Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Queer Romance Blog Hop

Welcome to the Queer Romance Blog Hop, where queer writers and readers of queer romance share their thoughts on the genre, as well as a few recommendations for books to read! Everyone participating in this blog hop identifies as queer and also reads and/or writes (or edits, or reviews!) queer romance. For our purposes, queer romance refers to books with:

1. LGBTQ+ main characters
2. In romantic relationships
3. That have a happy ending. (No Brokeback Mountain here, folks!)

I'm Heidi Belleau, and I accidentally arranged this whole thing after a discussion with Laylah Hunter about how we felt that sometimes queer voices got lost in discussions of queer romance . . . even thought it's ostensibly about us! For the rest of November, I've gathered a whole pile of my fellow queer readers/writers/reviewers/editors/publishers to talk about queer romance: what they like, what they dislike, what growth they're hoping to see in the future, and what everyone, queer, questioning, and straight alike, can do to make that growth happen. So without further adieu, onto the interview!

1. Let’s start off with the getting-to-know-you stuff: How do you identify, and what does that mean to you? Whatever level of detail you’re comfortable with, of course!

I'm a cisgender bisexual woman. What that means is the gender of my heart matches the gender I was assigned at birth, and that I like people of the same gender as me, and people of different genders from me. My porn tumblr describes myself as a lady of "broad but exacting tastes".

2. What’s your preferred “flavour” of queer romance (e.g. trans*, f/f, m/m, menage with queer characters, etc.) Why?

For the past while, I've been really into M/M, after moving from reading exclusively heterosexual M/F romance (because I didn't bloody know better!) However, I've been gathering recs and buying copies of other queer romance books. I've loved the trans* romance I've tried and am really looking forward to reading the f/f that's on my ereader. And of course, I have a soft spot for bisexual characters of any gender, because hey, they're just like me!

3. Do you write/read/review? Do you think being queer affects your participation or platform in romancelandia?

I write and of course read. The penname Heidi Belleau is for my M/M (which includes gay and bisexual men, and now a male-assigned genderqueer person). Heloise Belleau is for everything with women, basically. So I've got an M/F with a bisexual hero, and then I'm hoping to next write an M/F with a bisexual heroine and am also plotting an M/F/F!

I'd like to think being queer at least lends a little bit of legitimacy to my writing. On the other hand, because I'm a woman, sometimes I feel like my queerness doesn't "count," especially in M/M. Sometimes I feel like I'm having to say "I'm actually queer" once a day because of the whole "straight women write/read m/m thing", but also because many believe that only gay men can write genuinely queer stories about male relationships. My expressions of queerness don't stop being valid/genuine to my experience just because I'm writing them through a male lens. Sure, queer women can still be fetishistic of gay men, but I'd love people to judge that by the author's text, and not their gender!

4. What drew you to queer romance?

I've always included queer characters in everything I've written, because hey, I wanted to write books about people like me! Imagine my delight when I discovered there actually was a market, and a whole pile of readers hungry for stories not only about queer characters, but about queer characters in fulfilling relationships with happy endings! Yes!

5. What do you love about queer romance in general, and/or your specific subgenre?

Happy endings. Positive portrayals. Feeling, a little bit, like I belong. After being raised on dead queer people and queer villains, I'll never get enough of romance's optimism.

6. What’s your pet peeve?

In M/M, the rampant internalized misogyny (or just plain old misogyny, in the case of gay men). In queer romance in general, the centring of cis gay men, like no other love stories in the genre matter. And I'd say I likely contribute to that by writing (largely) M/M, myself, but I hope that I'm more on the "genuine attempts at being inclusive" end of the spectrum than the "meaningless lip-service or outright disdain for the LBT" end of things.

7. What growth would you like to see in the genre, going forward? Any ideas on how to accomplish that?

What I'd love to see is the rise of an actual Queer Romance subgenre. Not just M/M with 0.001% trans content and then F/F (and anything with vaginas) over ---------------> there. I think there's a reason for having stuff that's not M/M be their own genres so that they're not completely subsumed by M/M, (which they pretty much are already, sigh) but on the other hand, I'd love to see a successful queer anthology with mixed orientations portrayed, or a book about a bisexual character who actually has sex with people of different genders, or a queer press with a genuinely mixed catalogue versus the ones we have now that might strive for inclusivity but still mostly specialize. I want to see all the people saying "love is love" about reading M/M standing by those words and reading love stories about all orientations and all kinds of people.

8. Do you seek out other queer authors when you read?

I read books whose blurbs sound good from publishers I trust to bring me quality content. On the other hand, if I find out an author is queer, I spend a little more time combing through their backlist to see if they've got any books I'm intrigued by, and those books might wind up at the top of my to-read list! I don't write off straight authors, but I definitely want to support my fellow queer authors!

9. How do you feel, in general, about straight peoples’ participation in reading, writing, and reviewing queer romance?

Straight people likely make up a good chunk of my audience, and I've written with straight co-authors, so yeah, I'm totally fine with straight people in the genre. They have a right to explore the stories that call to them, and a good ally is always welcome.

On the other hand, expecting back-pats or being overly self-congratulatory, ignoring the criticisms of queer people, or elbowing into queer space or demanding attention from queer readers and organizations, that's not the behaviour of good allies, which I think straight people in this genre ought to be.

10. Rec us 3 titles in your chosen subgenre and tell us why you love them.

Dark Soul by Aleksandr Voinov. It's dark, it's sexy, it's violent, and it includes a gender-bending assassin and a mafia wife who's so much more than she first appears. And hey, bisexuality! Yes!

Hot Head by Damon Suede. It's sexy, it's over the top, it's a little beyond the realm of belief at times . . . and it's completely heartfelt.

The Island by Lisa Henry. Nevermind the beefcake-y cover. This is a fantastic thriller with compelling leads, a great plot-twist, and a sensitive portrayal of two men coming together after terrible trauma.

Aaaaaand that's it for me!

Thanks for reading and for following the tour! Be sure to use the links below to check out more great posts from our participants! Also, if you leave a comment on any of the hop entries, you'll be entered in a chance to win a prize book of print and ebooks from the participating authors! Yay, books!