Liam Livings is on the blog today to tell us about how he got started writing romance and why he loves the genre in it many forms.
How did you get started in writing?
I’ve always written in some way or another. I’ve kept diaries since I was about 11 and wrote for my secondary school’s creative writing magazine for three years. But never a whole book.
I had been talking for a long time about wanting to write a semi-autobiographical story set in the nineties, about a young man coming out and finding himself, while also realising his best friend wasn’t such a great friend after all. I remember taking a long walk in the New Forest with my boyfriend, Himself, and saying I wasn’t sure where to start with it. Himself gave me one of the best pieces of advice, which I always tell aspiring writers now: just write the book.
So I did.
I outlined each chapter and wrote it over about a year and it ended up being about 200,000 words long! I knew nothing about book length then.
Fortunately Himself’s auntie is the hairdresser and long standing friend of Clare London. I’d met Clare at Himself’s Auntie’s wedding quite a few years ago, and casually mentioned I wanted to write a book. Clare said I should look her up when I’d written something. Well, fast forward about 8 years and I got in touch with Clare. She introduced me to the world of GLBTQ fiction. On her recommendation, in 2012, I attended UK Meet. Clare was, and still is, one of the organising committee for UK Meet and through attending that event, I have made many wonderful friends and connections in that world. Clare also kindly read my 200,000 word manuscript and with other new author friends, suggested places I could submit it. Eventually it was published as the Best Friends Perfect trilogy by Wilde City Press (who have since closed their doors).
Who are your favourite romance writers?
I find it very hard to pick absolute favourites, so if you’ll indulge me I’ll divide it into a few categories:
Romantic fiction – Marian Keyes (Rachel’s Holiday made me want to write novels, and also taught me how to write simply and entertainingly, before I knew anything about showing and telling or story structure of any of that jazz), Joanna Trollope, Penny Vinzenzi, Jackie Collins, Jilly Cooper. I am so here for a juicy 900 page door-stopper multi-character romp with lies, affairs, people who have it all, lose it all, and then get it all back again.
Category romances – Penny Jordan, Carol Marinelli, Sharon Kendrick, Liz Fielding, Annie O’Neil. I always used to turn my nose up at this sort of book. Until I actually read one. And then, I was so here for them. It’s actually a bit of an addiction. I love the retro ones, the contemporary ones, the cowboy ones, the hospital ones, the sweet ones, the more steamy ones, the glitzy glamorous ones.
Gay romances – my life is pretty gay so I actually prefer to read books that are ‘windows’ into another life, rather than ‘mirrors’ reflecting my life back at me. But when I do read gay romance I love the Dreamspun Desires books, which are basically tropey, category romance books, with two heroes. Clare London’s Romancing the Ugly Ducking and Romancing The Wrong Twin were particularly splendid. I also loved Latter Days – originally a film and then they wrote a book of it. They are both splendid and make me cry every time I partake in them. Plus Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan: So. Damned. Sweet.
What do you like about reading and writing romance?
I love the escapism of romance. I love how it’s all about the story and the characters and less about the words themselves. I love how romance is contained jeopardy: like going on a roller-coaster, you know you’ll have some ups and downs and thrills and excitement along the journey, but you’re also clear it will end happily.
So much of life doesn’t end happily, has to be endured and doesn’t feel entertaining. Romance is a little parcel of happiness in what can be a challenging, grey, stressful and upsetting time in one’s life.
I enjoy watching escapist TV, like Gilmore Girls, Dawson’s Creek, and I always turn to these places when life is hard. I often instigate a complete news blackout too to help my mental health if I’m having a wobble. I aim to write stories that will make people smile, laugh, give them respite and escape from a difficult period in their life, just like these TV shows do for me.
What are some interesting tropes in gay romance / mm romance?
Gay / mm romance has many of the same tropes as heterosexual romance: friends to lovers, May to December, enemies to lovers, hurt/ comfort, nerds, clash of backgrounds, second chance at love.
There are also some mm romance specific tropes too: uniform – firemen, policemen, army, sailors etc; mpreg (male pregnancy); m/m/m (ménage); gay for you (where one partner has previously only identified as straight, meets a man who they develop feelings for).
Of course you can mix and match different tropes together. I’ve written what could be described as gay for you, in I Should Be So Lucky where one man has only been in relationship with women, until he meets the other man, who’s only ever had casual sex. It’s about them both working out how to have a relationship, when Troy hasn’t had one with a man, and Julian doesn’t do relationships. I’ve written some men in uniform, nurses and doctors, in Unlocking The Doctor’s Heart, and And Then That Happened.
Anything else to say before you go?
I’ve written a non-fiction book for romance authors about marketing. It’s practical, with lots of clear examples and I’ve been told reads as easily as a fiction novel, rather than some dry non-fiction tomes. Marketing The Romance has an in-built marketing jargon klaxon to ensure there is no opaque jargon to bamboozle you!
About the author
Liam Livings shares his house with his boyfriend and cat. He enjoys baking, cooking, classic cars and socialising with friends. He has a sweet tooth for food and entertainment: loving to escape from real life with a romantic book; enjoying a good cry at a sad, funny and camp film; and listening to musical cheesy pop from the eighties to now. He tirelessly watches an awful lot of Gilmore Girls in the name of writing ‘research’.
Published since 2013 by a number of British and American presses, his gay romance and gay fiction focuses on friendships, British humour, romance with plenty of sparkle. He’s a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and the Chartered Institute of Marketing. With a masters in creative writing from Kingston University, he teaches writing workshops with his partner in sarcasm and humour, Virginia Heath as www.realpeoplewritebooks.com and has also ghostwritten a client’s 5 Star reviewed autobiography.