Tag Archives: Polyamory

Venturess Author Betsy Cornwell Talks Polyamory and Inspiration

In honor of her new release, Venturess, the sequel to Mechanica, Betsy Cornwell is on the blog today to talk about what inspired its polyamory!

My new book, Venturess, is about three friends who are in love with each other, whose love makes them a family. It was important to me not to define that love in an explicitly romantic or sexual way, because those particular elements aren’t part of every intense, loving relationship, or of every family unit.

Someone asked me in a recent interview if I based any of my characters on people from my life, and I said no – the people I know definitely inform my characters, but I don’t tend to base them on one single source.

But there was a time when I fell in love with three people at once . . .

I spent the summer I turned seventeen living with a host family in the south of France.

Life was good.

I mean, life in Royan was good, with the language immersion and the food and the sunflower fields and a cooking class taught by an actual giant-mustachioed French chef and . . . OK, yes, all of that was really great. But it’s not what makes that summer stand out with so much warmth and affection in my memory.

During orientation, I met three other students named Olivia, Sasha, and Hannah, and we were best friends by the end of the day. It was probably the closest thing to love at first sight that I’ve ever felt – maybe love at first conversation?

We were all very different people. Olivia was fiery and sarcastic, lived in Manhattan when she wasn’t at boarding school, and wanted to be a filmmaker. Sasha, the only boy, was obsessed with economics and lived in Hong Kong, where he attended a glamorous-sounding international school. Hannah was from Texas and had spent probably the most time travelling of any of us, and she was a devout Christian who loved to read. I loved books too, I’d been  Christian most of my life but was recently and bitterly disillusioned, and I’d lived what suddenly seemed like a very sheltered and boring existence in rural New England.

I don’t really remember what we talked about that first day, only that it made us all laugh so much our sides hurt. We quickly absconded to a nearby cafe to continue reveling in our enjoyment of each other. Every moment that we weren’t in class or with our host families, we spent together. We went to French movies that we struggled to understand and American ones with subtitles. We ordered ice cream dishes with liqueur toppings that made us feel madly rebellious (maybe we were all a little sheltered). We wandered the Royan boardwalk and sat on the beach late into the night, talking about anything and everything.

I loved these people. I adored them.

By the end of the program we had a collective nickname: KOSH, for each of our initials. (I hated being called Betsy when I was younger, and I’d rebranded myself as Kat for the summer because I thought it would make me cooler. Shockingly, I was still the same person – although through O,S, and H’s eyes, I started to like myself a little more.)

When the summer ended, we left France and went back to our respective corners of the world.

I didn’t see them again for ten years.

In 2015, we decided to reunite in New York City on 4th of July weekend. I was teaching writing at a summer camp in Pennsylvania that year, and I remember feeling slightly terrified as I took the train up to Penn Station. We’d been some kind of soul mates when we were teenagers, but would we be able to connect again now?

I didn’t need to worry. Whatever magic was there before lit right up again when one of us asked if anyone still spoke French – and everyone burst out laughing. We roamed around the city all weekend finding bookstores and French food and semi-affordable Broadway tickets, and once more talking later into the night than was really wise, especially since we were now grown-ups with jobs and things to get back to.

Olivia works for a production company in L.A. Sasha is an economist in Ontario.  Hannah is a teacher and librarian in Texas. I live in Ireland and write books. Three of us are married (not to each other).

Maybe it’s a cop-out to claim this intense friendship as inspiration for the intentionally queer family dynamics in Venturess. I’m a bisexual cis woman married to a cis man, and I don’t consider myself polyamorous. I don’t want to lay claim to something that isn’t mine – and yet that’s a kind of self-shaming that I’ve often felt as a bisexual person, worrying that I’m “not queer enough” for the community. I write a lot about liminality, partly because so much of the love that I’ve experienced falls into those funny in-between places that are not easy to describe.

Still, the relationships in Venturess felt very close to home, close to my heart, as I wrote them. When Nick begins sleeping in the same bed with her friends Fin and Caro, and wakes up feeling more at home than she ever has before, I know that feeling. The four of us slept together (in the same-bed sense) in France. We all carried with us the acute loneliness that I think only teenagers feel, and in our love for each other we were able to alleviate it, for a little while. We were each other’s family that summer, and our love will always be part of who I am.

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Buy Venturess: Amazon * B&N * Books-a-Million * Hudson * IndieBound * Powell’s * Target

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Betsy Cornwell is the New York Times best-selling author of Tides,
Mechanica, and Venturess. She graduated from Smith College and was a columnist and editor at Teen Ink before receiving an MFA in creative writing from Notre Dame, where she also taught fiction. After grad school, she ran away to Ireland to live with the fairies, and she now resides in a small cottage on the west coast with her horse-trainer spouse. To learn more, visit her at www.betsycornwell.com, on Twitter at @Betsy_Cornwell, and on Instagram at @BetsyCornwell.

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Seven Polyam Books Under $5

Abstract colorful background with wave

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver ($2.99, Sci-Fi)

Sweet Ruin by Nazarea Andrews ($2.99, Contemp NA)

3 by Hannah Moskowitz ($3.99, Contemp YA)

She Whom I Love by Tess Bowery ($4.24, Historical)

Kneel, Mr. President by Lauren Gallagher ($4.24, Contemp Romance)

One Life to Lose by Kris Ripper ($4.99, Contemp Romance)

Poison Kiss by Ana Mardoll ($4.99, Fantasy)

All links are Amazon Affiliate; income goes back into the website.

 

Guest Post: Recommendations for Polyamory in Fiction, by Shira Glassman

For those unfamiliar with Shira Glassman, she’s not only an author of some of the queerest fantasy around, but also my super go-to person when it comes to tough-to-find queer rep. (Her encyclopedic brain for indie queer lit is unmatched. Seriously.) So when I was getting requests for poly fic, I knew who to beg for a guest post of recs, and as always, Shira delivered!

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I don’t seek out poly specifically for its own sake, but I have nothing against it, so when it pops up in my LGBT reading searches I’ll read anything that suits my plot, demographics, and setting preferences just as I would with a two-person romance. For those unfamiliar with me in general, my preferences tend toward f/f, fiction with trans people, older men, cultural diversity (especially Jewish stuff), “found family”, costume drama, high fantasy, science fiction, and anything having to do with Central Europe or Florida. As such, here are the top recs from my poly shelf on Goodreads, at least two of which were finalists in the most recent Bi Book Awards:

She Whom I Love by Tess Bowery. Configuration: f/f/m triad; all parties involved with each other, although one of the women is pretty explicitly described, in period-appropriate equivalent terms, as homoromantic bisexual and is in love with the other woman whereas she’s only sexually interested in the man. The setting is Regency England and the book is unusual for a Regency romance not only in its poly triad but in the fact that all three characters are members of the working class: you have a corset maker, a lady’s maid, and an actress (which back then was not treated like royalty the way it is today.) Two women who have been friends since girlhood realize they’re in love with each other just about the same time they start a flirtation with a certain man. When they realize it’s the same man, they play a trick on him for revenge and then the next thing he knows he’s got two girlfriends. This is that story you want if you’re that person who gets frustrated at love triangles and says “why can’t they just ALL DATE?” The book’s main conflict comes from everyone trying to figure out how to make sure they’re being treated with as much respect as they deserve as human beings despite living in a class system that denigrates actresses or people born of sex workers, rather than bullshit manufactured conflict and misunderstandings. I was also impressed by the fact that it had actual adventure and action in the plot instead of just the romance. (Buy it here.)

Kneel, Mr. President by Lauren Gallagher. Configuration: m/m/f triad where all parties are involved with each other. I initially assumed a book with a title this outrageous would be unabashedly silly, but no, far from it — this is actually a fully fleshed out complicated triad romance novel, complete with all the realistic turbulence and angst that any throuple (I’m sorry, I know that’s an awful word but I can’t help myself) would go through while navigating their beginning stages. This is a President/First Lady/Secret Service Former Boyfriend When They Were Navy SEALs Together setup. I was really impressed by how well rounded the book was in terms of character interaction besides the sex, of which, predictably, there is lots. I didn’t get bored by the extra sex scenes, either, since each one introduces a new angle (either within the D/s setup, or a new configuration of how all three of them will interact, since the wife initially starts out just watching, etc.) (Buy it here.)

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver. Configuration: f/f/f triad including trans woman; all parties involved with each other. Chameleon Moon is temporarily unavailable due to the publisher closing down, but the author will be reissuing it in a new self-published format to be quickly followed by several short stories and a Book Two. The male lead is a lizard man named Regan who will be on-the-page ace in the second edition as the author originally wanted. The female lead, a trans woman lounge-singer-turned-superhero named Evelyn, is involved in a f/f/f triad of all superhero women. They even have a child together of which she is one of the biological parents. The book is a “hopeful dystopian” (the author calls it a dys-hope-ian) taking place in an American city that was quarantined by force when everyone there began developing mutant superpowers in response to an overpresecribed wonderdrug. Evelyn and her superpowered girlfriends and the rest of the characters are fighting to bring happiness and justice to the inhabitants of the city. This isn’t a book with sex scenes; the poly representation is focused on love and family. Warning for deadnaming (which Evelyn defeats like a champ) but it’s possible that may not reappear in the second edition. (Buy it here.)

Midnight at the Orpheus by Alyssa Linn Palmer. Configuration: poly V, a bisexual woman with a girlfriend and a boyfriend. This is 1920’s Chicago gangster noir, and that means it comes with a lot of genre conventions: plenty of violence and death, and an ending that’s happy but highly unstable since her girlfriend and boyfriend are not involved with each other and are both violent people. The setting is very bi-normative in the sense that in this particular underworld culture it’s just accepted that some of the women are dating each other and never assumes that a woman who likes women is uninterested in men. There is also a gay cop antihero who is not part of the triad, so all in all a very queer take on a well-established genre. Warning for Irish and Italian slurs. (Buy it here.)

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi. Configuration: Multiple interlinked poly V’s as part of a found family. This is a book about queer disabled women fighting Big Pharma in space, with strong themes of found family, and the link between bodily autonomy and tough medical decisions. The main character is shown coming to terms with the idea of polyamory as she starts a relationship with a woman who is already involved with someone else, who is also involved with someone else. Warning for loss of family members and also a graphic mutilation flashback. (Buy it here.)

One final note: the Fierce Family anthology is a wonderful collection of sci-fi and fantasy shorts written on the theme of “positive depictions of queer families.” It has plenty of nonbinary representation and families with two moms, and cis m/m isn’t the majority of the stories. I’m mentioning it here because of the story about the space pirates–both the pirates and the ship being attacked have a crew of a bi, poly family. That was just so remarkable that I think it deserves special recognition. The whole anthology is worth it, though. (Buy it here.)

I don’t really have anything of substance of my own to offer as far as poly representation goes, except for a tiny piece of erotica about three Chanukah fairies (Eitan’s Chord.”) Also, I’m told my witch/tavern owner Eshvat (Climbing the Date Palm) is “solopoly” because she’s aromantic and doesn’t form romantic connections with her casual sexual partners. But maybe some day! (Buy Shira’s books here!)

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romanescoShira Glassman is a violinist living in Florida with a very good human and a very bad cat. She is best known for writing fluffy queer fantasy that draws inspiration from her tropical upbringing, Jewish heritage and present life, and French and German operas. She believes that we need infinite princess, dragon, and superhero stories for all the demographics who never got to play those roles when she was little; some of the ones she’s written have made it to the finals of the Bi Book Awards and Golden Crown Literary Society awards. Her latest is The Olive Conspiracy, about a queen and her found-family saving their country’s agriculture from a foreign plot.