Alyssa: I’m glad the theme is stories this year, I had to really think about what sort of books by gay authors or with gay characters that first piqued my interest. Do you have a big list of books that were influential for you, Cathy?
Cathy: I was late to the realization that there was more out there than stories featuring heterosexuals. Not necessarily romances, but MCs in science fiction or crime novels or historicals that happened to be gay or lesbian. Sure, there were LGBT secondary characters, but as main characters? No. Then I read Nicola Griffith’s AMMONITE, a science fiction tale that has a female MC visiting a planet without men. It isn’t a romance, though there is a relationship in it. That’s when I went looking for more of Griffith’s books (ex: THE BLUE PLACE, STAY, ALWAYS) and discovered a blog that reviewed books about lesbians and bi women. I think it was there that I discovered Sarah Waters, who writes amazing historical fiction featuring lesbians: TIPPING THE VELVET, FINGERSMITH, AFFINITY, THE NIGHT WATCH. I glommed them : )
Sorry for the long answer 😛
What about you? What got you started?
A: My uncle lent me a copy of John Rechy’s “City of Night”. I think I was maybe 15. That book was quite an eye-opener, that’s for sure! (link to the book on Amz) Have you read it?
C: I have not! To be honest, I don’t read a lot of gay male fiction. Yours, of course ; ) but only a small handful of others. If you recommend it, however, I’m putting it on my TBB list!
What was it that made such an impression on you?
A: It was such a departure from my everyday experience. A gay man, a hustler, in the mid-60s was completely beyond what I knew. Sure, I’d already been a fan of David Bowie for many years at that point, but even still, hustlers and those sorts of narratives were very new to me. Around this same time I also started reading books by William S Burroughs, so it was pretty startling.
Was there a book like that for you, one that was so far beyond your everyday experience that it really opened your eyes?
C: I think TIPPING THE VELVET was the one that did it for me. Though it isn’t my favorite Waters book (that’s FINGERSMITH) it does a great job shedding light on what lesbians and bi women had to deal with in the Victorian era, what they could and couldn’t get away with, how they had to navigate societal “norms”. It was an amazing history lesson. And the sex scenes, few as they are, are quite sensual. That was a departure from the typical straight male gaze girl-on-girl action that tends to be out there in film or pulp fiction.
I found myself not only wanting to read ALL of Waters’ stuff, but I wanted to get my hands on just about anything with queer women in it.
Was it like that for you? Did you go on a binge? : )
A: I didn’t really binge; it was hard for me to find other books like Rechy’s, at least for my fairly sheltered teenage self. But I did manage to find a “Herotica” compilation, and that had some lesbian and bi erotica, which I found quite compelling. It wasn’t really until university that I really started looking into more GLBT literature. I also manged to take a class as an elective, and thus was exposed to authors like Jeanette Winterson. I still read her books now, though I think during that class they had us read Orange is not the Only Fruit.
Have you read any of her work? I found her book The Passion to be the most intriguing. One of the characters is a cross-dressing Venetian woman, and the book itself has a feel of magical realism.
C: I think I have read somethings of hers. I have a horrible memory and will have to check. Winterson seems to pop up in a lot of things regarding lesbian writings : ) I think she’s more literary than I usually read, though The Passion sounds intriguing.
You are much more diverse in your reading than I am, I think, and in your writing too. Do you agree that by reading more diverse books we, as authors, open our creative selves up to more diverse writings? Is it “okay” to not prefer to read the spectrum?
A: I think it’s okay to not prefer to read the full spectrum, although I’d hope most people would give a book a try. It took me a couple of tries to get into City of Night, for example, and I wasn’t really sure about it at first. I’ve always just read what caught my fancy. Sometimes that was just pulling books from the shelf at the library (university was great for this, the library was huge), or occasionally it was a referral from someone. And I must say that the internet has been great for helping diversify my reading. I remember trying to buy a book by Jeremy Reed (Diamond Nebula, which PW described as a “Surreal sci-fi with a plot centering around a 23rd-century film director’s obsession with David Bowie, Andy Warhol and J.G. Ballard.”) and waiting weeks for it to come in at the bookstore, and then when it did, it was quite expensive because it was an import from the UK. Once Amazon happened, and abebooks, I was in heaven.
What are you reading these days?
C: *adds more books to list* My reading list has been terrible lately. Not from a diversity standpoint, necessarily, but because I’m trying to write. I’ve read some new lesbian fiction samples, mostly not finding anything that strikes my fancy, and falling back on some classic fantasy. I do have contemporary novels Black Iris by Leah Raeder and Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler in my queue, as well as a sci fi Depths of Blue by Lise MacTague. Oh! And a m/m story In the Raw by Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels.
See, I can expand my horizons ; )
What about you?
A: I’ve been on a contemporary romance kick generally, but recently I read a couple of Aleksandr Voinov’s historical fiction novels (Unhinge the Universe, written with L.A. Witt, and a book he generously let me read which I don’t think is published yet that he’s calling “The Bird Book”) and they were excellent. I really need to crack into some good GLBT fiction, and I’m hoping our readers can suggest some good titles.
Readers, what say you? What books are enchanting you right now?
Tell us what you’re reading / make a relevant comment and two (2) randomly chosen folks will win ebook versions of Alyssa’s BETTING ON LOVE or one of her other ebooks (check out the offerings here) as well as one of Cathy’s ebooks RULEBREAKER, CAUGHT IN AMBER or DEEP DECEPTION (find them here). Two winners! Two books!
About Cathy Pegau
Cathy Pegau’s muse almost always finds some sort of science fiction, fantasy or paranormal bend to the stories it offers. Her science fiction romance series set on a mining colony kicks off with Rulebreaker, followed by Caught in Amber and Deep Deception. She has a new historical mystery series (surprisingly, without spec fic elements!) set in Alaska in 1919 coming out in Nov 2015 from Kensington, starting with Murder on the Last Frontier.
Cathy lives in Alaska with her husband and kids, several pets and the occasional black bear that roams through the yard. She enjoys chatting with other writers and readers.
Smash-and-grab thieving doesn’t lend itself to getting chummy with the victims, and Liv hasn’t met anyone on the mining colony of Nevarro worth knowing, anyway. So it’s easy to follow her Rules.
Until her ex, Tonio, shows up with an invitation to join him on the job of a lifetime.
Until Zia Talbot, the woman she’s supposed to deceive, turns Liv’s expectations upside down in a way no woman ever has.
Until corporate secrets turn deadly.
But to make things work with Zia, Liv has to do more than break her Rules, and the stakes are higher than just a broken heart…
About Alyssa Linn Palmer
Alyssa Linn Palmer writes lesbian romance and a blend she likes to call noir-romance, in her Le Chat Rouge series. Her latest book is The London Game, the third in the Le Chat Rouge series. Coming in January 2016 from Bold Strokes Books is the historical gangster/noir fiction Midnight at the Orpheus.
About Betting on Love
Land poor, Elly leaves the family farm and heads to the big city to become something better than a waitress in a small-town diner. Though she’s succumbed to economic necessity and the siren song of her one-time lover, Alex, she can’t bear to give up the farm that has been in her family for generations. As much as she wants to, she can’t have everything she desires, and she’ll have to decide what is more important: the past or the future.
Alex has always been a daredevil, up for anything, never tying herself down to anyone. When she falls head over heels for quiet Elly, everyone’s surprised, no one more than her best friend and occasional lover, Will. As things heat up between them, Elly must choose between her past and her future, and Alex is faced with a decision that will shake her to the core of all she holds dear.