QUEER ROMANCE MONTH – Week Two with Beverley, Santino Hassell and Ulysses:
Welcome to week two of Queer Romance Month Round Ups here on Prism.
Today I am joined by, fellow reviewer and author Ulysses Dietz, and Santino Hassell, co-author of In the Company of Shadows and author of Sutphin Boulevard and soon to be released Stygian. Thank you for your thoughts and opinions regarding week two of QRM.
I am saving most of my thoughts and opinions for weeks four and five 😉 But…
QRM is not only enjoyable, it is important. Whether you disagree with the term ‘queer’, or identify with it – there is an old English (Yorkshire) saying
There is nowt so quaere as folk
and I find it delightfully inclusive, comforting and true. We are all ‘queer’ not one of us lives life exactly as the other. Queer means different to, or even strange, but these do not have to be taken as derogatory words. Look at how you differ from your neighbours, partner, your friends even your own siblings or children. I certainly think small children do strange things, my friends have hobbies and habits I may think strange – if asked cough (building railways in lofts). Queer is not a word to be scared of.
The problems arise when a privileged section of society decides one person’s ‘queer’ is too ‘queer’, or not a form of ‘queer’ they find acceptable. Then people are marginalised, and their voices are not heard anymore, their stories are not told.
Queer Romance Month is a way to celebrate those differences that have caused human beings to be marginalised. No one should feel marginalised. QRM allows all those voices to be heard and to illuminate the idea that all people, regardless of their differences should be heard and have stories for and about them.
Queer may mean different to, can mean strange, but never means less than.
First a round up of this week from Ulysses
I’m a little overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of the posts since last week. How much fun to come home every day to see what awaited me in my inbox! There’s one thing that shines out very clear in all this—the need, the insistence on diversity of character and point of view and setting. Not just about the full rainbow of what queer might mean in all its romantic combinations, but beyond that. C.S. Poe’s post talking about disabilities and all things that limit us, both physically and psychologically, was particularly powerful. That made me think about a book recommended elsewhere in this week’s posts: Heidi Cullinan’s Carry the Ocean, an astonishing love story about not being defined by your limitations.
I loved Cam Montgomery’s eloquent cry – how else to describe it? – wishing that all queer teens could have queer lit in their lives, how much it would have changed her life if she had. I can relate to that. Maybe one reason I love YA books with LGBT stories is that I never had this as an adolescent, and that craving persists. On the other hand, this also made me think about the dearth of older folk at the romantic heart of these stories – the one point of diversity that people seem to forget. I started reading gay romances at 55, because I suddenly felt that I was invisible to the LGBT world where youth is everything. I needed to not be invisible, even though I rarely found anyone my age in the books I read. Fortunately I realized that I’ve been every age up to the one I’m at, and thus I can see myself in lots of places if I squint a bit. But the idea lingers in LGBT romance that being older precludes romance, that that’s really sad. There are welcome exceptions (Julie Bozza’s The Apothecary’s Garden), but they are rare. Fortunately I have friends online who watch out for things like this for me.
J.K. Pendragon’s plea that stories other than coming out stories are important too was echoed a few times. How great to read books in which being queer (in whatever way) is just assumed, part of the context, rather than “the issue.” The straight media (all of them) really don’t get it. The straight world just isn’t interested enough (or so marketers believe). We need to write our own literary tradition.
The blinkered notion that “women can’t write men” (or that anybody can’t write anything, with research and sensitivity) was also put well to rest by both Kaje Harper and A.M. Arthur. Not everyone can write with authenticity about things that are outside their direct experience, but plenty of people can. Look, I’ve read gay male authors who can’t write gay men properly (wasn’t THAT a sobering moment). Pulitzer-prize winner Donna Tartt writes about any number of things she is not in The Goldfinch. Michael Chabon writes about black people and gay teenagers and women in his Telegraph Avenue. I might say that neither of these folks does very well with the gay thing, not nearly as well as many straight women writing m/m fiction do it. In theory, anybody can write about queer lives: as long as they care and make their best effort to get it right.
Liam Livings’ elegy to the British version of Queer as Folk had me smiling. Like lots of young gay men, he’s under the impression that gay is everywhere in the media today—which, compared to my youth, is true. But I’m all too aware that gay characters are still few and far between, and other types of queer presence in mainstream media (including theatre, ballet, music…) is still very marginal. I can barely watch TV any more for the lack of queer on my flatscreen. (I’m only holding out on the last season of Downton Abby in the hopes that Thomas Barrow will finally get some happiness.)
Maybe here’s the moment to put out a quiet plea to the queer romance community – if that’s what we aim to be – to stop using the word “heteronormative” to describe lesbian or gay couples who have chosen mainstream paths for their lives. Embracing the whole rainbow means everyone. Even the most assimilated gay folk are still on the margins. I know: I’ve lived there for 35 years. Calling anyone “heteronormative” is, frankly, insulting. It is the equivalent of calling upwardly-mobile black folk who move to the suburbs “Uncle Toms.” Ugly, right? If we want to embrace trans and bi and genderqueer and genderfluid and polyamorous, then we have to embrace monogamous and Kinsey 6 and people who like their binary labels just fine. And we need to write about all of us, not just the ones who are easy to market to the largest audience.
Langley Hyde’s line “Stories are the roadmap to the possible” sums it all up for me this week. We, as authors, have the power to create a reality in which we can share our personal realities OR our fantasies. We are all powerful when we write stories about romance. We must use that power for good.
And now Santino‘s thoughts on this week’s posts…
The second week of Queer Romance Month was packed full of amazing posts, fiction, and dozens of comments made by people who are following the online festival. One thing I can say for certain about Queer Romance Month–it opens up lines of dialogue about important issues and gets people talking.
Matthew J. Metzger kicked off week 2 with a plea for more trans* stories and tackles the statement “I’m afraid to write trans* characters. I don’t know anything about the trans* experience”, by saying: “Venture. Brave the keyboard warriors, defy the trolls, and bloody well venture!”
Anyta Sunday wrote about The Magic of Stories, and it was one of my favorite posts of the week. Reading was so important to me as a child that, as Anyta described, certain titles can bring back nostalgia so strong that it almost activates sense memory–things I smelled or tasted or how I felt as far back as twenty years ago. Wouldn’t it be amazing if a queer teen could have that same experience after reading a book from our community?
A.M. Arthur wrote about rape in fiction, and prompted an interesting discussion in the comments about how rape is often used as a go-to device for certain backstories or behaviors.
Jill Sorenson wrote an interesting post about the lack of F/F fiction and compared the popularity of M/M books by crossover authors to F/F books by crossover authors. She also touched on the importance of networking. I like this post because it’s a good reminder that writing romance is also a business. She also gave some good recs.
J.K. Pendragon wrote a wonderful post about the importance of “incidental” queer people. In other words, characters who are queer but that, and their struggle, isn’t the main focus of the book. So often books and shows featuring queer characters or side characters always make it about the trials and tribulations of being queer instead of just representing a queer person who has the same trials and tribulations as everyone else. After a while, it becomes very othering. And it’s also why we get those “But I don’t know anything about being—” responses.
Kaje Harper follows up with another great post about how many people are afraid of not “getting it right” when it comes to diverse fiction. She says that as a straight cis female she knows she won’t always get it right, but she is still willing to get those stories out there. Which is a really important message to people who are genuinely afraid of writing diverse people through the lens of their own privilege and therefore getting it wrong and offending someone.
CS Poe blogged about the inclusion of characters with disabilities in romance. It’s an important post and there are some good recs to be found.
Liam Livings blogged about Queer as Folk and why it was so important to him when it first aired. I can relate to that in terms of the US version of the show. It was the FIRST show I’d ever seen broadcasted on mainstream television that was a full cast of LGBTQ characters, and I was amazed at the time.
Solace Ames wrote about her book The Companion Contract and how she sought a trans woman to beta for her, and the learning experience she had. It not only made me want to read The Companion Contract , but it’s advice without being presented as outright advice–if you’re writing a diverse character and you’re not of that culture or ethnicity or nationality or identity… ask someone who IS to read for you. Ask more than one person.
Langley Hyde’s post can be summed up with this incredibly truthful and important sentence: “When you don’t have anything else—when you don’t have food on the table, when you don’t have clothes without holes, when you don’t have electricity—you can still have stories.”
Allan Jay wrote about diverse fiction and how it looks in different nations. He also touched on how mainstream romance and even queer romance is heavily influenced by American ideas of diversity and queerness, which prompted another good series of comments.
Cam Montgomery took us back to WHY queer romance is so important and this sentence sums it up beautifully: “If someone had thought to give me queer lit—queer romance—directly, while I was still young and naïve, sixteen and “figuring it the fuck out,” I might have learned to love myself sooner.”
Keira Andrews wrote a super interesting post about writing Amish queer romance and why things aren’t always what they seem once you go beyond the stereotypes. I don’t know about you guys, but now I’m totally ready to dive into Amish romance.
Jenny Holiday shared some fiction and it was really damn cute. Stories like that take me back to why it’s so so important to have stories that are sweet and fun and happy, and not always focusing on the negative aspects of queer identity. Sometimes it’s just nice to read about people living their lives
Roan Parrish, J.R. Gray, & Kris Ripper posted a transcript of a really interest conversation relating to the discussion of authenticity in queer romance. They also wondered if readers feel more entitled to know the authorial gender or sexuality because those themes are often central to the stories. Great conversation and it’s also only Part 1!
Franci McMahon wrote about writing sex but also the importance of sex in relationships, and the experience of feeling desire.
Orlando wrote about the fear of coming out as a gay trans man, and that one day he will “delete as appropriate” when it comes to those gender checkboxes on forms. If you haven’t already read this post, I strongly suggest you do and go give Orlando your support.
Edie Danford wrote about epithets in fiction and the overuse of pronouns in a text. This is not only interesting because it’s from an editing standpoint, but it brings to mind how much I rely on pronouns while writing. She says: “Sometimes the simplest scenes, the most basic stories, the sentences and paragraphs and chapters that communicate action and emotion and setting and character so effortlessly and so universally readers hardly notice the method of communication at all—are the most complicated to write.”
Eric McRae and Racheline Maltese discussed the slogan “love is love” and how it doesn’t always cover everything because of the uniqueness of love. Another post that generated some really good comments.
Megan Derr contributed an awesome list of recs! Definitely check it out.
Courtney Milan also contributed some recs and started her post with a really awesome quote: ” I like kissing books, and it turns out I don’t really care who does the kissing as long as they’re enjoying themselves and they end up happy.”
Alan Chin shared a piece of writing that was packed full of emotion. I wanted more and you will too when you read it. It’s amazing how many themes are present in a short piece.
Felice Stevens wrote about the reality of homelessness and assault as it affects LGBT youth, and how romance can be an escape for young people. This spoke to me because it was so true for myself as a youth. When everything else was going poorly, I always knew I could lose myself in a fictional world.
Amy Jo Cousins described a conversation she had with her son (who sounds totally amazing), and how reading allowed him to have another perspective of a classmate. It’s a great example of why books are so important and why it’s so important to have diverse books. The following quote is perfect to summarize why queer romance, and diverse fiction in general, is so important:
I’m not foolish enough to think that someone who fears or loathes queer people is about to pick up a romance novel about two men, or two women, or someone transgender, and magically have their eyes opened. But their kid might. Or their neighbor. Or someone they work with. And I do believe in the cumulative power of small accretions when it comes to cultural change.
Santino is a dedicated gamer, a former fanfic writer, an ASoIaF mega nerd, a Grindr enthusiast, but most of all he is a writer of queer fiction that is heavily influenced by the gritty, urban landscape of New York City, his belief that human relationships are complex and flawed, and his own life experiences
Pre-order Stygian here
(Stygian by Santino Hassell – Released 24th October 2015)
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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