Recently, I was given some questions for an upcoming signing event for the September 12th release of my third novel, Summer Fling. While scanning my choices, I found one that seemed deceptively easy: Why do I write in the genre of lesbian romance fiction?
Well, of course it’s because I’m a lesbian who likes romance. But that answer didn’t quite satisfy me, and the question lingered. As I searched my soul at the crowded coffee house, sipping away at a cup of House Blend, a much deeper reason revealed itself like a breakthrough in a therapy session.
Turns out, my affinity for writing loud and proud about lesbian romance is a sort of literary retaliation against having lived decades of my life in the closet, afraid and ashamed of who I was. Even though I’d had girlfriends, I’d never felt entitled to experience my relationships the same way heterosexuals do, with pride and an eagerness to share them with others. The simple idea of walking down the street holding hands with a girl overwhelmed me with fear—not just of the possible immediate physical danger, but also the potential of some irreversible catastrophe like losing friends or my family’s approval once they’d discovered this part of me.
What a sad way to live. But in the pre-Will & Grace era, too many of us lived that way, convinced it was best to conceal and conform rather than assert our individuality and endure the fallout. It had a more profound impact on my life than the mere inconvenience of keeping a secret. Because both society and our government devalued the humanity of LGBT Americans, I lived for years with a devalued sense of self and the poor choices that usually accompany it.
“After all we are nothing more or less than we choose to reveal.”
I’ve finally forgiven the former me for bowing to societal expectations and allowing the opinions of others to dictate how much happiness and respect I felt entitled to. The process took longer than one might imagine, with a few relationships falling by the wayside as a consequence.
That’s where writing comes in. What better way to liberate myself from the tethers of a history of self-loathing than by freely writing about the freedoms I’d been deprived of for over two decades? Now, when I consider the criticisms of others about me as an out lesbian, especially those from the current presidential administration, I have to scour the kingdom far and wide for a fuck to give.
This naturally lends itself to the other reason I love writing lesbian romance: the absolute control I have over the characters and their circumstances. Yes, I admit that I like venturing to the dark side and letting absolute power corrupt me absolutely.
As readers, we enjoy watching characters plummet into desperate situations and then try to claw their way out. We commiserate with them through the real-life conflicts and complications we experience in our own lives and relationships. We feel we’re not alone in what we’re dealing with because even though the characters aren’t real, we may assume the author has also experienced them in a similar fashion. Ultimately, if the story is well-written and the characters well-developed, we draw hope from the notion that our heroine always comes out stronger in the end, whether she obtains what she initially desired or walks away with nothing more than a grain of precious wisdom.
A veteran of a few defunct relationships, I savor the momentary escape of a love affair I can experience from a safe emotional distance, knowing my fate isn’t in someone else’s hands. Through my characters, I reflect on mistakes I’ve made in real-life relationships, so hopefully, after knowing better, I’ll do better.
Kate Randall, the flawed and irritatingly guarded main character in Summer Fling, is definitely seasoned with a bit of Essence of Jean. I don’t know if it’s such a smart idea to admit that since at times she’s frustrating and rather unsympathetic in her vehemence to protect her fragile heart. But like all of us, she’s a product of her life experiences, for better or worse, and is trying to figure out how to navigate a new, unexpected romance with a much younger woman who’s rocked her off her stable emotional foundation. I suppose I should give Kate a break. I don’t know anyone who’s gone through a breakup and hasn’t been a little annoying and unsympathetic at times. We all either have that friend—or we are that friend. If we’re lucky, though, we also have friends like Didi and Viv, Kate’s unconditionally sassy and supportive besties who help her hold tight when she feels she’s losing her grip.
Whether you’re that friend or not, check out Summer Fling from Bold Strokes Books for a fun and funny foray into the complex, unpredictable, and love-affirming world of lesbian romance after forty.
9/16/17: Annie’s Bookstop of Worcester, Worcester, MA, 3-5:00 p.m.
10/13/17: Provincetown Library, Provincetown, MA, 10-11:00 a.m.
10/14/17: Provincetown Library, Provincetown, MA, 1-2:00 p.m.
11/7/17: Yale Barnes and Noble, New Haven, CT, 6:30-8:00 p.m.
Visit my Bold Strokes Books author page: