Greetings, good readers –
Sometimes there just aren’t words. Sometimes all you can do is act: work, donate, march, phone bank, cry, and donate again. The words come later, once you’ve managed to find some meaning, once you’ve turned your anger and fear into something productive. That’s what I’ve been doing in the last week, which is why this newsletter is late. I hate writing when I don’t have the words, and I’m grateful to the many, many people who found them this week and shared them with the world.
The other reason I’ve been quiet is that I’m on deadline: the first and only big revision of my novel is due to my publisher in 10 days. There will be more chances to make changes after this, but those will be medium-to-small fixes. This is my last chance to make big changes – to, say, completely rewrite the third act, which is what I’ve done in the last month, at the suggestion of my editor. It’s a strange power you have in a novel that you don’t have writing nonfiction, to say, “what if he did this instead?” and then make him do it. You can make him do anything you want, as long as it’s in character. And if it’s not, you can just… change his character. But all of this power tripping takes time and work, hours in front of the computer and hours away from it thinking about how to make it all work. I’m nearly done with this overhaul, and the book is a lot stronger for it.
As you know, I edit the news by day, and by night I write this book (and its sequels, which I hope will also be published). Which means that from 7am to 4pm, I’m editing stories about people – most of them women – being stripped of their rights. After 4pm, I’m editing this book, which is about a woman recovering from a suffocating relationship with someone who doesn’t respect or understand her and learning how to be in a relationship with someone who does. It’s a book in which a man repeatedly asks a woman what she wants and then enthusiastically gives it to her.
If you’re new to romance novels, or if you know them only by their fairly poor reputation, you probably think of them as stories in which women are “ravished” and secretly enjoy it, or absurd fantasies in which the sex is always mindblowing and there’s no problem a grand romantic gesture can’t fix. There have been and still are romances like that. But there are many more in which the central characters learn what it is they deserve from a romantic relationship: What it looks and feels like when someone truly listens to and cares for you, cherishes and sacrifices for you. And what it feels like to do that in return. There are some escapist parts of romance novels I would not include in a real-life relationship instruction/expectation setting manual (in real life, there simply aren’t enough dukes to go around). But the parts about knowing and loving yourself in order to know and love others? The parts about the importance of making amends when you screw up, and accepting someone’s apology when it’s sincerely made? Those parts can stay.
For a long time, romance novels have shown their readers – most of them women – what they deserve from their intimate relationships, and from their lives in general. I think that’s going to be even more important, now, as we grapple with what it means to live in a nation that has written its disregard for women’s wants and needs, and very lives, into the law.
We all deserve partners who repeatedly ask us what we want and then enthusiastically give it to us. We should all aim to be those partners, too. Perhaps for some of us, that is an absurd fantasy, but it shouldn’t be. And in a world that doesn’t give a shit about what women want, we can’t let it be.
Here are some books I’ve read and recommended lately:
Unwritten Rules, by K.D. Casey (contemporary queer baseball romance)
The Lawrence Browne Affair, by Cat Sebastian (historical queer crime romance)
D’Vaughn and Kris Plan a Wedding, by Chencia C. Higgins (contemporary queer reality TV baking romance)
A Lady for a Duke, by Alexis Hall (historical queer Waterloo PTSD romance)
That’s it from me for now. Take care of yourselves and each other,