First off, though, I somehow forgot to mention the Lesbrary in my last Around the Blogosqueer post?? Clearly I take for granted everyone knows them and their work, but if you don’t, FYI the site is run by Danika Leigh Ellis, who also writes lots of LGBTQ posts for BookRiot. As a bonus, they’re primarily not Romance focused, which makes them an especially nice counterpoint to this and most other LGBTQ sites.
And now, narrowing in from full-blown web sites to much more specific resources, today Around the Blogosphere is focused on some really excellent posts and databases dedicated to helping you find some of the most underrepresented, under-covered LGBTQA+ reads out there!
So excited to welcome author Shira Glassman to the site, this time with a guest post on her brand-spankin’-new release, Knit One, Girl Two! God, does that cover alone not just make you the happiest person alive?
Small-batch independent yarn dyer Clara Ziegler is eager to brainstorm new color combinations–if only she could come up with ideas she likes as much as last time! When she sees Danielle Solomon’s paintings of Florida wildlife by chance at a neighborhood gallery, she finds her source of inspiration. Outspoken, passionate, and complicated, Danielle herself soon proves even more captivating than her artwork…
A little note on the content, as provided by the author:
Fluffy Jewish f/f contemporary set in the author’s childhood home of South Florida. This one is rated PG and features a chubby love interest and a brief exploration of the dynamic between people with differing levels of religious observance. (Clara is secular, Danielle goes to temple and keeps “kosher-lite”)
And now, please welcome Shira Glassman!
On the heels of trauma, I spent New Year’s weekend at the home of a dear friend who dyes yarn for a living (Caitlin’s String Theory ColorWorks.) We were instant friends the first time I met her at our university’s knitting club thirteen years ago, and I remain consistently fascinated by her work process – thinking up colors, naming them, watching happy customers turn her shop updates into a feeding frenzy. Reaching out for story ideas to bring me back to writing after a six month drought, I realized the perfect subject was right in front of me.
Sock clubs are a staple of the knitting world. Sometimes your treats are a complete surprise, other than the knowledge you already have of the dyer’s style. Sometimes, as with Lorena’s HaldeCraft, the club yarns come in themes—she’s done obscure fairy tales, Star Wars, Farscape, and the next one is based on beloved pets. Sometimes they come with little treats, i.e. “swag”, such as miniature handmade soaps, buttons, or stitch markers (little charms attached to a jump ring that you use to mark off sections in complicated patterns so you know where you are. Think of them as the tape on the stage in a theater.)
But before you can get to any of that, you have to have the ideas. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and in my story Clara finds it in Danielle’s paintings.
The South Florida I’m writing about is the Ft. Lauderdale I grew up in. I brought a closed Jewish deli back to life so that my ladies can go where I can’t anymore. The museum that forms part of their date is not only where I volunteered as a teenager but also where I first realized I liked girls. Everything I love and miss about the southern part of my state, 300 miles away, is in this story. Clara even works in the box office of the theater where I took lessons, attended performances, and played in All-County.
I’ve joked to my friends that a good tag line for this story is “what if the Manic Pixie Dream Girls just dated each other instead?” Danielle’s Going Through Some Things, so beside Clara’s sunny placidity the two of them might resemble the Tragedy and Comedy masks. But sometimes sad people don’t want to be alone, and the people who let us be sad and social at the same time make the world go around.
I’ve given you a fantasy Florida in my Mangoverse books, where there are dragons under the palm trees. Now come see the real one, where there might not be a palace—just the ordinary magic of “…I met this girl….”
Shira Glassman is a bisexual Jewish violinist passionately inspired by German and French opera and Agatha Christie novels. She lives in north central Florida, where the alligators are mostly harmless because they’re too lazy to be bothered.
Excited to have the second of two Cal Spivey cover+excerpt reveals on the site today! If you missed the first one, for novella “The Traitor’s Tunnel,” make sure you check that out here!
Today we’ve got The Longing and the Lack, an adult paranormal novel releasing September 19th and starring the bisexual Lucinda Hightower. For some info on the book:
Lucinda Hightower is no stranger to death.
Since she was a child, Lucinda has been haunted by rabid dogs, suicidal crows, and the ghost of a woman in white. All are omens signaling someone’s imminent demise—except Lucinda’s friends and family are still breathing.
The omens follow her to Ireland and the quiet university in her father’s hometown, increasing in strength and frequency once she meets Damien Reed. A handsome third year student, Damien thrusts himself into Lucinda’s life almost immediately and caresses away the unsavory reputation that shadows him.
It’s not until the ghost sinks her nails into Damien that he reveals his secret: the death omens are for him.
They’re the manifestations of a curse that claims the life of the eldest Reed son every generation. Damien’s time is nearly up. If Lucinda is to save him, she must solve the mystery of her family curse, and lay a spirit’s rage to rest.
“Because of the walls, the stone. And because they’re haunted,” he replied. She laughed, and he quirked an eyebrow at her. “You don’t believe in ghosts?”
Something in the way he said it captured her attention, and she looked at him with more interest. There was a brightness in his eyes that seemed to belie his casual, almost teasing tone. She got the sense that her answer was sought in earnest, that it mattered to him whether or not she believed in ghosts. She had been about to tell him that of course she didn’t—she had been about to lie—but she paused now. He watched her, patient; he took a step toward her, then another, and her heart fluttered though he was still several feet away.
“I think there are few ghosts who belong to the population at large,” she said. “I think most ghosts belong only to a select few, and are only visible to them.”
“And, therefore, the odds of danger to you in these catacombs are small.” The man’s smile widened with his chuckle. “An interesting theory.”
“Do you?” Lucinda asked.
He tilted his head. “Do I what?”
“Believe in ghosts.”
He laughed as he approached. Lucinda stayed still as he stopped within a foot of her, as he gazed upon her face. His expression changed from wry amusement to something more difficult to read: a slightly furrowed brow, parted lips. Her breath shortened under his scrutiny. She wrestled to maintain an appearance of calm until, at last, he glanced beyond her down the hall, and his smirk returned.
He leaned closer, and whispered in her ear, “Was that door open when you came down here?”
Lucinda turned. A door at the end of the hall did indeed now stand ajar, when it had been firmly shut before. She frowned, then looked back to the man, who was walking away. “Wait,” she said. “What’s your name?”
He paused. For a moment, she thought he wouldn’t answer. Then he smiled at her over his shoulder. Her heart skipped a beat.
“My name is Damien Reed,” he said.
C.M. Spivey is a speculative fiction writer, author of high fantasy From Under the Mountain and the paranormal series, “The Unliving”. His enduring love of fantasy started young. Now, he explores the rules and ramifications of magic in his own works—and as a trans-masculine panromantic asexual, he’s committed to queering his favorite genres. In his spare time, he plans his next tattoo (there will always be a next tattoo) and watches too much Netflix. Anything left over is devoted to his tireless quest to make America read more. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his darling husband Matt and adorable dog Jay.
Today on LGBTQReads we’ve got a first for the site: a guest interview! Judith Utz, owner and curator of Binge on Books and Open Ink Press, chats with debut author Liz Jacobs about her upcoming New Adult romance duology, beginning with Abroad; her personal experiences as a queer immigrant teen; and what makes this debut so genuine and hard hitting.
First, check out Abroad!
Nick Melnikov doesn’t know where he belongs. He was just a kid when his Russian-Jewish family immigrated to Michigan. Now he’s in London for university, overwhelmed by unexpected memories. Socially anxious, intensely private, and closeted, Nick doesn’t expect to fall in so quickly with a tight-knit group of students from his college, and it’s both exhilarating and scary. Hanging out with them is a roller coaster of serious awkward and incredible longing, especially when the most intimidating of the group, Dex, looks his way.
Dex Cartwell knows exactly who he is: a black queer guy who doesn’t give a toss what anybody thinks of him. He is absolutely, one-hundred-percent, totally in control of his life. Apart, maybe, from the stress of his family’s abrupt move to an affluent, largely white town. And worrying about his younger brother feeling increasingly isolated as a result. And the persistent broken heart he’s been nursing for a while . . .
When Nick and Dex meet, both find themselves intrigued. Countless late-night conversations only sharpen their attraction. But the last thing Nick wants is to face his deepest secret, and the last thing Dex needs is another heartache. Dex has had to fight too hard for his right to be where he is. Nick isn’t even sure where he’s from. So how can either of them tell where this is going?
Here’s a little more info on the book from Judith:
College might seem like the perfect opportunity to let loose and party, to revel in the chance at being alone, adult-free for the very first time in your life. And even though that’s definitely one aspect of the college experience, there are so many more that define it. Growing up, discovering parts of yourself you never knew existed, and ultimately coming of age is the crux of the new adult experience. With a sharp wit and unflinching portrayal of the ups and downs of college life, Liz Jacobs will blast onto the New Adult scene on June 27th with her stellar debut, Abroad. Russian-born, Jewish, and questioning his sexuality, Nick is an American who decides to uproot his life in the States to spend one year of college abroad in the UK. That too-brief-span of time serves to define and change who he will become.
Struggling to understand himself, his identity, and his constantly shifting feelings about his past, Nick discovers that home and identity are not limited to family or even a homeland. He also learns to trust himself and his own needs, and begins finding friendships in the most unlikely of places. Interwoven into this is a fragile love story that may or may not withstand the year. Liz Jacobs’ debut is a sophisticated and refreshing take on the New Adult novel and she caught up with me recently to talk more about this book and what it means to her.
Judith for LGBTQ Reads: Welcome to LGBTQ Reads! Please tell us all about your debut, Abroad.
Liz Jacobs: Abroad is, to me, a romance, and it’s also a story of coming into your own. It’s about identity and how we hide from ourselves and from others. A lot of it is about one’s cultural identity and what happens when “outsider” identities intersect and how. For instance, Nick has always been an outsider in some sense–in Russia, he was a Jew. In America, he’s Russian. And that’s just for starters. For Dex (Nick’s love interest), it’s being black, it’s being queer, it’s being brilliant and having to carve out space for himself because nobody else will do it for him. For his best friend Izzy, it’s a whole journey of self-discovery she doesn’t realize will happen. It’s also very much about that liminal space at the end of college when you know you’re leaving security behind. It’s also about made families, queer spaces, and people uplifting one another.
Judith: So when did you first have the idea to write this story? How many iterations has it been through?
Liz: I always knew I wanted to write something like this story, because immigrating remains one of the most defining moments of my life. I remember being in sixth grade, speaking zero English, and thinking, “how would I write about this?” I think partly because the experience was so viscerally difficult, it felt like I had to get it out or it would rot inside me. But I didn’t know how to tell it, I didn’t know the angle to take, what to do with it, until I realized that I could write a romance. Then, it coalesced super easily. But it was years of trying different approaches in my mind before this came into being. Then I sat down, wrote the first scene, and it just kept going. In terms of iterations, I’d say it’s one and a half, because the story was always this, but in speaking to someone about it, we realized that it was too much story to be contained in one volume. Also, Izzy’s character was elbowing for her own space, so once she got a POV, it really clicked fully.
Judith: Nick’s experience as a queer, Jewish Russian immigrant mirrors your own experience. Would you say that makes this story autobiographical?
Liz Jacobs: Let’s say, it’s “heavily inspired by” my life, though it is definitely its own story, with its own trajectory and conclusions. But I would be lying if I said that Nick’s character and experiences wasn’t based on my own. I wrote him through that lens, and it was important for me because for years, I kept a lot of this stuff inside, either through fear or the conviction that nobody would want to listen, and it has felt really wonderful, actually, to let this story out. So, not fully autobiographical, not entirely fictional.
Judith: Since it is so heavily inspired, did any of your own experiences infuse Nick’s story?
Liz Jacobs: Yes. Actually, the opening scene is lifted directly from my own life, pretty much verbatim. It has stayed with me for over a decade. It’s one of those “I think about this way more than I really should” moments. It was such a strange moment of cognitive dissonance, realizing that the person sitting next to me who presented very much as maternal and nurturing was holding some exceptionally xenophobic and harmful views with no idea that she was hurting me. The rest, I think, are just little touches, and largely fictional.
Judith: Have you always been a writer? What’s the first thing you wrote?
Liz Jacobs: I have been. I honestly can’t remember what the first thing I wrote was, and I have a feeling it’s through a sense of self-preservation (I was thirteen or thereabouts). Actually, I just remembered that I wrote a LOT of self-insert Mary Sue fic on a message board at 14-15. Really, I just haven’t stopped writing. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write. It’s always been my constant, I can’t stop myself. Except for when I’m under deadline, and then my brain blocks it for me.
Judith: What’s a question you hope readers ask you about Abroad?
Liz Jacobs: I’m literally scratching my head right now, because I don’t know! I think I’d be excited to get any questions, to be honest, because it means that I’ve engaged the reader, made them think, touched them in some way. Maybe, “hey, did you have any visual inspirations for the characters?” in which case, I will be, like, “heck yeah, I did. Wanna see?”
Judith: Name your top writing influences (authors, books, tv, music, what have you!)
Liz Jacobs: The first name that comes to mind is, honestly, Anne Frank. She was the first person who made me think I, too, could be a writer. She was also a scared Jewish girl whose inner world was so much bigger than the outside world allowed for. Her words made an indelible impact on my life. I’d say another big influence is Jamie O’Neill, author of At Swim, Two Boys. This book blew me away when I read it at 20, and it continues to blow me away now, every time I pick it up for a reread. The way he brings the reader into each scene, how every character has their own voice, the sheer impact of his work–it’s almost magic to me, except better, because it all sprang from his mind. It took him a decade to write this book, and when you’re reading it, you can see why. That level of dedication, to me, is incredible. There’s another writer who few people outside Russia know about (and, actually, not so many in Russia, either) named Frida Vigdorova. Her writing had such a heart, such an intimacy to it, it made me yearn to write as well as she did. I’m still yearning for it.
Music wise, I’d say Tom Waits, being the giant weirdo that he is! Honestly, I feel like if Tom Waits can make a career out of being a (incredibly talented) whackadoo, why can’t I try?
Other than that, it’s hard to say, because I often feel like I’m an inspiration sponge–I just soak everything up and then stuff comes out without me realizing.
Judith: Speaking of writing influences, of all the authors out there, who would you most want to write a book with and why?
Liz Jacobs: The first person who came to mind was Roan Parrish, because I adore her writing and think she’s amazing. Where We Left Off is one of my favorite books of the last, like, several years. (Hi, Roan!) I also have a friend I’ve written with in the past (let’s call her B) and would love to write something new with her. (Hey, B) I love co-writing, and it also scares the bejeezus out of me, because it brings out the biggest control freak AND self-critic in me, but it can so gratifying and so much fun. You never know!
Judith: And lastly, what else have you written? What’s up next?
Liz Jacobs: Abroad: Book Two, of course! The story is very much not done at the end of Book One, and I’m writing Book Two right now and having a lot of fun with it (when I’m not having angst). I’ve got a whole bunch of things on the back burner that may never see the light of day, but I’m having quite a bit of fun with them, too. I’m writing a queer historical romance that is my happy escape place at the moment about the son of an Earl and a gardener. There’s gardening shed naughtiness. I have another project I’m hoping to develop, but I’m actually a bit superstitious, so I don’t want to say anything about it yet. But it’s YA. Intrigued yet?
Debut author Liz Jacobs came over with her family from Russia at the age of 11, as a Jewish refugee. All in all, her life has gotten steadily better since that moment. They settled in an ultra-liberal haven in the middle of New York State, which sort of helped her with the whole “grappling with her sexuality” business.
She has spent a lot of her time flitting from passion project to passion project, but writing remains her constant. She has flown planes, drawn, made jewelry, had an improbable internet encounter before it was cool, and successfully wooed the love of her life in a military-style campaign. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for her essay on her family’s experience with immigration.
She currently lives with her wife in Massachusetts, splitting her time between her day job, writing, and watching a veritable boatload of British murder mysteries.
“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.
This edition is dedicated to YAs coming up in 2017 with bi main characters but no hint of queerness in their blurbs – extra key for collections that need for whatever reason to remain a little more discreet!
Top Ten by Katie Cotugno – the blurb from Cotugno’s excellent fourth novel focuses on the main relationship in the book, i.e. the BFFs-maybe-turned-more situation between Gabby and Ryan, but inside the book, Gabby is not only openly bi, but still in touch with (and flashing back to) her ex-girlfriend, Shay.
That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston – all I know about this one is that there’s definitely main bi and intersex rep, it sounds killer, it’s got a gorgeous cover, and everyone I know who’s read it thinks it’s freaking fantastic. So, there’s that.
They Both Die at the Endby Adam Silvera– of course, if you’re at all familiar with Adam Silvera, you know all of his books have main characters under the rainbow umbrella, but this is his first with a bi MC, and spoiler: it’s great.
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore – as with her past books, this one is m/f with a female main character who is clearly interested in more than one gender but doesn’t use the word on the page. I must bitterly admit I haven’t read it yet, but if there’s anyone I trust to do everything from rep to prose gorgeously, it’s the author of When the Moon Was Ours.
It’s been exactly a year since romance rock star Rebekah Weatherspoon has appeared on the site in this awesome interview, and that’s about as long as I can take not devoting a feature to one of her books. Treasure is thus far my personal fave, a rare lesbian NA Romance set in college with Black female leads, some beyond adorable flirting, and major sex (and sex work) positivity. It’s a fairly short read, but definitely a recommended one! (And if you read cishet allo Romance too, check out her seriously lauded newest release, Haven!)
Her sister’s bachelorette party is the highlight of a miserable year for Alexis Chambers, but once her bridesmaid’s dress is packed away, she’s back to coping with her life as a once popular athlete and violinist turned loner and the focus of her parents’ disappointment. She isn’t expecting much from her freshman year of college until she finds herself sharing a class with Treasure, the gorgeous stripper from her sister’s party.
Trisha Hamilton has finally gotten the credits and the money together to transfer to a four-year university. Between classes, studying, and her job as a stripper, she has little time for a social life, until she runs into the adorably shy baby butch from the club. Trisha can’t seem to hide her feelings for Alexis, even when Trisha discovers what she has been through, but will Alexis have the strength to be just as fearless about their new love?
Psyched to have Romance author Amy Jo Cousins on the blog today, who’s not only one of the most prolific, supportive, and delightful people in all the land, but also wrote my #1 recommendation for “I need something short and absurdly hot.” (I’ll give you a minute to buy “Callie, Unwrapped.” You’re welcome in advance.) She’s got a brand-new m/m Romance out called HeartShip (more on that below), and a whole lot of wisdom and recommendations to share, so please welcome Amy Jo!
You’ve pulled off something incredibly rare in having a New Adult series (Bend or Break) with m/m, m/f, and f/f titles. What responses to that have you seen among your readership?
The response has been terrific, mixed with a dollop of “Ugh, what?” But that’s okay! New things always get a bit of a side-eye, right? And when the series first came out, very few people were mixing it up with different pairings in their series. It was a philosophical decision for me, though, to include all kinds of relationships in my series under one pen name. I wanted my writing to reflect my life and my community, and in my world, friendships and relationships and social circles are complicated and expansive and full of beautiful and every-changing variety. So yes, I occasionally get protest emails from readers who don’t like that I have a m/f or f/f books included with m/m stories, but this is more than just my writing. It’s my life. So there’s always going to be the full rainbow! The vast majority of readers I speak to are 100% supportive, especially my fans who are gay men. They read it all and love Cash and Steph as much as they love Tom and Reese or Vinnie and Bryan, which just makes me happy beyond all words.
Excitingly, you also just got the rights back to that series, and rereleased it with some beautiful new covers. What’s that process been like?
Well, the process of arguing with my publisher was rather exhilarating. We’re all normally so polite and professional that I got a bit of a charge out of going to the mat for myself and my intellectual property rights, not to mention those of my peers who were in the same situation. Not gonna lie. It was exciting. But also supremely frustrating, because of the thirteen months of waiting that passed since the original closing announcement. I have more stories to tell in this series, but everything was on hold! Now I’m back in business and so very excited about everything. Getting the whole series rerelease has been a joy, and I’m so in love with the updated covers Lexi at Romance by the Cover made for me! They’re sharp. 🙂 And getting The Belle vs the BDOC to match the series visually now too was a pure delight. I just started working on a story about a secondary character from Nothing Like Paris for an upcoming anthology, and I’m pretty much always thinking about what comes next for Tom and Reese, because those guys would make awesome foster dads, and I can’t wait to see that…
If I recall correctly, you’ve got a gay baseball romance coming up! (And I realllly hope I’m recalling correctly, because that sounds amazing!) Please share absolutely everything about that, sparing zero detail.
Ha! I do indeed. All of my Samhain chaos put my writing on hold, as I’ve worked to republish those books and release a bunch of self-pub books I’ve had mostly completed for a while, in order to fill in the gap, earnings-wise. But I should be wrapping up the first book of the series in short order, and I’m in love with this whole team.
I’m writing my idea of a fantastic baseball organization, which is of course heavily influenced by the kindness and sense of play driving Joe Madden and my beloved Cubs, with the added influence of my imaginary team having the owner’s lesbian daughter in a power position in operations. She’s all about acquiring hot talent that other teams have passed up, especially if it’s because the player is queer. So we’ve got two gay rookies in book one coming up from the minors who’ve been best friends and rivals since they were kids, the rebellious rock star pitcher and the not-quite-good-enough for the majors utility player who’s brought up with the rock star to keep him in line. Of course, they start crossing all of their personal friendship boundaries immediately, both publicly and privately and the pressure creates all kinds of chaos for them.
Then I’ve got a center fielder who’s got issues with the journalist breaking stories about the various players’ private lives, the rising star sports agent who can’t stop arguing with the team owner’s daughter even while she’s flirting with her, the near-retirement catcher and the young guy eager to replace him, and a first baseman who’s a total player on the social scene who gets in over his head with a movie star and his brilliant wife. Sooooo, yeah. 🙂 I’ve got some awesomeness coming!
I love how prolific you are, not just with full-length novels, but novellas and short stories, too. How do you decide on the right length for a story, and what are some of your favorite of your contributions to anthologies?
Deciding on the right length for a story is mostly a function of the plot, and also the constraints of whatever I’ve agreed to do. Which has occasionally meant that a story I planned on writing for an anthology doesn’t work out, because it’s just too much story for a short form. Or the short story I write has a very HFN ending, as opposed to a HEA, which is fine, of course! HFNs, especially for stories about younger characters, are frequently what I write. But then I’m always tempted to revisit them down the line and give them a more solid HEA.
When I write about people in their early twenties, I almost always feel as if, when the story ends, I’m giving them the happiest ending I can and hoping they make it in the long run. Because it’s not a given that a relationship that starts at that age lasts forever. I mean, it’s not a given for relationships at any age, right? But especially when people are still exploring themselves, their lives, and their worlds. So I really do enjoy revisiting characters like Tom and Reese, who had 100k+ words in Off Campus to get their relationship settled! But they were still finishing up school, and hadn’t met any challenges of the “real world” yet, so adding a 45k novella to their story (in Real World) and getting them settled for good with a solid HEA was important to me.
I just released a book called HeartShip too, which started as an 18k word short story called “The Christmas Ship” in the Wish Come True charity anthology. That story covered forty-eight hours, and was sweet and lovely, but it was just the jumping off point for those two after their long internet friendship! So turning that beginning into a longer novella that gives them a more solid relationship in HeartShip was fun. Mostly I think I don’t like letting go of my characters. LOL. So I’m always thinking about what’s happening to them now and when readers nudge me to write more, I’m terrible at resisting the temptation.
If you were helming a new anthology or series right now, what would the theme be and who would you love to bring on board as contributors?
As it turns out, I am working on a new story for an anthology that just came together a few days ago via the magic of Twitter. A bunch of us who are pretty passionately into politics started joking around about rogue park rangers/White House tweeters, and who you might confess your love to/bang athletically if you seriously thought the world might be ending soon, and all the romance that could happen in The Resistance. Now we’ve got a cover and a tentative production schedule, so you should keep your eyes peeled this summer! We’re having the most fun.
You’re an avid supporter of LGBTQ Romance, which is so wonderful. What are some authors and titles that are always on your rec lists?
Oh, so many! I’ve been rec’ing Kris Ripper nonstop lately, because I love how ze writes these big, beautiful queer communities with the same mashup of relationships and friendships that I enjoy writing in my own. Zir Queers of La Vista and Scientific Method series are my favorites. KJ Charles is always on my rec list for gorgeous m/m historical and paranormal. EE Ottoman’s steampunk Mechanical Universe series is lovely, as is Alexis Hall’s Prosperity series. Both involved amazing worldbuilding and deeply realized characters. I’m also constantly rec’ing Santino Hassell and Annabeth Albert’s contemporaries, Solace Ames’ kink, Josh Lanyon’s mysteries, Keira Andrews’ Amish series, JA Rock’s everything, and Lyn Gala’s SFR. In 2017, two of the best books I’ve read, Peter Darling by Austin Chant and A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson, are also topping my rec list.
As I may have mentioned a thousand times, I’m a huge fan of Callie, Unwrapped, and I’m delighted to see there’s more coming with those characters! Can you give us some idea of what’s to come in the Play it Again series?
I am finishing up final edits/proofreading on book two as we speak! Or, you know, type. Email. LOL. Callie focuses on some serious kink exploration to avoid feeling how instantly reactivated her attachment to Gabe was by the night she spent with him and Kate. But despite her intentions, Gabe ends up…shall we say…intimately involved in those explorations. And this is going to bring up a lot of conflicting emotions for Callie, who is trying to reconnect with her sexuality and her sense of adventure, not turn around and immediately fall for the guy she couldn’t find a happy ending with all those years ago. And then I meant to wrap up Callie #3, which pulls everything together, but it turns out that I’ve got a Kate story almost complete instead. Because Kate walked away from that night with Gabe and Callie with a serious crush on Callie that made Kate think, for the first time, that maybe she’s more into women, romantically, than she thought. So she takes a Gabe-break and tries to figure that out. My current working title for that ms., with massive subtlety, is: Kate Likes Girls.
What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
Just the amazingly wide range of stories we have to celebrate these days. I started reading LGBTQIAP+ stories in SFF and mystery, then literary fiction, back in the ’80s and ’90s. Now I also read them in romance and YA, of course. For so many years–for most of my life–almost everything I read that featured queer characters was tragic. Beautiful books, but so unbearably sad, almost always. I remember reading Rita Mae Brown’s Venus Envy in college in 1993 and just being so damn happy that the lesbian lived! And had a new girlfriend, and her family (almost all of them, at least) loved her! That was great. But still, most of my non-romance LGBTQIAP+ reading still featured a lot of unhappy endings. So when I finally found queer romance novels, I was beyond thrilled. Happy endings galore! Thank. God. Because I needed those HEAs, man. Like water, or air, I needed them. Now it gives me constant joy to see the genre expand its boundaries so all kinds of readers can find themselves in stories. We’ve still got plenty of work to do, but I love that we’re seeing a lot more trans and ace/aro and demi and bi characters. Yay for all the stories to come!
What can we hope to see down the line from you that I haven’t covered yet?
I just started reading this fun interactive fiction (The Eagle’s Heir) from Choice of Games after a reader recommended it to me on FB. Then I ran into a lovely representative from CoG at the NECRWA conference and learned a lot about their company (which prioritizes LGBTQ and nonbinary diversity, yay!) and the whole interactive fiction market. So now I’m getting all sorts of ideas about some fun story ideas that might work for that kind of narrative that allows so much reader participation. It’s fascinating! Who knows what could happen…
Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series again.