Author Alexis J Hall approached me with an idea for Queer Romance Month. He asked if he could take over our Sunday Spotlights for the Month to discuss topics related to QRM and topics you would be interested in. Together join us each Sunday in October to see what Alexis and Prism reviewer Beverley have to say. In addition we will have a giveaway that spans the month. All comments on October QRM Sunday Spotlights will be entered to win $10 to All Romance eBooks.
Queer Romance Month (1) with Alexis Hall and Beverley Jansen with Giveaway
Today on Prism Spotlight Sunday we are joining with Alexis Hall to discuss Queer Romance Month. The opening quote is by Alexis and is from a blogpost entitled ‘someday I will be kissed in the pouring rain’ I think it a heartfelt way to introduce what QRM means on a personal level.
Part of the way teach ourselves to understand what love means is through the stories we tell each other. Maybe when there are more stories about people like me, my love won’t seem so out-of-context any more. Maybe it won’t be funny or unreal or disgusting or otherwise noteworthy. Maybe it will just be love, the same as any other love. And maybe I’ll be able to hold my partner’s hand in public because people will stop caring who we are, and instead they’ll just be annoyed that we’re one of those limpet-glued couples who should really be out of the honeymoon period by now.
But this is why romance is so important, and why queer romance is necessary, not as tangent or sidebar, but simply as part of the genre. To stand as manifesto and reminder that really the only thing that matters about love is that it’s love. – Alexis Hall on Wonk-O-Mance 4th September 2014
AJH: Thanks for the introduction BJ – um, I feel a bit weird sitting under a quote of me. But I think something that has really struck me as QRM has come together is how much feeling has gone into it and come out of it. It’s definitely turned into a passionate project for everyone involved. The organisers, the writers, the kind and wonderful people who diligently put up the posts. I wasn’t sure how it was going to be, and we’ve only been rolling for four days, but I’m so, so happy with the way it’s going. So many people coming together to celebrate, and tell their stories.
BJ: I have been really impressed by the sincerity and personal feeling I have read in those posts this week.
AJH: Oh gosh, we’d probably better tell people what QRM is.
BJ: (Picks up wine glass) Over to you Alexis…
AJH: Well, Queer Romance Month, as it says on the tin, is a month-long celebration of queer romance. We’ll be showcasing essays, articles, opinion pieces, flash fiction (and if we’re really super-lucky even some artwork) from the queer-identified, the queer-writing, and the queer-supporting, including our very own BJ here, so look out for that.
BJ: Ah yes, QRM has the first post from my very new alter ego Izzy van Swelm, and to be included is a source of great pride for me.
AJH: It’s a wonderful post – I’m very much looking forward to seeing it go live. Over the next four weeks or so, BJ and I are going to be meeting here at Prism Book Alliance to talk over the week’s posts and maybe yank in the odd special guest star, assuming – that is – we can bribe and cajole anyone to join this madness. We hope you’ll be inspired to check out the various discussions over at QRM, or feel free to chat to us here.
So, BJ, my dear, any highlights from the opening round?
BJ: Definitely. I really liked the opening audio from you, KJ Charles, Vanessa North and Audra North – very funny and quite inspired, to begin in such a friendly manner.
AJH: Slightly excruciating but, actually, we’ve had a few requests for, uh, more such media. From the masochists in the audience. Or possibly the sadists. Depending on how you look at it.
BJ: Well I really enjoyed it. I was also pleased to see the first post on Monday was concerning lesbian and bi literature. So often the poor relative to m/m romance.
AJH: I agree, Radclyffe is a hero is mine, and her post was the perfect way to launch the good ship QRM. Obviously queer romance, in general, is becoming more popular and, I think, it’s on its way to acceptance by the mainstream romance community (something I hope QRM can influence) but the visibility of m/m compared to the rest of the rainbow is quite troubling to me. Do you read a lot of f/f?
BJ: I’m slightly ashamed to say no I don’t. I’ve read Jeanette Winterson Oranges… but I haven’t even read yours I’m afraid Alexis, although certain people keep telling me I must!
AJH: That wasn’t, like, a stand up and be counted 🙂 Do you think it’s a visibility thing, or do you think it’s something genre based?
BJ: I’m not sure of the answer where I’m concerned, but I think the prevalence of straight women reading queer romance is probably the reason generally. I feel many women are worried that they will not understand relationships between two women. Whereas I have seen a lot of female bloggers use various versions of ‘two penises are better than one’ where m/m romance is concerned. I think we need to promote romance as romance, as much as love is love.
AJH: Can I get an amen in here? There was a really fascinating blog post a while ago by E.E. Ottoman () about why lesbian romance is unpopular compared to m/m – they argue that its to do with the cultural shame associated with women’s sexuality and women’s bodies that makes straight readers uncomfortable with the idea of lesbian romance, rather than any inherent anxiety, if that makes sense. It’s a complicated post, and that’s a rough summary. I tend to want to look at things in terms of genre sometimes – so I wonder if heterosexual romance novels train us to look at male characters in certain ways (as heroes, basically), which makes it ‘easier’ to move to m/m rather than f/f. Unless we’re already inclined to be interested in f/f.
BJ: This is such a complicated topic and one I really hope readers will comment on. I also think that the male fantasy regarding two women is off putting for straight women and hard to overcome.
AJH: Yes, I like f/f about as much as I like m/m (preferentially fluid as always) but the gender dynamics worry me – especially because there’s such an icky context of same-sex female desire being co-opted for male fantasy. So I worry a lot about appropriation. On the other hand, as you said above, love is love and a good story is a good story.
BJ: I think good story is a good story, is an aspirational idea, which will actually take longer than ‘love is love’ to realise, sadly. Appropriation is relevant to m/m romance as well. One of my common complaints, when reviewing for Prism, is that the gay romance is really an m/f one with added ‘dangly bits’ and I’m not alone in thinking this by any means.
AJH: I think … it’s complicated. I guess … how do you mean an m/f with more bits? In that the shape of the love story is very heteronormative or that the one of the characters basically seems like a woman with a dick or whatever that offensive phrase is?
BJ: There is a certain pattern and set of behaviours that can be found in m/f romances that is now being copied in m/m romance. This inclines the author to write about a female heroine but change their genitalia and the sex act itself. It is often the reactions which give it this feeling more than anything else.
AJH: See, I’m troubled by this. I’m really uncomfortable with judgements about … what you might call the gender-plausibility of characters. I mean, yes, we all get to make our own judgements about what feels realistic to us, but I worry “women/men/small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri aren’t like that” reactions are based on constructions and assumptions and unhelpful things like that.
BJ: I understand where you are coming from except regarding small furry creatures (crikey that’s not a phrase I use often).
AJH: I getcha. So … Queer Romance Month, eh?
BJ: Yes I think we veered a touch. I did enjoy the involvement of posts from more marginalised sections of the LBGTQ community represented by great posts from Alex Voinov and Adam Fitzroy. They increased the reach of queer romance and provided interesting thoughts for discussion away from the norm.
AJH: Yes, I loved Adam’s post on older characters in m/m romance. Have you read any good romances with older characters?
BJ: Not in m/m romance that I can think of, but in the classic romances the male characters were always somewhat older. Mr Rochester, Heathcliffe, Gone with the Wind’s Rhett Butler would all be considered older characters nowadays. Especially taking into account the depleted lifespan.
AJH: I think it’s more common in het – well, historicals anyway. Georgette Heyer has some pretty significant age gaps. In These Old Shades, Leonie is like sixteen or something, and Avon is forty plus.
BJ: I’m not sure that teenage and forty plus would work as well in a contemporary setting.
AJH: Yeah, it’s definitely more than edging onto creepy. I’ve noticed a tendency for contemporary kink stories to have an age gap – confused young sub, older, wiser, calm dom type thing. I think JA Rock and Lisa Henry’s The Good Boy has a forty-ish dom, and a young twenty-ish sub.
BJ: Yes that is right, but however well done the power exchange seems too extreme to me when a very young person is involved with older, ‘wiser’ one. The relationships often feel slightly into ‘daddy issues’ territory.
AJH: Yeah, I’m in my thirties now, still waiting to feel wiser.
BJ: I’m still waiting to wake up and feel ‘grown up’!
AJH: Oh, oh, Harper Fox, The Salisbury Key, has a non-kinky, very well done age-gap relationship. But age-gap relationships aren’t the same as older protagonist love stories, which is what Adam is talking about. The only older-protagonist love-story I can think of, other than the ones he mentions (Julie Bozza’s … god … what’s it called … the book about all tea …The Apothecary’s Garden) is The General and the Horse Lord by Sarah Black. It gets quite mixed reviews because it has an “Evil Woman” type character in it – one of the heroes is married, and his wife doesn’t take his homosexuality very well. The thing is, though, while Evil Woman is a cliche in the genre and that’s a huge problem … sometimes people don’t behave well. And the problem with living in a repressive, homophobic society is that it hurts everyone. I think lots of readers feel the hero was wrong to even try to have a normal life. And obviously lying to someone about who you are for thirty years is bad but, at the same time, I feel it’s a more morally complex situation than that.
BJ: Wow your memory is much better than mine, but I was just about to give Harper Fox as an example. Of course everything Harper does I think is beautifully done…a bit of a fan here. So what can readers look forward to for the rest of October in relation to QRM?
AJH: Can I just mention one more post I adored? Jenny Haddon, who’ll be massively familiar to any romance reader as Sophie Weston, wrote a post about Mary Renault’s The Charioteer, and I completely fell in love with her for that.
BJ: Yes, I loved that post too. I’m very keen for people to realise that Queer Romance has been around for far longer than the contemporary rise in popularity. Mary Renault was a really important part of bringing queer romance to a wider audience.
AJH: Heh, I suspect because half of them didn’t notice what she was writing about. She’s a very allusive, very elliptical writer. But so beautiful, and personally important to me. So that post really touched me.
BJ: I find lots of older works by queer writers or on queer themes are often written in a more allusive and literary manner because of the difficulties facing the authors in the real world at the time they were written. However, I find this means a more satisfying and edifying read because of that.
AJH: Definitely doesn’t make for light reading, though. Anyway, to actually answer your question, QRM will be continuing all next week (and throughout October). We’ve got posts lined up from all sorts of people on all sorts of subjects, and I don’t necessarily want to spoil them. You can see the full calendar here. Please do come and join us, continue the conversation. And BJ and I will be here again next week with the sport’s commentary.
BJ: Yes we will AJ and I’ve seen the schedule for the posts that are coming over the rest of October and there are some wonderful authors and writers participating. In addition there are like-minded posts away from the main site, including such varied items as Elizabeth Lane’s Rainbow Cake (below) with step by step instructions on how to cook it yourself! How’s that for variety.
AJH: And if you want to continue the conversation with us there’s always comments below 🙂
BJ: I want to thank Alexis Hall for spending time with us, as things are very busy on QRM’s website, and Alexis is busy working on many new releases for us to look forward to. Maybe during the last of our chats I can get AJ to tell us a bit about them.
So look out for next week’s Sunday Spotlight on Queer Romance Month.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
|This post may contain affiliate links.
|Prism Book Alliance® assumes no liability for the ownership of photos or content used in guest posts and interviews. The post author assumes all responsibility and liability for this content.|