I get questioned pretty much daily about THE GIRL NEXT DOOR (which comes out tomorrow!) and what on earth possessed me to write this m/f book in the middle of a m/m romance series.
Here’s the thing.
I do see how it might look that way from the outside, mind you, which is why I’ve tried really hard always to refer to the Bend or Break series (Off Campus, Nothing Like Paris, and now The Girl Next Door) as LGBTQ or queer romance. I’m sure I’ve messed up somewhere, because I mess up, period. But I’ve been as consistent as I can and it’s because I’ve known from the first that this series was going to include more than just stories about gay men.
From the first book, the series was already more queer than m/m. Tom in OFF CAMPUS is bi, not gay, and one of the things he struggles with in the book is figuring out how to own his sexuality without worrying that his being bi reads as a cop out to some people.
Steph, the heroine of THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, is also bisexual. And she is definitely the type of woman to sit you down for a long conversation if you think sleeping with a man makes her less queer. (She’ll be doing all the talking. The lecture about bi erasure she has in her back pocket is an extensive one.)
NOTHING LIKE PARIS is really the only book in the series about two gay men so far. LEVEL HANDS, book four, will also be about two gay men. But in book five, we’re revisiting bisexual Tom and his Reese, and in an as yet to be titled sixth book, one of the characters is genderqueer.
This series is going to roam all over the place, and future ones will do the same. Whether it’s a contemporary adult series based around a Chicago comic book shop (Geeks! Gamers! Artists! And an ex-WWF wrestler, because I can) or a historical series set in a 1930s London drag dance hall, I’m going to write books about all kinds of people, because that’s part of how I reflect the world as it exists for me.
The first time I went to a lesbian bar, it was with a bunch of gay guys I knew. The most recent time was with a friend who is straight. Some of my bi friends have married opposite sex partners, others are with with same sex lovers. Almost no one’s lives are simple, and everyone’s social circles are complex. For me, that’s the fascinating part and it’s definitely a driving force behind the stories I tell.
(For example, someone asked me what happens to Andie from Nothing Like Paris. I don’t know that I’ll ever write this book, but Andie does indeed go off to college, and I’m pretty sure she ends up in a poly household with the woman from the pool game and the addiction counselor Jack encountered at those Al-Anon meetings. See? Complicated!)
I don’t have any problem with the readers who tell me they are skipping THE GIRL NEXT DOOR because they don’t read m/f romance. Readers should read what they enjoy! Everyone is entitled to have preferences. I certainly do.
I go through phases in my reading in my reading all the time. I had years where I was obsessed with Regency romance (don’t even try to guess how many Stephanie Laurens and Lisa Kleypas books I own…it’s higher than that…nope, higher still…let’s just stop before this gets embarrassing) or Navy SEALs (hello, Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters and Tall, Dark, and Dangerous series!) or agoraphobic Parisian male whores (okay, that’s really just one of the Cara McKenna books I read over and over again). And m/m romance swept me away hard when I discovered it a few years ago. It’s still got me in its grip. I would say 70-80% of the romances I read are m/m these days and I feel like I’m nowhere near done with this one.
But for me, starting to read m/m romance was also a lead-in to reading romances across the LGBTQ spectrum. I started looking for books about bisexuals and lesbians, genderqueer and trans* characters. And I found them! Great books. True, my heart still belongs mostly to m/m, so I understand the inclination to read only those stories. I really do.
I will confess to hoping that, like me, some readers whose first instincts are to skip a book that might not be in their wheelhouse find themselves dipping their toes in unexpected waters and giving THE GIRL NEXT DOOR a try. As someone who is currently quite surprised to find myself hooked on both a shifter series by R. Cooper and an inspirational historical series by Piper Huguley (two subgenres that are not normally my thing!), I have learned that I can be surprised by the books I enjoy.
And isn’t that pretty much the best thing ever? Being surprised by a great book? It’s one of my favorite things.
I hope you’ll check out THE GIRL NEXT DOOR when it releases tomorrow! Cash and Steph are sweet and funny and holy smokes dirty. You can buy the book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play and on the Samhain website.