Today on the site I’m psyched to be talking to Anna Zabo, brilliant author of m/m romance, who’s recently added Polyam to their repertoire. Please welcome them to talk about their newest release, their infamous Takeover series, and what comes next!
Let’s jump right into your newest release! Polyam romances are one of the most common rec requests on the LGBTQReads Tumblr. What can readers expect from Outside the Lines? And might they see more polyam romance from you in the future?
Outside the Lines is a polyam romance between a married couple, Lydia and Simon, and a gay man, Ian. It’s a polyam V relationship rather than a triad—at least sexually. Ian comes to love Lydia, but he’s not sexually attracted to her. But they all develop bonds with each other and become a family.
I would like to write more polyam romances! I love exploring relationships and families that aren’t seen as often in romance. I probably will eventually write a triad romance, and I would love to write a sprawling queer polyam saga along the lines of Kris Ripper’s Scientific Methods books (meaning with the same found family feel!) but I need to find the right characters and plot for that.
You also sold two new books this year, to Carina, about a queer rock band! What can you share with us about Syncopation?
Oh, I loved writing Syncopation! I’ve wanted to write rock stars for a while and loved the idea of the struggle of an up-and-coming band getting jerked around by their manager and label. I also wanted the book not to be about a band-member coming out to the public. So members of Twisted Wishes, the band in the book, are openly queer.
The main focus of the books is between Ray, the lead singer and composer/song writer, and their new drummer Zavier. Zav also happens to be the guy Ray had a complete crush on in high school and invited to join his band all those years ago. Zavier was bound for Julliard, and said no. But he’s recently quit his job as a timpanist, and he’s come to admire Ray and Twisted wishes, so he auditions for the band.
Ray finds Zavier insufferably sexy and is furious that he’s exactly the drummer the group needs. Zavier admires Ray and the band and seeks out a friendship that eventually turns to something more in unexpected ways for both of them. Ray’s gay. Zavier is pansexual and aromantic, and also kinky. (Zav remains aromantic, despite getting his HEA in his own way on his terms. That was important to me.)
In the interest of making sure everyone’s in the know about your superhot m/m office romances, the Takeover series, can you give us a little background on the universe? Is there a story, setting, or character who’s particularly close to your heart?
The background to Takeover—working in high tech, Michael’s job at a routing company, and that company being bought be another—all came about as a way to give a company like the one I invested eleven years of my life (and that was ultimately bought and closed) the ending I would have liked. Then it grew into something else—a story of Pittsburgh and co-workers and queer people living around one another and supporting each other.
I have a soft spot for all the characters in the Takeover Series, but the character who far and away steals my heart each time is Eli Ovadia, one of the main characters from Just Business. There’s so many layers to him. He’s so shaped by his past, but also fights hard to make sure it doesn’t define him completely. He’s strong, yet surprisingly vulnerable, and he knows this. He’s a Dom and a sadist who absolutely will cry and cuddle with his cat when he’s feeling down. He loves and protects his friends, sometimes at the expense of himself. He has a lot of hope to give, but often keeps none for himself. I could write about Eli for ages.
You rereleased your Paranormal Romance Close Quarter this past August following the closure of Loose Id. How was taking the book on your own? Is there anything you can share about the upcoming sequel?
It was good experience to re-read and edit Close Quarter. The writing held up pretty well, all things considered, and I still love the world-building. Going through the process of working with a cover designer and learning KDP and CreateSpace was eye-opening. I learned that I can do this myself, but I also learned I don’t necessarily want to for every book. There are time benefits to working with publishers.
But I will be putting out the sequel this year. No Quarter Given will focus on just how Silas and Rhys upset the balance of power in the fae community in New York City when they return together. It’ll also be quite a bit about all those things Rhys had been avoiding, including a past lover and the press. As well as the things he’s searching for—who he really is.
One of my favorite things you did this past year was run #RRWTalk, a Twitter chat for writers of queer romance specifically. Why do you think it’s important to discuss queer romance separately, and did anything from those chats particularly stick out to you?
One of the things that stuck out was that there is a section of folks for whom LGBT = m/m and there’s also a section of folks for whom it does NOT. And that there are vibrant important queer stories that need and should be read and written that aren’t m/m. Happy Ever Afters are for everyone under the rainbow.
While we’re on the topic of queer romance, who are your go-to authors within? What books would you love to give a shout, especially if you feel like they’re criminally underread?
I’ve been talking about this series a lot lately, but Kris Ripper’s Scientific Methods series. It’s a kinky, poly sprawling found family series that includes all kinds of queer people. Multi-racial. Different genders, including genderqueer and trans characters. The first book is Catalyst, but I warn you, it’s one that hooks you in and suddenly, it’s a week later and you’ve read all…I think there’s 13 books now… and you look around and you wonder what happened.
Another thing I’ve seen you discuss that I really admire is how your writing helped you realize you’re non-binary. It’s sort of one of my greatest interests, for personal reasons and otherwise, how writing LGBTQA lit can really help people work through both gender and sexuality, and I think we see it a lot more with authors who are AFAB. Any thoughts you’re comfortable discussing?
Huh. This is a hard one for me because I’m not sure I have fully formed thoughts about it. Some are too deeply emotional to put into words. What writing did for me was give me a safe place to peel back my psyche, pluck some aspects out, plunk them in other people, and see what happened. I could explore bits of me in bodies that weren’t the one I was born with, and that was so liberating.
I’m not wholly any one of my characters, but there are aspects of me in all of them.
And by exploring me in others and seeing them live authentically, even if it was in fiction, I learned a lot about me in me, and could start taking steps to live my own life more authentically.
I know this isn’t related to books or whatever, but something I see non-binary people struggling with often is finding great clothing, and you dress dapper as hell. Got any great clothing tips? What’s your favorite thing in your closet?
I think the main thing is to find clothes your comfortable in! I love button-downs and bow-ties. But I know that’s not everyone’s thing.
If you’re just starting to build a wardrobe or are aching to dress in clothes that don’t conform to the gender other people think you are, a good place to start shopping is thrift stores. My first suit came from a thrift store and I bought it in October, because no one looks at you strangely when you buy gender non-conforming clothes near Halloween.
What’s something that’s really stuck with you in LGBTQIAP+ lit, for better or for worse?
Sometimes people want the perfect representation of an identity. Like the perfect trans character or the perfect bisexual or the perfect representation of asexuality. And…people aren’t perfect. There’s no perfect rep. What works for someone as the model trans experience might be nothing like another trans person’s experience. People are messy. Rep is going to be messy too. Sometimes queer people hurt other queer people over rep. I really hope we can allow ourselves to be messy.
Since you’re kicking off the new year for us: what are you really excited about in queer lit coming up in 2018? And where do you hope this year takes you?
“It’s the story of a servant who dresses as a man to impersonate her employer, realizes she doesn’t identify as a woman anymore, and accidentally falls in love with a prickly bisexual aristocrat. Featuring: spectacles, lemon drops, and a kitten.”
I beta read an early draft and I loved it. I cannot wait for it to be unleashed unto the world. My only regret is that I know m/m-only readers will skip this one because one LI isn’t a man and they will miss out on a story that rivals the best m/m I have ever read.
As for where 2018 takes me? Well, I’ll be writing my first non-binary character this year. We’ll see how well I do!
Anna Zabo writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.
Anna has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where they fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. They also have a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.