RWA 2012: Alternative Romance Goes Mainstream

With 50 Shades of Grey making BDSM, a subject often thought of as taboo, accessible to mainstream romance readers, will widespread acceptance be far behind for romance novels about characters that identify as GLBTQ? This string of letters is a popular acronym for Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Trans (-gender and -sexual) and Queer. However the question of mainstreaming, can these love stories make the leap to everyday public consumption, was put up to discussion during a recent panel at the 2012 RWA Conference in Anaheim. There, a distinguished group of authors, editors and publishers gathered to hold a frank talk on the future of alternative romance.

RWA panel of authors and industry professionals

The panelists agreed that while m/m is gaining popularity thanks to the emergence of e-books where small publisher are able to fill in niches as well as best selling authors like J.R. Ward and Suzanne Brockmann writing gay characters, there is still a long way to go. Radclyffe, the author and president of one of the largest GLBTQ novel publishers, made the comment that it can be difficult to find fiction featuring alternative lifestyles. She warned, “The revolution is not here yet.” As an example of the hard road ahead, the author said, “If lesbian romance is not out there, then people can’t buy it. Then it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy that it doesn’t sell.”

So how does an author get their work out there? Author Lauren Dane, known for her spicy erotic tales that often contain m/m relationships as well as ménages, says that when shopping for a publisher, it is important for authors to ask themselves where they will fit. Dane says, “Different publishers might give you bigger offers or a larger advance, more shiny deals, but you want to go with a place that wants you there.” Dane, who has several publishers including Samhain and Berkley Heat, told the audience that when looking for a publisher, not to discount a smaller press. “They can do things that large presses can’t. Being understood is priceless.”

The good news is that there are several publishing houses actively acquiring m/m, f/f, and ménage romance including Samhain’s Heather Osborn and Sarah Frantz with Riptide Publishing.

However where to publish one’s alternative romances was not the only topic the panel covered. Also on the minds of attendees was how an author goes about writing this type of story, especially if one is not living the lifestyle that he or she is writing about. Author K.A. Mitchell had an easy answer to this, she says it’s called using your imagination. Fellow writer Kim Baldwin agreed with this point by saying, "I'm not a serial killer, but I write them. It all boils down to research. This can mean talking to lesbians and gays or looking online.” But she warns that while it is easy to stereotype, remember that everyone has different experiences.

The panel ended with Mitchell explaining the positive experiences that she has had writing nontraditional fiction. She says that these types of stories have the opportunity to broaden readers’ minds, which is always a good thing.

Ready to have your own mind broadened? Then here are some titles from the panelists that we recommend:


You can learn more about alternative romance, particularly male/male romances, in the September issue of RT BOOK REVIEWS magazine, which is now in stores. Additionally, check back all week long as we bring you more from the 2012 RWA National Convention. And for the latest genre news and reviews 365 days a year, be sure to visit RT’s Everything Romance Page.