Monday, January 14, 2013

2013 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event: Radclyffe on Crossroads: Community as Character

The "definition" of a romance is familiar to anyone who writes them and, intuitively, to anyone who reads them: the journey of two central characters who meet, form a unique and overpowering attraction, and discover significant obstacles to pursuing a relationship. Despite these seemingly insurmountable barriers, our main characters persist in their desire for one another and grow and change over the course of the novel, eventually embracing a future together (the happily ever after or, in contemporary times, the happy-for-now) ending.

As a reader, I know the attachment we readers can form to our favorite characters, and how much we might long to know more of those characters when we sadly turn the last page (happy and satisfied, hopefully, but wistful that we must say goodbye). From that desire for more, sequels are born. However, standalone romances generally do not leave much unresolved at the end, making it difficult to craft a compelling follow-up story. Romantic intrigue and paranormal romances lend themselves much more to series or sequels, as there is very often villain(s) or outside elements at work to endanger the protagonists, leaving open storylines to be pursued.

A spin-off to a standalone romance is where the concept of setting as character can be very helpful in providing readers that continuing glimpse of beloved characters while giving the author the room to write new characters, in particular, new romances. By creating a community of characters, all within a common setting, we can revisit this world many times, introducing new characters and incorporating cameo appearances from previous characters. The community setting (not just geography, but a microcosmic society) soon becomes as familiar to readers as the characters themselves, providing a sense of continuity and comfort.

Crossroads is a standalone romance between Hollis Monroe, a high risk OB physician, and Annie Colfax, a nurse midwife, who are at personal and professional odds. When I began to write this story, I decided to set it in a "universe" I had already created--the medical community of Philadelphia Medical Center featured in Fated Love and Night Call, and to populate the book with characters from the Mount Airy neighborhood surrounding the medical center where many of the characters in these books lived. The Germantown/West Mt. Airy neighborhood in Philadelphia, where I lived for over fifteen years, is populated by a large number of gay and lesbian families. These families form a community just as the medical personnel with a hospital form a community, and my aim was to fashion a world where my characters could bump into each other at work, on the street, and at backyard barbecues: experiencing the extended family of choice which is so common in gay and lesbian lives. Some of the supporting characters were introduced in FatedLove and Night Call, but one does not need to read those first as each of the three books is a stand-alone romance.

This concept of the setting tying a series together is not unique to my work, although I have done it in a number of "series" which are actually stand-alone romances connected by a pivotal setting (the Provincetown tales being the first). Nora Roberts has done it with many works, including the recent Boonsboro Inn trilogy, Robin Carr has written multiple works in the Virgin River series, Kim Baldwin has used Alaska as a common setting to bring previous characters from Breaking the Ice together with those in High Impact. This is a tool which as an author I find extremely useful and as a reader, which I appreciate. I love to read new romances that take place in a familiar world that allow me to catch glimpses of favorite characters from previous books.

I hope you enjoy Hollis and Annie's story and the "Mt. Airy Neighborhood" in which they live and love.

Bio: Radclyffe, a retired surgeon and full time author-publisher, has written over forty novels and one-hundred-plus short stories. She has also edited dozens of anthologies, including the award-winning Erotic Interludes series from Bold Strokes and Best Lesbian Romance 2009-2013. Writing as L. L. Raand, she has authored a paranormal romance series, The Midnight Hunters. An eight time Lambda Literary Award finalist in romance, mystery and erotica (winning in both romance (Distant Shores, Silent Thunder) and erotica (Erotic Interludes 2: Stolen Moments edited with Stacia Seaman and In Deep Waters 2: Cruising the Strip written with Karin Kallmaker), she is also an RWA/FTHRW Lories and RWA/FF&P Prism winner, an inductee of the Saints and Sinners Literary Hall of Fame, and an Independent Publisher's award (IPPY), an Alice B. Readers' award, and Benjamin Franklin award winner. She is also the president of Bold Strokes Books, one of the world’s largest independent LGBT publishing companies. 


Andrew G said...

Hello all!! I believe that lesbian fiction should be as mainstream as all other fiction. I feel that lesbian fiction is better than other fiction.


She said...

Good column. Using a place as a character to tie a series together is as good as doing a series with the same main characters. I like that we still meet up with our favorite characters but we get different stories with new or returning characters. Both type of series works for me.

Jolie du Pre said...

Congrats on your success Radclyffe! It was good to meet you when I did.