Guest Post: How I Came to Write Gay (Asian Male/Western Male) Romance Novels

I’m excited to feature this post from writer Atom Yang, and not just because it’s a beautifully written and compelling story. Today marks the debut of Atom Yang’s first romance novel Red Envelope from MLR Press! Here’s the description:

The Chinese New Year is a time for saying goodbye to the past and hello to the future, but Clint doesn’t want to bid farewell to his cousin’s handsome American friend, Weaver, after they share an unexpected passionate encounter.

The Lunar New Year is the biggest holiday in the Chinese calendar, a time for family reunions, and for saying goodbye to the past and hello to the future. Clint, however, doesn’t want to bid farewell to what happened after last year’s celebration, when he and his Cousin Maggie’s handsome Caucasian friend, Weaver, shared an unexpected but long-desired passionate encounter. East is East and West is West, and Weaver seems to want to keep it that way, but maybe Clint can bridge that great divide this coming New Year, and show Weaver what it means to be loved and accepted.

It’s available on (where your purchase helps support this site) and might just be a wonderful holiday gift for the book lovers in your life. 

Do you have a guest post you’d love to see featured here on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn more about how to write for us. 


Atom Yang Red Envelope

My name is Atom Yang, and I write romance. How I came to write romance took a lot of heartbreak, time, and eventually meeting the man of my dreams (just like in those novels).

Cross-cultural and interracial dating isn’t easy for Asian men, especially in the West. The standards of male beauty differ, and in the East, men are prized for appearing scholarly and refined (even androgynous), with lithe bodies, a sensitive demeanor, and high intelligence. This may also be one of the reasons why Western media perpetuates the stereotype of the sexless Asian male. What it means to be a man in the West today—athletic and rugged, with muscular bodies, stoic and individualistic—is essentially the polar opposite of Eastern ideals of masculinity. It’s no wonder that Asian guys get little game outside of the home court—would you want a ballet dancer to be your offensive lineman?

Years of hearing or reading Sorry, I’m not into Asians or No Asians, fats, or femmes or I love Asians took its toll on my self-esteem, to the point where if the proverbial mirror didn’t crack with my obvious unattractiveness or sole value as a fetish, I’d smash it myself to make it true. This is one of the worst heartbreaks a person can experience: to fall out of love with who they are, and to lose faith in their own beauty and worthiness.

That said, stories about rejection and loneliness all have the potential to be an ugly duckling story, but not the kind where a makeover and montage scene solves the protagonist’s problems and brings the love interest around, because this isn’t about how I changed myself with blue contact lenses and bleached hair and suddenly all the white boys who had said Not racist, just my preference decided that I was acceptable. No, this is the real ugly duckling story, and it’s about becoming who you are, leaving behind those who do not appreciate you, and finding those who do.

Over time and in my travels, I came to realize that people other than those in my hometown found me attractive and unique. My ethnicity makes up a part of who I am, and I would hope that it does because it’s an aspect of my identity that informs both my perspective and my experiences in life—things I need my partner to want to understand.

After two decades, a couple of long term relationships, and longer dating dry spells due to prejudice and my location, I finally met my future partner (he’s of German, Irish, and English descent) online, and he lived four hours away. According to those inscrutable algorithms, we were a 99% match, which I think is math for “soul mate.” I admit it’s been uncannily accurate, but to be clear, we were not matched merely based on our interests—we were also matched according to how we express love, support, and understanding for our partners. The only thing the site couldn’t figure out is if there’d be physical chemistry.

We met in person after chatting for two weeks (I read research about online dating and knew it was important to meet early to prevent unrealistic expectations and to allow the relationship to develop). We had seen each other’s pictures and had expressed initial attraction, but a picture is nothing compared to real life. Our first date would be at a geographical midpoint. I arrived first, and spent time trembling with nervous energy hoping we would feel the same in person as we did on the phone, and then he arrived a few minutes later. It was love at first sight for both of us.

Two more months of dating, and given what we knew and what the site had shown us, we proposed to each other. After four months of doing the long distance thing, we decided that I would close down my practice and move in with him. He came up, helped me pack my life on a rainy day with the wizardry of an international Tetris champion, and we caravanned to his home—our home—stopping for dinner at the midway point at the Moroccan restaurant where we had our first date. Sharing our story with several friends who had been married for years, many revealed their own stories of knowing and proposals after a week or two of dating, with the longevity and satisfaction of their marriage as proof that this sort of thing does happen, and more frequently than previously believed.

Domestic life couldn’t be better, but reestablishing my practice in a new town left me a lot of time on my hands that also left the house extremely clean. Feeling loved, supported, and hot by my partner in a way I hadn’t for almost all of my life, I had the mental and emotional space to begin an endeavor I half-finished due to personal difficulties ten years ago: write stories.

Given the happily ever after ending I’ve been creating, I gravitated toward romance. Working in this genre has been an act of gratitude, hope, and social justice for me. It’s a chance to pay it forward and offer narratives that change and expand the landscape upon which we connect to each other and imagine the possibilities of our lives, so that there might be less heartbreak and wasted time for someone while they find out who they are and where they belong. I came to write romance because it happened to me, and I want to share my fervent belief that we all deserve love, good relationships, and happily ever afters. It can happen. Just like in those novels.

Atom Yang

Atom Yang debuts today with his story, Red Envelope, available from MLR Press.

Atom was born to Chinese immigrant parents who thought it’d be a hoot to raise him as an immigrant, too–so he grew up estranged in a familiar land, which gives him an interesting perspective. He’s named after a Japanese manga (comic book) character his father loved, in case you were wondering.

Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

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17 thoughts on “Guest Post: How I Came to Write Gay (Asian Male/Western Male) Romance Novels

  • December 4, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Wow, this is different. Due to my background, my name and my interests, I’ve pretty much felt like a drifting island. Neither books or TV that was available at the time I was growing up from a kid into an adult helped me feel good and confident about myself. I’m not a published writer, but I think that’s the primary reason I turned to writing, although my stories end ambiguously, which is another whole issue I’d rather not get into. Anyways, good luck with life!

    • December 4, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      Hi Sveta!

      Thank you for your comment! Writing is a wonderful refuge, as well as a way to create a place for ourselves in the world. Perhaps your stories will one day help someone else anchor themselves.

      Best wishes,


      • December 4, 2015 at 9:26 pm

        What a beautiful thing to say to Sveta, Atom!

        Sveta, sending you hugs from one writer to another. I hope you’ll continue to write — I know you have stories worth sharing.

  • December 4, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Hi Jocelyn!

    I wanted to thank you again for having me as a guest on your blog! It’s an honor to share my book and personal story with your readers.

    Best wishes,


  • December 4, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    I realize you’re talking about the masculine ideal between men in the West, but I would like to offer another perspective as someone who has tastes that differ to some degree from the norm (I’m a straight American woman). I am obviously not qualified to speak for men, but it seems to me that they wouldn’t be all that different in their taste in men than women are (or am I wrong about that? I could be wrong).

    And at least for me, it’s not at all true that Westerners prefer rugged / muscular / athletic / stoic / individualistic men. Individualistic OK, in that we tend to expect people of both genders to be somewhat independent by their early 20s, but I personally actually go for the intelligent/scholarly/refined/sensitive demeanor type men (the only reason I don’t add “slim”, although I kinda like tall skinny guys, is that I am not slim myself). In fact I married exactly this kind of guy. He’s got a “dad bod” (which is so hot), and mainly comes off as bookish, academic and quiet. Which I totally love!

    And I know you are talking about same-sex relationships, but when people talk about opposite-sex relationships and say such nonsense like “you have to let the man take the lead, men love the hunt” or “it’s just natural that the man would take charge” or “men like women who make them feel strong, women like men who make them feel protected”, all I can do is laugh, because…nope. Not for me. Not in my experience, and if it were true I’d be single because I can’t and won’t change my personality to fit that norm.

    So hey, take heart, we don’t all think in the stereotypical way. Though I bet you already know that!

    • December 5, 2015 at 3:21 pm

      > intelligent/scholarly/refined/sensitive demeanor type men (the only

      In China, and much of East Asia, this is the standard of Masculinity that is set as the ideal. It’s actually called Wu/Wen. The idea of that the ideal man possess not only outward strength, but also the strong mental fortitude of a Scholar.

      • December 7, 2015 at 4:07 pm

        Hi A & M,

        Thanks for sharing that–it’s exactly what I was talking about! 🙂

    • December 7, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Hi Jenna!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

      I agree with much of what you wrote, and that not all Westerners will fit into my generalization (using a lot of data to create a pattern that can be applied to smaller examples for efficiency’s sake)–which was definitely not intended to be a *stereotype* (something that excludes exceptions and individual details, such as what you find attractive, for example).

      That said, I do disagree that gay men are just straight women inside (or vice versa), and that one group’s experience and socialization can be applied to another group. Although some gay men may be attracted to straight men, and this looks like a crossover into what straight women are attracted to, it ignores the socialization that gay men go through to hate their own gayness, to have their gayness associated with femininity (because of the assumption that you can only be female if you’re attracted to a male), or the existence of gay culture which has its own aesthetics (which, strangely enough, has influenced the mainstream straight male population–remember the “metrosexual”! 🙂 ).

      As for individualistic–I see that as different from “independent.” Individualistic is more, “every man for himself,” or the idea of a lone hero, like Superman, saving the day. Independent is about being able to take care of yourself and meet your own needs, for the most part.

      Anyway, I’m glad you found your mate and that you each complement and accept one another. We’re all looking for our specific partner, while some generalizations can be made about cultural norms that may not necessarily apply to each individual.

  • December 5, 2015 at 3:50 am

    How nice to read also about AMWM stories 🙂
    Back when I lived in Finland I knew several AMWM couples from university though I lost contact to all of them except one who was a more close family friend from our language studies.
    In Germany however I realized that AMWM couples often do have the same stigma as their WMAF (old Western dude and young Asian girl). I don’t know why I encountered it here in Germany like that but I guess it is also because in good old Germany they just love to put people into a stereotype shoebox, hope you ain’t encountering similar things over there as I have seen in the past year since living in this country. Saying this as even though both me and my wife are both same age people still give us from time to time those disgusting looks aka only marrying for Visa etc…

    • December 7, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      Hi Timo!

      Thanks for your comment!

      Yes, unfortunately, people love to label and stereotype. They almost can’t help, it’s part of human psychology! The assumptions aren’t pretty, and I’m sorry that people probably have negative thoughts about you and your spouse.

      It’s an interesting dynamic, the older Western man with the younger Eastern man. I’ve not explored the reasons behind it, although I know in the East, age is more respected, and perhaps there’s an aesthetic and romantic appreciation for someone who is more mature. Not all cultures worship youth, right? In Western culture, we have terms like “cradle robber” and “cougar” for older people who like much younger partners. The thing is, if we assume the younger person is also attracted to the older person, what do we call them?

      It bears exploring more, yes? 🙂 Maybe in a future novel of mine!

  • December 5, 2015 at 8:28 am

    What a beautifully written and touching post. It made me tear up. This was somewhat problematic, as I was serving on a jury. In Compton. Nothing like sniffling and wiping your eyes on your way into the courtroom. Because then the judge interrogates you to make sure you are still mentally fit to serve. If I hadn’t been under oath, I could have claimed emotional distress and maybe gotten excused…

    So maybe a hanky warning next time, Jocelyn?

    But thanks to Atom. I never considered the stereotypes and their impact on same sex couples before. I am so glad you followed your bliss and your story has a happy ending.

    And now I’m tearing up again. Thank God I didn’t read again and post a comment until I got home. 🙂

    Atom, if you read these comments, I’m curious — how much of your real relationship sneaks into your stories? And is your partner okay with this?

    • December 7, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      Hello Autumn!

      Well, that was a very sweet comment you made, thank you. 🙂 I got all sniffly reading about you getting sniffly! Thanks for appreciating what I had to share.

      To answer your question, I bring in my personal experiences to the stories I write, and sometimes that involves my partner. He’s totally cool with it, and is incredibly supportive (I really don’t know how I got this lucky). My book, “Red Envelope,” is inspired by our experience going to my family’s New Year celebration–nothing in the book happened in real life, but the feelings are all true–one of my uncles did recently pass away, my relatives did accept us, and in the end, love didn’t so much conquer everything, as it gave perspective to everything and taught us what was important.

      P.S. I’m sorry about jury duty.
      P.P.S. I admire your honesty and that you didn’t perjure yourself. 🙂

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