For the intro to my reading at GRL last week I told the story of how I became an author of gay romance. A lot of people who heard it urged me to share my story. I actually have posted about this before, but it was buried at the end of a promo post for All the Colors of Love, so I don't think a lot of people caught it. I'm also taking this opportunity to share the full story, including a few steps along the way that I did not have time to go into for the reading.
All the Colors of Love is the first gay romance I ever wrote, and it changed the course of my career. When I wrote the first draft, all the way back around 2000, 2001, I'd already been writing for about fifteen years and I had three science fiction novels out with Tor. Every single one of them had been a bitter struggle to get words on the page. But this gay young adult romance poured out of me. It was like weights had been lifted from my fingers, and I was free. I knew right then there'd be no going back.
So I pitched the book to my editor. I told him it was about Antonin, who has a really strange family, and Harry, whose father owns about half the planet. These two boys -- both dealing with a history of abuse, both comic book fans -- become friends, and eventually fall in love with each other, which is when things get really complicated.
Well, the first thing my editor (James Frenkel of recent harrassment scandal fame) said was, "Do they have to be gay?" I said yes, and then we both decided that he would not be the right editor for this book.
I went in search of markets for gay YA romance. I didn't find any. In fact at that time (circa 2003 or so) there really weren't any paying markets for gay romance written by a woman period, YA or otherwise. However, Yaoi was showing up on the bookshelves in the comics section of the bookstores and there were a handful of original English language boys love publishers, so I started writing manga scripts.
But I still hadn't given up on All the Colors of Love, which I had been revising during this time. When it finally became clear that my agent was not going to represent Colors no matter what I did, I fired him. I walked away from my mainstream publishing career, and was out in the world with no contract, and no agent.
Finally, I caught a break (or so I thought). I sold a script for an historical yaoi manga to Iris Print, an OEL publisher that I had vetted as thoroughly as possible, and it was slated to launch at YaoiCon in 2007. (Yeah, at this point, I'd been in mangaland for quite awhile, and had completely missed the advent of gay erotic romance epublishing 'round about 2004. Oh, the irony.)
I arrived at YaoiCon bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready for the release of my story, The Nimbletons. I fairly floated into the dealer's hall to find the Iris Print table.
And came up empty.
Talking to the dealer's hall manager, I found out that the publisher had cancelled her table two weeks before. She was going out of business and had not bothered to notify me or the cover artist, who was also there, wondering what in the hell had happened.
I remember very clearly standing in the hallway outside that dealer's hall with my dreams in pieces all around me. I was at the nadir of my journey.
I knew I had to do something right away to make myself feel better because it was all just too awful. Since I'm one of those peculiar people that gets a charge out of doing business, I told myself, "Go back in there and introduce yourself to the first publisher you meet. Give them your card, shake their hand, shmooze. It'll help."
The first table I came to was Torquere.
They invited me to submit a story, and while waiting for the taxi to the airport after the convention, I scribbled the outline for Hero, my very first erotic gay romance, which was published by them the following February. After that I wrote another, and another, up until about a year or so ago, when I looked around and realized the publishing landscape had changed again.
Publishers have finally awoken to the need for positive depictions of LGBT teens in YA literature, and several ebook publishers who specialize in queer romance have opened YA lines. So, finally, I submitted Colors to Harmony Ink, and it was released last month.
All the Colors of Love is my first gay romance, and the book that changed my life. What an amazing gift to share this story at the third annual Gay Rom Lit retreat -- something else that did not exist a few years ago. I want to thank everyone who showed up, and listened, and offered support. Like any other author, I've been on a journey. Your response made me realize I'm finally home.