In 2021, following over a year of isolation from people, I attended a virtual conference for writers called Inkers Con. This conference spanned three weeks full of classes, lectures, and open roundtables about writing and publishing.
As discussions opened up and participants became more comfortable with each other, interesting topics popped up, and they added new roundtables to the agenda. What started out with a handful of scheduled roundtables quickly turned into multiple roundtables per evening.
In an event where most attending authors wrote romance (and women vastly outnumbered men), it became apparent in these sessions that the women authors highly valued the men’s opinions. Women who were writing male characters were interested in insights from their fellow male authors. So much so that a few brave souls volunteered for a question-and-answer roundtable called Ask the Guys – Sex and Romance from the Male Perspective.
The Ask the Guys session was so popular that it blew away the time limits and ran for a marathon three hours. And those who couldn’t attend live heard about it in every session thereafter.
From there, the Writing Guys podcast was born. Co-creators CT Andrews and Michael Aspen now host a regular podcast to answer questions about the male perspective.
I’ve had the privilege of moderating a few of their episodes and got to interview these two about their show and how it evolved into what it is today. Below is the transcript from the interview, conducted via email.
CONTENT WARNING! Please note, this interview contains strong language and references to sexual content. Unlike my other content, this one is more PG-13 rated.
Lancy: What made you volunteer to offer your thoughts from a man’s perspective at the Inkers Con 2021 conference? Were you nervous?
Michael: I’ve always enjoyed explaining things to people. I guess I’m a natural educator. And I wanted to give back to the community of writers, and this was a way I could do that. I may not have every man’s experience to draw from, but I am a man, and I’m good at explaining the way we think and feel, so I figured this would be a way to give back and be useful.
Oh god, yes. I had no idea if the audience would want to ask us questions at all, and we didn’t define a topic other than just ask guys what they think, so if we had questions I had no idea what they’d cover. And most importantly, I didn’t know how our answers would be received. So, fear of the unknown, I guess.
CT: I remember when it was first suggested, I forget which roundtable it was, but I thought it was a joke. Kind of tongue-in-cheek. Once it came up a second time, and then a third, I was like, holy crap, I think they’re serious. Up until then, I was kind of a fly on the wall at the con, so it gave me a chance to get out there. So we set up the roundtable some five or six days out and so it was kind of a done deal. But the closer it got, yeah, the more nervous I became. Not knowing fully what to expect, I kind of felt like the proverbial chum being tossed to the sharks. But, hey, it was too late now. It was sink or swim, baby, let’s do it!
Lancy: Were you surprised at the positive response you received?
Michael: I was very surprised. And I was surprised right out of the gate. I had attended other round table conversations and often it was difficult to get the questions started, or they were dominated by a small number of people asking questions. We just said, “We’re here to answer your questions, so put them in the chat if you have any.” And the chat exploded with questions. It was incredible. I had difficulty keeping up. Oh, and what questions! Follow-ups on answers we were giving, new questions blossoming from other answers. It was very exciting. It took us three hours to respond to them all, and we were answering them very quickly. Then, a day or two later, I saw on Facebook people raving about our roundtable saying other attendees needed to listen to it. It was very humbling and encouraging at the same time.
CT: Short answer: hell yes. Overwhelmed, really. Couldn’t believe it. But honestly, after those first few minutes, the hot seat never felt more comfortable. The women asking questions were actually very open about what they wanted to know and it made me feel freer to be open in return. I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms, talked a lot of smack with “the boys.” This one was, by far, the best.
Lancy: How did you guys go from answering questions at a writer’s conference to a regular podcast? What was that journey?
Michael: It was a long and kind of painful journey. Someone suggested that we start a podcast in the roundtable chat. I realized we might actually have a good podcast idea here, and I took the idea to C.T. Andrews and Hermés Solenzol. They were on board, and we began trying to figure out how to get this thing going. We tried some different formats, adding a moderator, doing live performances, etc. None of the situations worked as we expected. We were trying to recreate the lightning in a bottle that was the excitement and spontaneous nature of the original round table, but we soon learned that was not possible.
Unfortunately, we also had some creative differences that took even more time to resolve, and the resolution left it just C.T. and I doing the podcast moving forward. We love Hermés and want the best for him, but he didn’t like the direction we felt the podcast needed to go. One of the things we decided during that time of turmoil that we wanted to make sure we upheld no matter what was that we wouldn’t tell the audience what to want from us. We want to keep a pure Q&A format where we listen to genuine questions you have, then answer them as honestly and openly as possible. That core of our podcast took longer to discover than we anticipated. All in all, the podcast feels a little more tame and tempered than the original round table, but finding that exciting interaction amongst multiple viewers at the same time was impossible to recreate in a podcast form, at least so early on in the podcasts development. So, we are putting out the best version we can at this time and hope to grow an audience.
CT: I was kind of riding a buzz for a few days afterwards. It was a completely unexpected experience. So, there was a lot of back and forth with me and the other guys. In those conversations, the idea just kind of bloomed. We didn’t know what it would look like, or sound like, or even how it would get off the ground, but we wanted it. My fear was that a podcast would lose some of the spontaneous nature of the roundtable, but I mean, why not do it? And from there it just sort of happened… with planning and testing and talking and more planning, of course.
Lancy: Are you settled into your show or are you still figuring things out?
Michael: Well, kinda both. We are very much interested in having other hosts on the show to speak to the non-heterosexual while male experience. So many of the questions we have are about sex and how we think of it that we want alternate points of view on the show. We really like it when we learn about others as well as when we can offer our own experiences. That is an example of ways we’re open to changing the show, but there are others. We would love to turn the tables and ask women some of the questions we have gotten and get their answers. And we are open to other ideas if they come our way. The only real core tenant that we cannot change was something I mentioned before. We don’t want to tell our audience what we want them to hear. We want to answer the questions our audience has. So, as long as we are true to that guiding principle, I think we’d be open to a lot of ideas.
CT: I’m not settled into it at all from an ass-in-chair point of view. Like, I still get those pre-show backstage jitters before we record an episode. That’s what keeps me coming back for more. I just want it to be as entertaining as we can make it while still being honest and forthright. As far as the platform goes, I think Michael and I are always willing to entertain new ideas and new avenues for growth and improvement. Honestly, I enjoy the heck out of doing the show and if it never changes, I’m fine with that, but we’ve had a lot of conversations about what our market would want to see, so exploring that is always foremost on our minds.
Lancy: What does having a female moderator bring to the show?
Michael: Oh my god. So much. It allows us to get a glimmer inside the female mind; it allows us to be redirected to what the question actually means (we sometimes start down the wrong path and need to be brought back on track). She gives us a sounding board to bounce ideas off of. There’s an ineffable quality too. C.T. and I tried adding a female moderator when we were figuring things out. I think it was even his idea. Anyway, we recorded an episode with just him and me, then we re-recorded the same episode with a moderator, and the difference was striking. We felt that having that female voice really added something to the podcast. I’d love to get more female voices in the show, maybe even have panel shows where a group of female guests asks us questions, and we get the opportunity to ask them back. That would be exciting.
CT: I don’t think the show would be complete without a female moderator. There’s something to be said about giving the male’s perspective on the world that absolutely needs a woman’s presence and curiosity. Gotta have it. Otherwise, it would just be two dudes blabbing about hotrods, firearms and boobies, and who wants to see that? But there’s something else to consider that I didn’t expect until I was actually in that particular situation. You see, the conversations Michael and I have would never… ever… EVER… happen if there wasn’t a female present. I think he and I agree on that. Like, I’m just not going to ask Michael, “Gee, bro, how do YOUR orgasms feel?” Or, “I watch glory hole. Do you watch glory hole, too?” No way. Not in a million, brutha. But with a female there, it just feels so natural. Isn’t that weird? [laughter]
Lancy: Are most of the questions you get about sexuality?
Michael: A good number of them are, but not all. We get emotional questions; we get POV questions. I’d say it’s about 50% maybe 60% sexual questions. But, we like all the questions, regardless of their nature. As long as they’re genuinely trying to learn what happens inside our heads.
CT: Well, the fun ones certainly are. And by fun, I mean the more taboo ones. I think women have as many questions about balls and boners and orgasms as guys do about… the other thing. But I’ve noticed a nice balance starting to form. There’s probably as many questions about relationships and intimacy as there are sexual ones and they’re just as much fun, honestly.
Lancy: Is there any topic that’s off the table?
Michael: If there is, we haven’t encountered it yet. We have talked about a number of raunchy subjects that I would never bring up in polite society as well as more tame topics. Everything from what does an orgasm feel like for men, in explicit detail, to writing three dimensional male characters. I think if a question crosses the line we’d just decline to answer, but so far we haven’t had that happen yet. We’re pretty open with our experiences, and we genuinely love questions that are probing in nature.
CT: Well, let me think. We’ve discussed losing our virginity, types of pornography, the sensation of an orgasm, blow jobs, and screwing. Mmm, I don’t think there’s any topic we don’t invite. I mean, Pandora’s box is wide open at this point, right? So let’s have some raunchy fun with it. Where else can you do that on a public forum and get away with it?
Lancy: What are your future plans for the show?
Michael: Get more listeners! [laughing] I mean that both from a personal desire to see the show grow, but also to get feedback about ways we can improve and give our audience more of what they want. Sometimes, with a podcast, you feel like you’re talking into a void. It’d be nice to get some feedback to let us know if we’re doing it right or if we need to change.
CT: Our next step is to start marketing it. I truly want it to succeed, but I don’t know what that really looks like. All I know is that I have a ton of fun doing it. It’s like a break in my week that I look forward to. Hanging out with Michael and Lancy, who’ve become quite good friends of mine, is kinda nice. Honestly, if I start having plans with the show, it might start to lose some of its authenticity on my end, so really I just go with it. As long as I feel like we’re serving the purpose of the show and we’re enjoying it, it doesn’t matter if we have 3 subscribers or 3,000. I’m going to keep doing it for however long I can.
Lancy: How can readers find you?
Michael: Right now you can find me at WritingGuys.net as I’ve not yet launched my website. But I’ll add links there to my website when it’s up and ready. You can also email me directly at email@example.com.
CT: I’m also on WritingGuys.net, so you can email me at C.T.Andrews@writingguys.net or you can reach me at BooksByCTAndrews@gmail.com.
Note: The Writing Guys team is planning to host two roundtables at Inkers Con 2022 Digital (July 16-31, 2022), so if you’re attending that conference, look for them on the schedule.
That’s the interview! If you’re interested in writing deeper male characters, check out the Writing Guys podcast website. You can find links there to either watch on YouTube or listen to the audio as these guys tackle a new listener question each week.
Let me know in the comments if you’ve listened to the show and if so, what you thought about it. Or please recommend other writing podcasts you like.