Rose Montague is the author of Jade, a YA urban fantasy whose narrator is not only a female vampire (yay!) but also a bisexy witch (yay!). Or maybe she’s lesbian, I’m still trying to figure that out. (Labels – sigh.) Anyway, take it away, Rose…
I like this definition of conundrum:
A paradoxical, insoluble, or difficult problem; a dilemma.
For an author this situation presents itself when they write a book containing a LGBT relationship, even if that relationship is not central to the story. That is the situation I found myself in with my publisher asking me just a few days before my release if I wanted my book in the Lesbian Fiction category. I struggled with this question for several reasons. The fact of the matter is if a book is placed in a LGBT category people have the impression it has to be erotic fiction and if they are straight, they will not be interested in reading it. So if you put a book into that category you run the risk of turning people away from buying your book. If you don’t, then those readers that might enjoy seeing such a relationship might not know about it if they go looking for it, and they won’t buy your book.
My book is not erotica but it contains sexual situations and sexual innuendo both straight and gay. The book is an Urban Fantasy/Romance and the main theme in the book is friendship. It is full of action, humor, and mystery. It is the first in a series and the Lesbian relationship will progress into Book Two which I am in the process of writing now. I would rate the book as PG-13, and it is suitable for an older teen, in my opinion.
In real life, we meet people on a daily basis that are in both straight and gay relationships. Why is it then, in fiction we tend to separate books into gay or straight categories and just assume that if there is a gay relationship, it has to have a big warning sticker on it? Maybe it should have a badge of honor instead? It is what it is and in my opinion it is just a fun book and an enjoyable read. I have already taken some flack for not putting a warning sticker on my book and I have already heard from a few people in the Lesbian community asking why it is not marketed that way. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Anyway, if you are reading this, you have been warned. Or maybe you have been intrigued.
Many associate LGBT fiction with “lots of sex”. That’s a problem, because it leads to skewed expectations either way. At this point, though, we still need those labels, because there’s an audience looking specifically for lesbian fiction, so how would they find stories if they were “hidden” in contemporary women’s fiction. Then, what if you include straight characters, do you “warn” the lesbian audience? As a reader, I never wanted too many warnings and spoilers, I prefer going in with the character’s raw emotion. Rose, I think it’s best to go with what you feel is right, for the characters, for your story. You will find your audience.
Hi Barbara – thanks for commenting.
I worry that to add a label warning about content is to admit that you believe it is wrong in some way or other. With explicit sexual content there are legal implications that warrant it, but with LGBTQ? If readers believe there is something wrong with characters who are non-cis or non-het… well, that’s their problem.
Many of the books we choose to read will go down paths we didn’t expect and don’t appreciate, and we may even stop reading out of frustration. We don’t expect authors to include a detailed synopsis so that we can avoid books that don’t match exact criteria. Otherwise I would want to insist that all traditional romance books carry a ‘Caution: Sadistic Mercurial Billionaire with Unresolved Maternal Issues’ warning. And you can’t argue that that wouldn’t be a selling point.
If your story’s main plot doesn’t revolve around the lesbian relationship, then I don’t think you should classify it as LGBT fiction. Make it urban fantasy or something, and then you can mention the relationship in the book blurb. Here’s my reasoning — when I look for books to read, I look in genres like YA, fantasy, urban fantasy, etc. I never go to the LGBT section, because that’s such an incredibly broad topic — the books could be literally about anything, so long as there are LGBT characters. So in my case, I’d never find your book if you put it in the LGBT section!
I do agree… However, I do get depressed sometimes reading fantasy etc. because the chance of, e.g., two women finding love is almost zero, so that I have to start hunting carefully through book blurbs in search of a hint of a chance.
One of my favourite books is Spelling Mississippi which I bought because of the cover more than anything. I wasn’t expecting it to be girl-meets-girl, although I had a hope it might be.
I guess that’s the thing too — some people, like yourself, specifically seek out books with LGBT relationships in them. And for that purpose, having an LGBT section is very useful. For people like myself, who don’t really care who the romance is between as long as there’s a romance of some sort, it’s far more effective to search by YA, mystery, fantasy, etc.
Thanks for the comments. They reflect the struggle I had in deciding what category to place my book in. Unlike the first book the lesbian relationship goes from start to finish and continues to develop in Book Two (Jane). So am I stuck with the same category as Book One? Right now I am thinking maybe a cover designed to show this relationship. Any other suggestions? I guess I was not really thinking this far ahead with the first book in the series.
If the romance is central to the story, then maybe, but given that it’s the second book in a series I think you can assume that people have read the first book and will be prepared for same-sexy love, so I’d stick with the existing UF theme.
I’m in agreement with Michelle. Half of my books have some kind of Lesbian or Gay romance going on, and it is central to the development of characters, which in turn, helps develop the story. In my blurbs, I don’t state who my characters pass their time with unless it is part of the main theme or plot. I do, however, use GLBT in my keywords. My characters develop their own relationships that has nothing to do with me. For example, I have a crime thriller where the two main characters are men, cop partners, and completely opposite. But what makes them opposite isn’t their sexual preferences, and because of that it won 2nd place out of a 1000 scripts in a contest. I think you should just make you characters real, living people, and promote your genre. Don’t worry about sexual politics.
I think my attitude as a writer doesn’t match my attitude as a reader. As a writer, I agree with you completely. As a reader… I just want to find a book I can relax into and enjoy.
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I tend to add a tag that says “GLB characters” (for example for Star Minds), but usually don’t add them in the GLBT fiction category… since I don’t write erotica either, and even my m/m romance don’t have HEA, so… it’s complicated! 😦
Maybe we should have a colourful badge on the front saying ‘Rainbow Fiction’.
Or “World of Diverstiy Fiction” – grab their badge and put it on your blog like I did! 😉
Maybe. I was hoping for something simpler, maybe like:
cool! Can I add that to my blog? 🙂
Help yourself. 🙂
When I see a LGBT label on a book, I don’t think it is erotica with lots of sex. Maybe I’m in the minority, but I just think it is LGBT oriented. If there is sex, I don’t expect sex scenes on every page. Maybe others do because of the belief that LGBT is all about sex and not who you are as a person.
Despite the LGBT themes in my writing, I’ve never really targeted an LGBT readership – although I hope that they would enjoy it.
Ugh, my apologies. When I said “LGBT oriented”, I meant that the book itself has LGBT characters and may have LGBT issues (discrimination for example). I didn’t mean LGBT label meant it is only for that readership. Sorry for using the wrong word there.