Writing a Queer Main Character in M/F Romance, a Guest Post by Roan Parrish

Please welcome to LGBTQReads Roan Parrish, whose very first m/f Romance, Small Change, just released yesterday! Here’s a little more on the book:

Ginger Holtzman has fought for everything she’s ever had—the success of her tattoo shop, respect in the industry, her upcoming art show. Tough and independent, she has taking-no-crap down to an art form. Good thing too, since keeping her shop afloat, taking care of her friends, and scrambling to finish her paintings doesn’t leave time for anything else. Which … is for the best, because then she doesn’t notice how lonely she is. She’ll get through it all on her own, just like she always does.

Christopher Lucen opened a coffee and sandwich joint in South Philly because he wants to be part of a community after years of running from place to place, searching for something he could never quite name. Now, he relishes the familiarity of knowing what his customers want, and giving it to them. But what he really wants now is love.

When they meet, Christopher is smitten, but Ginger … isn’t quite so sure. Christopher’s gorgeous, and kind, and their opposites-attract chemistry is off the charts. But hot sex is one thing—truly falling for someone? Terrifying. When her world starts to crumble around her, Ginger has to face the fact that this fight can only be won by being vulnerable—this fight, she can’t win on her own.

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And now, here’s Roan!

Writing a Queer Main Character in M/F Romance

25687508Ginger Holtzman started out as a secondary character in In the Middle of Somewhere, an m/m romance. She was the main character Daniel’s best friend, and through his eyes, we saw her romance with Christopher begin to play out in the background. One of the things I heard most from readers was that they wanted Ginger to get her own story. And although I never explicitly said Ginger was queer in In the Middle of Somewhere, she always was in my head. I knew that part of her backstory with Daniel was that they had been part of the same community of queer artists and musicians back in Philadelphia. But because the person she started dating was a dude, there was no explicit signifier of her queerness in In the Middle of Somewhere.

When I started writing Small Change, then, one of the things that mattered most to me was that Ginger’s queerness be legible while she was falling in love with a straight man.

The long history of the romance genre sets up the expectation that m/f romance = heterosexual romance. Not because there isn’t room on the page for characters to have complex desires, but because genres are structured by rules that are assumed unless they are explicitly negated.

Now we have a much more diverse spectrum of desires represented in romance than we did twenty years ago. But from a publishing perspective, the fact that queer romance is a genre in its own standing actually underscores the separation between queer romance and m/f romance. Even though m/f and queerness are not at all mutually exclusive, there is still comparatively little representations of queerness on the pages of m/f romance, and very little expectation of it.

So it was very important to me that Ginger’s romance with Christopher not erase her queerness. Indeed, her queerness is important in everything from her past dating experiences, to her business practices, to her politics. But I also didn’t want queer legibility to be The Struggle of Ginger and Christopher’s relationship. That is, I didn’t want queerness to be a stumbling block to love, and I didn’t want it to be something that Ginger needed to educate Christopher about in order for them to have a relationship. I wanted it to be a part of their love because it’s a part of Ginger.

For this to work, Christopher’s character had to be someone who knew what the hell was going on, because Ginger would never be attracted to a dude who was clueless about politics or queerness or social justice. That is, this book takes place in a world where queerness is visible, for all involved. Christopher wonders if Ginger dates men when they first meet, and wants to find out because he’s attracted to her, and this interaction is pretty indicative of their attitudes:

Christopher asks, “Do you date men?”

Ginger, self deprecating as always, answers, “Uh, yeah. Well, I mean, not very successfully, but yes, in theory.”

And that’s what’s important: who Ginger would, in theory, be interested in, not the idea that who is currently dating is a barometer of her identity.

*****

b&w author picRoan Parrish is the author of the Middle of Somewhere series. Her debut m/f novel, Small Change, is out now.

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