Welcome to the Queer Romance Blog Hop, where queer writers and readers of queer romance share their thoughts on the genre, as well as a few recommendations for books to read! Everyone participating in this blog hop identifies as queer and also reads and/or writes (or edits, or reviews!) queer romance. For our purposes, queer romance refers to books with:
1. LGBTQ+ main characters
2. In romantic relationships
3. That have a happy ending. (No Brokeback Mountain here, folks!)
Hi *waves at everyone* I’m Blaine D. Arden, and for those following this Blog Hop and have never heard of me, I’m a purple haired, forty-something, writer of gay and trans* romance with a love of men, music, mystery, magic, fairies, platform shoes and the colours black, purple and red, who sings her way through life.
I jumped onto this Blog Hop after I stumbled across E.E. Ottoman’s contribution, having completely missed Heidi Bellau’s twitter request. Queer romance is a subject close to my heart, and… this is as good a time as any to come out, right? (Well, to those who didn’t know already, that is).
On to the questions Heidi asked me:
1. Let’s start off with the getting-to-know-you stuff: How do you identify, and what does that mean to you? Whatever level of detail you’re comfortable with, of course!
I identify as genderqueer and mostly call myself either an inbetweener or caught in the middle, not fully one, not fully the other. Actually, Kris Piet recently wrote a gripping post about being genderqueer, that could have been written for me. She expresses how I feel very well, though I’m definitely man-sexual (cis and trans*), and, like many gay men, I tend to fall for the straight ones…
Of course, it’s been only two years since I’ve become aware of who I am, and I’m still learning, still evolving. Looking back, there were plenty of signs, I was just never aware enough to see them. All I knew was that I hated my breasts and offered them to my husband many, many times, since he likes them so much, but he prefers them attached to me. It’s become sort of a standing joke between the two of us, though we’re both well aware it never really was a joke.
These days, I try to accept that my body won’t always present the person I am inside, and that shopping for clothes will always be hell as long as companies insist females love bling *shudder* on everything they wear—try finding a simple black bag for a party without any ‘embellishments’ on them—and male clothing just doesn’t fit my body type well enough to be comfortable. I try to pay attention when people call me by my RL name, because Blaine suits who I am so much better that I sometimes forget it’s not how most people are used to calling me. I try not to get too much into lecturing mode when someone tries to convince me that men and women are different *snorts*, and I lose myself in writing worlds where diversity is accepted as is, hoping that some day in the future people wonder what the fuss was all about
2. What’s your preferred “flavour” of queer romance (e.g. trans*, f/f, m/m, menage with queer characters, etc.) Why?
As a reader I love stories that suck me in from page one, be it contemporary, historical, or fantasy/sf. I love characters that grip me, that jump out to me and win my heart. Their gender or sexuality doesn’t play a role in it, but I do mostly read m/m and trans*, which are also the flavours I write. I feel more connected to these flavours, can identify more easily with them, I guess. I’m willing to try anything at least once, though ménages have never really appealed to me, unless they’re m/m/m, cis-gendered or otherwise, but I do read f/f now and then.
3. Do you write/read/review? Do you think being queer affects your participation or platform in romancelandia?
I write and read. Because I did both long before I realised I was genderqueer, I don’t know if being queer myself affects my participation or platform. My awareness hasn’t changed my point of view on what I write, with the exception that I’m now feeling secure enough to write transmen into my stories, and maybe, in future, transwomen, too.
My problem is that I’m somewhat gender blind, and I don’t necessarily mean that in a good way. Because I’ve never seen a difference between men loving men or men loving women, for instance, I often overlook the problems gay men, or any lgbtq person, suffer. I sometimes forget there is still a lot of prejudice and aggression against non-heterosexual, non-straight people, because not everyone sees the world the way I do.
So, the way I view the world affects my participation in romancelandia more than my own queerness. As mentioned above, I write worlds and stories containing a ‘diversity as is’ point of view. Gender and sexuality, with some exceptions because not all of my characters see the world the same way, doesn’t matter, or, at least, isn’t pivotal to my stories. I try to paint worlds that transport readers into a ‘better’ and all-inclusive future. Show by example is what they say, right? This is my way of showing, of contributing.
4. What drew you to queer romance?
I think I’ve told this story many, many times. When I was 16/17 (mid eighties), AIDS was one of the biggest news items around. And what gripped and sickened me most was the hostility against homosexuality. So, naïve as I was, I wanted to show the world how beautiful love between men could be, and started writing my first piece of gay fiction. I even tried to get it published, sending it out to several publishers in my little country—yes, I still wrote in Dutch, then—and I shudder to think what they must have thought of it.
But the negativity surrounding homosexuality lasted, and I started to doubt myself. I’d always thought love was love, but maybe I was wrong. Maybe my point of view was skewed. And I stopped writing gay characters for a while. Until I saw ‘Beautiful Thing’ on TV one night (late nineties), became involved in a small community online, and realised my point of view wasn’t wrong at all. Since then I’ve written numerous gay characters in lead and supporting roles, and even dipped my toes into the giant pool called fandom. And I never let anyone change my mind about my point of view again.
5. What do you love about queer romance in general, and/or your specific subgenre?
Weird as it may sound. I LOVE the diversity in the genre. We are but a niche genre, and yet, sometimes I fell we represent everything mainstream has to offer within this niche. Yes, there is a lack of LBTQ fiction and racial diversity, but aside from that, there is something for everyone. From contemporary to SF/F, from witches to werewolves, from geeks to cowboys, from no sex to full on erotica, from sweet romance to kinky pleasures, from historical to mysteries, from thrilling BDSM to horrifying thrillers, etc.. And some of the writing is absolutely top notch.
6. What’s your pet peeve?
The constant whining whether women can or should be able (allowed even) to write gay men. *rolls eyes* Or the assumption that m/m is written for women. These arguments are tiring beyond belief. Every time I see someone bring up these subjects, I just want to tell them to grow up.
7. What growth would you like to see in the genre, going forward? Any ideas on how to accomplish that?
I’d love to see more LBTQ fiction among the vast see of m/m, and I’d love to see more racial diversity. I’ve always been hesitant to call some of my stories multi-cultured, because they are fantasy, and my idea of different races may not reflect expectations. But, regardless, humans exists in all shapes and sizes, and it’s lovely to read about variety. For this, writers just need to take the plunge and write outside the box more.
It’s never easy to dwell outside our comfort zones, and I love my comfort zone, but even if you’re not comfortable as a writer to write other-gendered main characters, there’s always the friendly trans* Jamaican neighbour, with or without dreadlocks or the gorgeous African ex (or African-American – male/female, trans* or cis-gendered). And, when writing fantasy, there’s nothing easier than thinking up races that show colour and sexual fluidity. Start small, but think big
I’d also love to see more inclusivity within our community. I think our genre is precious and could become so much more, but not if authors/reviewers/readers are fighting among themselves trying to get ahead. The acronyms LGBTQ/QUILTBAG—whichever you prefer—should be fighting FOR and not AGAINST each other. No one individual group has more rights than another.
Conventions like the UK Meet, etc., are already working towards inclusivity. Several f/f and trans* authors mixed with us die hard m/m writers at the UK Meet these past couple of years. The atmosphere during the convention has always been very accepting and friendly. So, why not take that atmosphere online and create the same sort of safe environment there? There are already some groups who have managed to create such an environment, but we really need to think bigger and work with each other.
8. Do you seek out other queer authors when you read?
As a reader I don’t much care about the author’s gender/sexuality. If a book grabs my attention, I’ll read it, no matter who/what the author is. That said, I’m always open to checking out an author’s books when I find out they’re queer, just like I’m open to checking out books by an author I’ve met personally. For both cases I’ll add the disclaimer that I’ll read anything, as long as it’s within my taste. (aka: avoids my squicks)
9. How do you feel, in general, about straight peoples’ participation in reading, writing, and reviewing queer romance?
Well… until about two years ago, I firmly believed I was one of them. So, to have a problem with it would be nothing but hypocritical. Though my awareness of who I am has changed, my reasons for writing queer romance haven’t. They’ll always be close to my heart.
Well written queer characters deserve to be rejoiced and enjoyed by anyone who cares. The gender/sexuality of the author/reviewer/reader shouldn’t matter.
10. Rec us 3 titles in your chosen subgenre and tell us why you love them.
Only three books? *sigh* I’ve always been bad at playing favourites, and this doesn’t make it any easier. There are so many great books out there, and I treasure them all, but… I managed to find three books I think are great and cover a wide range of flavours/genres.
The Complete Brandstetter by Joseph Hansen – This twelve books in one series about street-smart insurance investigator Dave Brandstetter kept me on the edge of my seat. Dave is a complex, openly gay hero who grows and changes over the twelve novels that span approximately twenty years. I loved the wonderfully written secondary and walk-on characters, the action, the mystery, and the way they tackled both gay- and racial issues. A definite re-read for me (though, the print of this twelve in one book is small, and I’ll need magnifiers to read it next time lol). This book is hard to come by, but I’ve seen the books pop-up in e-format here and there.
Blacker Than Black by Rhi Etzweiler Another edge of the seat experience for me. This book about chi-stealing nightwalkers and energy-vampires was interesting and exciting complex and dark story. I also enjoyed how it encompasses gender fluidity. Another re-read for me.
The Irregulars by Josh Lanyon, Nicole Kimberling, Astrid Amara and Ginn Hale – this is a great showcase of the fantasy genre by four brilliant authors. This book contains four separate yet interlinked stories about human and not-quite human agents policing relations between the earthly realm and those beyond this world. I loved the characters and the different approaches from each authors. The shared world really worked for me, I was dragged into this world with the first sentence of the first story and didn’t come out of it until the very last page. And, again, a definite re-read.
Well, that’s it for me. Thanks for reading and for following the tour! Be sure to use the links below to check out more great posts from our participants! Also, if you leave a comment on any of the hop entries, you’ll be entered in a chance to win a prize book of print and ebooks from the participating authors! Yay, books! (my contribution is an e-copy of the SMP Charity anthology Legal Briefs which includes my trans* short In His Defense)