I'd like to welcome author Heather Rose Jones to the blog for a quick interview! You can find her blog, the Lesbian Historic Motif archives, and information about all of her publications on her website here. You can also follow her on Twitter!
1. You have two books in a series out from Bella Books. Who would you recommend read these stories? What are your plans for the rest of the series?
The Alpennia series is for readers who enjoy complex historic fantasy...or fluffy regency romance. People who like a whole cast of strong female protagonists...or people who like their characters to engage in theological debates while fleeing a charge of treason. The books aren’t entirely classifiable. My most avid fans tend to be readers who enjoy classic fantasy adventures but who are hungry for female characters--especially when those female characters might be hungry for each other. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised at what a wide audience I’ve found. Bella Books tends to focus on the lesbian readership, but I’d estimate that half of my readers fall outside that demographic. A friend of mine taught Daughter of Mystery as part of her high school English curriculum and I had burly jocks tell me how much they loved the story.
Currently the main Alpennia series is planned to be about seven books or, as I often joke, “however long it takes to get to the revolution.” I also have planned a more or less stand-alone book set three centuries earlier than the main series, and there are a number of short stories I have planned to fill in some of the nooks and crannies. The third book in the series, Mother of Souls, has been turned in to the publisher and will be released in November 2016. I’m aiming for one book a year, which is tricky given that I have a demanding day-job that I love.
2. How did you come to write LGBT+ fiction?
They always say, “write what you want to read.” I’ve been writing off and on since high school, mostly fantasy (besides all my non-fiction writing), and more and more I started gravitating toward the types of stories I just wasn’t getting in other people’s books. The final straw was when I read a fantasy novel by a well-known author that felt like it was setting things up so finally the two brave, daring heroines would end up in each others’ arms...and then the plot dodged in the other direction at the last minute. And I said to myself, “If you want that story, you’re going to have to write it yourself!”
I’m not sure that I’d characterize what I write as “LGBT+” fiction, though. I focus very strongly on female characters whose primary romantic interests are with women, although a number of them are bi. And I have minor characters who are gay men, and there’s a trans man who’s a significant secondary character. But I can pretty much guarantee that all my protagonists are going to be female. So I wouldn’t want to lay claim to writing the whole spectrum. It bothers me when people use LGBT+ as an advertising buzzword but their actual focus is much narrower.
3. What are some other LGBT+ books or authors you would recommend?
I’m going to stick to fantasy authors, since that’s my primary pleasure-read genre. Some of the authors who have been feeding my soul lately include Beth Bernobich, Catherine Lundoff, Elizabeth Bear (especially the delightful Karen Memory), T. Kingfisher’s The Raven and the Reindeer, which is utterly delightful. Aliette de Bodard’s House of Shattered Wings and its’ associated short fiction includes some same-sex relationships that are enjoyable for simply being background.
4. Along with your writing, you also run the Lesbian Historic Motif Project. Could you explain this more?
I’m an enthusiastic amateur academic. I only missed being a professional one by the timing of marketplace forces. (Instead I work in biotech.) It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t end up a university professor because my interests are all over the map, but most of them have something to do with history. When I first started thinking about writing historical fiction with lesbian characters, I plunged into trying to find all the historic research I could on the general topic. And what I discovered is that there’s a wealth of information out there, but most people don’t know it exists. And because they don’t know it exists, either they think there were no lesbians before the 20th century, or they write historic stories with modern lesbians stuck into the middle of some other century. I’m something of a cataloger by nature, so I conceived of the idea of putting together a sourcebook for people who wanted to write lesbian historical fiction. I first had that idea back in the ‘80s, but fortunately, I waited until the internet got a bit more ubiquitous before seriously setting to work, because it’s a project much more suited to a blog than a published book.
So what I’m doing is hunting down all that research, reading it, and posting summaries that give the highlights for those who want to dig deeper. A sort of annotated bibliography, if you will. The hardest thing about research is knowing that the information exists to be found. My goal is to do that part of the legwork. And in the process I’ve found inspiration for more historic novels than I could write in a lifetime! So far, I’ve blogged 125 separate publications, including both articles and books, but my database of publications to cover includes nearly 400 entries at this point, and I add to it faster than I can blog them. Because of my own interests, I tend to focus on Europe and the Mediterranean region, and to make my life simpler, I don’t cover the 20th century.
I honestly don’t know if any other writers have found the project useful. Most people writing lesbian historical fiction don’t look back any further than the Victorian era. But I have to have some excuse for buying all those books!