So today is the release day of The Lady and the Thief, my first FF story in Deceived verse. It’s a pretty low-key story, about a woman, the maid she loved, and their unexpected reunion–and how the maid is very much not a maid.
Normally I would babble about how the story came to be, or some of the travails of writing it (a prompt on twitter; I stopped and started it 100 times while I struggled to write anything at all. My focus and discipline are still recovering from my slump).
Instead, I’d like to focus on why I, and so many other queer writers, don’t get to write anywhere near the number of FF (or anything else that is not cis gay MM) books.
It’s true most of the onus for providing more representation starts with publishers. It doesn’t matter who wants to read or write it if no one is going to make it available. But that’s only a problem at the Big 5 level. I’m a small publisher. Its pretty safe to say that at least in queer romance, Less Than Three has a greater number diverse offerings than other presses. We have trans, asexual, aromantic, and more in numbers that other presses do not (at least in romance, I can’t speak to other genres, obviously).
And much of the responsibility is also on writers, who say they support the queer community and want to see more diversity (not just in queer rep, but POC, disabled, etc. because if you’re one you should be for all). It’s disappointing to see an author declare how much of an ally they are, only for them to never care about anyone but the gay boys.
But what happens when LT3 and other publishers provide the books that authors write? Nothing.
It’s supremely frustrating and disheartening to see hundreds of readers say they’re all for increased diversity, that there should be more FF, trans, aromantic, etc books out there. That they’d happily read them if they existed. And then when the books are pointed out to them… they find reasons not to read them after all. “No money” as they go to buy the newest, hottest MM release. “I don’t like the premise” even though their GR shelf shows twenty MM books with the same premise. Don’t even get me started on the sexism, external and internalized.
Most reviewers are no better. Lesbian sites that are transphobic. MM sites that won’t review any book that might have a bisexual man in a relationship with a woman for a brief time. The way they’ll skip an entire third of a book just b/c it’s from a woman’s POV, and then relay incorrect information in the review, and the site mod doesn’t care enough to fix it. The way so-called ‘LGBT review sites’ that review 99% MM, and won’t even make a token effort during pride month to represent the rest of the community.
I would love to write more FF. More MFF and MMF, and any other combination that comes to mind. Trans characters. Genderqueer characters is something I’d like to get to. But these things have to be spaced out between the MM books that sell. Because I’m a publisher who tries my hardest, and an author who tries my hardest, but my efforts die before they even leave the gate because the hundreds of readers who t assured me they wanted the book, never show up to do their part and buy it.
The sad truth is that the new editions of the other Deceived books will probably sell better than the brand new addition to the verse, and even though I really want to write Edith’s story, it’ll have to take a back seat to the books people WILL buy, and there’s only so much I can do about that when LT3 and my own livelihood (like mounting medical debt) depend on the money my books earn.
To those that decide to give The Lady and the Thief a chance, my eternal thanks. I hope you enjoy it. I had a lot of fun writing it, even if I struggled at points.
Thanks for reading. I hope everyone is having a good week.