that genre. At first, I was a bit daunted by the prospect of switching from mostly heterosexual romance to male/male, which is part of the reason Single Player is the final book in the trilogy – I wanted to give myself as much time as possible before I had to write it! It actually turned out to be one of my favorite books to write, in part because I already loved Matthew from getting to know him in the first two books of the trilogy, Even Odds and Tied Score. I was excited to finally give him the romance he deserved. As I began to design the story, the character of Silas became equally loved, and writing their romance was immensely satisfying.
Despite the fact that Single Player is a male/male romance, I approached writing it in the same way as my other novels. I design each character and spend some time getting to know them, figuring out what they want and what’s keeping them from getting it. Love is seldom in my characters’ designs; they are usually after some other goal and love happens as a result. I think that’s how love usually happens in real life, so that’s the pattern I use in my novels. In Single Player, both Matthew and Silas think they’re fine as-is, but an encounter between the two of them shakes up each of their worldviews and makes them questions what they each want out of their careers and their lives.
The romance part of Single Player is just like any other romance, regardless of the fact that both main characters are men. Romance doesn’t just happen to straight people, after all! The experience of falling in love is nearly universal, except for aromantic people, and gender is secondary to the excitement and doubt and hope and fear that accompany those first love butterflies. For Matthew and Silas, I wrote their feelings the same as I would for any characters.
The sex between two men is, understandably, different than the sex I’ve had and the sex I usually write. I’m a cisgender woman and I’ve never had a penis. I’m familiar with penises, though, and I’m sexually intimate with a person who has a penis, so I know their basic workings. While I can’t say I know how an orgasm feels to someone with a penis, I know how an orgasm feels in general, and that’s fairly applicable. Certain sex acts translate, too, even if the anatomy doesn’t quite match up. There are different levels of intimacy and sensation between hand jobs, oral sex, and penetrative sex. I can build on some of my own experience taking part in these sex acts, but the rest is a bit of research, a bit of creative license, and a bit of common sense.
In writing Single Player, I tried to avoid stereotypical depictions of male/male sexual relationships wherever I could. I worked to vary the types of sexual encounters and avoid privileging penetrative sex as “real sex” compared to oral sex or mutual masturbation. I was also invested in subverting power dynamics about penetrative sex, undoing expectations about a passive, submissive bottom or a dominant, aggressive top. I think these stereotypes are pervasive, untrue, and limiting. Sex is far more fun when both people are willing to flex in their roles and try new things.
Finally, I’m aware that I’m a woman writing a sexual minority pairing, and it’s important to me that I don’t fetishize gay sex or gay relationships. Much has been written about the appeal of male/male romance for women, but for me, it all comes down to the basics: I love reading and writing about people having great sex and falling in love. Straight, gay, bisexual, queer, all types of partnerships are valid, all are hot, all are fun to write and read.
Everyone deserves a happily ever after.