Greetings, peeps! August is Read-a-Romance month, and I’m participating in a blog-o-rama held by the website readaromancemonth.com. Thanks to Bobbi Dumas for the invite! The theme this year is “Celebrate Romance,” and many of you readers out there, I’m sure, do just that.
But what if you couldn’t celebrate romance? What if you had to keep your mouth shut about your attraction to someone to protect yourself from rejection by your families and peers, emotional abuse, or possibly physical abuse? What if you had to hide who you really are in plain sight? That if you were brave enough to meet with the person you love most, you could never do that openly, and you could never, ever tell anyone about it?
That’s what it’s like for thousands of LGBTQ people all over the world. Imagine, those of you who do not identify as LGBTQ, what it would be like for you to have to change the pronouns of your life partner to keep your job (currently, it’s legal to be fired in 29 states for being LGBTQ). Imagine what it would be like to hide the love of your life from your family for fear that you will be rejected. Imagine what it would be like to never participate in work functions with your spouse or partner because you can’t risk anyone finding out that you’re not heterosexual.
And imagine what it would be like to be denied access to your partner’s hospital bed in their greatest time of need, and that you’re denied recognition in family gatherings as someone who is happily settled. Or even legally married.
Imagine that the greatest romance you’ve ever had and the most amazing person you’ve ever met will always be unspoken, unrecognized, and unrevealed.
And imagine what it’s like to never be seen as a full human being, but rather reduced to an act of sex — reduced to simply someone who has sex with someone else of the same sex. Imagine that the richness and deepness of your life and the many things you do and think and your career and interests and the myriad connections you have and the family ties you have — whether through blood or bond — is all reduced to one thing: who you have sex with. “Behavior.”
That’s why I write books with lesbian characters, who experience a range of relationships, who work to balance work, family, friends, and all the things that make up a day-to-day getting by. I write them them because their lives, like mine, are not merely a “behavior.”
My life, like my characters’, is a giant, glorious clusterf*ck of crazy and fun and amazing and hard and scary and painful. It’s the sum of all my parts — my past, my now, my future. It’s everything I’ve ever done and said, and all the people I’ve known and currently know. It’s the friends I keep and those I’ve lost. It’s the family I choose and the family I have. It’s the unglamorous day-to-day as well as the great highs and terrible lows. It’s a life, like anybody else’s. Not a behavior. Not a lifestyle.
And romance is a wonderful vehicle to express the messy and great things about being human. That’s why I write and celebrate romance. Because I can. Because I’m very fortunate to be writing in a time when there’s a vibrant LGBTQ publishing world out there, when romance and erotica that feature LGBTQ characters can be written and celebrated and rewarded.
So I write stories about people. People living their lives the best they know how. Yes, they sometimes stumble. And sometimes they’re scared. They carry the weight of old issues and old wounds. They have friends and families and work colleagues and they try to find some kind of balance in all of that. And then something really amazing happens to those people. They cross paths with other people, and in those chance meetings are hints of possibility. Sparks. Maybe frustration. Attraction. Flirting. Romance.
It’s an adventure, meeting someone who sets fireworks off in your stomach with a smile or the way she laughs. And you notice how she wears her hair and how she sometimes fiddles with the ring on her right hand. And maybe you notice the way she frowns when she’s trying to pick just the right item off the menu. You find out she reads a particular author (you approve), and she likes certain movies and music. You hold on to all these details because maybe, just maybe, you’ll get up the guts to ask her to coffee.
Or maybe she’ll ask first. Because maybe she’s got her eye on you, too.
And maybe this is the start of a whole new adventure.
That’s why I celebrate romance. Because ultimately, it’s about people and connection and attraction and maybe even love. And the world needs a hell of a lot more of that.
Fun and groovy questions
Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.
Oh, wow. Y’know, every day can be an adventure, and I try to find inspiration everywhere I go. I’ve done a lot of backpacking. In one trip, I ended up living on a beach on the island of Lesvos for a week. Of course, I had inadvertently picked the nude beach. In another instance I had to maneuver five drunk friends across the border from Tijuana into San Diego and we ended up in the middle of a brawl between American frat guys and Mexican guys. We made it with only a couple of scratches. And then there was the summer I lived out of my truck and a tent while helping conduct an archaeological dig in western New Mexico.
There’s adventure and inspiration all around us all the time. You just have to be open to it.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer. (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)
I’ve always been writing. I wrote [really bad] poems as a child and some paranormal short stories. I discovered speculative fiction as a child, and so most of what I wrote in junior high and high school was post-apocalyptic and/or fantasy. I wrote my first two (atrociously bad) novels in high school, then wrote a couple more in college and spec fic short stories while working on my master’s degree. I stopped writing fiction while I worked on my doctorate, but then started again in 2007. That was the year I started taking it seriously.
Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)
This is one of those questions that is really difficult for me to answer because there are so many books from which I have derived inspiration. I will say that when I was around 10, I started reading the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Yes, he was sexist and racist and wrote some really androcentric series, but the man could world-build and even then, I crushed out on his female protagonists (often arm candy for the dudes) and always wondered why those women couldn’t just go and kick ass on their own. Ha, I decided. I’ll write them at some point so they do (and yes, I did). And I guess the novel Thendara House by Marion Zimmer Bradley was the first time I read about two women who were attracted to each other and acted on it and it was an accepted part of the culture she was writing about. Books like Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness, and the fabulous lesbian pulp fiction of the 50s and 60s generally ended unhappily for one or both of the lesbians. Thendara House opened a whole world of possibility and that’s when I started really writing lesbian-identified protagonists. I was around 17 or so.
There are myriad writers of LGBTQ romance (among many other genres). I co-admin a blog called Women and Words, and a lot of what we do is feature guest posts by many writers who write lesbian-themed romance. Start there to see who some of them are. And feel free to drop me a line at my contact page with the type of romance/theme you’re looking for and I’ll match you with some authors.
Andi Marquette is a native of New Mexico and Colorado and an award-winning mystery, science fiction, and romance writer. She also has the dubious good fortune to be an editor who spent 15 years working in publishing, a career track that sucked her in while she was completing a doctorate in history. She is co-editor of Skulls and Crossbones: Tales of Women Pirates and the forthcoming All You Can Eat: A Buffet of Lesbian Erotica and Romance. Her most recent novels are Day of the Dead, the Goldie-nominated finalist The Edge of Rebellion, and the romance From the Hat Down, a follow-up to the Rainbow Award-winning novella, From the Boots Up.
Check Andi’s website for excerpts and info about where to buy her work. You can also read some free romantic short stories there.