After over a month of soul searching, I realized that I have a series of romance novels in me. While that might sound like an announcement, it is more of a revelation, because in the process I learned a lot about by own hang ups with gender and sexuality, and I wanted to share more of the journey with you.
This is a topic I talked about on Project: Shadow, but there is so much more that I didn’t have time for. If you want to check out the episode, here it is.
Like I said on the podcast, my fear of being a romance writer had a lot more to do with my own fears about aspects of myself than it does with the idea of the quality of romance novels or any of my thoughts about romance writers.
I identify as non-binary femme, which means that I do not identify with either end of the binary spectrum, but I feel more feminine than I ever have male. It took me years to admit that too myself and others. Not because I am ashamed of who I am, but because I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain it. As a result, the idea of romance, which in my head is an extremely gendered fiction, is terrifying.
From female/male romance to the type of characters I often encountered in queer romances, they presented the love almost exclusively in hyper-masculine terms. It makes sense. The target audience for most of these books are interested in that image of manhood. With that being the case, I couldn’t see myself in these stories, and I had to struggle imagine anyone being interested in the characters that live in my head.
I’ve spent most of my writing career as a niche of a niche writer, and the idea of doing that again cause me to fear that the stories I want to tell will never find an audience.
I am not naive enough to believe that I am the first or only person interested in writing or reading fiction like this. Unfortunately, Amazon lumps all LGBTQIA+ romance into one bucket. We don’t get all the categories and sub-genres that cis, hetero-normative romance gets. Without a category, it is hard to impossible to attract an audience.
Settling into another niche of a niche of niche genre is par for the course for my career, but I don’t believe that this genre is as niche as it sounds. Why?
The number of heterosexual, cis women I know that read one or both of those genres show me how many of these women are interested in these stories. The number of genderqueer, gender fluid, and non-binary characters that exist in these stories is staggering.
Yaoi aside, because I have complicated and mostly negative views of that genre, these stories that I am talking about are free to read online. That matters, especially as a writer who wants to make a living from their books.
I don’t think this argument has enough merit to really take it on. From Kindle Unlimited to Audible Escape, all you can read romance is a thing, and makes the genre virtually free in the minds of many readers. So…
In the end, that is the most difficult question to answer. It is important to note, I am talking about writing erotica. Erotica and Romance are different genres, but I am not the kind of writer who is just going to follow a simple formula to tell a story. That would be boring. My fiction, while being fiction, would reveal some elements of my own ideas about romance, relationships, and sex. That is a scary thought.
These books wouldn’t be revealing my intimate thoughts or feelings, and they could never be more risqué than some of the conversations I’ve had with people at conventions.
In the end, that is the question that worries me most.
For the longest time, I have focused on telling stories that didn’t focus on romance or sex, because the LGBTQIA+ community is overly sexualized in media as is.
People can and will be offended by anything. All I can do is be as respectful with the material as I can be.
That’s it. I am a romance writer. Despite all my years of protesting the title and struggling to be anything else. I am going to continue to post about my experiences on this new journey. If you have questions, let me know.