Thirty years ago, more or less, I decided to rebel. I'd been reading romances intended for teens for a number of years (well before I was a teenager) and I was bored with them. I wanted something else, something more exciting. Of course I knew my mother would hardly approve of my plans so I took advantage of my babysitting money, walked to the Walgreen's at the corner to buy pens for school, and while I was there, I snuck over to the romance book section. I was almost afraid to pick them up, for fear my mother would appear at my shoulder and see what I was doing, but I finally worked up the nerve to read the back cover of a few, and picked one. I hid it in my purse and then hid it between my mattresses, and I devoured it. I absolutely devoured it. I read that book so many times it fell apart, and of course it was only the first.
I haven't thought about that book in years, although I still remember it incredibly vividly. I did mention how many times I read it, right? Well, imagine my surprise and fangirlish glee to walk into the RT club yesterday and see Janelle Taylor, yes, the same Janelle Taylor who wrote the first adult romance I ever read, sitting at a table by herself, looking honestly a little lonely. I couldn't resist. I had to go up, introduce myself, and tell her my story. She was incredibly gracious, offering a hug and a smile and asking about my own writing since my name tag proclaimed me a published author as well.
I told her, completely upfront about the m/m aspect of my writing. And you know what her answer was? She asked if I had one of my books with me. I didn't, but Nessa did, so I gave her a copy of Inherit the Sky, which she insisted I sign for her (I was asked to sign a book for one of the authors who introduced me to romance as a genre! Can I squee for a bit?), we gave her a YA book for her granddaughter, and we spent a good twenty minutes with this bastion of traditional romance discussing how important it was to show that love is love, no matter who was involved, whether that was two people from opposite sides of the Civil War, whether it was a white woman and an Indian man, or whether it was two men.
It was interesting to hear her say that when she first started out, all the publishers told her no one would want to read a romance with Indians in it, and yet I remember that my favorite part of Destiny's Temptress was Shannon's brother (half-brother if you want to get technical, but Shannon never did) Hawke, a half-breed Indian. Finally Kensington took a chance on her, even with the Indians, and her career was born.
I did a little poking around on the Internet last night. Janelle Taylor is a year older than my mother, two years younger than my father. My mother knows what I write. She hasn't read any of it, but that has more to do with the explicit content than with the fact that it's m/m. My father doesn't know at all because I know what his reaction would be. I've been calling him on homophobic comments far longer than I've been writing. Talking with Janelle yesterday reminded me that one's generation does not define one's thoughts, that people of every generation can be open-minded, and that what we do and the ground we're breaking now in the m/m genre was set up by people like Janelle Taylor years ago and that they really are just as happy to see us breaking new ground now as people were to see them breaking ground then.
We get tied up in our insular world of m/m romance, and I've made some of my closest friends in that insular little world, so I will never stop being thankful for it, but I'm starting to wonder if some of that isolation isn't our doing as much as it is theirs.
So I've shared my fangirl moment. If you could pick that seminal author to meet, the one who introduced you to a world you'd never entered before (romance, fantasy, sci-fi m/m romance, or any other genre), who would it be?