Saturday, January 19, 2013

2013 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event: Ana Vitsky on Writing F/F

The Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event has been an amazing gift to a writer like me who was once told that no one would ever read F/F.  I still remember the day many years ago when I walked into a “specialty” bookstore and found Annie on My Mind.  From what I have heard from others, this YA book was one of the first that they read.  I was amazed by this naturally unfolding love story, but I hated the way that the relationship was portrayed as something that upset them, their families, and their communities.  I know that prejudice, angst, and all of the difficulties of simply having and enjoying a F/F relationship are part of life as we know it, but must we keep replicating this in fiction?  I want to read stories about women who care for each other and a world that allows this to happen. 

In my books, there are no shocking, horrifying revelations (think The Children’s Hour) that someone discovers she is a lesbian and therefore her life is ruined.  Nor are there explicit scenes of hot lesbian sex to satisfy voyeuristic curiosity.  I have encountered plenty of naysayers in my publishing journey who say that F/F will not sell or that it is only a tiny niche market, but I have also found colleagues and supporters who encourage me to tell the stories that I want told.  I am bursting with pride that my publisher, Lazy Day, has been part of this series.  I am also thrilled that my other publisher, Blushing Books, recently featured me on their blog to promote my new F/F book, Desire in Any Language.  

Desire in Any Language, is a lyrical meditation of a twenty-something girl, Mira, who studies abroad and is smitten with her female tutor.  It is both a coming-out and a coming-of-age tale, and Mira makes many wrong choices in her attempts to deny her identity.  Yet at the same time, the unfolding of her self-acceptance is accompanied by the love of those around her.  It is a coming-out story that I wish more could enjoy in real life, rather than the prejudice and even discrimination that many have faced.

To date, I have two published books that primarily focus on an F/F relationship.  The Vengeance of Mrs. Claus is a light-hearted, family-centric modern fairy tale that includes the mentoring of twenty-one-year-old Claire by Mrs. Claus.  In my storyverse, it is not Santa but Mrs. Claus who wields the power. 

At the moment I have two more F/F books scheduled for publication and several others under contract.  The Way Home, a story of two college roommates who become involved in a ten-year on-and-off-again domestic discipline relationship, will be released by Lazy Day on March 6th.  Simple Gifts, the love story of a brilliant but difficult professional violinist and the childhood best friend who teaches her discipline, will come out in April.  All of the updates about my books are available on my blog. 

These few weeks of the Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event have been a moment of community, an F/F oasis in a male-dominated world that tries to tell us that women’s stories do not matter.  That a household or relationship must contain a man to merit attention. 

F/F is not about hating men.  It is about loving women.

Blurb: Mira thought she wanted a spanking.  What she got was love.

On her own for the first time, Mira is studying abroad for her translator’s certificate. Unfortunately, the heady excitement of dance clubs, late-night parties, and endless shopping quickly distracts her from her educational goals.  Mira’s advisor offers her private tutoring with a womanly touch, but the combined pressures of culture and language difference threaten Mira’s progress at school.  She is unable to get her act together until she makes a discovery that horrifies and tantalizes her: in her new country, corporal punishment is a way of life.  The secret to her academic success just might also fulfill her wildest, unspoken dreams.


“Mira, look me in the eye and tell me that this isn’t some crazy ploy to get out of telling me that you haven’t done your homework for today.”

Oh crap. I thought she didn’t do interrogations. I thought she was Encouragement and Cheerleading and Meticulous Dedication, not some psychic mind reader suddenly seeming far more than four years older.

“Could you just sign it?” I mumble. Even though her tutoring is private, it is still an official registered class. It was, naturally, she who waded through the mounds of paperwork and red tape to give me transcript credit for her after-hours labor of love.

“I could sign it,” she says in a strange voice.

I involuntarily look up to see such vulnerability and hurt on her face that I again have to look down. Blinking the tears away.

“I could sign it and let you walk away from the months you’ve invested in this school—all because you couldn’t take one day to complete your work. I hope you’re not planning to attend another language institute in the near future because a drop-fail will hardly help your chances for admission. Is that what you want?”

I hadn’t thought about jeopardizing future school plans, but I have to admit that she is right. Suddenly this all seems a lot more serious than I thought. I thought I could just pick up and leave on a whim. After all, I’ve already done the college thing. This is just extra. But if I want to become a translator, at least some official credentials are needed.

“No,” I admit in a small voice.

“What do you want, Mira? Have you thought anything except just to run away?”

“Why are you scolding me?” I ask plaintively. I know it’s a mistake even before the words are out, and her voice stiffens.

“What do you want me to say? ‘Yes, go ahead. Walk away. Give up on yourself.’ Do you really want me to say that?”

The tears are becoming dangerously close now. This lecture might be a once-in-nine-months occurrence, but she’s certainly packing enough punch to make up for lost time.

“I’m sorry,” I murmur. Her warm, sweet-smelling arm rests on my back and gently presses me to lean against her.

“Don’t be sorry,” she says in her familiar gentle voice. “Be persistent. You owe it to yourself to give it another try.” I can only nod as the tears slip noiselessly through my closed eyelids.

“I’m sorry,” I say after a moment. “I don’t really want to leave.”

“I know.” She lets me rest against her for a moment. I pull away, sniffling and wiping my eyes with the back of my hand.

“And I think we need to make some changes in our modus operandi.”

Her gaze wanders briefly to the “rod of love” lying horizontally across her desk. Her eyes search my face questioningly. I gulp. Me? Like a high-schooler? Finally, I give the smallest possible nod.

Desire in Any Language at Blushing Books (will be available on Amazon within the next day or two)

Ana’s Twitter (@AnastasiaVitsky)


Kate Richards said...

I enjoy f/f and m/f and just about any kind of stories with an expression of love. This event is a wonderful chance to see what's out there in lesbian fiction and the authors who write it!

PK said...

I enjoy stories about loving, caring, discipline relationships the best. I don't care what the make up of the couple is. I love your work, your characters and style! Just keep on writing.


Joseph McNamara said...

Looking forward to you newest book Ana. I think F/F fiction in any form from a sales point of view is understated to a degree. One of the main fantasies in most males and many females is a F/F relationship or at least a tryst of sorts in regards to spicing it up in a relationship. Perhaps authors like yourself, who have advocated the status quo will indeed bring to the forefront more quality F/F fiction for us all to appreciate and read...

governingana said...

Thank you so much, Kate, PK, and Joseph! I agree that a loving, caring relationship is one that transcends gender pairings. I also agree that there are F/F fantasies even if people won't admit to having them. I absolutely agree that we need to bring more quality F/F fiction to the table--and spread the word about the quality F/F fiction already available.

Sassy Chassy said...

I love F/F fiction. Women have very unique and intimate relationships with other women. Even when there is not a sexual interest women tend to have a tendency to crave a deeper connection with one another than is commonly acknowledged. It's freeing to have those relationships represented in the stories that authors give to us. It's like a deep settling inside where the pieces slide into place and you feel a part of yourself acknowledged, integrated, and whole once again. F/F fiction fills a need I have inside that is separate, but linked to the need I also have for M/F fiction.

Cara Bristol said...

Desire in Any Language is a beautifully written book that transcends its genre. Should be on everyone's reading list. Congrats on all your successes, Ana.

Celeste Jones said...

Ana, you have certainly done your part to promote F/F fiction and it's working because even though I'd never read F/F before I met you, I am now a fan.
Or maybe you just scare me. :)

Joelle said...

What a wonderfully written article, Ana. It was nice to see your books laid out in that way. I agree on the frustration over the angst etc. Unfortunately that has a long history in lesbian novels :( I'm glad there are writers working to change that

pao said...

Ana, thank you for writing your stories. Maybe by writing more of what F/F can be, people will less prejudiced against it in its entirety. Let love be love without having to stick labels on it.

And I agree, Ana can be scary :P

governingana said...

Sassy, I love your description of the settling deep inside. It *is* about feeling whole again, isn't it?

Thank you so much, Cara. Crossing my fingers that others think the same.

Celeste, I am so proud that you're giving F/F a chance.

Pao, yes. Let love be love. And I'm only scary to people who need it. :)

Minelle Labraun said...

Oh Ana you are such a classy writer.
I want stories that talk about human relationships. I love that your stories are not gratuitis. I feel as if I am on a wonderful trip when I read your books. You transport us. I hope you continue to share your talent and point of view with us.

She said...

Good excerpt. F/F will take its place in the market. I want to read stories that come across as realistic. Give us readers good stories and we will return. Yours sound good.

Jolie du Pre said...

Good luck with your lesbian fiction!

Jade Cary said...

Ana, I have thought a lot about your work and what it means to me, and what I come up with each time is 'calm'. Your work resonates with love and serenity without the punch-it-home posturing of some stories in the F/F genre. I've learned so much from you, and I am glad to call you a friend. Congratulations on all your success.

governingana said...

@Minelle: I love readers who are willing to look past the flashy parts and enjoy the relationships of the stories. Can you send me about 1,000 more readers like you? :)

@She: I hope so! I hope so! May your words become reality. I, too, want stories that are real enough so I can identify with them.

@Jolie: Thank you so much!

@Jade: It's funny, but earlier in this story-writing process I had extended conversations about the role of conflict in my stories and how I shy away from using direct conflict. Then I started using more conflict and was surprised that it was both fun and hard to control.

I guess I just want to tell a story, and those stories happen to be F/F. And I love to seduct rather than bludgeon.

I have learned so much from you, my friend, and thank you.