What if? (What Writing LGBTQ Literature Means to Me)

For the Rainbow Book Reviews Blog Hop

(please see end of post for giveaway details)

As a storyteller, I’ve always been drawn to the “what if?” I know I’m not alone in this. For those of us who tell stories, it’s something our minds naturally do, I think. From the novelist crafting an entire new world from scratch to the fanfiction writer putting the smallest twist on canon and turning it into an intriguing alternate universe, this is what we do.

We ask ourselves, “What if?”

For example:

“What if Kirk and Spock were lovers?”

While same-sex romance has appeared in literature throughout the ages, usually very subtly and in the subtext, I think for many who now write LGBTQ literature, that question is actually where it all began. That question is where most of us got our first exposure to the concept of same-sex pairings in fiction. Even if we never actually read a word of the early Kirk/Spock (or other flavors of) fanfiction that was circulated in print fanzines while the internet was still the pipe-dream of a few pioneers, we all heard of it.

Then along came the internet, and with it instantly accessible, low-to-no-means methods of disseminating non-mainstream fiction to a targeted niche audience. Skinner/Krycek. Clark/Lex. Spike/Xander. Garak/Bashir. Paris/Chakotay. Xena/Gabrielle. Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan. Methos/Duncan. Jim/Blair. Mackay/Sheppard. Harry/Draco. The list is, of course, endless.

I came to the gay fiction late, for a variety of reasons. I am and always have been a writer of erotic fiction, yes, but I didn’t want to simply write a titillating story for the pretty mental image of two men together.

Ultimately, the “what if?” that brought me to writing LGBTQ literature was a very simple one.

What if the doubts and questions and insecurities I explored with any heterosexual character were experienced by a gay character?

It’s a ridiculously easy question, isn’t it? And yet it took me years to come at the thought of writing gay characters from that angle. I was so determined not to fetishize or tokenize LGBTQ characters, or perhaps expose myself to accusations of ignorance regarding issues faced by LGBTQ characters, that I was neglecting them entirely instead. Despite my best intentions, I was still handling these characters as “other” still, unwilling to deal with them at all if it meant the possibility of being accused of mishandling them. And in so doing, I was denying a voice to characters representative of a segment of the populace that is all too often denied a voice.

Once I answered that question, others came much more easily. I discovered a lot more “what if?” in exploring questions of sameness and differentiation between heterosexual and homosexual characters. Given any particular situation or plot element, which aspects would be influenced by the character’s sexuality? Which would remain the same, and which would the character approach from the unique perspective of being closeted, passing, or out-and-proud, the victim of oppression or someone who has triumphed over it?

Writing LGBTQ fiction enabled me to approach the same human questions and truths I always explored with my characters from the perspective of people whose life experiences might give them a completely unique worldview. And at times – even more interestingly, I think – it has allowed me to explore a completely mundane and un-unique worldview. It has allowed me to explore areas of sameness as well as areas of “other”-ness.

Writing LGBTQ fiction means I need to be conscientious. I need to do research rather than make assumptions. I need to check my privilege. I need to handle issues faced by gay and lesbian people with sensitivity and respect, avoid stereotypes while still being honest about real problems faced in the LGBTQ community, and avoid putting a heteronormalizing slant on gay issues and relationships.

And that is just a little of what writing LGBTQ fiction means to me.

*****

In participation with the Rainbow Book Reviews Blog Hop, I will be conducting a giveaway of a copy of my book, Inertia. The winner will receive a 100% off coupon for my book from SmashWords, which will enable them to download it in the format of their choice.

Comment below to be entered into the giveaway, and please be sure to include your email address. Entry cut-off will be  August 27, 2012 at 12 AM. Winner will be selected using The Hat (screencap available upon request) later that same day.

Discussion topic: I’ve shared a little bit about what writing LGBTQ literature means to me. What does it mean to you, as a reader? What do you look for in your LGBTQ lit?

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75 Comments

Filed under Blog Hops, Contests, Musings

75 responses to “What if? (What Writing LGBTQ Literature Means to Me)

  1. andreanook

    I read LGBTQ fiction because I like reading about people that don’t fit into the “normal” category. I know that there are many people out there who hate me just because of who I am without even knowing me. I want to read about people like me finding love, happiness and acceptance.

    • I think that’s a wonderful reason, and a reason that a lot of people are drawn to fiction. They seek themselves in the characters they read about.

      Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to answer!

  2. laurie g

    i started reading LGBTQ books b/c i was curious. but that quickly evolved into reading the books because the books tackled issues like discrimination and being able to accept oneself and overcoming hate. i relate to many of the characters due to issues i have faced over the years and that makes for good reading

    parisfan_ca@yahoo.com

  3. Cindy

    What do I look for in literature – what an excellent question. I think I want a really good story – with a HEA ending. Something that the author put some feeling into. I don’t care if it same sex, hetero, multiple, sci-fi, etc – as long as the characters draw me into their story. Thanks for writing, something I was never good at – but I do love to read!!
    cinders1964@hotmail.com

    • You’re very welcome! Thank you for commenting!

      I, too, seek out character driven literature. I’ve actually been known to abandon series because they became so plot-heavy that they no longer spent enough time with the characters I loved and truly wanted to read about.

      (David Weber’s Honor Harrington books, consider this advance warning–you’re toeing the line! I’m side-eyeing you hard.)

  4. KimberlyFDR

    I come at it from both a writer and reader perspective. I never think about confining my writing by sexuality. The novel I’m shopping now has two male main characters that are in an established relationship. The novel I’m currently finishing up has two heterosexual romances. I’ve written short stories that have transgender themes, m/m relationships, and m/f relationships. It’s just what the story calls for. I’m proud to be an LGBT writer. When I’m seeking out LGBT fiction to read, I tend to gravitate toward stories that feature established relationships, that show the commonality of love, because all love should be celebrated.

    kimberlyFDR@yahoo.com

    • I absolutely agree. In this regard, I very much agree with Jude Deveraux’s thoughts on the romance genre in general.

      “You’d think the very thought of a romance writer would bring a smile to people’s lips. Ah, how nice. Love. Making love. Laughter. Kissing.”

  5. Trix

    I started reading m/m because I love men, was curious, and found most het romance cliched and sexist (all those control-freak alpha males and swooning women!). It’s made me feel more empathetic toward the whole spectrum of male experience, because m/m heroes seem more varied as people.

    vitajex(at)aol(dot)com

    • That observation is actually something I see echo throughout a lot of areas relating to m/m media. A lot of women who watch gay porn, for example, do so because they are creeped out by the power dynamics in het porn, so gay porn allows them to enjoy the eroticism of porn and celebrate sexuality without the icky misogyny.

      Thank you for commenting!

  6. kaylynd

    To be honest I stumbled into this genre by accident. I bought a story without knowing it had mm in it. Afterwords I was shocked but in a good way. Now I can’t get enough of it.
    kaylyndavis1986@yahoo.com

  7. Similarly – I started reading M:M in fanfic through a sense of “what if” and that is what eventually led me to writing my own, particularly as most fanfic has been “done to death”. I mostly wanted to have characters from different backgrounds united by a job, but a job that forbade their sexuality.

  8. Great post! I’m glad I’ve met another LGBT author!

  9. madisonparklove

    Hi, Amelia. Fan fiction introduced me to the world of same-sex romance as well. I haven’t read Kirk/Spock fics, but I can only imagine…lol. I’ve read oodles and oodles of Klaine fics. 🙂
    madisonparklove@gmail.com

    • Ahhhh, Klaine. I have a thing for the innocence and sweetness of young/first love. Those two hit my buttons on so many levels. Alas, I have no active Glee fans in my social circle. 😦

      Thank you for commenting!

  10. Giselle

    Very interesting blog Thanks for paticipating.

  11. What if – what a dangerous (and delightful) question!

    Ryal
    ryalwoods@gmal.com

  12. fierydrgn

    I had cancer in 2008 one of my gay friends give me a series that was 5 books well 6 really, but OMG it had a woman in the 6th one and he refuse to buy that one. That was it for me I love all my friends, but I have a special place in my heart for my gay ones. So I read M/M in hopes one day it will not be alternative, but the norm!

    mfierydrgn@aol.com

    • First of all, should I congratulate you on being cancer-free/in remission? If so, yay!

      Second, I think we all hope for that. I feel very fortunate to hopefully be a part of normalizing the presence of LGBTQ characters in literature.

      Thanks for commenting!

  13. PD Singer

    Don’t put my name in the hat–I have my copy of Inertia (and it’s good!) But thank you for sharing this.

  14. Amanda

    Hi! I stumbled upon m/m fiction by accident and I’ve been running with it ever since. I prefer contemporary m/m with an heA but I’ve been broadening my horizons with paranormal and even kinks 😉
    Thanks for your post!
    Amanda
    peanutty222@hotmail.com

  15. Kezia

    I honestly began reading in this genre because I felt it presented an original take on stereotypical romances. The issues and complexities brought forth in LGBTQ literature gives depth to characters that makes the HEA all the more moving.

    kezia.rawr@gmail.com

  16. Loh

    I’m love reading how characters in LGBTQ overcome challenges of being m/m couple and how they gain the happy ending in the end. I prefer reality story where temptation was there instead of constant banging I guess.

    lohahmooi(@)hotmail(.)com

  17. monica

    What does it mean to you, as a reader? What do you look for in your LGBTQ lit?

    Online friends had me trying the LGBTQ stories…I actually relented for sometime till I decide why not…and it’s been 2 years now and I am still around

    What do I look for? Well to me, PLOT and STYLE of WRITING in LGBTQ Lit is really important for me because I get easily distracted. There are a number of stories that I bought and I lose interest and have yet to go back to them. As a reader, this is waste of my time and monies especially monies is a concern. However, if this problem continues, I as a reader might just opt for some other genre.

    Anyway, thank you for being part of the HOP and Thanks for your thoughts!

    monica

  18. shawnyjeann

    I started reading GLBTQ accidentally, with a few giveaway books from various sites (“it’s free” I thought, “what’s the worst that can happen?”). Then I found the amazing ladies over at Coffee and Porn in the Morning and it all kind of went downhill from there. I look for the same things in GLBTQ romances that I look for in het ones – sympathetic characters and a tight and believeable plot. “I’m an alien and I need sex to stay alive on your planet” is as lame for gay aliens as it is for heterosexual ones.

    shawnyjeann @ gmail.com
    cupoporn.net

    • LOL I won’t say I’ve never rocked the “fuck or die” trope in anything I’ve written, but I flatter myself that I worked hard to pull it off convincingly 😀

      Thanks for commenting!

  19. akasarahmadison

    I want to marry your post and draw hearts around it in my private diary because THIS! Yes, this is what drives me to write: what if a vampire wanted to live a normal life? What if a stone gargoyle came to life every evening? What if two co-workers fell in love–and they just so happened to work in outer space?
    I was so determined not to fetishize or tokenize LGBTQ characters, or perhaps expose myself to accusations of ignorance regarding issues faced by LGBTQ characters, that I was neglecting them entirely instead. Despite my best intentions, I was still handling these characters as “other” still, unwilling to deal with them at all if it meant the possibility of being accused of mishandling them. And in so doing, I was denying a voice to characters representative of a segment of the populace that is all too often denied a voice.

  20. akasarahmadison

    Oops, in my excitement, I hit post comment too soon! I wanted to say your statement about not fetishizing or tokenizing GLBTQ characters really resonated with me–I was copying it out to comment on it when I hit the wrong button. *red-face*

    • lol Aww well, thank you! I’m so glad my post spoke to you.

      The not fetishizing thing is tricky, because of course I’m a writer of erotic romance. Erotica is always where I’ve found my voice the strongest when I write. There’s something about the way characters learn about themselves and unveil themselves to the audience as they express themselves sexually I find very much appeals to me as a storyteller. But I approach erotic content with LGBTQ characters the same way I approach it with heterosexual characters. I don’t do it simply to feature sex, but with the intent of exploring the character through their sexual expression, if that makes sense?

      I could possibly be to tired to actually make any sense tonight, so I think I’ll stop trying to explain. Thank you for commenting.

  21. Sue

    I’ve always been fascinated with the dynamic of m/m romance, of having two men trying to sort out love, because let’s face it, men can be pretty clueless.
    There are so many sub-genres that are fascinating too: age-play, fantasy, BDSM, fairytales to name a few.
    So keep writing, and I’ll keep reading, for sure.

    corieltauviqueen at yahoo dot co dot uk

    • I’m not sure I’d call them clueless, but I do think the dynamic can be different just because two men would communicate differently, if for no other reason than that they’ve absorbed a lifetime of gender-typing messages about how they’re supposed to communicate. Even if they’re not trying to be “manly” that socialization has to have an effect. I know it definitely does with Derrick, especially in Book Two.

      Thank you for commenting!

  22. I look for a happy ending! I hate stories that don’t have a HEA or HFN ending. There are many other criteria I love in stories, but since I’m not too picky, I won’t list them all here.

  23. I look for an interesting story line, exciting characters, and plenty of action.

    You are a new author for me, Amelia. I look forward in reading your works.

    Thanks,
    Tracey D
    booklover0226 at gmail dot com

  24. Cornelia

    I was curious about LGBTQ books,once I started can’t get enough.I do like HEA for everyone although I know its not in real life
    cvsimpkins@msn.com

  25. Lisa

    I was actually reading a romance book that just happened to have a m/m couple in it. I found them to be a lot more interesting than the het couple, so I began searching for m/m romance books and I have been totally hooked since then. 🙂 I love to read about the relationships between men.

    Thanks for the giveaway!

    lkbherring64(at)gmail(dot)com

    • I think it CAN be more interesting that het romance, in many ways. First and foremost, I think we see examples of how heterosexual relationships work everywhere in our culture, while some of us, if our social circle is too small, might hardly see any examples of how a gay relationship might work. That alone opens the field to a wealth of unique stories to tell that we might not find anywhere else.

      Thank you for commenting!

  26. yganoe

    I enjoy reading GLBT because there is always an element of truth and reality to the stories.
    Yvette
    yratpatrol@aol.com

    • I think just about any story will contain a granule of human truth, if one searches hard enough. The difference with LGBTQ lit is that it might be a granule we couldn’t find elsewhere in our lives and society.

      Thank you for commenting.

  27. cannd

    I am glad I got a chance to check out yours and others’ sites through the blog hop. It is a great way to find new authors to read. I’d love to win your book. As a reader and fan of m/m stories, I am glad that so many people are writing stories in the genre. I was surprised when I saw how big the genre is. I think that as a reader, I am glad that I’m a person who can see that a good romance story can be about many combinations of couples. And that readers can be any sex and have any sexual orientation.
    ~cannd

  28. Shirley Ann Speakman

    I really enjoyed reading why you write LGBTQ.
    Please Count Me in for the Contest
    ShirleyAnn@speakman40.freeserve.co.uk

  29. Juliana

    Thanks so much for participating in this hop! I am a personal fan of Spike/Angel fanfic! Yummy, a reformed bad boy and one still very bad boy…
    OceanAkers @ aol.com

  30. Lilly

    What if is a wonderful question, though it can be dangerous, the question that brought me to LGBTQ romance was why not- why not read about people that love eachother?

    Lilly
    lillywriting@gmail.com

  31. Nancy S

    Loving this hop. Great to find new (to me) authors. Count me in if you please.

  32. Penumbra

    I look for everything, romance, sex, tension and resolution. Also I have to have my HEA 🙂

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

  33. Lyra L

    The what if got me into the genre because I thought that the prince and the mage in one of carol bergs book, just had more chemistry and don’t get me started on some tv series.
    lyra.lucky7 at gmail dot com

    • Isn’t it interesting how scifi/fantasy books and shows have led the way in same-sex pairings? Mercedes Lackey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, the Star Trek fanfic I mentioned. Heck, even back in the 90s, Babylon 5 was at least hinting at same-sex pairings, even if they next actually carried through on it. I wonder if that’s because for a long time, it was easier to imagine same-sex couples in realities outside our own. I’m glad that’s changing.

      Thank you for commenting!

  34. I started reading LGBTQ books in a round about way, due to 2 male characters in a popular series. And I’m so glad I did! It seems like most het romances follow such a set formula, they are interchangeable. And frankly, I’d had my fill of “heaving bosums & quivering thighs” ! LGBTQ stories develop plot and characters…for lack of a better phrase, they work harder to capture and keep my interest. Even books with similar plots vary greatly…and I’d be lying if I said the smexy men on the covers didn’t help, lol!
    Susie
    seritzko AT verizon DOT net

  35. I’m a huge fan of the female detective genre. I guess it’s fair to say that as a reader, I enjoy the archetypal ‘woman in charge’. Finding this in lesbian fiction mattered a great deal, because I could identify more with some of the characters’ experiences. Then, a friend introduced me to fanfiction, and I read and wrote m/m for awhile, then returned to f/f. Reading always opens new worlds. By writing, we create them – the more, the better.

    Barb
    demeter94@yahoo.de

    • This is very true. There are a lot of things I try to feature in my writing in an attempt to normalize a concept in the readers’ minds–for example, intact penises. The more worlds we write featuring LGBTQ characters, the more our accepting our cultural consciousness will become.

      Thank you for commenting!

  36. Thank u for sharing great post

    Sarah S

    Sarahs7836(at)gmail(dot)com

  37. bn100

    Very nice post. I look for an interesting story.

    bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

  38. chickie434

    Thanks for participating! As a reader, I look for a good story with a happy ending. And I totally think Spock and Kirk were secretly lovers 🙂

    tiger-chick-1(at)hotmail(dot)com

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