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I’d just graduated from university, returned to live with my parents, and my first serious relationship which happened to be with a woman, had ended badly. My Catholic family weren’t thrilled at my newly discovered sexuality and made it clear that this phase was over, and I should concentrate on the straight and narrow. The relationship with my ex hadn’t been a positive experience and as a result I’d lost some friends. I felt alone and depressed.
One night while buying books off the internet, I came across a section I honestly hadn’t seen before. Gay and lesbian fiction. It was like a bolt out of the blue. Excitement and nerves coursed through my veins, as I perused the lists of books. In my naivety, I was surprised and couldn’t believe how many books were available. I purchased one just to see what it was like. When it arrived, I searched my room for the perfect hideaway and decided I’d only read a few chapters. Seven hours later and totally sleep deprived, I realised I’d finally found what I was looking for.
All those years spent reading books I’d secretly been searching for something I could relate to. I wanted to feel represented in the pages and feel an affinity to a character. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always enjoyed reading mainstream fiction and I still have certain favourite authors whose latest work I eagerly buy and read. But I found my reading experience was different when I started to feel more for the characters and stories. For instance, I’ve never been great with reading sex scenes. When I read one of these scenes in a mainstream heterosexual book (even before I fully accepted the fact I was a lesbian) I always feel...meh. It held no appeal whatsoever. When I read a sex scene in a lesbian fiction book, I blush, go bright read, skim the pages etc, but aside from by Catholic prudishness, it does invoke feelings and emotions. Reading about the attraction, flirtation, feelings, emotions, romance, and love between two women is something I can 100% relate to.
Today, lesfic is growing from strength to strength. There’s a wide range of high quality fiction available from a variety of publishers and indie authors. If you want to read a lesfic novel about pirates, ghosts, vampires, werewolves, spies, zombies, the future, history, surviving in space, erotica, or a contemporary romance, there are lesbian books out there for you. Basically, there’s pretty much any genre you can think of. And I love the diversity of the stories and characters. There are books for everyone’s taste. My wife refuses to read anything weird—by weird, she means anything supernatural or out of the ordinary. She has yet to run out of lesfic reading material which shows how much fiction is out there. I still read anything and everything with the exception of erotica. I also tried my hand at writing lesfic.
After university I worked with vulnerable young people in care, and one day I asked one of the young people why they didn’t enjoy reading. They said the characters and stories were always about the popular and perfect people, and that wasn’t who they were. At that time, YA fiction was still new and sparse, and so it dawned on me that this person was right. I made up my mind to write a YA novel that showcased the strength and resilience that the young people I worked with showed on a daily basis.
My debut novel, Secret Lies is a classed as a YA story and was published by Bold Strokes Books in December 2013. It addresses the gritty themes of abuse and self-harm, but also explores everything that comes with experiencing first love and accepting sexuality. It’s had positive reviews and what I’ve found to be the case is that you don’t have to be a young adult to enjoy it. YA fiction is just another genre, not a reading age. YA fiction is huge today! I’m proud to say I enjoy reading it and I’m not alone.
I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to many readers about their thoughts on Secret Lies and their ages range from fifteen to seventy-five. At least half of those readers also identified as heterosexual, which goes to show you really don’t have to identify as LGBTQI to enjoy reading our books. All that matters is that there’s a good story.
So, if you’re looking for high quality stories and you’re open to the prospect of LGBTQI protagonists and relationships, there are a wealth of novels in a vast variety of genres just waiting for you to read. Enjoy!