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01 August 2006 @ 01:51 am
Radio interview -- what I wish I'd said  
Back in June I was interviewed on Queery, Madison, Wisconsin’s longest-running LGBT radio show, to talk about my bisexual historical novel, Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander: a bisexual Regency romance.

Here’s the link to the page on my Web site with the audio and a transcript.


Since this was my first live on-air interview, I have to admit I wasn’t as sharp as I wish I'd been. The interviewers, Sharon Osterloh and Shawn Neal, were excellent—kind and gentle, guiding me to present my book in the best light possible—but there were some points I should have made and didn’t. If you’re interested, they follow the cut.

First, I wish I’d said that what I was doing in Phyllida is telling the story of a bisexual man with a wife and a boyfriend as a love story instead of as a “situation” demanding a “solution” that typically involves losing the wife or the boyfriend—or both. I used the form of the traditional historical romance novel, the kind that usually involves only two people—and yes, there are lesbian and gay historical romances, not just M-F stories—to give a happily-ever-after ending for three main characters.

Second, although I wrote Phyllida purely for my own pleasure, telling the kind of story I wanted to read but wasn’t finding, nevertheless, now that it exists, I think the book has an important message: it’s the first positive portrayal of male bisexuality in that most popular of genres, the romance novel.

From what I saw when trying to publish Phyllida the traditional way (instead of subsidy, print-on-demand as I ended up doing), the LGBT publishing community is not friendly to genre (popular) fiction, but prefers nonfiction and literary fiction. This may be noble and high-minded, but I find it self-defeating. After all, the reason that pop fiction is “popular” is that more readers read it than literary fiction. And there’s no requirement that “popular” has to equal bad writing or underestimating the intelligence of readers.

If bisexuality is ever to be seen as something other than a problem, but as a viable and acceptable sexual orientation, then presenting it as a love story in a popular genre of fiction seems likely to have a wider effect than relegating it to scholarly or literary works (although those are important too, of course, and necessary).

Third, I want to assure those potential readers who may be dubious about the bisexual hero as the central character in a romance, that what makes it a love story is this character’s honesty. I used one of the conventions of the historical romance, the marriage of convenience that develops into a love match. At the start of the story, our hero, Andrew Carrington, announces that while he’s marrying for the common reasons of property and inheritance, he does not plan to lie to his wife or to treat his continuing same-sex activities as the 1812 equivalent of “on the down low.”

As a woman who finds the idea of a bisexual husband extremely appealing, I can say that without his essential honesty, there is no possibility of romance. I understand and sympathize with the many bisexual men who are afraid to be honest, worried that by telling the truth they risk losing their wife or partner. But in the setting of a romance novel, and basing the heroine’s feelings on my own, I know that whatever the rationale, lying and secrecy feel like cheating. Honesty feels like love.

Finally, I want to assure gay male readers that this story is in no way a variation on the women’s fantasy of “changing” a gay man. (Do women still believe in that or want it?) My hero tells his bride-to-be, Phyllida, that he intends to continue his same-sex activities throughout his marriage, and readers who like that idea—as Phyllida and I do—will not be disappointed.

All I wanted to do was tell a story illustrating the idea that anyone, man or woman, gay or straight, is capable of forming an attachment outside the primary sexual orientation. Not all of us will do it, but to assume that whatever our orientation, over the course of a long lifetime, we can never look at or be interested in someone who doesn’t fit the category, seems unnecessarily limiting.
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