The Frustration of “Gay or LGBT Fiction” Becoming Synonymous with “Romance”
By Caddy Rowland
When I started writing my first series, I didn’t realize until I had written the first three books I had automatically included either gay or lesbian characters in each one. As I sat and thought about it, I came to realize it shouldn’t have surprised me at all. I’ve always had a wide variety of friends. Many have are gay or lesbian. It simply comes natural to me to include people with different gender preferences in my work because I’m surrounding by it in life. Once I knew I had done so, I made a commitment to always have at least one LGBT character in my books. Sometimes they are side characters, while other times they take center stage.
Additionally, although my novels fall into many genres, in the end I’m a writer of drama. My tagline is “novels showcasing the sublime joy and bitter tragedy of being human”. How can I do so if my books only represent one aspect of humanity? Plus, I tend to both read and write dark, angsty, raw stuff. Certainly the struggles and history of LGBT people in most cultures fits the bill.
As I’ve become more aware of LGBT characters in literature, I’m increasingly frustrated with gay fiction being seen by many readers as always sex and romance. Not so. That would be m/m romance, which is much different from gay romance. Gay romance, in turn, is vastly different much of gay fiction. (The subject of m/m romance versus gay romance would be a several thousand word blog. Suffice it to say WOMEN read m/m, not gay men, because it’s written how WOMEN see romance. Gay men are men. I know a hell of a lot of gay men, and only one of them reads m/m—or, come to think of it, gay romance, either). Men are not generally romance readers.
I hate the categories “gay fiction”, “lesbian fiction”, and “LGBT fiction”. They tell the reader zilch. Oh, if only writers of gay fiction would put their books in genre categories that fit the story! After all, we only get two categories on Amazon. Why waste one that tells nothing regarding what the book is about? That’s what keywords and descriptions are for! Readers search by keywords. They type in “gay fiction”, etc so if you use the correct keywords they find you. THEN, only when they are on your page, do they see the categories, assuming they scroll all the way to the bottom. So tell them what the darn thing is about! Thriller, drama, mystery, contemporary, fantasy, horror. They’ve already typed in “gay”. They know that, now they want to know what kind of story you have to tell.
When a story is primarily about gay issues, then the LGBT category (or gay, etc, whatever is offered) makes sense. I have the last two Gastien books listed as gay drama because they are. They are historical and about the struggle and story of being gay in the mid-twentieth century. My current continuing saga is about sex-trafficking. A gay boy shares main character status with a straight girl from late in the first book on through. Gay has nothing to do with the type of story it is, so I didn’t waste a category on saying, “Alert! Someone’s gay!” Readers looking for a gay protagonist will type those words or “gay fiction” in the search and find it anyway.
People are missing out on so many great novels because readers falsely assume gay fiction is all about sex and romance. It’s time to change that. Many writers author gay fiction in other genres. Some may have some graphic sex, some won’t. Some may have a love story as part of the full story. Some won’t. But there are other things happening besides those things!
My first series, The Gastien Series, is a five book series with graphic sex and some violence. Most of the sex is not romantic or turn-on sex. It is sex for power or abusing power. It is sex for validation, mistaking sex for other people accepting you. The series is drama, historical, family saga, psychological and the last book is also a full-fledged, gut-wrenching romance. With an HEA. Or Not. The first three books have either gay or lesbian side characters. The fourth has a gay young man who ends up sharing main character status with the female protagonist halfway through. The fifth book is his story and almost all the characters are gay.
My current continuing saga, There Was a House, is a raw, dark, brutal look at sex-trafficking. It is a psychological thriller, political regarding violence in society, and suspense. It’s also about revenge and redemption. In it, six teenagers are trafficked into prostitution. A gay teen-age boy shares main character status with a straight teen-age girl throughout, starting late in the last book. Although being gay has a lot to do with why he ended up at a whorehouse, and why he’s able to plot a plan of revenge because people tend to only see what they believe to be true about him, “gay” doesn’t tell readers what the story is about.
Take a look at my work, Andrew Ashling, Brandon Shire, Rodney Ross, and Zathyn Priest and you will find gay fiction that is anything but romance (although Shire writes some and is very good at true gay romance). We are by far not the only ones. I’m just beginning to discover the authors of gay fiction. I like to read the same kind of stories I write, and it seems gay fiction is often times the kind of work that makes a reader think and feel.
I’d love to hear from readers about other works of gay fiction that aren’t romances; books that stuck in their minds for months. Feel free to contact me with author names and titles!
Caddy Rowland is the author of a five book historical family saga called The Gastien Series. This story starts out in nineteenth century France. Gastien is a farm boy with dreams far bigger than a peasant has a right to. He leaves home to become a great artist and lover, but lacks education, money, or contacts. It’s a story about struggle and the quest for power, abuse of power, and the achievement of dreams.
The Gastien Series: Sometimes the “impossible” is possible, but the cost can be extremely high.
She is also the author of a psychological thriller, There Was a House, which is a four novel saga of revenge and redemption. Six teenagers have been sex trafficked and forced to work in a brothel where wealthy men satisfy their most vile sexual urges. The teenagers hang onto hope that one day they will be free, but escape isn’t good enough. Phoenix and Jamie head up a plan for total destruction of the despicable men who use them.
There Was a House Saga: They better be damn good. There will only be one chance.
Caddy grew up with a stack of books that almost reached the ceiling before she was five. Books, along with her vivid imagination, have always been some of her closest friends.
She lives with her husband, who was her high school sweetheart. They are owned by two parrots. Besides being a writer, she is an artist. One can often find her “makin’ love to the color” (painting) with loud music blaring. However, when writing she prefers silence or classical music, so she can hear the characters telling the story.
Her goal as an author is to make readers laugh, cry, think, and become intimately connected with her main characters. Caddy’s writing style is usually described as raw, gritty, and “real”. Most all of her work is LGBT inclusive. In other words, she strives to make her work reflect humanity as it really is: varied and interesting.
Caddy Rowland: Novels showcasing the sublime joy and bitter tragedy of being human.
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Fueled by rage and disgust, Phoenix runs away from home. The situation there had become unbearable. In fact, things couldn’t get any worse.
But they do. Betrayed in New York by a boy who she thought was a new friend, she finds herself taken prisoner by a low-class pimp. Then, when she thinks she’s on her way to her first seedy trick, Phoenix winds up locked in a limo with no way out. She wakes up in an illegal brothel in New Orleans.
Phoenix vows she will find a way to destroy Antoine, the owner of the brothel. Instead of being Antoine’s prostitute, she’ll become his lover, his confidante, and pretty soon, his manager. And then, when he least suspects it, she’ll bring the entire house down.
She better be damn good.
There will only be one chance.
**Content Warning: This book contains adult themes and scenes that deal with a difficult topic.
Gastien has dreams far bigger than a mere peasant has a right to. When he flees the farm for Paris, the late nineteenth century bohemian era is in full swing. Color has always called to him, beseeching him to capture it on canvas and show people a new way of seeing things. His father belittled his dream of being an artist and tried to beat him into giving it up. The dream wouldn’t die, but Gastien would have had he not left.
He also yearns to become a great lover. After the years of anguish he has endured at the hand of his father, it would be heaven to feel pleasure instead of pain.
However, the city of Paris has a ruthless agenda. Unless a man has money and connections, Paris unfeelingly crushes dreams and destroys souls. With neither of the required assets, Gastien faces living in alleys, digging in trash bins for food, and sleeping where a man is often killed for his threadbare blanket.
Left with only his dreams, Gastien stubbornly pushes on. He vows that absolutely nothing will stop him, not yet realizing what keeping that vow might mean. Sometimes the “impossible” is possible – but the cost can be extremely high.
This historical fiction novel is book 1 of a 5 book drama/family saga for adults (The Gastien Series). As such, it contains adult themes and graphic scenes. Each book can stand on its own, but is most compelling read in order.
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