I am VERY excited today to introduce this guest post from Andrew Shaffer, author of Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love (coming from Harper Perennial in winter 2011). This is Andrew:
And this is where he ended up, among these very muscle-bound men:
Intrigued? Read on for more details of Andrew’s unexpected entry into the world of male beauty pageants:
As the proud owner of a Y chromosome, I expected to be in the minority amongst the mostly female crowd at the 2010 RT Booklovers’ Convention, one of the largest romance novel conventions in the country. I was attending as a non-fiction author who was aspiring to write a romance novel (my debut book, the non-fiction Great Philosophers Who Failed at Love, will be released by Harper Perennial next year). Little did I know that my Y chromosome marked me as a candidate for a four-day male modeling competition.
The Mr. Romance contest, put on by RT Book Reviews magazine and Dorchester Publishing, is a fan favorite at the annual RT Booklovers’ Convention. Every year, up to twelve hunks compete for the chance to be on the cover of a Dorchester romance novel. This year, several contestants dropped out the week of the show. The organizers needed extra studs, and needed them fast; I happened to be the first guy who walked past the convention registration booth that one of the RT volunteers, Jennifer, recognized.
We had both attended bestselling novelist Bobbi Smith’s two-day pre-convention writing workshop. When Jennifer floated the idea of entering the Mr. Romance contest past me, I politely declined. “I don’t have any abs,” I said, patting the twenty extra pounds of insulation around my midsection. “And I left my guns at home,” I added, mockingly flexing one of my arms. It doesn’t matter, she said — women aren’t as interested in musclebound guys as you think.
Before I could run off, Jennifer introduced me to one of the contest coordinators. “Did you bring any shirtless photos of yourself?” the coordinator asked. What author doesn’t carry around a box of topless glossy photos of themselves? I had inadvertently left mine at home, I said, so a photographer was quickly found to remedy the situation. Thus began my four-day journey from philosopher to Fabio.
The other contestants – a few models, a professional wrestler, and a “male entertainer” – welcomed me into their makeshift fraternity. To paraphrase Derek Zoolander, there’s more to modeling than being really, really, ridiculously good-looking. Every day, from 8am until midnight, we were required to attend dance rehearsals, photo shoots, and meet-and-greets. Our whirlwind week concluded with the two-hour onstage Mr. Romance “mangeant,” where we literally ripped our shirts off in front of hundreds of screaming fans.
So, did I win the competition? Of course not. Some musclebound guy did (admittedly one of the nicest musclebound guys I’ve ever met). But I have a full year now before the 2011 Mr. Romance competition to get in shape and find my abs. Perhaps I’ll finally find out what it means to “blast those quads” and “feel the burn.” And, if I have the time between all of the gym sessions, maybe I can start writing that romance novel.