We're all about intersectionality in romance at the PHS, and we're delighted to have Fiona Zedde and Cass Lennox with us, talking about why they write LGBTQIA romances - as well as sharing some incredible recommendations! #WeNeedDiverseRomance
Fiona Zedde: Love Your Own Way
Imagine: the days are long and lazy with summer stretched on before you, not quite infinite but something close to it; a glittering string of sun-drenched afternoons that call for lying back in a hammock with a good romance novel. Literary candy.
I love days like these; and I love the sweet novels that go along with them. I’ve read these novels since I was a pre-teen and enjoy them even more now that I get to write them as part of my job. Back when I first started reading, I was most taken with stories of highlanders or rock stars or sexy ranchers, stories that seemed as varied as they were wonderful. My favorites were the ones with familiar beloved elements but with a key bit of difference to keep things interesting – a heroine who wasn’t always weak, a hero who didn’t always find it necessary to be strong. Back then, I usually found the escape and pleasure I needed in these stories, but there was something missing.
As a queer romance reader, I knew very well what that missing piece was, but it wasn’t until I stumbled into Xena fanfiction online, specifically lesbian romantic fiction, did I realize it was possible to find that thing. Discovering writers who spun compelling tales about female heroes creating their own destinies with women lovers at their sides, captivated me. My reading life became even better when many of these amazing fanfiction writers were able to publish for a wider audience and have their books pop up in bookshops around the country. These authors weren’t everywhere like Beverly Jenkins, Janet Dailey, or Kresley Cole but it was a good start.
Representation is very real, and seeing reflections of yourself between the pages of a romance novel, whoever you chose to love, is a gift and a wonder like no other. I don’t take it for granted and appreciate every writer who’s taken up pen/typewriter/laptop to create these stories that give voice to the pleasures, struggles, and ecstasies of loving how thou wilt.
Of course, I have some favorites writing in this genre. In no particular order:
- Rebekah Weatherspoon: No one else I’ve ever read can spin a sexy and funny story like Rebekah. That’s a rare skill. Her vampire sorority sisters series (plus her kinky and super fab novel At Her Feet) make me a fan of hers for life, no matter what she writes.
- Ali Vali easily snared me with the first of her “Devil” series, The Devil Inside, about a New Orleans based crime boss. The books have enough action, bad-assery, and good old fashioned lesbian love to keep the most veracious armchair adrenaline and romance book junkie satisfied.
- Melissa Good’s books and I go way back. Her Xena fanfiction hooked me despite their lack of explicit sexy times (which is a pretty big deal). Their rich plotlines, the incredible details about the characters’ professions and Melissa’s vivid writing brought me along for the wild ride in her Dar and Kerry series of books.
- Discovering Becky Birtha’s lesbian short stories (Lover’s Choice) written in the 1980’s is like finding buried treasure. Her stories are nuanced and beautiful and always begging for a re-read.
- Karin Kallmaker is a classic. So far, I’ve never read a digital copy of her work. I’ve only held her books in my hands, smelled their pages, touched their slick covers. Her novel, Wild Things, will always have a special place on my bookshelf, no matter the other amazing books she gets out into the world.
It would take me too long to list all the lesbian/bisexual books and writers I love. If you’re looking for a good place to start (or continue) your LesBi reading journey, take a peek at the Goodreads LesFic list and also my novels at www.FionaZedde.com.
Fiona's latest book, Rise of the Rain Queen, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Cass Lennox: Asexuality and Romances
I've always loved romances, but the mainstream ones I read while growing up tended to fall a little . . . flat. Just a little! A small niggling feeling that followed every word I read, something I couldn't articulate so didn't pay much attention to.
This turned out to be a deep realisation that the characters didn't think or act like me - or, rather, I didn't think or act like them. Growing up, I gradually realised I wasn't following the patterns I saw in books and in the people around me - I wasn't hit by a surge of hormones, I didn't find boys (or girls) interesting, I didn't feel the things everyone else seemed to be feeling. Trying to make sense of a lack of response is incredibly difficult, and I thought with time, something would happen to awaken my slumbering sexual self. Um, no. Welcome to my version of asexuality.
Discovering queer romance was like finding treasure. I relate much more to the relationships I've read in this part of the genre, and there are many reasons for that, but a big one is the acknowledgement and presence of alternative sexualities and relationship structures. But, much as I loved these more varied romances, I still struggled to find characters with my specific feelings and concerns about relationships - so I decided to write a romance with an asexual character. Two, even. And I will write more, because there need to be more.
Asexuality seems to trip people up. The idea that sexual attraction is a thing some people don't experience, and that they can fall in love without it runs counter to our wider, very entrenched ideas about sex, relationships, and how they interact. Luckily the orientation is getting more attention and understanding as time goes on, and my great hope is that eventually being asexual will be considered no more unusual than being, say, straight or gay or bisexual. But we're not there yet!
One way of doing that is having more and more aces appearing in our media (not disappearing from them *cough* Riverdale *cough*) – including romances. It took years for me to realise that asexuality was an actual thing, and that’s what I was. Would reading an asexual character have reduced the time and uncertainty? I don't know. I do know I was angry at how long I spent grasping for what I was. Simply knowing asexuality existed, that it was a way people could be, and knowing that earlier would definitely have helped me.
So seeing more and more asexual characters being written into books is awesome, and not just on a representation level. The asexual community has this intricate language around relationships and sex, and bringing that level of nuance to the table of human experience is important and exciting. We're all people and we can find commonalities despite our differences.
It would be wonderful for others to read asexual characters and say, "Ah, I think I get it. Also, I see me in this character. We’re not so different." Even better for a person anywhere on the asexual spectrum to look around, point at a book, and say, "Here I am. These stories are for me too."
If you're interested in reading romances featuring asexual characters, give the below (only some of many) a whirl!
Thaw by Elyse Springer
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
To Terminator with Love by Wes Kennedy
How to Be a Normal Person by TJ Klune
We Awaken by Calista Lynne
The Zhakieve Chronicles by AM Valenza
Assassins: Discord by Erica Cameron
Cass's latest book, Growing Pains, is out now. For more information about her and her writing check out her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
We want to hear about your LGBTQIA romance recommendations! Share them with us in the comments or on social media using the hashtag #ViveLaDifference!