Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why I write gay fiction


I get the occasional odd look when people realize I write gay fiction. Married woman in her early forties with two kids, no gay siblings or cousins or aunts or uncles or anyone in my immediate family as far as I'm aware. (There is a second cousin once removed, but I've never actually met him, just heard about him.) So what in the world am I doing writing gay fiction?

There's a couple of answers to that question, both lighthearted and serious. I like men. More men is better. That's the lighthearted part, but it's also true. I like the idea. It appeals to me. Does that make me a pervert? I suppose that depends on who you ask.

But it doesn't stop there. If it did, I'd just subscribe to gay porn sites and read the amazing books written by other writers in this genre. It's also, to me, a quiet form of social activism.

When I attended my first Cincinnati Pride Festival four years ago and ran a booth for Dreamspinner, the reaction I got from the men there left me reeling. Men of every age, size, race, and degree of flamboyant stopped at our table, picked up our books, and said, "These are about men like me?" I said yes because even if the specific book didn't mirror the specific man, the men weren't asking to that degree of specificity. "Books with happy endings?" "Well, most of them," I replied. "I didn't know there was such a thing!" Some of them bought books, some of them took cards, many of them hugged us, and all of them, every last one, thanked us for caring enough about them and their situation to write books about them as they were, living their normal lives, and looking for love.

This has played out numerous other times since then, at other events, in large groups and small.

But our audience isn't, and shouldn't be, just gay men. Our audience is wider than that. There's a funny story from the first year Dreamspinner had a booth at Book Expo America. We were giving out gift bags of books to pretty much anyone who came by. A woman probably in her sixties came to the booth and congratulated us for what we were doing, even though she wasn't sure she wanted to read the books herself. We convinced her to take a copy of Curious, since the whole point of that anthology was to provide an introduction to gay romance to women unfamiliar with the genre. She took the book finally. The next day she came back to the booth. "I read that book you gave me last night. It was really good. Do you have anything a little... spicier?" We sent her home with the full gift bag.

That woman may not be a regular Dreamspinner customer now. I have no way of knowing that. But I know she looks at gay couples with a more open mind for having read and enjoyed our books. How can she not? How can she read Checkmate or Tigers and Devils or any of the other eight titles that were given away that year and not look at them differently? Yes, our books, my books as an author, feature gay men, but the stories are bigger than that. They're about love. Period.

Alliance in Blood is being translated into French, Spanish, and Italian to my utter delight, and the translators have corresponded with me several times since they started. The consistent theme of their e-mails has been how the love between the characters happens to be between two men, but the relationship they're building is universal. And isn't that what it's all about? Showing our characters, our men, as the guys next door or down the street or across town who want nothing more than to be able to love one another freely and without fear?

Maybe, just maybe, I'm doing a small part to contribute to the day when that will be reality, not a dream. If one person walks away from my body of work with a more open mind than when they arrived, I will have left a mark in the world that's worth being proud of.

21 comments:

  1. I love your books and I write my M/M stories for exactly this same reason and more.
    My best wishes

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    1. Thank you, AkFa! I live in the hope that my small bit of social activism will pay off.

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  2. Wonderful! And I love the look of the site!

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    1. Thank you, Stacy. When I started thinking about how I wanted it to look so it would truly represent me, the first thing that came to mind was PURPLE!

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  3. Ariel, if you keep writing the sexy and sensitive gay fiction you do, then I will keep reviewing and recommending it to my blog readers, as well as the library patrons in my small rural community. Thank you for your (substantial, and in no way, "small bit") contribution to this worthy cause.

    Continuous blessings to you and your writing!

    ps. I love the purple, too! But then I have purple hair. hehehe

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    1. Thank you, Emme! I always strive for sexy and sensitive. We'll hope I continue to hit the mark. (Oh, and the sequel to Inherit the Sky is in editing and should be out in September).

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  4. I bought my first m/m romance a couple of months ago, with great trepidation. Now, I'm writing m/m romance. It's quickly becoming my favorite genre. The level of conflict goes much deeper than for most straight couples. Characters may have to deal with issues of forbidden love, identity crisis, even potential violence. Or, the story can just be a simple angsty romance, with nothing political about it. The best part of this experience, though, is seeing how the stories I write are changing me, making me more perceptive about the challenges our LGBT brothers and sisters face. Getting inside the skin of my characters and seeing the world through their eyes is making me a better advocate for equal rights.

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    1. Yes, exactly, Andrea. There are issues for gay couples that don't apply with straight couples most of the time, but even the least political ones (I'm thinking of something like Sutcliffe Cove that's barely even angsty) still have an impact because they portray the love of the characters as simple, straightforward, and real. Eight years of writing m/m fiction has definitely changed my outlook on a lot of things.

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  5. Hello.

    First of all congratulations on your blog and your work. I read with great pleasure that Alliance in Blood has been translated into Italian!!
    I was lucky enough to only read the first chapters of the fanfiction, but I never found out how it ends :) :)
    I'm not so good to read an entire book in English, but I would love to get the copy in Italian of Alliance in Blood.
    You would be possible to give me the link where I can find?

    Thank you and again congratulations.

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    1. Hi, Helineloro.

      I don't have a link yet since it hasn't finished its way through translations yet, but I will post one as soon as it is available. You can also watch for it here since that's where it will be released when it's ready.

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