I have to thank KT and say just how happy I am that she asked me again to participate in the Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event. We briefly discussed what I should talk about and then I went back and reread a few blogs I had written in the last twelve months that focused on my writing experience. In those twelve months a few thing have changed and a few things haven’t.
2012 was my first full year as a published author. I’ve learned a lot about marketing and networking. I’ve learned a lot about other authors and I’ve learned a lot about readers. Part of the beauty of the internet is being able to connect with people you will never, possibly would never meet in real life. I’ve come to rely on the daily tweets of a friend from Finland. I can talk about fashion, movies, and makeup with folks in different time zones on Tumblr. And, of course, I talk to people near and far about books.
It’s 2013 and, yes, our president here in the United States is Black. It’s a wonderful thing, but I think about his daughters, living in the White House and how few books there are that feature girls like them, across all genres. And if it turns out that Sasha or Malia is a lesbian, or bisexual, or that they find that it would be better if they transitioned, there are a so few books, television shows and films out there that would speak to their story or provide them with characters they can relate to physically, socially, and emotionally. Hell, if Barack went looking for a romance that featured a man like him paired with a wife like his, where the color of his skin was somehow not fetishized still the list would be pretty short.
And these are some of the most powerful, fortunate people in the country I’m referring to. So what about the rest of us. In general, my tastes have changed a little. I find myself reading more contemporary romance and erotica, both hetero and lesbian, and less young adult. My love for western romances is still going strong. Truth be told, the majority of what I read is what’s easiest to find. I will read about all types of people (I’m obsessed with Erin McCarthy’s Fast Ride series. We’re talking NASCAR, people), but it’s frustration when I can’t find stories about people like me. People of color and people in the LGBT community, we crave escapism too. For me and many others that escapism comes in the form of romance. Gushy, happy ending with smiles and good sex romance.
A few times a year I will really go diving, digging deep for the types of romances with characters I can relate to. I have a really hard time finding romances that feature women of color/ non-white woman who are lesbian, bisexual or transgender. I’m also looking for LGBT stories with healthy interracial relationships. When I say healthy, I mean the race of the non-white partner doesn’t put that person at a disadvantage within their relationship or that they aren’t fetishized for being “exotically” different.
I’m not saying those stories don’t exist. They do, but they are hard to find. I talked about this during last years LFAE and unfortunately this is one of things that hasn’t changed. I was psyched when I “met” (we met online, of course) Fiona Zedde. I have yet to read Fiona’s stories, but I’m looking forward to diving into her body of work, particularly her upcoming romance Broken in Soft Places. But once I crush through her work, the search, and it will be an intense search, will start again.
When I engage in or follow discussions about these types of stories, I hear one thing time and again, these types of stories don’t sell. These stories do sell. People are buying my books and I’m getting amazing feedback. I hear often from readers who want more stories like The Fling, that features Annie, a bisexual woman who finds love with a biracial lesbian, Oksana, months before her wedding, or Better Off Red, a paranormal story many readers have praised for its diverse cast. Readers are looking for more diversity in young adult, science fiction and fantasy as well. If you write them, and print them, and PROMOTE them, the readers will come.
This month my third book, Blacker Than Blue, was released. The couple is an interracial one. Benny is white and was raised by her mother and wealthy vampire. Cleo who is black and now a wealthy vampire herself, was raised in a religious, middle class family. I hope I did right by them as characters and lovers. For readers, I hope I have presented a couple they haven’t encountered before, a couple whose story they are happy with.
My fourth book, At Her Feet will be released sometime later this year, features another interracial couple, Pilar who is Mexican and Suzanne who is Korean-Jamaican. At Her Feet also features my first transgender side character. Gloria has a small scene, but I hope her inclusion in Suzy’s narrative means something. I tried to make Gloria’s character as complete as possible with a love life and an expression of some of her daily stresses. I didn’t try to crush her spirit simply because she is transgender and I didn’t try to hoist her up as some unrealistic example. I tried to make her one of the girls. Included. I plan to write more transgender woman in the future.
Rebekah Weatherspoon writes the lesbian and bisexual Vampire Sorority series and stand alone LGBT romance and erotica for Bold Strokes Books
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