by Chelsea M. Cameron
“So, are you just going to write books about lesbians now?”
This was usually the third or fourth question I got from people when I came out. After “how did you know?” and “what did your mom say?”
“Um, no?” was usually my response.
I’ve been publishing books (first independently, then also traditionally, aka, being a hybrid author) since February of 2012. Every single one of them was about a heterosexual couple. Because I was heterosexual. Until, in October of 2015, I realized I wasn’t. Twenty-nine years of denial, down the drain. It was intense, it was terrifying, but it was right. For the first time EVER, I felt an overwhelming sense of calm and clarity. There wasn’t a battle raging under my skin any more. I had no idea how hard I’d been fighting that crucial part of myself. While technically, I am a lesbian, I prefer the labels of gay or queer, mostly because my attraction is to anyone who skews femme, including non-binary people and demigirls. After I got over the initial “OMG, I WANT TO DATE GIRLS INSTEAD OF BOYS,” I started worrying about my career. Would I still be able to write heterosexual romance? Would I be expected to write f/f romance now? And if I did, would people take me seriously since I didn’t know my sexuality until now? Was I gay enough to call myself an LGBTQIA+ author?
It’s something I still struggle with. All. The. Time.
What I remind myself (several times a day) is that I’m still ME. I’m the same person I was months ago. Knowing that I’m gay doesn’t change the essential makeup of who I am. And I’ve always written whatever I wanted. I started out writing paranormal YA, flipped to contemporary NA, then contemporary Adult and then I tried romantic suspense and now I’m working on NA fantasy. My readers are pretty used to it by now. Plus, I have always had LGBT side characters.
But taking the plunge and writing my first f/f romance was something else entirely. What if I got it wrong? What if I screwed it up? Would my regular readers still want this book? I agonized and worried and stressed and incessantly messaged friends on twitter and FB.
Yesterday, I hit publish on Style, my first f/f YA romance. Fitting, since it was the first day of Pride season (totally unplanned. It just worked out that way). I am more nervous for this book than I have ever been for any other. I know it shouldn’t be different. It shouldn’t matter. But I know that it does. This book carries more weight. It’s heavy with the wishes and hopes and longings of all of the girls who like girls. They can’t just browse through a bookstore and pick up ten or fifteen books about girls like them.
Things are getting better. I graduated high school eleven years ago and I remember there being one LGBT book in our entire library and it was about gay boys. And there were maybe a handful of out people and they were definitely NOT accepted. Often, I wonder what my life would have been like if I’d had access to books like Style when I was younger. Maybe it wouldn’t have taken me 29 years to get to where I am now. Who knows.
What I DO know is that I can’t go back in time and put a book in my hands, but I CAN put it in someone else’s. I might end up giving away more copies of this book than I sell, but I don’t even care.
The catalyst to my own “gay epiphany” was books. Books by Siera Maley and Kristen Zimmer and Dahlia Adler. I read them and re-read them and started questioning WHY I was re-reading them and BOOM. There it was. My ultimate dream is that I can give this gift to someone else. Just one person and it would be worth the hours spent alone staring at a computer screen and ditching my friends and rubbing my wrists with Tiger Balm because I did too much typing.
Style is the easiest book I’ve ever written. It didn’t feel like “work.” I smiled and laughed and swooned as I watched Kyle and Stella stumble their way toward each other. I got to write flirting and kissing and swooning and all the magical things that happen with first love. Joy. It was joy.
I’m still going to write heterosexual romance. In fact, I have one coming out at the end of June. But I’m never going to stop writing f/f. I joked on twitter that I wanted to be known as the Nora Roberts of f/f, and I was pretty serious. At the end of my life, I want to have written so much that there is something for everyone. Femme girls and dapper girls and bi girls and pan girls and trans girls and short girls and tall girls and curvy girls and smart girls and poor girls and depressed girls. I want to write them all, because they all deserve to have their stories told. Everyone deserves to be able to see themselves in a book character.
Just three days ago at midnight, I had another book idea. My schedule is already packed (in addition to the book coming out at the end of the month, I have a deadline on August 1st with a publisher, not to mention the fantasy I’m slowly chipping away at), but I opened a blank doc yesterday and started typing. The girls were talking to me and wouldn’t stop. I have a feeling that’s what the rest of my life is going to look like and I’m more than okay with that. Someone has to do it and I’m happy to volunteer as tribute.
Chelsea M. Cameron is a New York Time and USA Today Bestselling author from Maine. She’s a red velvet cake enthusiast, obsessive tea drinker, vegetarian, former cheerleader and world’s worst video gamer. When not writing, she enjoys watching infomercials, singing in the car, tweeting (this one time, she was tweeted by Neil Gaiman) and playing fetch with her cat, Sassenach. She has a degree in journalism that she abandoned to write about the people in her own head.