Friday, August 5, 2011

A boy's eye view of Making Waves

Back in December, I wrote a blog post titled This One's For the Boys.

I expressed surprise at the number of male readers visiting this blog in spite of the fact that I'm a romance author and this blog, well, pink. I wondered how many menfolk would actually end up reading Making Waves, and how their reactions might differ from my more likely female readers.

I'm pleased to report I have an answer.

Since the book hit shelves, I've seen a delightful flood of messages from male readers informing me that in their opinion, the book does not suck. Females clearly make up the majority of my readership and have been wonderfully kind with their praise, but many have shared that their husbands and boyfriends ended up reading Making Waves after demanding to know what was so funny.

I love this dual-gender perspective!

Curious to know more about the male response to my book, I enlisted the help of a trusty friend to share his insights. Without further ado, I give you a guest post from Mr. Mark Simpson, a regular blog commenter and, to the best of my knowledge, possessor of a penis...

Singing about my feelings, not that I have any.
Okay maybe just cool ones–like anger.
Who is this person and why are you reading this instead of Tawna's latest batch of dirty-fun penis euphemisms? Because I genuinely enjoyed Making Waves, apparently bending some unwritten man law in the process. So for men everywhere, Tawna asked me to explain why.

I'll preface by disclosing that even though I've seen her but once in fifteen years—yes, I do in fact know Tawna. At Montana State I was a sportswriter while she was editor of the school newspaper. So yes guys, Tawna was and is sexy. It's not just good marketing. I even recall her once winning a ski-bikini contest.

And I’m a guy’s guy. I watch the entire length of Lonesome Dove at least every couple of years for spiritual guidance. My heroes also include Han Solo and Josey Wales. At different points I’ve been a big-game hunting guide in the Alaskan bush, lead guitarist in a very loud rock band, college athlete, and even once fared respectably as Mark “The Shark” Simpson in a Toughman tournament.

In other words, I am not her target market.

And I don’t hate romance novels; I’d have to actually read them in order to hate them. It’s just not my usual bag. I know this can be a tender subject for Tawna, but just as she won’t apologize for writing romance, (nor should she) I won’t apologize for seldom reading it.

But I am a big believer in the idea that all excellence is equally difficult, and that principle applies to romance writing as much as it applies to quantum physics or darts. Of course I was looking forward to reading Making Waves mainly because I know the author, and while I did expect to enjoy it—it turns out I enjoyed it more than expected.

It’s in our nature to try to quantify and analyze why something works or doesn’t. But with art this is a tricky game as individual appreciation is so subjective. But there’s an old saying in music, “If it sounds good it is good” —or in this case, if it reads good. The unmistakable fact is Tawna can flat out write, as you probably already know or you wouldn’t be reading her blog in the first place.
The 2nd amendment and problems with authority–
chocolate and peanut butter

No it isn’t Wuthering Heights (thank heaven) just as Angus Young isn’t Joe Satrioni. But I can tell you what I’d rather listen to—give me three chords and explosions on stage any day. I believe far more skill lies in creating something new and interesting from proven fundamentals than in one more failed attempt at reinventing the wheel.

And that is exactly what Tawna has done with Making Waves. It has well-formed and interesting characters, fluid-yet-bouncing prose, intriguing-without-being-too-outlandish plot formation, hilarious surprises punctuating a steady flow of dry wit, and yes—lots of sex. It occurred to me while reading one such scene the irony that while guys love porn, most of us wouldn’t be caught dead reading a romance novel. I have no answer for that. 

Making Waves stands on its own two feet even without the sex because it has the basic elements needed for a quality read in any genre. There’s good reason Star Wars is such a classic while dozens of other space sci-fi adventures have long been forgotten. Yeah, it’s about the lasers and x-wing fighters, two foot tall snow walkers in powdered sugar that legitimately seem fifty feet tall... but that's not why it worked. It worked because Han, Leia and company are compelling and interesting characters. This is also why the later prequels with all their CGI movie magic and ballooned budgets left nerds everywhere sobbing with disappointment.

You know how there’s always a couple songs on stations other than what you usually listen to that you actually like? Even people who never tune in to country music have that one they’ll pause on. It’s called the exception to the rule—and that’s what Making Waves was for me—a great change up pitch with universal appeal. Indeed, if it reads more gooder than it is more gooder.

So nice job, Tawna. Making Waves definitely does not suck. I’m officially giving it the Mark “The Shark” Seal of Approval.

Thank you, Mark, for your insights and your very kind words. Er, most of them. Use of the word "porn" will make me mighty popular with the spammers, but what's new?

For the rest of you, I'd love to know more about the role gender plays in your reading choices and responses. Please share!


Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Congratulations, Tawna. You've hit a grand slam! Knowing that your book has the capacity to appeal to a much wider audience than you expected is real cause to celebrate. Er, not that I'm saying Mark is "wider."

Matthew MacNish said...

The only problem I have with you, Mark, is that you're wearing an Adidas t-shirt, and Nike sneakers.

The shotgun pretty much makes up for it, though.

Just kidding.

Anyway, I haven't read Making Waves yet, but I intend to, and I'm pretty sure it's going to be the hilarity that does it for me. I don't read romances either, and I tend to find sex scenes in books boring, but the way Tawna sees things, and writes about them, is always refreshingly clever, and quite funny.

Great "review," thanks, Mark!

Linda G. said...

Hilarity and sex -- really, how can I guy NOT love this book?

Patty Blount said...


Unknown said...

Well, you know I love the book. Think I've made that fairly clear :) And I'm one of those women that always tries to get their husband to read books they love because we just HAVE to share it. And he never reads them. I was able to convince him to read Into The Wild but I'm not sure that really counts cause guys love that stuff. As for romance? He occasionally reads the sex scenes if I force him and he never acts like it killed him. He always just says that we women are far worse than men and he's probably right. But...after I finished Making Waves the other night he actually picked it up without my usual kicking and screaming. I've gotten him to read your blog quite a few times and I could see the interest in his eyes as he ogled the book. He even asked me if I was completely finished with it. It was subtle but he's an easy read. That book will be in his hands at some point and he'll be reading his first romance novel...and I don't think I'm going to even have to ask. :)

You know who this is said...

Um, Tawna. I don't remember giving you permission to share Mark with everyone.

Mark, I totally remember that night you sang to me. Love that pic. But who is that holding the shotgun? I don't think that's you.

Rick said...

This is so appropriately-timed because I just finished Making Waves last night!

It was fantastic, Tawna. I loved it.

Like Mark, I'm not much of a romance reader. (The few times I've wandered into the genre have been to support authors I knew.) As a young gay man, I tend to be a statistical outlier as far as the target market is concerned. For straight men, it contains literary porn! You can imagine yourself doing all the creatively dirty things you read about!

... For me, it often feels bizarrely like voyeurism.

I also find that romance books tend to be heavy on the emotional angst, which is just not something I go for. The fact that Making Waves is a romantic comedy sort of squashed this concern right out the gate - how can you ANGST when I am laughing THIS HARD?

It was fun, it was sexy, and the characters had obstacles to personal development that I thought were interesting and challenging, but they made me grin instead of headdesk.

10 out of 10 for you, my friend. I plan to make my mother buy it when I speak to her tonight. (What? I'm not lending her MY copy - it's SIGNED!)

Michelle Wolfson said...

Oh whoa. That's the kind of creepy comment I would totally email you about, Tawna. Ha! Just kidding, Mark. Good post!

Jason said...

Like Mark romance isn't my normal genre, but I thoroughly enjoyed the book too. By the way Mark, you nailed it (ahem) when making the point about guys like porn but why not romance novels. I've seen some female references to they shouldn't read the book in, guys? Call that a success for Tawna. :)

Christi Goddard said...

I am a straight up fantasy girl in my reading, and a sci-fi nerd in my movie watching. But I bought Making Waves and it's on its way here via post (since you clearly forgot to walk it to my house, as offered). I haven't read a romance novel in two decades. No joke.

But I bought Making Waves and look forward to reading it because I find you and your blog hilarious, and I assume the book will be much the same. I also went nuts and bought a bunch of others outside my 'comfort zone' that I've been hearing about. I'll let you know how it turns out. That is, if my sanity survives the tiptoe across my comfort zone border.

Patrick Alan said...

I now have the sneaking suspicion that all of my comments fall into the category of "Creepy Comment that Michelle would email you about"

Mark Simpson said...

Thanks everyone for the nice comments and realizing my standard off-kilter approach is not something to be taken too seriously. Per usual I probably rolled through a comedy stop sign or two, but for me I guess that's half the fun.

And thanks especially to Tawna for inviting me to hijack her blog for the day... you're a big bright shooting star baby! It couldn't be happening to a better person.

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Mike in Seattle said...

As a guy who never even knew where the "Romance" section was in any of my favorite bookstores, it was an adventure and a revelation to go there in search of "Making Waves." Who knew there were so many heaving bosoms! Having stumbled on Tawna's blog more than a year ago and enjoying her writing immensely (the paddleboard post was a riot), I decided to take one for the team, but just like a teenager buying condoms at the drug store, I snuck in a DVD of "Powaqqasti" for distraction. And as one male commenter said, the book doesn't suck (which was how I felt about Cleveland this summer). But that's damning with faint praise. This is pretty darn good... funny, smart, and moves right along. I do have to say that the funniest line is when one of guys, Alex, calls the Seattle Seahawks the greatest team in football ever! I almost snorted my Seattle microbrew out my ears. Them must be some "hard drugs" (as the Bhagwan once accused to his former faithful assistant of ingesting) Alex was taking, being in Miami and obviously ignoring his own Dolphins and following a team three time zones and 3,000 miles away and disregarding the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants or any number of other teams. I was there in the 70s and 80s when Largent played. Yes he was good, but the team sucked! 2-12 was a good season! But, thanks Tawna for the NW-inside giggle. Maybe in your next book, you'll have the Mariners as the best team ever in baseball. OK, so minor quibble. This is a fun beach/backpack/hammock/whatever read. I'll even get the next 2, but probably in disguise or with a copy of War & Peace!

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colleencoplick said...

Hi Tawna -- I'm a contemporary fiction writer (aka, chick lit) and have a question for you about representation... could you shoot me an email? :)