Insta-Love, Heartbreak, the Closeted Gay Male by Brandon Witt

Queer romance. As a queer who has had a romance or two—or four or five—

I can’t help but come at writing romance as I’ve experienced them in my own life. You could look at it that I don’t really know how to stretch myself as a writer or that I’m too self-absorbed to get out of my own way, and you will find many reviews that say just that. I enjoy putting a different spin on it all, however. (I grew up in church, believe me, I know how to propagate Spin.) I tend to label my writing as transparent and realistic—even my fantasy writings.

You see, I have a difficult time reading romances where everything works out, or where there are two beautiful, nearly perfect people. Some of the biggest complaints of my writing (and at times, when a demented reader discovers my books, biggest compliments) are that most of my books don’t have a clear HEA and/or my characters can be selfish and make pretty stupid (human) choices.

As a man with a degree in youth ministry, when I finally came out between the ages of 24-26, I was pretty much a junior high school girl in the body of an adult male, and I behaved as such. I think many of us who were closeted for so long faced this challenge. I’d never been kissed, never been on a real date (not with guy or girl). I ended up, for the next several years, on a relationship crash course of growing up. Those people who never lived in the closet don’t understand why a 25 year old gay guy might makes stupid choices that the rest of world figured out when they were fourteen.

Because, we were never fourteen, not like everyone else.

Up until my early thirties, though I was extremely mature for my age, over-educated, and an extremely hard worker, I was a complete idiot in how to have a relationship. That ista-love that is so common and annoying in romance books? I did that more than once, and I was as devastated when it ended as you were when your first love in Jr. High broke your heart. It’s hard to watch in an adult. It’s even harder to watch yourself go though it and feel like you are completely, pathetically insane. In addition, part of that growing up, part of becoming the man I am now, the man that is FINALLY able to have an adult, genuine, lasting relationship, were those break-ups, both the endings of insta-loves and having the man I thought I was going to marry telling me he was leaving one day.

Just because those ended did not negate their power or importance. Nor did they become non-romances. Just because a relationship ends, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a romance. Just like when I eat my cheeseburgers, they don’t stop being cheeseburgers once they’ve been devoured. (I wish they would, I won’t struggle over my weight as much. Disclaimer: if I see an opportunity to make a cheeseburger comparison, I take it.) In fact, I don’t trust a romance that hasn’t had a good portion of heartbreak before its inception. I must say, both in my writing in my real life, I am so thankful for those ‘mistakes,’ those failed relationships, those selfish choices, those twelve-year-old-girl-inside-a-grown-man moments. They made me a strong man, one who is brave, open, able to take risks, and one that is able to have a relationship with more trust and authenticity than I’d ever thought possible—and, I hope, given my writing an honest (if not always pretty) backbone.

Brandon’s Queer Romance Recommendation

Woke Up in a Strange Place by Eric Arvin: For me, the book that started my writing career. It’s because of this book and this man that I finally found my dream publisher. Not to mention that is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read.

 About Brandon Witt

Witt-011Brandon Witt resides in Denver, Colorado.  When not snuggled on the couch with his two Corgis, Dunkyn and Dolan, he is more than likely in front of his computer, nose inches from the screen, fingers pounding they keys.  When he manages to tear himself away from his writing addiction, he passionately take on the role of a special education teacher during the daylight hours.

SubmergingInferno-Witt_postcard_front_DSPAbout Submerging Inferno

Brett Wright and Finn de Morisco come from vastly different worlds. Disowned by his family for being gay, Brett builds both a life on his own terms and walls around his heart. But nothing can prepare him for the evil that stalks him in the night or from discovering the dark secrets of his heritage.

The youngest of a doting family, Finn lives a sheltered life that allows him to trust easily and makes him quick to jump to the rescue. While using his knowledge of the supernatural world to help Brett uncover the truth of his ancestry, Finn learns neither his magical life nor falling in love is as simple and risk-free as he believed.

New knowledge comes with a price—one that may prove too high for them to pay.

Grab a copy of Submerging Inferno (Men of Myth) on Amazon US

Or on Amazon UK

29 CommentsLeave a comment

  • “Just because a relationship ends, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a romance.” I actually gasped like I was in some kind of overacted melodrama when I read this and then walked around my office with a huge smile on my face. Because it feels like someones finally come out and said the biggest taboo in the romance genre, the huge elephant in the room.

    I am by definition not against Happy Ever After endings. I think they can be incredibly important in fact.

    But something equally as important I think is that sometimes relationships end and that didn’t make them or the feelings involved any less legitimate.

    • I wish I could find some way to implement … like … YES buttons.


      But, uh, yes, what they say :)

      I’m not against happy ever afters either – big fan, in fact, but I don’t like the fact they’re usually earned by the diminishment of previous experiences. As it, it’s only a “proper” HEA if it turned out you didn’t like the other person really, or they were abusive, or you were gay all along, or whatever :)

    • I know, I completely agree on: “Just because a relationship ends, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a romance.” Books that end unhappily or tragically tear me to pieces & I tend to, er, not exactly avoid but severely ration myself on them for that reason. But that’s just my personal thing, doesn’t make it not a romance/ love story. I mean, seriously folks, who’s going to say Romeo & Juliet was not a romance?

      • I’m not a fan of tragic endings either Pam 😉 But I do find it interesting that in romance so much depends on the main couple being happy together — forever, even past the end point of the book. I’ve been told a book can’t count as having an ending (most people will say it has a bitter sweet ending) if the reader can’t tell at the end that the main couple will be together for the rest of their lives, whether or not the story follows them that far.

        When looking at my own work some of my couples will be together their entire lives, I have no doubt (*cough* Gregory and Andrea *cough*) in other cases I’m not so sure. But I don’t feel like that changes the romance they have during the story, the way they feel for each other, or the way their life is changed by that. I think that in and of itself is something worth celebrating and shouldn’t be viewed as lesser.

        There is this view in our society that true love last forever and if a relationship ends that means the love and romance was never real or was a lie in some way. My life experience has simply not shown this to be true.

        My grandmother has never been in a relationship that lasted forever. She was married and after that had a string of lovers, but right now is in her seventies and single by choice, very happily so. Many of those relationships she’s had were good and ended well. My mother on the other hand got married when she was nineteen and is still happily married to the same man with no sign that this will change anytime soon. But I don’t feel like my mother has had more move in her life than my grandmother or even more romance. I just feel like they’ve lived different lives, because they are different people with different needs, but I would hate to see one’s life experience and feelings celebrated as somehow more real than the other.

        okay going to stop rambling now.

  • Thank you, Brandon, for such an honest post!

    I think, as we grow older and gain ‘experience’, we actually become the person we were meant to be. Yes, it can be hard and disheartening; but we become the person we are now simply BECAUSE of those experiences! And they do tend to make us a better person :)

    Hugs {{hugs}}

  • Brandon, you have made me cry twice in two days. We will have a reckoning when I see you at GRL in a couple weeks. (Or a hug, if you’re a hugger. Hugs are nicer than reckonings.)

    Beautiful post. :)

  • Very good post, Brandon, very moving. I mean, this: “I can’t help but come at writing romance as I’ve experienced them in my own life” – I can’t see that as anything but a good thing! That’s the kind of “write what you know” that makes sense. I really liked: “Just because a relationship ends, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a romance.” – yes, yes, of course! Also enjoyed your cheeseburger analogy 😉

  • Brandon, you are fabulous for sharing this with everyone. 😀
    A lot of people definitely identify and share your experiences.

    I don’t need perfect people characters or happy endings, just good stories, YO.

  • “Just because those ended did not negate their power or importance. Nor did they become non-romances. Just because a relationship ends, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a romance.”

    I’m going through the end of a 24 year relationship at the moment, that ended in part because I was “too queer” for my partner, who realized that perhaps they didn’t want to be quite that queer themselves. And it hurts. It hurts a lot. And it’s really difficult to remember that we had…oh, 23 good years, beautiful years filled with joy and love and companionship. And the one not-so-great year and the breakup at the end don’t negate everything that came before. I’m hoping, in time, that I’ll be able to remember the years of beauty and joy and love with a nostaligia untinged by the bitterness of the fact that they ended. Because that relationship made me who I am today, made me in fact, the too-queer person that my partner didn’t quite want anymore. But that’s who I am and I would never give that up, even to keep my partner.

    • Wow! Thank you for sharing that. I am so happy for your 24 years of love, and I ache for the pain you must feel. I can’t fathom such a loss. So much love to you, and excited to hear one day who it turns you into. That part always sucks, but turns great people into powerhouses. :)

    • “And the one not-so-great year and the breakup at the end don’t negate everything that came before. ”

      Very true. You’ll get there. Hugs.

  • So much of this is true. As someone who has been mostly single (I’ve had one LTR and it’s been over for years) the whole insta-love tied up with HEA just doesn’t ring true for me. I end up feeling totally out of touch with stories that don’t have some kind of character driven angst. And I’m something of an oddity in that any story I read doesn’t actually have to have all the loose ends tied up. I like a story, of any sort not just romance, that lets me continue parts of it along after I’ve finished the book.

  • Brandon, one thing I always appreciate about you is your honesty, whether it’s about yourself or in your writing. So, first, thank you for that. Second, I’m going to be a “me too” of all fine people who’ve also commented. I don’t want perfect people acting perfectly. We have a range of experiences and personalities and mindsets, and I want fictional characters to be just as varied. In life, things don’t go the way we want or plan it to go, so I’m perfectly happy to see that reflected in the stories I read. If that means there’s ambiguity or no hea, so be it. Even though I love a good hea and sigh happily when everything works out, I just don’t NEED it to happen if that’s not how the author sees it. I’ve shared this thought before elsewhere, but I’ll reiterate it here. I think there’s a very vocal set of readers who are keeping romantic stories trapped by a set of standards that I have happily seen broken the most by queer fiction/romance writers. I just finished a book that was beautifully romantic, but that romance was surrounded by horrific tragedy and did not end in your standard hea way. It is no less a romance for that.

    That’s why I feel like queer romance is so important because no matter how many wonderful het romances there are, that world feels so established in what is and isn’t a romance. While I can find great stories, they don’t, as often, show the range of experience I want to read about. The history of queer fiction and romance may be just as long (though quieter), but it’s been composed of people who are writing from/about the outside and have said, ‘to hell with what stories you think I should (or should not) be writing.’ Now those authors and stories aren’t so much from the outside, but I don’t want them to fall into the pitfalls of being/trying to be mainstream. I love that they can show readers just how varied the human experience is. That’s my long-winded way of saying I am all for writers who write the way they want instead of tailoring things to What a Romance Is and Isn’t™ . Maybe it won’t be a bestseller, and maybe people will leave bad reviews, but hey, that happens to all kinds of rule-following books, too, so you might as well write the story you want to tell.

  • Hi Brandon.. I enjoyed reading your post. I’m not a big fan of HEA for the sake of having one. I don’t necessarily need it, but I do crave characters that seem real. I think the stories that stay with you, like Woke Up In a Strange Place, are character driven, make you think, and make you feel. They make you care about what happens to the characters well after The End. So keep writing!

  • Oh I loved this! Because learning to be part of a couple takes work, and we don’t always do that work on the same schedule.

    There was a recent lengthy New York Times article about how the “hook-up culture” is especially prevalent among wealthy, high-achieving college students. When people discuss the contemporary hook-up culture there are several lines of inquiry. A) is it really a new trend and B) does it favor men over women, etc. In interviews with young women at elite colleges I’ll often see quotes along the lines of: “hook-ups work for me because I don’t have time for a relationship. …There are so many demands that I perform academically… Having a relationship would be like taking an extra course load… So I’ll have a relationship when I’m older.”

    Learning to be a team might really *be* as time consuming as an extra course. But maybe it’s also worth it.

    If that’s actually a trend, and not just some anecdotal sound bites, we may soon have an entire generation of people who don’t learn to have relationships until they’re 30. Of every sexual orientation.


  • I absolutely agree that in real life a relationship that doesn’t last until one partner dies is still valuable and can be regarded as a success, depending on one’s own measure of success. (Sorry about all those double negatives, I confused myself a bit there.) And I do think our (society’s) real life measures of success could do with some re-imagining.

    But for me, genre romance means HEA or HFN. If it doesn’t have that, it’s not genre romance. That’s what I read genre romance for – the HEA. If I’m reading a book which is marketed as romance and it doesn’t have a HEA/HFN then, I admit, I get stabby. For me that’s the difference between “a romance” and a “romantic book”. I’m all over the former, and steer very clear of the latter. It’s why I hated Gone With The Wind. I rely on the “romance” label to select my reading because I’m all about the HEA.

  • This discussion (to HEA or not to HEA) makes me appreciate sites like Good Reads where readers can share reactions to books and possibly reassure other potential readers about something they may not normally read. Publisher labels are helpful but can be misleading. I remember being scared away from Edmond Manning’s first King book because it was labeled a Bittersweet title at Dreamspinner so I thought it would be sad. And it’s quite the opposite. Likewise, I’ve learned not to be turned off when people complain that something isn’t a romance because I’m not usually satisfied by something that is all about the relationship with no other plot.

  • A lovely post, that I can so relate to, making decisions in your 20’s that others made in their early teens- oh yes – and the utter devastation while everyone else looked on like – how did you not know that wouldn’t work out ? Took me right back, and yes, just because those relationships ended doesn’t make them less valid or meaningful. Thank you

  • What a great post! Especially the truth of your emotional status when you came out–this resonates with what some friends who came out later went through–so true, learning the emotional/relationship lessons most people have learned in middle school or high school.
    And personally, I am a true believer in insta-love–it’s happened to me at least 3 or 4 times through out my life. Romance for the Win!

  • ‘Just because a relationship ends, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a romance.’…this maybe the quote I take away from QRM. An unhappy ending or just an ending does not negate the love before. Thank you for a lovely post Brandon.

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