Another writer friend of mine recently posted a blog about the inordinate amount of winking that goes on in lesbian fiction.
I had to think about that….I know what she means. There are always some little irritants with those books…I just haven’t read a bad one in so long…because I…sort of…avoid bad books whenever possible. As for the winking…I may not have noticed this in lesbian books, because I really don’t read much lesfic (And like Diana, I hate that word too…in fact, I really don’t even like the word lesbian. Never have. But I guess we’re stuck with it).
Anyway, the reason I stopped reading lesbian books was because I was so frequently and so profoundly disappointed in them. (and in fact, it was the reason I started writing novels–I was so dissatisfied with lesbian fiction, and I wanted to write a book *I* would want to read). Now, granted, I probably haven’t read enough of them to have an unbiased view–definitely not a scientific sampling….but after trying repeatedly, and finding that 9 out of 10 of them were awful, I just went back to writers I knew and respected. And yes, most of them are mainstream authors, not lesbians. I cut my literary teeth on Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edgar Allen Poe, Darian North, Raymond Obstfeld/Laramie Dunaway, Robert A. Heinlein, Dean Koontz, (and yes, some Stephen King); and most recently am enjoying Nelson DeMille and Michael Robotham. The only lesbian writer I read nowadays is Kate Genet. Yes, she’s my partner, but just know, dear reader, that I felt this way about her writing before we met, and in fact, that’s how we met. We both appreciated each other’s writing. I seem to recall liking Curious Wine quite a lot, but that’s been so long ago…and I liked books by Gabriella Goldsby and Georgia Beers….But I always know that I will not be disappointed with Kate’s work. She is brilliant, in my humble opinion. She just seems to write in lesbian sub-genres that aren’t all the rage with the masses of readers, and so doesn’t get the kudos she deserves, as far as I’m concerned. I’m sure there are some high quality lesbian writers out there, but I guess I just gave up trying to find them.
Insofar as feeling some obligation to read authors who are also SAPPHIC–I mean, who wants to slog through bad books, when you can just stop reading and look for something else you can really enjoy? I will never live long enough to read all the GOOD books I want to read, so if the first two pages make me roll my eyes, I put it away and look elsewhere. With the advent of self-publishing, anyone who thinks they can write, can publish, without ever paying their dues, honing their craft. I know. I have been writing for something like 25 years, and I rewrote every book I have until I could be proud of it, applying all I’d learned to make it the best book it could be. I can go back and read through my first manuscripts and literally CRINGE at the mistakes I made; how truly amateurish it was. So I kept writing, kept studying the craft of writing, paying attention to the writing of those I admired–studying them, and kept applying that learning to those stories of mine. And that process will never end. There will always be something else to learn, to make me a better writer.
Curiously, I think there is this concept among lesbian readers (and some lesbian writers) that lesbian fiction is some type of sacred cow–and should never be criticized or spoken ill of, which means, they should not be held to the same standards as all other examples of “good” writing. I wonder why that is? I won’t defend a book or give it a five star review unless I really feel it is excellent. If I am not impressed with it or even hate it, I don’t bother with a review at all. To me, posting a horrid review is less about reviewing the work, and more about making yourself feel superior in public. And besides, I don’t see the value in trashing someone else’s work. I wouldn’t want anyone to trash mine. Call it a professional courtesy. But that doesn’t mean I won’t speak my mind on my own blog. That’s what it’s for. I just won’t post it under that author’s Amazon or Smashwords listing.
Having said that, I will mention that as treacherous as these waters can be, I find most lesbian romances to be cheesy and puerile, with no regard for clever plotting, character development, or style. I stopped reading het romances for JUST THAT REASON. I usually abhor formula fiction of any kind, and the romance genre is replete with every example of what NOT to do if you want to write a really good book. Great sales and great writing aren’t always on the same tandem bicycle. Sometimes, it’s simply that there are fewer discerning readers out there, and quite a few readers who are easily impressed or entertained. I take my vocation seriously, and I wish they would too. For one thing, it would be nice if these mediocre or bad writers would learn about mechanics, spelling, grammar, sentence structure, story arc, and…how about a fresh, unique premise every now and again?
Okay, I have probably pissed off some people by now, so maybe I should hush. It’s really awful to have to mince words simply because it might alienate someone who could be a potential reader. But then again, do I want those types as my readers? If those readers who are now huffing and puffing and busting a vein on their foreheads would give it a bit of thought, they’d see that they should be glad that I care that much about the quality of my own work. I hold myself and others to the same standard, and it’s because I want every reader to get to the end of my books and feel satisfied, knowing their time and money was not wasted.
This whole business is so populated with irony, these days, I can hardly stand it.