A big welcome to Gillian St. Kevern as part of her new release The Lady of the Bog, the latest in her very enjoyable Read by Candlelight series.
From M/M to LGBTQIA+
If you’re a longterm reader of Anne’s blog (and why wouldn’t you be, she writes the best reviews), then you’ve probably noticed me around, talking about my books. As of today, that is eight novels, eighteen novellas and three short stories. That is a lot of words!
My first published works were all M/M. I’d written my vampire novel, was researching whether or not anyone would be interested in gay vampires, and discovered the M/M community. I jumped in head first, delighted to have found a place I belonged.
Fast forward a couple of years. I’ve got characters showing up in my stories who don’t identify as gay. The problem is, all the writing advice you read says that once you become known for writing a particular thing, you stick with it. My stories range from the sexy to the chaste, from paranormal/urban fantasy with a side of horror, to slow-paced mythological fantasy, to humour and YA. The only element of that they had in common was the M/M element.
I really didn’t want to disappoint my readers. I know a lot of M/M fans are hesitant to read outside this dynamic. For whatever reason, the M/M romance genre fulfils a particular need, whether that is seeing themselves represented in fiction, enjoying a love story free from the gender dynamics they struggle with in real life, or because it floats their boat. That is all good, and it’s really wonderful that the M/M romance genre is read by such a wide audience.
Unfortunately, the M/M romance genre was no longer floating my boat. More and more stories came to me, where either the romance wasn’t the main impetus or even a thing in the story, or the characters didn’t identify as gay. When I stopped trying to write what I thought I should write and went with the stories that wanted to be told, the words came more easily. However, I soon discovered I had a different problem.
One of the things that made writing M/M romance so appealing for me was its safety. I’m very obviously not a gay man. There is no way that anyone is going to confuse me for one of my characters—something that happens surprisingly often with writers. But working on Morgen Prince, describing Dewi’s ambiguous relationship with labels and his own identity, I realised I was not just being honest about who Dewi was, but I was drawing on very personal, private parts of myself to do so.
It felt really weird. Scratch that: I was terrified.
I was really worried that I would disappoint my readers. More than that, the possibility of being rejected over parts of my identity—which did not fit the majority LGBTQ experience—was a really big fear for me. That’s not what happened—instead all the feedback I got for Dewi’s character in Morgen Prince was positive.
Writing Morgen Prince gave me the courage to do a lot of things, including writing stories that didn’t fit within the boundaries of M/M or romance. I also was able to examine some assumptions I’d made about myself and figure a few things out. In July last year, I published The Vampire’s Relic, my first F/F story. Once again, I was both terrified and excited.
Today The Lady of the Bog releases on Amazon. It’s my second F/F, and, just like The Vampire’s Relic, is part of the Read by Candlelight series. This time, I’ve got the usual new book anticipatory buzz. But apart from that, no massive anxiety. I feel excited to share Rosemary and Florence’s story, because they’re Rosemary and Florence. I am so excited to see the Lepidopterist Collective finally introduced to the world. The fact that this is a lesbian romance as opposed to a gay romance doesn’t feel like a big deal.
And for me, personally, I think that’s a big deal.
An ancient queen refuses to stay in the past.
One day Florence Skelton is risking her father’s wrath by reading Jane Eyre and befriending Rosemary, the neighbourhood rebel. The next, a woman she doesn’t know is trying to drown her. To escape her would-be murderer, Florence takes a job as secretary companion to an archeologist and his beautiful, distant wife. But excavating Aylesport bog brings ancient—and deadly—secrets to the surface.
Florence can write about heroines, but navigating the bog’s treacherous waters requires courage she doesn’t possess. Her only hope of survival is Rosemary—and Rosemary doesn’t even know she’s in trouble. Can Florence find her inner heroine before she becomes part of Aylesport’s chilling history?
The Lady of the Bog is the eleventh instalment of the Read by Candlelight series, gothic standalone novellas featuring an ever growing LGBTQIA+ ensemble cast. Pre-order now to sink into a mist-filled world of ancient queens, literary heroines and a collective of lepidopterists.
I realised I wanted to be an author when, as a teenager, I found myself getting annoyed that the characters in the books I read weren’t doing what I wanted them to do. Now that I’m a writer, they still don’t.
I write a variety of genres, ranging from short and silly contemporary romances to urban fantasy and mystery. My current project is the Read by Candlelight series of gothic romances inspired by the works of M R James, J S Le Fanu and the Brontë sisters.
In my non-writing life, I live in my native New Zealand, where I enjoy flat whites, playing pretend with my niece and nephew and trying to keep up with my ever increasing to be read pile. I’m the co-founder of the New Zealand Rainbow Romance Writers.