On November 14, 2013 James Russell Lingerfelt was interviewed by Chatelaine Magazine, a leading women’s magazine out of Toronto. Click here for that article. We’ve included the original interview below, uncut and unedited.
James Russell Lingerfelt is the author of the romance novel and screenwriter for the soon to be
feature film, The Mason Jar, a coming of age love story that helps readers find healing after severed relationships. Lingerfelt, a former professor, is now being pursued by various production and publishing companies because of his experience as a writer and producer.
This year alone, Lingerfelt’s blog themed “love story from the male perspective” has received over 5 million views.
He’s been called the next Nicholas Sparks, the next CS Lewis, the next Max Lucado. But Lingerfelt says he’s “just a boy.” I was able to get into touch with Mr. Lingerfelt last week while he’s dividing his time between meetings in Southern California and his family’s ranch in Alabama.
C: What made you start the blog and why focus on romance from a male perspective?
JRL: Women rarely hear views on love from the male perspective. Whether it’s romantic or platonic. I began the blog so that people who enjoyed The Mason Jar could come to my home page and read more of my writings. I had no idea that blog would explode like it has. I receive letters from people all over the world. Interesting enough, after the USA and Canada, most letters come from Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Self-help material is very popular in those countries. And there’s a little bit of that in everything I write.
I want to create and push stories that not only inspire people but show them ways to grow. To make them glad to be alive. To be reminded, “You are loved. You have loved others. They are thankful for your love and your existence. You made a difference. You’re needed. Don’t give up.”
C: Are men’s voices represented enough in this arena? Why do they have such a bad rap when it comes to expressing love and affection?
JRL: Men seem to be underrepresented because there’s typically not a lot of interest there from men concerning romantic love. Plus, in general, men tend to be less expressive than women. Some of the research I’ve read indicates that men are generally the first to express romantic love in relationships, but why this is so, there are different explanations. I think that’s because everyone’s different. Answers to questions like that are difficult to find because every individual is different and will have a different response. In my own life with my mentors, friends, and brothers, I’ve noticed that, in general, most men don’t communicate their deepest desires and feelings to anyone other than a very trusted loved one. Whereas, women seem to do this with everyone in their life, even, at times, with complete strangers. “Practice makes perfect.”
I think a lot of men come across as blank when bombarded with questions about romantic love. They simply aren’t accustomed to answering them. Let me tell you, they’re not blank. There’s always depth there. It’s just a matter of spending enough time with them in varied circumstances, getting to know them, and you’ll eventually see their beliefs on romantic love emerge. But those beliefs are always changing because we change daily. You can’t nail anyone down. Man or woman. It’s just not possible. Remember Alice in Wonderland? Lewis Carroll has Alice respond, “Who am I? Well I knew who I was this morning but I must have changed a million times since.” Brilliant.
C: As an author of a very romantic novel, The Mason Jar, what do you think an author in this genre knows about people’s deepest desires? What are some novel themes related to love and relationships that should make their way into our daily lives more?
JRL: As in almost any genre, an author has to listen to people. A lot. I noticed after time, though people have different callings and vocational interests, at the end of the day, our dreams, desires, struggles, are all very common. Everyone wants peace and happiness and a fulfilling life. But life itself is a journey where we try to discover how to attain those desires. And we all can come up with different answers as to how to attain them. It seems simply put that all men want to be respected and all women want to be loved.
All want to believe their life counted for something, that they have a purpose, that their life has meaning. And every single one of us wants to love and be loved. I think our main goals in this life are seeking answers to, “What is my purpose?” and “How can I find ways to love and be loved?”
C: What are the main differences between how men view romance and love and how women perceive them? Do men see romance and love as two separate things? If so, why? Why do women so often view them as inextricably connected?
JRL: I’ve read material where women have higher standards or expectations for relationships. Most women rate their satisfaction lower than than their partners. Most explain this as a factor of the higher standards women hold; they are more finely attuned to relationship details. I think the questions you pose will differ from man to man. Some men don’t differentiate between the two. Most do.
Men enjoy love stories. But they’re different kinds of love stories. Think about the miniseries Band of Brothers produced by Spielberg and Tom Hanks. The brothers loved each other, they loved their families and wives back home, they loved their country, they’d die for all of them. They were out out to destroy darkness, to bring an end to Nazi reign. Why? To protect their loved ones, to save humanity. And they did it against incredible odds. And you see this manifested throughout the series. Men viewers loved it. Remember Field of Dreams? That’s a movie all men love. The entire story is about love, forgiveness, and reconciliation between a father and son. These stories might not be romantic love, but it’s love.
C: What have you learned from the blog that you didn’t know before, particularly as it relates to men – their hearts, and their feelings about love and relationships?
JRL: Based on the comments, women tend to be very in tune with our needs and heart’s desires. Their empathy, understanding, and willingness to share from their own lives with strangers, it’s all strong and inspiring. Men, not so much. We men like to fix things before understanding the entire problem. Stephen Covey said once, “We must seek first to understand before being understood.” Women in general seem to get this. But I know men who, for them, it takes a lifetime to get that. My blog doesn’t receive many comments from men. When they do comment, I’m sad to say this, they usually rant because the article either made them face some insecurities or because it struck a nerve they didn’t like. I learned a long time ago that in such instances people are responding to, not what they encounter, but rather the stirrings within following those encounters.
C: What’s the best piece of advice or the clearest thought on the topic that changed your view or offered illumination?
JRL: I don’t care who the man portrays himself to be. You get him with a trusted friend, at a moment when he’s humble and vulnerable, perhaps at the end of the day following a sentimental moment in his life, and you’ll find that he’s just a little boy. Don’t miss that. Because most people do.
At the end of the day, inside, we men are just little boys.
Ask what a little boy wants. To be loved, respected, to fight for an underdog or a lover in distress, to go on an epic adventure that tests every fiber in his body. That’s what every man wants, in my experience.
C: Are men romantic? Why do so many women feel that they aren’t? Is it simply a matter of miscommunication? Or is it misunderstanding? How can men and women get on the same page about romance?
JRL: Some men are very romantic. However, they may express it differently than women. Men tend to be action figures, expressing romance through actions. You know, storm the castle walls for their love. Slay the dragon. Kill the bad guys. Women, in general, are just better communicators. When I was in college, the women professors in our field tried to teach us that men and women are the same and should be treated the same. And they had wonderful presentations of their ideas broken down in their own creative logical formulas to convince everyone. But I never bought it. Experience teaches us men and women are different. Why try to make it true in your mind that men and women are the same? We should be celebrating our differences, not stomping our feet and clenching our fists because we can’t figure each other out. Do you truly understand why you do and say the things you do? At all times? I don’t. So if I can’t understand myself at all times, what in the world makes me think I’ll completely understand another? Especially someone of the opposite sex who’s biologically wired differently.
So when I’m asked why can’t men and women get on the same page about romance, my answer is, “Who says they should? Who says they could?”
We should observe and listen intently to our loved ones to discover their unique desires, hopes, dreams, fears.
It takes years to get to know an individual. No book or blue print will give you the answers to that. No law or formula covers every single circumstance or predicament. You truly want to understand someone? Spend years investing in that person. It’s the only way.
C: What should women know about love from the male perspective that might enhance their relationships?
JRL: I think women need to understand that just because men may not express love and romance in the same way women do, this doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. Men, in general, are more interested in a sexual relationship, and women, in general, are more interested in security (emotional, financial, etc.,). But there is a lot of variability in this. Know this though: If a man loves you, he’ll fight for you. And those ways of fighting for you will be manifested differently. Why are men more interested in the sexual side? And why are they prone to fight? We just seem to be wired that way. That’s masculinity. Don’t ask how to change it. Ask why it’s a good thing. The masculine exists for a reason. It has a purpose. We have to discover it’s purpose and use it for good, not bad.
C: If you could tell women one thing they may not know about the men in their lives what would it be? Ditto for men and the women in their lives.
JRL: We’re kids. We’re all just a bunch of kids on a journey and we think that one day we’ll arrive to our destination. I don’t believe we even know where we’re trying to arrive to. I remember Tolstoy saying near the end of his life that if he could say anything to humanity it would be, “Try to be kinder to each other.” That summed it up for him. Maybe in the next life we’ll understand everything. But not in this one. No one has all the answers. No one. But we tend to believe someone does, somewhere, and I see a lot of people searching for that person. Especially in religion, spirituality, and politics. I use to be in search of that person. But not anymore. Now, I invest in certain mentors depending on the circumstances and my goals. For myself, I just ask, “Am I enjoying life? Why or why not? If not, what can I change? Am I making best use of the light that’s been revealed to me? In the past, did I do the best I could with the knowledge I had?” That’s all one can do.
Not long ago I was conversing with an elderly man in a coffee shop and he asked me, “How old is your dad?” I replied sixty. The man said, “Ah, he’s just a kid.” Isn’t that so true? A lot of people are very hard on themselves when they do the best they can and then reprimand themselves because their performance wasn’t up to their standard. Hey, listen. You’re just a kid. You’re probably doing better than you imagine.
C: How can we improve our relationships – make them more loving, lasting, and deep?
JRL: I think most people today don’t realize that relationships take a lot of maintenance. Over the past few decades, the various social and economic expectations that kept relationships together have eroded, so now, about the only thing that is left is personal intentional commitment. The consumer orientation of personal satisfaction “I have a right to be satisfied” and the focus on personal returns, “What’s in it for me?” have made it very difficult for people to stay committed. I think it takes a lot of selflessness and focus on the other, and not just self, to make lasting relationships. Also, do not be scandalized by the concept of unconditional love. Because most people are. We cannot control how people treat us. But we can control our response. We could spend our entire lives meditating on what it means to love unconditionally and still not understand it’s implications fully.
C: What qualities make a romantic hero in a novel? What qualities make a romantic hero in real life? What qualities sustain a loving relationship in a novel? What qualities sustain a loving relationship in life?
JRL: In all the great stories, I’ve noticed that when the spouses are sensitive to the other’s desires and needs, and the woman respects the man, admires him, and the man loves his woman, and provides for her, we always seem to be satisfied with both the story and the real life experience. I’ve noticed in my favorite stories and among the men I admire the most in my life, there are these common traits: Provider, Protector, Leader and these are manifested differently. The men work hard, giving it everything they have at what they place their hands on, they’re self-sacrificial, they have integrity; they are willing to turn their backs to the crowds if it means doing the right thing, they lead when necessary and have the humility to let others lead at appropriate times, they admit to their limited human abilities, they don’t judge or sneer at the weaknesses and short-comings in others, and they don’t allow people to be mistreated. They do what it takes. When I look back on men in my life who I admired, they shared these qualities.
C: Why do we crave romance? Why are we such suckers for a love story?
JRL: In my experience, at all moments in our lives, we’ve experienced a little taste of the fairy-tale romance. That person we are so emotionally crazy about, at one time, fulfilled a wish or longing for us. And when we read novels or watch movies and we escape into those stories, we are not only reminded of those moments from our own pasts, but we’re also provided hope that moments such as those can still be realized in the future. We say to ourselves, “I know what that’s like. I remember. It was lovely. It’s one of my fondest memories.” We see those stories can happen to others as well. It gives us hope and helps us to dwell on the loveliness of humanity. During our hard times, we are reminded through stories of love that life is still worth living. Yes. Life is still worth living.
Did you like this article? Make sure to check out The Mason Jar, a coming of age love story from the male perspective by James Russell Lingerfelt. The novel helps readers find healing after severed relationships. Portions of the novel take place in the USA, London, and Africa.
The Mason Jar movie is scheduled for pre-production in 2015 and will be directed in the same dramatic and romantic tones as The Notebook (2004) and Pride & Prejudice (2005). Follow him on Facebook or Twitter or subscribe to his email list for updates.