Monday, January 9, 2012

2012 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event: Rebekah Weatherspoon on Better Off Red

I wasn’t a big reader as a kid. I preferred to do things with my hands or activities that allowed me to make a lot of noise. The handful of books I did read for pleasure and that I enjoyed offered relationships I could identify with; strong parent/child relationships, peculiar friendships, sibling adventures. But even when I found myself connecting with certain emotions, it was impossible for me to find characters that reflected the girl I saw in myself.

I grew up in an upper-middle class, predominately white town. My father works at an international prep school, so I was lucky to have students from all sorts of backgrounds around me, but from kindergarten through eighth grade, I was often the only student of color in my entire school. Add the fact that I was overweight and going through the most epic ugly phase, I did anything I could, within legal reason, to fit in which usually included being the class clown.

My obsession with boy bands and my rampant crushes on most boys in the vicinity, helped with my internal awkwardness and helped me fit in with my friends, still for years I had no idea what to do with certain feelings. I could chat endlessly about boys, but I liked girls too. A lot. We had family friends that I later learned were gay, but at the time I didn’t know exactly what gay and lesbian meant and I definitely didn’t know it was okay to like guys and girls at the same time. The few kids in my school who showed in the slightest interest in the same sex were bullied. It seemed like a good idea to keep my mouth shut.

As I came across books like She’s Come Undone and The Coldest Winter Ever, I was exposed to characters who had weight problems and characters of color who showed me that I wasn’t alone in the world, but there was still pieces missing. My dad wasn’t dealing drugs or abusing my mom. He’s actually a pretty amazing man. My mother wasn’t taking out her short comings on me or urging me to use my sexuality as a weapon. The years went by, as space and time dictate, and I found those feelings rising closer and closer to the surface, sparked and encouraged by the few view examples of gay and lesbian relationships presented by the media and porn. When I finally learned what bisexual, and later pansexual meant, I realized that my feelings were not only okay, but they had a place. That was huge. Problem was, I still wasn’t see my experience reflected out in the world.

When I began writing short stories, having written screenplays for a few years, I wrote heterosexual, erotic fanfics. They were fun, but something clicked when I wrote my first lesbian fanfic. I’m not sure why I did it initially, but the story flowed so well and the characters and their love felt so right, I didn’t want to stop writing those stories. When it came to my original work, it never occurred to me to go back to heterosexual romance. I was sold on the ladies and stuck to those guns as I read books like Innocent Hearts and Such A Pretty Face that hit so many nerves.

As I wrote more I started reading more. I never feel like I’m at a loss for heterosexual romances and thanks to Beverly Jenkins I found my fix for African-American, historical romance. Still I felt like I missing some piece of the market. A lot of African-American romance are under the “urban” genre which is rife with stereotypes and characters I can’t stand, let alone read about at length. Nothing about me is “urban”, a complaint I’ve heard from many other readers. I know authors like Radclyffe, Merry Shannon, Colette Moody, Gabrielle Goldsby won’t let me down when it comes to lesbian romance, but I also know that I have my own unique ideas to add to the pool. I realized I had to write some of the stories I wanted to read.

I want to read about women of all ages, in love. I want to read about black girls meeting their soul mates while they chase their degrees, Asian women falling in love with long lost friends, redheads lusting over Latinas. I want ethnically diverse vampires and sorority girls, and Western landscapes, and sea adventures. I wanted the heroine of the story to meet the girl of her dreams while battling an evil queen. I want to read about interracial relationships, BDSM scenarios, happy families, strippers, and of course, women of the plusser size :), so that’s what I choose to write.

Some of my characters will be bisexual, some will be butch. Some will be both. Some of my character will have babies and puppies. Some will ride off into the sunset armed simply with their one and only. But whatever their ending, I want to do my best to show other girls and young women that they are represented on the page. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I’d read Innocent Hearts when it was released and I hope by writing about a particular vampire sorority I can help relieve just one person from their confusion.

Synopsis: Every sorority has its secrets...

And college freshman Ginger Carmichael couldn't care less. She has more important things on her mind, like maintaining her perfect GPA. No matter how much she can't stand the idea of the cliques and the matching colors, there's something about the girls of Alpha Beta Omega—their beauty, confidence, and unapologetic sexuality—that draws Ginger in. But once initiation begins, Ginger finds that her pledge is more than a bond of sisterhood, it’s a lifelong pact to serve six bloodthirsty demons with a lot more than nutritional needs.

Despite her fears, Ginger falls hard for the immortal queen of this nest, and as the semester draws to a close, she sees that protecting her family from the secret of her forbidden love is much harder than studying for finals.

After years of meddling in her friends’ love lives, Rebekah turned to writing romance as a means to surviving a stressful professional life. She has worked in various positions from library assistant, meter maid, middle school teacher, B movie production assistant, reality show crew chauffeur, D movie producer, and her most fulfilling job to date, lube and harness specialist at an erotic boutique in West Hollywood.

Her interests include Wonder Woman collectibles, cookies, James Taylor, quality hip-hop, football, American muscle cars, large breed dogs, and the ocean. When she's not working, writing, reading, or sleeping, she is watching Ken Burns documentaries and cartoons or taking dance classes. If given the chance, she will cheat at UNO. She was raised in Southern New Hampshire and now lives in Southern California with an individual who is much more tech savvy than she ever will be. Better Off Red is her first novel.

Blog: Rebekah Weatherspoon
Twitter: @rebekahwsm


Rachel Dax said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
'Nathan Burgoine said...

Having almost finished BETTER OFF RED, I can say you've definitely hit your goals - I love the cast of characters *especially* because they're all different. And lord, yes, do I get tired of the homogenous pool of characters I sometimes find. Kudos.

Rian said...

I just wanted to say a Big Thank You for writing the way that you do. For adding another view point to your characters. I love the diveristy that you've put into your book. As a person of color, I truly appreciate seeing someone put more diversity into her characters. Thank You and really, keep up the groovy work.

D. Jackson Leigh said...

I'm a huge fan of this debut novel. Can't wait for the sequel.
Like a lot of lesbians, I'm often extremely skeptical of "bi-sexuals" simply being straight women who want to experiment with women then run back to more socially acceptable relationships with men.
Rebekah has done an amazing job of making diversity -- race and bi-sexuality-- feel as natural as breathing. "Better Off Red" is an amazing read.

ivanova said...

This is a great post. I am definitely going to get Better Off Red now!

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I loved Better Off Red. The relationship between the two leads felt so natural.

Laydin Michaels said...

Really great blog, Rebekah! I grew up in houston in an upper middle class African American neighborhood as a white girl of less means. I understand your search.

She said...

Thanks for sharing. Better Off Red sounds good. Oh no, another for my ever growing TBR pile.

Rebekah said...

Wow. Thank you all so much for the kind words. I'm hard at work on the sequel. :)

@Laydin It's an interesting experience isn't it. And not one you seen portrayed much of anywhere.

Lynda Sandoval said...

You so rock, Rebekeh. Great blog. xo

Cathy in AK said...

Great post, Rebekah. Thanks so much for sharing!

Beverly Diehl said...

Better off Red def on my must read list. (it's just that f--ker was already so long when I added it!)

I think one of the joys of being a reader - and a writer - is getting to try on other skins, other experiences, to imagine different possibilities. And to present our own, always unique, visions and experiences to the world.

Go, Rebekah!

Ren said...

"A lot of African-American romance are under the “urban” genre which is rife with stereotypes and characters I can’t stand, let alone read about at length. Nothing about me is urban."
That is SO true. It drives me crazy when I try to find something that speaks to ME as a Black woman. I love that your writing is diverse and fearless. I'm stumbling around trying to write my own Lesbian love story and reading your post has given me the kick in the ass that I need.
Thank you :)

Cierra said...

I wouldn’t even know where to begin to explain why I love Better Off Red. I never did the sorority thing in college but I was always curious about it. Combine that curiosity with my love affair with all things vampire and well, let’s just say I could hardly put it down. As an African American woman, the diversity in this book is so satisfying and refreshing. I could actually relate. That is not something I can usually say. BOR was the book I was waiting for.

If you haven’t read it yet, do yourselves a favor and get it today!