Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2013 Lesbian Fiction Appreciation Event: Rebekah Weatherspoon on Writing Multi-Cultural Lesbian Literature *Giveaway*

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. 

Despite my best efforts I can only write one book at a time, but it’s my hope that everything I write will fill some kind of void. 

Rebekah Weatherspoon writes the lesbian and bisexual Vampire Sorority series and stand alone LGBT romance and erotica for Bold Strokes Books


One lucky person who leaves a comment here by Sunday, 1/13, will have their chance to win e-copies of Better off Red and Blacker Than Blue. Leave a comment in order for your chance to win!


heatwave16 said...

Hi Rebekah!!! You make such a great point, and one I hadn't even considered. I always find it difficult to find F/F fiction in the sci-fi/fantasy variety, which is my favorite, and when I do, I never stop to think about the other diversity that is lacking. I'll definitely be checking out your vamp series. Thanks.

heatwave96(at) said...

You're absolutely right, Rebekah. I just tried to find interracial lesbian romances the other day (for a school project, oddly), and I spent ages just trying to scrape together 3 covers that featured an interracial lesbian couple. How do you search for PoC lesbian books? I'd like to gather together a list so other people have a better time finding them.

Jolie du Pre said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jolie du Pre said...

Hey Rebekah,

I can relate to your post. When I started writing for publication, over 10 years ago, and my focus was on lesbian erotica, I was completely frustrated with the lack of lesbian erotica containing women of color out there. That's why I sent a query letter to Alyson Books asking them to publish an anthology devoted to lesbian women of color. The result was Iridescence: Sensuous Shades of Lesbian Erotica. You may like it. Fionna Zedde has a story in the book. I also like Tawanna Sullivan. (I've met both of these ladies in person, and they're great.)

Samanthe Beck said...

Hi Rebekah,

Enjoyed your post. I always felt the big publishers created a chicken-and-egg situation regarding what sells, (That type of story doesn't sell, so we don't sell that type of story). Love having someone say, "Sure it does. Look!"

Good luck with your new releases!

Rebekah said...

@heatwave i hope you enjoy getting to know my girls :)

@lesbrary most of the time i honestly stumble across titles. i read a romance last month that unfortunately i did not enjoy, but i was surprised to find that the couple was interracial. i think more people are writing them than i realize, but they aren't advertising them that way. i also turn to good old google and people know that i am always on the look out so they tell me if they find titles as well.

@Jolie - thanks so much for the recommendation! ill be sure to check it out. :)

@Samantha in this post i almost went off on a whole chicken before the egg tangent. there's a lot of this wont sell talk about a lot of subgenres, but if publishers wont sell it, how can readers buy it?

娜na said...

Glad to know that this kind of events do exist!! I have no idea there are so many people involved in this genre. I first read "Best Lesbian Love Stories: Summer Flings" in 2007 ans was thrilled. Thanks for the recommendation!

Jill Sorenson said...

Are you saying that skin color is fetishized in the majority of African-American romances? I don't agree. They're almost all written by black women. I actually bought a romance about a black political candidate a few years ago. Ann Christopher wrote it.

I haven't read many lesbian or bi characters of color. Santa Olivia by J. Carey features a half black, half Latina lesbian with super-strength. It's awesome. I've also read one of Zane's anthologies, Purple Panties 2. Other than a few good stories, awful.

Rebekah said...

@Jill - I'm manly talking about interracial romances between black men and white women that are essential "mandingo" romances. the black men are just large penised sex machines with no personality or goals or anything of the like. Just dark, chocolate wangs for use. They also ignore the struggles that black/white couples face in real life. :( The fetishization of men of color in m/m romance is some times worse.

I'll definitely check out that Ann Christopher title.

Jill Sorenson said...

Okay, I know what you're talking about. I've seen more IR romance with black heroines (by black authors). The other kind I steer clear of b/c I don't want to read about offensive stereotypes.

I just saw a current release with a Native American hero from an established epub. The blurb says he inspires "cowboy-Indian fantasies" or something. What does that even mean, and why is it in a blurb? If the fantasy is BASED on ethnicity, I'm out.

governingana said...

Rebekah, I host a feature for authors called Fika. I am always looking for F/F authors, especially those who talk about the need for characters who are not just white! I wrote a post a while back asking why heroines are always white. The heroine of my first F/F book, to be released January 18th, is ethnically Korean. However, I don't specify that in the book because I was concerned about Asian fetishizing, stereotypes, and so on.

Would you be interested in chatting with my readers on the Fika? I must warn you that I write fiction that includes adult consensual spanking, so I will understand if your answer is no.

Mary Preston said...

Got to love a post that invites discussion.



She said...

Thanks for your comments. I read a lot of YA fiction and most of it is boy/girl or dystopian. There does not seem to be a lot of variety within the genres. YA is some of the best story lines on the market but very little in the way of people being diverse or different from the mainstream unless you search it out. Your covers look amazing. Thanks for giving me some more books for my TBR pile.

01a1470e-5bb9-11e2-88e6-000bcdcb471e said...

Cant wait to read more of your work.

Rebekah said...

thanks guys! i'm glad (and not glad at all) that im not the only one having a hard time with the lack of diversity in the industry. hopefully we can make more noise and change things. :)

Cheyenne said...

Loved "Better off Red" looking forward to reading more about Cleo and Benny

LVLM(Leah) said...

Sistahs on the Shelf is a review blog that reviews books that feature Black lesbian characters.

I don't know their search techniques but there are tons of books reviewed there. I've read a few of the authors.

I love reading stories with women of color or mixed race relationships. Yeah, would be nice if it were more common than it is, but there are books out there if you look around.

My experience is that within lesbian there is a higher proportion of mixed race or women of color represented than in the m/f. But maybe that's just me.

4theluvofmary said...

i love having not just stand alone books, but entire series with diverse characters that everyone can relate to! i think it really helps some readers, who may not think about certain types of people outside what they're familiar with, delve into whole new worlds (now i'm singing aladdin, dammit). and what makes these books all the better is having an author that loves her characters so much and takes the time to really flesh them out, not just turn them into stereotypes.

Heidi Belleau said...

I am so with you on always being on the lookout for respectfully written IR/MC romance (m/f and lgbt), and after all your posting on twitter and tumblr I am DYING to read "At Her Feet"! The cover is super cute too.

Biblio Reader said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

I have been working on a Goodreads list about interracial lesbian fiction:

I've also made or found some more poc lesbian book lists on Goodreads:

Hope those help anyone else looking!