Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler
The Hollywood Series by Jae
The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer
And Playing the Role of Herself by K.E. Layne
Today’s sunny addition to the site is none other than the lovely Chelsea M. Cameron, New York Times and USA Today bestselling Romance author and general f/f enthusiast. Chelsea’s got a lot of different projects going on these days, some a far cry from the cishet allo Romances she broke into the industry with, and she’s letting me pick her brain about all of it, so please welcome her to the site!
You initially made your name with an allo cishet Romance called My Favorite Mistake, which was actually one of my very first NA. Now that you’ve added f/f Romance to your repertoire, beginning with Style, what kinds of differences do you notice in the publishing experience?
Oh, wow, the publishing landscape is SO different now. MFM came out in late 2012, during the “gold rush” of contemporary new adult. I honestly had no idea what I was doing back then. It was SO different. Timing and luck played a lot into the success of that book. I also feel as if there were certain bloggers who, if they promoted a book, that was almost a guarantee of success. It’s not so much like that anymore. Everything is different and I honestly feel like I’m learning every day. Promotion is not what it used to be. Basically I’m saying that I have no idea what I’m doing. The one thing that is great about writing f/f is that the people who read it are SO enthusiastic. I get more messages and emails and so forth on my f/f books. And I feel like they mean more. I know they mean a lot to me when I write them.
The Violet Hill series of novellas is your newest f/f endeavor. What can you tell us about it and how the individual stories link up? Any word on when we can expect the third installment?
That was something I sort of decided to do on a whim, which is usually how most of my favorite projects start. I’d written a series of m/f novellas and really liked the format and the way you can tell a complete story in about 20-25,000 words. The first book, Second Kiss, features two former best friends who crash back into each other and sparks fly. The main way the books are connected is that they’re all centered around the Violet Hill Café, which is a queer-run and owned café in a fictional town in Maine. I wanted to write a series that focused on a place where queer people could feel safe and loved. The second book features one of the waitresses at the café and a traveling photographer. The third book, Second Chance, will feature the cousin of the waitress in the second book who seeks refuge with her for the summer and runs into an ex. I’m hoping to release it in June or July.
I know you’ve got a seriously ambitious to-write list. What are your dream projects?
Right now I’m working very hard on my queer, modern Jane Austen story about Mary Bennet and Georgiana Darcy getting together. I’m LOVING it. My ultimate dream is to write the f/f fantasy that’s been burning a hole in my brain for over a year. I’m sort of stuck in the world-building stage right now. It’s so hard! I’ve been writing contemporary for too long, haha. But I’m going to make it happen because these characters will NOT leave me alone. I just want to write a massive amount of queer books so I have a recommendation for everyone. I joke about wanting to be the Nora Roberts of f/f, but it’s totally what I’m going for.
I love how many authors are embracing Patreon these days, giving readers ways to get more snippets of work while we wait. What kinds of stuff do fans get from yours?
I do a little bit of everything, I think. I post first chapters of my new work, original short stories, writing advice, random awful writing I find that I did in college, essays on queerness, and all kinds of things. I also have a tier that includes a motivational email a month, and one that includes an ebook per month. All kinds of fun stuff!
If I recall correctly, you share my intrigue with anthologies. If you were putting one together, what would the theme be and why? What kind of story would you love to write?
Haha, yes, I am obsessed with them and I want to be in one SO BAD. It’s like not being invited to sit at the cool kids table. I’m also always coming up for ideas for them, but I don’t the organizational skills to actually put one together. I would LOVE to have one with all stories about queer women, by queer women. I’d also love to do one with essays from people who came out later in life (20 or older). I never really thought I could do short stories, but now that I’m doing them on my Patreon, I find that I really like them! I just wanna write a massive amount of queer love stories, basically.
As someone who was relatively late to coming out, what kind of role would you say LGBTQIAP+ books played in figuring out your sexuality, and what would you recommend to someone who’s questioning, especially in their 20s?
That was literally the impetus for me figuring things out. I was reading these books in preparation to write a f/f book (that I didn’t end up writing, actually) and I was COMPLETELY OBESSED with them. As in, I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I was just reading Siera Maley and you, and Kristen Zimmer and I couldn’t figure it out. Fortunately, I was in therapy at the time, and my therapist helped me figure it out. I would highly recommend those authors (you included) as well as Of Fire and Stars, everything by Malinda Lo, The Abyss Surrounds Us, and, if it’s not to gauche to mention my own books, uh, mine. There’s a lot of YA/NA f/f out there and I think those stories focus a lot on coming out and figuring yourself out. I really want to write/read more stories about older queers, and also people who have been out for a while. Basically, I want to write/read as many varied experiences as I can.
What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQIAP+ media that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
Something that I have a hard time with is how vagina-centric a lot of f/f media is. As someone questioning their gender (still working on that one, but I think demigirl is working for now), and someone who loves a trans person, I don’t feel included in a lot of it. The first time I was like IT’S ME! IT’S ME! was when I read 27 Hours by Tristina Wright. I cried a lot while reading that book for the first time. It was just so wonderful to see so many queer people in one book. That’s another thing that bugs me about media. Is that there is one “token” queer person and if there’s another queer person, they’re most-likely dating. As if we have so few options, we have to date/marry the closest queer in proximity to us. So annoying.
What are you still dying to see in LGBTQIAP+ lit?
EVERYTHING. I want so many options that I have a rec for every situation. I know things have gotten a LOT better in recent years, and for that I am so grateful. I want rep where everyone can point to it and say YES, THAT’S ME! I want all readers to get that moment. Especially readers who are queer and also marginalized in other ways. I want an ace, biracial, trans teen to be able to pick up a book and see themselves portrayed in a way that isn’t harmful. I want them to have MULTIPLE books to choose from on the bookstore shelves. I would also love to see more f/f where one or both of the women is trans. That’s something very close to my heart and that I want to promote. My biggest dream is for a lush fantasy world with multiple POVs where literally everyone is queer. Like, a trilogy or even more. I’m hoping to write my own, but I want MORE. Always more.
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.
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?
(Yes, there’s already a Fave Five dedicated to queer YAs with East Asian female leads, but those are largely by non-Asian/Hapa authors, because it predated the announcements of a few of these books. There’s no overlap in titles, so make sure you check out both posts!)
A Line in the Dark by Malinda Lo (Thriller)
Noteworthy by Riley Redgate (Contemp)
Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee (Sci-Fi)
Seven Tears at High Tide by C.B. Lee (Fantasy)
Bonus: In NA, check out Hold Me by Courtney Milan (Contemp Romance)
When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore (YA Magical Realism, Latina/Desi, m/f)
Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde (YA Contemporary, Chinese Australian/Black, f/f)
It’s Not Like It’s a Secret by Misa Sugiura (YA Contemporary, Japanese/Latina, f/f)
Wander This World by G.L. Tomas (NA Paranormal, Afro-Latina/Filipino, m/f)
Hold Me by Courtney Milan (NA Contemporary, Latina/Chinese-Thai, m/f)
“Under the Gaydar” features books you might not realize have queer content but do! And definitely belong on your radar.
This time around we’re looking at books with major characters on the ace spectrum that don’t have that info in the blurb (and haven’t been on every post about this since the beginning of time; at this point I assume most people have discovered books like Quicksilver by RJ Anderson) – hopefully this will help expand your library a bit!
This Song is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin – Though the book doesn’t include the label “asexual,” discussion of being a romantic asexual (and finding your place in a romantic relationship) is a significant portion of this 2016 contemporary YA.
Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate – Redgate’s debut is delightfully infamous for being the first mainstream YA to feature an on-page Pansexual main character, but among the 7 POVs is another queer character on his own journey to figuring out he’s aromantic asexual. As with the above, you won’t see the word on the page, but you won’t be able to miss it, either.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan Maguire – Portal fantasy with ace rep and atmosphere to spare, from one of SFF’s most popular prolific authors.
Overexposed by Megan Erickson – M/M NA Romance with an on-page demisexual main character. I think that’s maybe all I need to say about that?
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman – I don’t usually feature books in which the character in question isn’t a POV character, but the presence of a major on-page demisexual character in YA is just too great to ignore! If you’re not in the UK, where it released in 2016, make sure you nab this one as soon as it’s available where you are.
27 Hours by Tristina Wright – Coming out in October 2017, this sci-fi YA features a host of underrepresented POVs, including one who’s ace.
Before I Let Go by Marie Nijkamp – Releasing in January 2018, this fabulous Alaska-set contemporary YA I have read and you have not (#CPlove) features an (#ownvoices) ace MC.
For some more instances of on-page labels in non-POV characters, check out Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham, Lunaside by JL Douglas, and Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg! And do check out this interview with Erica Cameron, to see which of her books apply as well!
This is another one of those titles I had to jump on covering as soon as it hit being just over a year old, because it’s got one of the most memorable heroines I’ve ever read, and it’s just a must-read for basically everyone. Plus, the next time you’ll be seeing Gabby Rivera, it’ll be in the America Chavez solo series! How cool is that??
Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.
Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?
With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.
All links are Amazon Affiliate links; proceeds go back into LGBTQReads.com. All works on this list are from 25-150 pages, for your quick-reading pleasure! (With thanks to the Tumblr Asker who inspired this post and the SFF novella post to come!)
Fearless by Shira Glassman ($1.29, f/f, 30 pp)
Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans ($1.99, m/nb, 44 pp)
What Happens in Berlin by Jen McConnell ($1.99, f/f, 100 pp)
Spice and Smoke by Suleikha Snyder ($2.66, m/m+, 114 pp)
The Belle vs. the BDoC by Amy Jo Cousins ($2.99, f/f, 89 pp)
The Melody of You and Me by M. Hollis ($2.99, f/f, 104 pp)
Second Kiss by Chelsea M. Cameron ($2.99, f/f, 59 pp)
Defying Convention by Cecil Wilde ($2.99, m/nb, 65 pp)
Sated by Rebekah Weatherspoon ($2.99, m/f, 100 pp)
Full Exposure by Amy Jo Cousins ($2.99, m/m, 97 pp)
Whiskey Business by Avon Gale ($3.52, m/m, 117 pp)
Coffee Boy by Austin Chant ($3.99, m/m, 89 pp)