Mainstreaming the Rainbow ~ Outside the Margins with Shae Connor

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Shae Conor

When this post appears, I’ll be in New York for the annual Romance Writers of America conference. It’s only my second time attending, the first two years ago when it was conveniently here in Atlanta. I’m going to see a number of friends while I’m there (both writing-related and not), and I’ll be attending meetups for a couple of different groups I’m part of, including the Rainbow Romance Writers.

I know there’s a lot of discussion in the LGBT romance world about whether RWA membership is worth it. There’s similar discussion in the larger romance genre too. Membership might not be for everyone, and like almost anything else, you’ll get out of it what you put into it. The annual conference can be a big part of that. It’s four days jam-packed with panels and workshops on any kind of topic related to romance writing that you can think of. That includes panels on writing LGBT characters, both as the focus of their own stories and as secondary characters in “het” romance stories.

When I attended RWA last time, a common question asked of everyone was, “What do you write?” Obviously, we all write romance, but individual authors write in different subgenres: paranomal, historical, YA, and so on. My answer was always “I write gay romance,” and the responses I got were universally positive. One author in particular picked my brain about a series she was writing that had a secondary character who was gay and would be getting a boyfriend in a future book.

Two years down the road, some big changes have happened. In the intervening time, a book published by Penguin that centered on a primary same-sex relationship hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list. A book published by Harlequin’s Mira imprint that featured same-sex pairings won a Lambda award. Multiple large publishing companies have made room for LGBT romance books as part of their offerings, and multiple authors who started out writing male/female romance are branching out into writing LGBT-focused books. (I just beta read one of those this month.)

Perhaps most notable of all for the romance genre, tonight, at the RWA’s RITA Awards (the “Oscars” of romance), three same-sex romance books will be vying for awards. Heidi Cullinan (Fever Pitch), Amy Lane (The Bells of Times Square), and Lynda Aicher (Bonds of Denial) are nominated beside well-known names like Jill Shalvis, Tessa Dare, and J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts): on equal ground for the first time.

There are different schools of thought on the “mainstreaming” of LGBT books, in romance and otherwise, and solid arguments exist for each of them. Some people, authors and readers, prefer for LGBT books to be put out by dedicated publishers, shelved together in bookstores, and generally treated separately from the larger romance genre. Others would like LGBT titles to be released by the same publishers and shelved alongside all other types of romance. Heidi’s book would be shelved with other New Adult romance, not under LGBT. Amy’s would be with all the other historicals, Lynda’s with all the other erotic romance.

For the most part, I’m in the latter camp. I wouldn’t necessarily expect Harlequin to add LGBT romance titles to their existing lines; those categories exist as they are because they sell like crazy. But I’d love to see LGBT romance treated on the same level as other categories overall. For Harlequin, that would mean something like starting a “Harlequin Rainbow” line. For other publishers, it would mean having LGBT titles published and marketed like any other romance. It shouldn’t matter if the relationship is between a man and a woman, two men, two women, or any other combination.

Will readers follow? I don’t know. I’d like to think that enough would to make the mainstreaming option viable. I don’t expect publishers to put out the same volume of LGBT romances as they do other cagetories—at least not to start with. Just having a place in the lineup would be a start.

One thing I don’t want to do is take anything away from the publisher who already champion LGBT romance. Publishers like Dreamspinner, Samhain, Bold Strokes, and many others have done, and continue to do, a mighty work on behalf of romance outside the mainstream. Even if the large publishing companies expand their offerings into the LGBT market, it will still be small, independent presses that will do the most to support progress in publishing. Having the large publishing companies on our side would simply mean opening new avenues for everyone: more opportunities for authors, more books for readers.

None of us has any way to know what will happen next in romance publishing. Ebooks have changed the world over the past decade and a huge driving force between the explosion in LGBT titles. Will that growth continue into new areas as publishing continues to evolve? I hope so. If nothing else, there can’t be much wrong with putting more love out into the world.

~Shae Connor



About Shae Connor

Shae Connor lives in Atlanta, where she’s a lackadaisical government worker for a living and writes sweet-hot romance under the cover of night. She’s been making things up for as long as she can remember, but it took her a long time to figure out that maybe she should try writing them down. She’s conned several companies into publishing her work and adds a new notch on her bedpost each time another story is unleashed onto an unsuspecting universe.

A member of the Romance Writers of America and the Rainbow Writers chapter, Shae was first published in 2010 and has a lineup of short stories, novellas, and novels available from Dreamspinner Press, Wilde City Press, MLR Press, and Amber Allure.

Shae is part Jersey, part Irish, and all Southern, which explains why she never shuts up. When she’s not chained to her laptop, she enjoys cooking, traveling, watching baseball, and reading voraciously, and she’s an annual volunteer for the Dragon Con on-site publication, the Daily Dragon. You can find her hanging out on Twitter most any time @shaeconnor, but for the more direct route, you can email her at or visit her website at .

Farewell Giveaway
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,

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3 thoughts on “Mainstreaming the Rainbow ~ Outside the Margins with Shae Connor

  1. Well said. I was so excited to see the three nominations. I had belonged to RWA before and I didn’t feel as accepted/included because I wanted to write gay romance. But one of the gals at my chapter has released a gay romance so things must have changed. I’m considering a return to RWA.

  2. V interesting. Is ‘gay romance’ meaning gay male romance? I prefer that as a ‘label’ if we must have one, than mm romance because we have a word meaning 2 men in love & it’s ‘gay’. But that’s my view as a gay man writing gay romance. I attend the RNA (UK equivilant of RWA) with another gay romance author and we review supportive responses when we say we write gay romance / mm romance depending on how we term it. What really surprises me is when I explain the majority of readers of gay romance are women. This shouldn’t surprise as > 70% of Romance readers are women & women outnumber gay men by a large proportion. Combine the two & it’s obvious more women read & write gay rOmance than gay men. No judgment about if this is good or bad, it’s all about the quality of the story not the gender of the author. Liam Livings

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