The Parental Reading of the Books by Jenn Burke

In July of 2014, Kelly Jensen and I got the news we’d been dying to hear: Carina Press wanted to publish our m/m science fiction romance novel, Chaos Station—and more than that, they wanted the four other books we’d proposed for the series. Wow!

Over the moon doesn’t even begin to describe how we felt. I had a contract in hand for a male/female paranormal book with another publisher and Kelly had previously published a book as well, but this was bigger than that. A series! We were going to publish a series!

A male/male series. With fairly steamy gay sex.

And I had to tell my mother.

Oh crap.

I mean, I couldn’t NOT tell my mother. I’m an only child and close to my parents. Writing professionally had been a dream of mine since I was a teenager, and now that it was finally coming true, keeping it to myself just wasn’t something I could do. Besides that, I was proud of the book I’d created with Kelly. I loved these characters and the world.

I’ll be honest—it was the male/male aspect that made me hesitate. Well, that and the sex. I’m the girl that felt weird telling my parents I was pregnant at age 27 (after having been married for 5 years already) because it confirmed that yes, I had had sex.

(Catholic upbringing firmly in place, check! How I ever managed to write romance with on-page love scenes, I’ll never know.)

I didn’t worry that Mom and Dad would be disgusted—they’re not like that. But I knew there would be awkward questions.

So the conversation went something like this:

Jenn: “Guess what! Kelly and I wrote a book together and we submitted it and the publisher wants a five-book series!”

Mom: “Oh honey, that’s great! I’m so excited for you.”

Dad: “Wow! Way to go, kid!”

Mom: “What’s the book about?”

Jenn: “It’s science fiction romance. With…uh, two guys.”

Mom: “Two guys?”

Jenn: “Yeah. Two guys. They’re gay. It’s a gay romance.”

Mom: “Oh.”

Dad: “Oh.”

Mom: “Okay. Well…that’s different.”

Dad: “Why would you write that?”

That’s a question I’ve gotten a lot since we got the call from Carina Press, and the short answer is: Why not? The longer answer is an essay in and of itself, but basically it’s QRM’s theme this year: everyone—everyone—deserves a love story.

Fast-forward about six months. During this time, Mom surprised me by telling everyone she knew—relatives, friends, neighbours, golf buddies, I mean everyone—that her daughter was going to be a published author of gay romance. It never occurred to her not to tell people that and I was kind of amazed it didn’t. God, I love my mom.

Then, in January 2015, my male/female paranormal romance book was published. Mom read it. She’s a huge fan of romance, though she exclusively reads contemporary. Cue another semi-awkward discussion.

Mom: “I really liked the sex scene in your book! It was very understated, not too explicit, just the kind I like.”

Jenn: “Aw, thanks, Mom.”

Mom: “So are the sex scenes in your gay book going to be similar?”

Jenn: “Um…well…they’re guys. Ex-military guys. So…no? They’re kinda crude, because…guys.”

Mom: “Oh. Well, I’m going to read it anyway.”

Jenn: “Wait, you’re what?”

Mom: “I’m going to read it. Oh, and your dad is reading your paranormal book right now but I don’t think he’ll read the gay one.”

Jenn: “I…what? Dad’s reading my book? Dad, the guy who’s never read romance EVER?”

Mom: “Yes, but I think the gay one might be a little much for him.”

So, to date, my mom has read the first two books of the Chaos Station series. They’re not really her thing, and she skips over the love scenes because they’re too explicit for her (she does the same thing in steamy m/f romance, so that’s just my mom), but she’s read them.

My aunt, my mom’s older sister, has read the first book.

So has my husband.

(Mom keeps saying she’s just going to give Dad Chaos Station and not warn him about the sex scenes, but as yet, that hasn’t happened. If she had, I’m sure he’d be complaining about the sexual tension in the book—that was his biggest complaint about my m/f paranormal romance. “Why can’t they just do it? Jeez.”)

I’m kind of proud of the fact that I’ve introduced a good chunk of my family to a new genre and (maybe) a new way of thinking. Not that they were ever homophobic, but you know…white, middle-aged, heterosexual Canadians living in a small town kind of have a sheltered worldview.

Back in the summer, Mom mentioned she’d like me to write a contemporary book (Dad wants me to write a mystery). I said that I wasn’t planning on writing a contemporary, but that Kelly had just gotten an m/m contemporary short story published.

Mom said, without even blinking, “Yeah, I’ll read that. What’s the title?”

Go Mom.

Jenn Burke’s Queer Romance Recommendations

Life Lessons by Kaje Harper

Christmas Kitsch by Amy Lane

Scrap Metal by Harper Fox

About Jenn Burke

JB_web_U 007Jenn’s always been drawn to weird and wonderful stories, particularly those juxtaposed with our normal, boring world. Her love of the written word prompted her to get a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Ottawa, and she’s spent the years since working in corporate and web communications—and dreaming up weird and wonderful stories of her own. A self-confessed geek, Jenn loves spending time in the worlds of video games, surfing her favorite websites, reading all the romance novels she can get her hands on, and accumulating an impressive collection of nerdy t-shirts. She currently lives outside of Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband, two kids, and her writing helper, Alenko the husky.

About Skip Trace (Chaos Station Book Three)

CARINA_0915_9781459290136_SKIP_TRACEZander Anatolius has been revived from the fatal effects of the super-soldier program, but now he has to face his estranged family and tell a story few would believe. With his lover and the crew of the Chaos at his side, Zander returns home to a media frenzy, threats from the military and pressure to join the family business.

Felix Ingesson still struggles with the horror of believing Zander dead. And no matter how strong their emotional connection is, Felix feels out of place in the glittery world of Zander’s rich family. His lover would be better off without a broken, low-class ship’s engineer holding him back.

When the crew receives word that another of Zander’s former teammates needs rescue, Felix travels with the Chaos…setting Zander free. But when Zander is arrested for treason, the men realize they need each other as much as ever—not only to survive, but to make their lives worth living.

Don’t miss the start of the series—Chaos Station and Lonely Shore are available now!

Grab a copy on Amazon US

Or Amazon UK

20 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Gah. So cute. Your folks rock. My mom (probably a generation older than yours) enjoyed my first gay vampire romance…she herself was a writer and an editor. But the sex scenes in that were more tempered than in the sequel fourteen years later. I didn’t let her read the second one. Maybe I should have.

    • They’ve been really supportive. It’s great. :) My mom is a voracious romance reader, so I knew she’ll read whatever I write, even if it’s not her thing. It’s an awesome feeling.

  • What a great story Jenn! I’m so glad your family has been accepting – I come from a very strict catholic background, and I haven’t even told my family (except for one sister) that I review romance books (all genres, including erotic and gay romance!) never mind writing them.

  • Hahahahah. Oh, that’s priceless. Good for your mom (and you) that she’s so supportive.

    My parents were *super* supportive when I started writing, and my mom read all my stuff. But I think it was a phase she expected me to outgrow–now when I have something published she’s kind of like, “Oh, another thing? OK, cool,” but she hasn’t read any of it in years. Now that I’m writing and publishing more explicit stuff, I’d love to have her read it and watch her reaction, but since most of what I write is spec, which isn’t her thing *at all,* I doubt there’s much chance of that.

    • Yeah, Mom might eventually stop reading my stuff when the novelty wears off. Honestly, I was surprised she read the second book in the series and was planning on reading the third, too!

  • Oh man this!! My mom and mother-in-law read the first draft of my trans romance, which actually went over with them quite well. But now that it’s getting published I’ve added two (decently) explicit gay sex scenes and I am so horribly embarrassed at the thought of them reading it again (as they both have excitedly told me they will) I have been warning them and all family members they tell, “it has gay sex in it. Are you okay with gay sex?” :)

    • I was blown away that my dad (who like I said has never read a romance) actually read my m/f romance. (He liked the writing, but not the romance side of things, lol, which is why he wants me to write a mystery thriller.) He likes sci-fi too, so maybe someday…

  • “…because it confirmed that yes, I had had sex.”

    Hee hee!

    Most of my close friends know I write romance. One guy loves that I have this “secret life” as he calls it. I told my mom because I kept imagining one of her friends stumbling on my photo on Amazon (it would be quite a stumble, but you know) and surprising her with, “Isn’t this Shannon?” As it was, when I told her, she checked out my website/etc, then said, “I’m torn between having a come-to-Jesus talk with my daughter and saying ‘You go, girl!’ to a fellow woman.” :)

    Thanks for sharing, Jenn!

    • LOL! My mom has always been a huge romance fan (she introduced me to the genre waaaaay back when via Nora Roberts). So I knew she’d be cool with the romance side of things. But she was really enthusiastic about the male/male side of things, too, which has been AWESOME.

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