Men vs. Guys (A Guest Post by Darby Karchut)

Recently, I’ve read three different blog posts from three different writers about the Author’s Life. All of them touched upon things that I’ve been pondering for awhile, but these three put my feelings into words so much better than I could have.

Jennifer L. Armentrout, in her post Three Things I Realized in 2013, reminded me that a writer lives by words, not numbers, and not to let sales ranks and sales numbers define me.

Jessica Spotswood, in her post 2013: A Learning Year-Managing Expectations, pointed out that managing expectations is part and parcel of every author’s life (too often we get caught up in the hype) and that I need to keep focused on the writing. Because the words will keep me sane.

But, it was author Dahlia Adler’s post, Ten Blunt Messages on the Eve of 2014, that really hit me “between wind and water.” In it, she challenged me to not only write, but to talk about the kind of books I am passionate about.

And, so I shall.

Ten months ago, I secretly decided to try something I had always wanted to do: write a book featuring a desirable, alluring, toothsome—please note that I’m working really hard here not to say the word sexy—male protagonist who is also a father. One with a young son he would sell his soul—and your soul if it’d help seal the deal—to protect.I was encouraged by a friend, who took the adult male character from my middle grade series, and wrote half a dozen fan fiction stories that had me blushing at first, then wishing for more.

Those stories also got me thinking. Over and over, fans, specifically women, had told me they had fallen in love with the adult male characters from my YA and middle grade books. Not because Basil and Gideon (respectively) were hot, young guys, but because Basil and Gideon are real men, not guys.

So, what’s the difference between men and guys in current fiction? (And before I begin, please note that I am not talking about male protagonists in YA novels. I’m talking about adult characters. Right? Right.) Now, here’s my take on the whole thing:

Guys. Guys are totally into their angst-y little selves. They have all kinds of issues. They don’t want responsibilities. They act creepy to their girlfriends and then are forgiven because they have smoldering eyes or tattoos. Or really great hair. Or a really great body, sans body hair, of course. You know what I’m talking about. Just look at a random selection of book covers. Bare abs, with no hair. Or bare abs with no hair and AKAG (Almost Kissing A Girl). Not that I’m into the Neanderthal look, but c’mon. Was there a sale on wax jobs I missed?

But I digress…

Men. Men are comfortable with who they are. They are willing to stand up for what they believe without beating up the opposition. They treat their wives like best friends and like queens. They don’t just father their children, they parent their children. They stay calm in battle, they fix things for those they care about, and they try to ease the burden of others. These are the kinds of characters I like to read about. And I found some terrific ones – some I had loved since childhood, some I just recently discovered: Luke from The Mortal Instruments, Halt from The Ranger’s Apprentice, Aragorn (my first book crush when I was eleven) from The Lord of the Rings.

But, like all writers, I want to also create my own. So, I wrote The Stag Lord, featuring Bannerman “Bann” Boru. Soldier. Father to young Cor. Friend and fellow warrior (and perhaps something more) to the beautiful and strong-willed, Shay Doyle.

And I loved every minute of this brand new sandbox. Who knew writing adult books could be so fun? I certainly didn’t, although I will always write middle grade/tween books. Just like I will always breathe oxygen.

Well, there you have it. The Stag Lord will be released in October from Spence City. I am using the pseudonym Darby Kaye, because my publisher, my editor, and I all agreed that we wouldn’t want one of my young teen fans picking up The Stag Lord inadvertently. Yeah. Awkward. As Vikki Ciaffone, the editor-in-chief of Spence City explained, let’s have enough difference in the name to make someone pause long enough to read the blurb.

Now, I know there will be folks who will disagree with this post. They will argue that I am promoting an old-fashion view of men. And that’s okay – we can agree to disagree respectfully. A lot of readers love reading about guys. And, if done well, guys can be entertaining characters to get to know, especially if they show growth by the end of the book or the series. And authors need to keep writing these amazing stories.

But, for right now, I am having a blast exploring the powerful male archetypes mix of  Father, Warrior, Friend, and Lover.

Let’s hear it for the men.

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This originally appeared on Darby’s blog.

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