Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ann Herendeen GuestBlog: Phyllida's Law

She's back! Ann's here to talk "Phyllida," and those sexy Corinthians, Andrew and Matthew. OK. So Matt's not exactly a Corinthian, but he is a strapping alpha hunk. So enjoy a glimpse inside the writer's mind, and a peek at her choices were she casting the book. "Read Phyllida?" Let Ann know what you think. Don't know Phyll yet? Here's your chance...


Hello, Bellas! Thank you, Michelle, for having me back. I had such a good time in June, discussing my bisexual Regency romance, Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander, and specifically the question of: Why a Bisexual Hero? (answer: HOT!) I think everybody had a good time weighing in on that meaty (pun intended) topic.

This time around I’m not sure if a topic is necessary: people might just want a chance to comment on whatever they liked or didn't like about the book, or ask questions. I also thought it might be fun to consider who should play the main characters in the movie version (a girl can dream!) My choices: Clive Owen for Andrew, Kate Winslet for Phyllida, and for Matthew, Heath Ledger. Many people might think of Rupert Everett right off for Andrew, and he’s really the one I envisioned all along. Anyone else remember him in his debut film, Another Country? He was the tallest, darkest, slimmest, sexiest gay leading man I’d ever seen, and I was smitten. When I think of Kate Winslet, it’s as she was in Sense and Sensibility, zaftig, curvaceous, rosy and blooming, just like Phyllida herself. And as for Heath Ledger—anyone who can go directly from playing an inarticulate bisexual cowboy to Casanova ought to be able to play a blond, blue-eyed, gay Regency hunk of a Yorkshireman, don’t you agree?

However, in the interest of fairness, since I devoted my entire post last time to the bisexual hero, it seems only right to give Phyllida, the heroine of the story, equal attention. And to start, I’m going to ask: What kind of woman is a good match for Andrew Carrington, this masculine, bisexual hero? In a perceptive and critical review on the Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels Web site, Sarah said, in what I thought was a perfect encapsulation of Phyllida's character: she "has balls in all senses except the one that would matter most to Andrew."

One of the great things about writing fiction is the god-like power I have over my creation. I can decide who I want in my little world and then simply make it so. But just like the real world, a good novel contains characters who, if they’re brought successfully to life, develop minds of their own. So, as much as I like to claim that the character of Phyllida, who agrees to the marriage of convenience to the gay hero, is based purely on me and my preferences, ultimately what determined her nature is what I felt would work. That is, I “listened” to Andrew, paid attention to his likes and dislikes, and gave him the right kind of Eve for his Adam.

When I was first imagining the character of Phyllida, I was aware most of all that Andrew is only going to be distracted from his pursuit of men by a woman who is not only sexy but has a strong personality. A shy, modest, demure woman won't register on his consciousness at all, however much he might think that's what he wants. At first, the most important characteristics to capture Andrew's attention are Phyllida’s calm acceptance of his preferences and her sheer physicality. She isn’t squeamish about sex, despite being inexperienced, and Andrew can’t help noticing, and approving, her lush curves spilling out of a gown that’s too small for her. After Andrew’s initial wariness, his response to the effect of her sitting on his lap, and their shared kiss, is, as we see, a very firm one indeed.

But it's not long before Phyllida's spunk and courage become almost as intriguing to Andrew. Phyllida provides the two essential elements to pique Andrew's sexual curiosity: she both shocks and excites him. He's shocked at how she stands up to him and her mother, insisting that she be allowed to continue writing her novels, and almost throwing away the chance to be a wealthy lady of leisure in the process. But he's also excited by her courage; and when, despite her virginity, she's brave enough to let Andrew know that his performance on their wedding night left something to be desired, he's hooked. However his ego may suffer at first, he's secure enough in his masculinity to "rise" to the challenge.

Some readers and reviewers have found Phyllida implausibly independent and strong for a young lady of her time. A Jane Austen heroine, it’s claimed, would faint dead away at Andrew’s frank proposal. Part of my justification for her character is my belief that the morality we read in Austen's works is not necessarily the standard for everybody at that time, or even for Austen herself. Readers of Austen’s letters or of any recent biography know that in private she was sharp, witty, and very much a woman of the world—her world—with all its hypocrisy and petty vices. Today we’re far more accepting of romance novels as legitimate fiction (thank goodness, although we still have far to go) but we forget that Austen was also a satirist, not just a writer of love stories. How she portrayed her heroines was a factor of what was permissible in fiction two hundred years ago. Writing in the 21st century, I felt free to show a somewhat more candid portrait of an intelligent and outspoken young woman.

Still, I knew I had to provide some explanation for Phyllida’s remarkable personality, and I fell back on that old standby: blame the parents. I gave her a mother who had begun her adult life as the "companion" of a widowed older man, and a father who was a handsome young army officer. He must have been an appealing and interesting man—a younger son of a gentleman, pursuing a career in the military because of the system of primogeniture in which the firstborn son inherits everything, and the others, unless their father is unusually wealthy, have to provide for themselves. Capt. Lewis, like his eldest daughter, followed his heart, falling so in love with the undoubtedly alluring young Thelma, Phyllida’s mother, that he was willing to overlook her extremely compromising situation and marry her anyway. Between her mother’s earthy, practical outlook on sex and marriage on the one hand, and her father’s gentlemanly devil-may-care attitude on the other, Phyllida has grown up to be a very free-thinking young lady. She’s more like the previous generation, like Mary Wollstonecraft, the proto-feminist who wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women, or Frances (Fanny) Burney, aka Mme. D’Arblay—mentioned in the story—a prolific and successful author of popular novels.

I also felt that spirited young women have always existed, even in repressive societies, but haven't always had an opportunity to express themselves. This marriage, in so many ways, gives Phyllida the chance to be herself, however it appears to be doing the opposite at first—even sexually. Like many of us today, she’s turned on by seeing hot guys getting it on with each other. Of course, as a proper young lady in most respects, she has no way to know this about herself at the beginning of the story; but what a pleasure for her as she discovers that she and her arranged-match husband are perfect for each other, a rare case of a matchmaker truly making a "match made in heaven."

Visit Ann and the men (and woman) in her life at AnnHerendeen.com !





56 comments:

Stacy~ said...

I've recently developed an, um, interest, in these types of stories, and I'll admit, I was surprised that I liked them so much.

I know Vivi mentions she likes m/f/m, and isn't interested in anything happening with m/m at all, and that's how I used to be, too. But recently I read one that rocked, and it was strictly m/m, no female at all. Whew, it was hot! So now I'm really curious about your book.

I love that you chose Kate Winslet. To me, she is a lot prettier and healthier than the Hollywood sticks prancing around. I love that she's got a more lush, curvaceous figure, and I'd rather look like her than the ones who are so stretched out so skinny they look old! I also think Kate has the backbone to pull off this character too. She doesn't come across as a shrinking violet at all.

I'm writing this title down....

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Buongiorno, Ann! So glad you've joined us to give us Phyllida's POV on the whole Andrew/Matthew thing, and why she's agree to it all in the first place.

Many of us love historicals, and are familiar with the idea of their heroines having independent and avant garde qualities. So it's very cool to read your take on it.

Last time Ann was here, Bellas, she spilled that she was working on a bi romance about Bingley (!) and Darcy. If you go to AnnHerendeen.com, you can read a tease of an exerpt to whet your appetite for more, more, more heroes.

So, welcome, Ann. Looking forward to chatting today with you and your friends, too.

ann said...

Hello, Stacy and Michelle (so far) and everyone else,
It's great to be back here.

Stacy, I love your comment about reading the hot m/m story. I read a few myself, and that's what prompted me to write bisexual m/m/f stories. Because, when the action is so hot but there are "no women at all," as a woman reader I feel left out, or like a voyeur. It's much more exciting for me to think of being part of all that hot action. Not necessarily right smack in the middle of all of it all the time ;) but there, instead of just watching from the sidelines.

On your point about Kate Winslet: Yes, I deliberately made the character of Phyllida "plump." Only in our messed-up society would she be considered "fat." In her time (as in most of the past) she would be considered the epitome of the sexy female form.
And that is what makes Andrew notice her, where a skinny, flat, modern "model" would be invisible to him.

Anonymous said...

A friend gave me the book and, although I'm a bit too prudish for the sex scenes, I enjoyed the story and was very surprised at the excellence of the writing. There are few books available today where I am not distracted by dull writing and certainly did not expect to find prose like this in a "romance" novel. Plus, it was a good read. Hope there are more books down the road.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hi, anny! I hope you'll give more romance fiction a try. You'll be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing across the board.

And I invite you to join us, well, every day, really, but especially next week for "Back to School Week" with Fordham, De Paul, and Princeton scholars talking about romance fiction!

I always love the curvaceous characters in novels, Ann. I love them as placeholders, cause I think I'd love to have that kind of body. I mean, if you can get even a gay guy to drool over your decollete, you've gotta be a babe. :)

I liked with Phyllida her burgeoning sexuality, how she became so attached to Andrew through making love, and felt so bereft when they were at the "boy kinda loses girl" part of the story. But I found exceptionally interesting the way you delt with the aggressive nature of their first encounter, and P's reaction to it, but using Andrew's bro to help the reader work through it.

ann said...

What a lovely comment from "anonymous."
It's naturally always a great pleasure to be complimented on one's writing. I feel very strongly that a "romance" novel (which is really just a love story with a happy ending--or two or three) should be as likely as any other kind of book to contain good writing. In fact, I dislike this whole divide between "literary" fiction and books that are written primarily as entertainment. If something isn't well written, it's not going to be a fun read. And if something's unreadable, then "literary" or not, I won't be reading it.

The better the writing the more compelling the story. Good writing is what makes the sex scenes hot, the comedy laugh-out-loud funny and the characters 3-D and sympathetic.
I never worked so hard at something that gave me so much pleasure as when I wrote Phyllida. And my hope is that the joy I felt in bringing my imaginary world to life is contagious--that readers get something of the same sense of affection for my characters and understanding of the unusual situation, even if they aren't always comfortable with every aspect of a bisexual romance.

ann said...

Michelle, that's a great point you brought up.
A number of readers were disturbed or at least unsettled by the ambivalent nature of Phyllida and Andrew's wedding night and their subsequent early encounters. In writing those scenes, I felt truly "inspired," both by personal experience and by imagining what it would be like with a man whose sexual experience is primarily with other guys and a woman who's a virgin. It's not going to be a perfect first night together, that's for sure!

I was also working through my own fantasies (and I hoped some other women readers' too) of being with the sexy, domineering man. It's part of the pleasure of romance novels, as you've been so good about pointing out, Michelle, that we can explore these fantasies without having to endorse them.

Ultimately, I saw love triumphing over sexual inexperience and misguided notions of male/female dynamics. Phyllida and Andrew do come to love each other. They just have to learn how to make love.

azteclady said...

Morning, bellas!

I have had this book in my sights since I read SBSarah, at the SmartBitches blog. I am one of the many happily heterosexual women who enjoy m/m and m/f/m fiction immensely. The trick for me is that the writing must bring the characters to life. All I've read about Phyllida indicates this is one of those books... coming up in my list of books to get.

ann said...

I want to thank the two people so far this morning (and with luck more to come) for expressing the desire to buy and read Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander.

Although the book is not physically in bookstores, it can be ordered through them, but you should check out my website:
www.annherendeen.com
and also the Amazon marketplace sales for a lower price.

And, yes, it is a long book, but it is definitely fast paced and a quick read.

Nairobi Typ0 said...

Ann, your book sounds so interesting! I can't wait to see if i can get my hands a copy when i get back to the Real World next week. Internet shopping here i come! :D

The idea of a m/f/m relationship is such a fantastic idea! As is a heroine with actual curves a la Kate Winslet. Kate is on my husband's "list" so i frequently get to hear about how beautiful and natural she is. LOL I love the fact that Phyllida is so open minded and accepting of her husband.

I'm looking forward to reading your book, Ann! Thanks so much for stopping by and telling us about it!! :D :D

ann said...

On the whole m/f/m vs. m/m vs. m/m/f divide:
Very often when I'm discussing my book with potential readers who are wary of the bisexual thing, I stress that the central romance is not a threesome or a menage. The love and sex are m/m and m/f but not all together at once.

One of the recent reviews I got is on a website called: Forbidden Fruit, for "girls who like boys who like boys." That is, it's the original site for fans of "slash" fiction, where originally hetero stories are rewritten as m/m. The first "slash" was Star Trek stories about Kirk and Spock as lovers, tagged K/S.

Well, at Forbidden Fruit, apparently, not being a menage is a negative ;) But they gave me 4 1/2 strawberries out of 5 anyway, which I took as a huge compliment!

ann said...

I'm so glad to see all the positive responses to my curvaceous Kate Winslet-style heroine!

Like Michelle, I consider this type of heroine a placeholder. I'm curvaceous, but in my own small way :D and I love writing from the perspective of a time when the fuller figured woman was desired and admired.
One of the many things I like about this is that the curves are all natural, and include the hips as well as the top. It's not like today's models--implants on top of a stick figure--but a truly female shape all over.

anonymous_cc said...

Hi Ann, Michelle, and everyone-
If I had to cast Phyllida, I agree with you on choosing Winslet - my back-up choices would be Rachel Weisz. As for Andrew, I prefer Everett over Owen, and think Julian McMahon could be thrown in as an option, just for good measure. And Matthew, maybe someone like Paul Bettany, although I'm a bit undecided for that role..

ann said...

When I started writing my post about the heroine who agrees to marry a gay/bisexual man, I found so much to say that I just had to force myself to stop, in the interest of keeping to a manageable length.

But why waste material? Here's some other stuff I wanted to say ;D

Many readers think that Phyllida must be extraordinarily generous to "share" her bisexual husband with his boyfriend. That’s where I did base Phyllida’s character on my own feelings. To me, the most unrealistic part of this bisexual romance comes at the beginning, with Andrew’s expressed intention to be honest. He’s risking so much by this noble gesture--even, potentially, his life. But much as I love the idea that he gets it on with his hot boyfriends, if he’s doing it in a sneaky, behind-my-back way--that’s not romance. That’s cheating.

Phyllida (and I) need to know upfront that we’re dealing with a bisexual husband, one who respects us enough not to lie about this most important aspect of his nature, in order for us to be able to fall in love with him. Once we’re assured of his honesty, then we accept him and his boyfriend(s) as the package--the complete package--that we get when we agree to the marriage. We see the man we want and we know he comes as part of a two-for-one deal. It’s not really generosity--it’s more like deciding to buy the sexy, expensive red convertible instead of the dull but more practical SUV. (I don’t drive, so hope this simile makes sense.)

The arrangement develops into a love match as Phyllida learns that, while she will not have all of Andrew’s sexual attention, she will be the only woman in his life--and this is very important--she will not feel deprived, sexually or romantically.

At the end of the book, Phyllida’s married life, like most women’s lives then and now, is a very full one. Because Phyllida is a romance novel, we can be assured that Andrew will be a devoted husband and a loving, satisfying partner to both his wife and his lover, Matthew. And because this romance novel is set among the wealthy upper class, we can suspend our disbelief in Andrew’s superhuman prowess by remembering that at least he doesn’t have to work (at a job). ;D

Julie in Ohio said...

Hi, Ann! Welcome back.

I love reading your posts. Your explanations and descriptions are wonderful. :o)

ann said...

Hi, Julie!

Thanks so much for your enthusiastic support. I loved writing Phyllida, and I love writing about Phyllida.

And to nairobi typ0 who was going to look for my book: Thanks for checking in and I hope Phyllida helps ease your return to the Real World. Man-oh-man, that's a place I try to spend as little time in as possible ;D

Nairobi Typ0 said...

l must say that Phyllida is a better woman than i. I get jealous if another woman smiles for a few seconds too long at my husband. I'm not sure i could deal with sharing him on a full time basis. LOL :p

ann said...

Hee hee hee,

Check out my earlier blog back in June when we discussed this very topic.
To me, my (fictional) husband's being bisexual and having a boyfriend is way different from my murdering--oops, I mean "sharing"--him with a woman.

I know not all women feel the same way. But that's how it feels to me. I can accept a man desiring both a man and a woman. But if I'm his woman, I damned well better be the only woman in his life.

anonymous_cc said...

I agree Ann...and I think that's why readers of more traditional romances still "get" Phyllida, even if it's not their usual reading material.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Hiya, Ladies! Congrats on your 4/12 strawberries, Ann. And the Sarah's quote is genius.

The only reason I'm not whining about your talking about other review sites is: a) I really like the Bitches, and 2. I feel like I snagged the coup in championing your cause.

I'm such a trend setter; hooray for me.[feel free to infer sarcasm]:)

Funny you should mention the "sharing issue," Bellas. I started a blog on this very issue (jealousy in relationships). a week or so ago, but wasn't sure I wanted to go there. My husband does read this blog every day.

Hey, Ann, how's the new book coming? I see there's an excerpt at www.AnnHerendeen.com!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

BTW, did nobody catch the play on words of this blog's title a la Lori Foster?

Here I thought I was so clever in my hallmarking...

SB Sarah said...

As I believe I said in my review, Phyllida's curves are one of the facets of her character that make her more believable. And I completely agree with the casting of the movie, Ms. Herendeen!

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

HoooooRaaaaay! Sarah! Welcome, Bella. Look at you with your good manners all on!

I just called your Phyll comments genius! Genius I tell you! It's so inspiring how words like balls just fall off your tongue. Oh, would that I could write about testicles on the nat'l sites...

ann said...

Ooooh, don't know which way to turn (talk about a love sammich!)

Michelle, no need for sarcasm--you really were the first one to get behind this book and I'm eternally grateful. I have to admit, I didn't click on the clever title of today's blog, probably because it reminded me of where I got the name "Phyllida": from the actress Phyllida Law, who is, I'm pretty sure, Jude Law's mom! Lots of people wonder how I came up with this unusual and romantic name for my heroine. That's where, from seeing Ms. Law's name in the credits for, among other things, Rumpole of the Bailey on WNET.

I'll answer the question about my new book in a separate comment.

SB Sarah, I'm thrilled that you checked in on my guest blog today. Your review on the Smart Bitches site was the first, after Michelle's, to seriously discuss the writing style of my book instead of focusing mainly on the situation of the bisexual love story and other plot elements. Like any other looney-bin inmate (aka writer), it's precisely the hope of getting this kind of attention that drives me to do such insane things as writing bisexual romances.

btw, I just got an e-mail message from Rictor Norton, the author of the book Mother Clap's Molly House, which was where I did almost all of my research on the gay subculture of the period. There's a second edition coming out. I urge any readers who wonder just how much of the "gay" world in Phyllida was made up and how much was (loosely) based on reality, to read this book, or better yet, look on his web site, which contains all of the text of the first edition. There's a link in my web site,
www.annherendeen.com

This way I won't spoil the plot for those who haven't read Phyllida, but for those who have, it will answer a lot of questions.

Nairobi Typ0 said...

Ann, when you said that you thought that Phyllida Law was Jude's mother i couldn't resist in indulging in my favourite online site: imdb.com. LOL

Phyllida is no relation to Jude i'm afraid. But she is Emma Thompson's mother! :D

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Ann, I just realized there's no link on your blog. I'll get one on now, Bella.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to read this. I appreciate anyone who calls the conventional regency romance group on having a definitely mid-Victorian sensibility when it comes to sex and sensuality. Although, all it takes is a little digging to determine that the Victorians were not all that Victorian -- eh, Lytton Strachey?

Anyway this sounds like a fun read and I'm looking forward to it.

Toni Lea Andrews said...

Your blog entry has soooo peaked my curiosity. A bisexual hero...hmmm. Also, who was the aquiring editor brave enough to break "the rules" and buy this?

ann said...

For those curious about what I'm working on now:
It's called Pride/Prejudice: The Bisexual Pride and Prejudice.

Note the / in the title, as in "slash" fiction.

Shock, outrage, gasps all around, and maybe a few cheers or raised eyebrows of curiosity.

Yes, Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley are lovers. And villain George Wickham has a very interesting "position," too. But the arc of the story is similar to Austen's, and the same people will end up married to each other at the end of my version as at the end of hers.

I think of this book as the mirror-image of Jane Austen's novel, or the yin/yang version. I call the way I'm telling it "writing in the gaps." That is, rather than simply rewriting Austen's prose in my own words (about as appealing to read and to write as a 5th-grade book report), I'm thinking up all the scenes she didn't tell us, and writing them. My view is: "There was a whole lot of other stuff going on during the original P&P that Austen chose not to share with readers. Let me tell you about it..."

Part of what happens as a result of this approach is that I'm writing much more from Mr. Darcy's point of view. Austen, as a proper lady of her time, simply couldn't be as familiar with the way men spoke and thought when they were hanging out with each other, away from the ladies. Even married ladies would be unlikely to know this. Austen, sensibly, usually writes scenes with just women, or mixed groups of both sexes. As a 21st-century woman, I have an advantage there. All those years going to discos with gay guys are finally paying off...

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Your point is a good one, anny. Regencies, at least our "contemporary" Regencies, peel back the layers of respectability shielding the period to expose a bit of how folks were expressing sexuality. Of course, most mainstream Regencies elaborate or inflate the potency of the hero (fine by me when I'm reading those).

Erotically romantic Regencies definitely dig to the pith of sexuality, and, in terms of actual sexual freedoms, gender issues, sexual politics of the time, come much closer -- or land smack dab on -- the truth.

Toni, I'm sure Ann will explain more, but it would be nearly impossible to get a major house to publish Ann's novel because of the content. The majority of readers -- even supporters of erotic and alt romance -- see the cover, hear the premise and think, "oh, menage."

I don't think the houses are misguided; they're in business and they've got a solid market base that isn't interested in a book like this.

Now, wait, don't skewer the messenenger. Many of that base, like the Bellas here, would listen and make a decision as to whether to purchase Phyll. But as Ann shouldn't waste her time trying to convert the uninterested or closed-mind, neither should the houses jump on board a project they know won't make money.

All that said, I think there are bigger venues for Phyllida, and they will become clear sooner rather than later.

ann said...

Hey, Nairobi Typ0--

That's so smart! Thank you for clearing up who Phyllida Law is--and how perfect! I sent Emma Thompson a copy of my book because I thought she, out of all the moviemakers, would "get" it. Not that I have a hope in hell, but gotta try.

This also shows why I'm a fiction writer. I hate research--even fun, "easy" research. Just about the only subject that doesn't feel like work to research is queer history.

Don't get me wrong--I love learning things and reading history. I just hate doing it "on purpose" for something specific. It's probably a little bit like not wanting to find a boyfriend by being set up or going on a dating site, but hoping for serendipity...

Julie in Ohio said...

Ann, I am in the "gasps all around" and "raised eyebrows in curiousity" camp.
But then I've been there since June when I first heard of Phyllida and her merry men... :o)

ann said...

I realize that some of the people checking in here missed my first blog, and might like to know how the idea of the bisexual hero, the premise of Phyllida, was introduced.

That blog was on June 22 and you can see it at:
http://romancebytheblog.blogspot.com/2006/06/ann-herendeen-why-i-wrote-bisexual.html

And thanks, Michelle, for putting the link to my site on this blog. Now we can all go happily in circles from here to my site, to the "news" and "reviews" and "links" tabs on my site and back here...

ann said...

I want to address several things at once here, because I think they're related, but I'm afraid I'm going to tie myself in knots trying to get it all right and really, that's an activity that's much more fun with a partner ;D

But here goes:
Michelle, as usual, you gave an excellent answer to the whole question of the treatment of sexuality in the Regency and the Victorian eras, and in modern novels set in those periods.
I think the one thing that many of today's readers (the ones who don't read romance novels) aren't aware of is the level of sexuality that's standard in today's romance novels. I assume there are still some Regency romance novels being written now that follow the venerable Georgette Heyer tradition of no sex and ending with (maybe) a kiss and a marriage proposal, but I think most readers are like me and want a fair amount of sex. Not porn or erotica, but a stimulating mix of love and appealing characters and the kind of sexual activity that would result from that.

I think most of us have come to realize that in any era, whatever the "official" morality, people had sex inside and outside of marriage; there were gay and bisexual people, or certainly men and women who had same-sex relationships. That's a fascinating topic to me, the difference in "labels" between now and the past, and how people saw themselves and defined themselves--or didn't. Better not get me started.

My big innovation, I think, is to take a situation that has always existed, the bisexual man who loves his wife but also wants sex with men (or a man), and tell it as a love story. I wasn't sure it was possible, but I wanted to try, because it appeals to me and also because, let's face it, it's different and kind of shocking and I wanted to do something that wasn't just the same old same old. I also liked taking the tried and true form of the romance novel (that's form, as in sonnet or three-act play, not formula) and tweaking it.

What about getting a unique work, a bisexual (MMF) historical romance, published?
As Michelle said, it's not easy. Many people suggested, and it seemed logical, to try the "LGBT" (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) publishers. Well, there's not a lot of B in that sandwich. If you haven't spent any time in the so-called LGBT community, you may not be aware that there is a HUGE amount of prejudice against bisexuality and bisexual people from gays and lesbians. Unlike the "straight" world, which tends to lump everything else into the "queer" category, and then is accepting or not of all the variations, within the queer community this is a big divide.

In addition, the queer publishing world shares the same prejudices as the non-romance-reading public: they look down on "genre fiction." So in the LGBT world I got bashed on all sides--for having a piece of lowly genre fiction, a Romance, with that most despised of sexual orientations, Bisexual.

By contrast, the mainstream publishing world, while it, understandably, "wasn't ready" for the bisexual part, does love well-written entertainment. Romance novels, all types together, are, I think, the biggest single chunk of the fiction market. I see hope there, eventually.

As Michelle says, it's about sales. They're in it to make money and that's a fact of life and good for them. I wouldn't mind making some money myself.

In the meantime, I subsidy published. I paid a company to format my computer manuscript and print copies on demand, bind them into paperback books and ship 'em out. It's what is often called self-publishing, but genuine self-publishing involves setting oneself up as a small business and doing the actual printing, etc.

These days, lots of reputable authors use print-on-demand for their projects that are too "out there" for the regular publishers. Anybody who wants to write something risky has to at least consider it as an option. The nice thing about it is that they don't print up thousands of copies ahead of time and then if they don't sell get stuck having to return them. They simply print out each copy as it's ordered, "on demand." The downside is that the book isn't in stores, but only online. But these days, that's not so bad. I love shopping online for everything from shoes to clothes to perfume to...books. In fact, when it comes to books, I'm an online shopaholic.

ann said...

It looks like we're winding down at the end of the day. As a last (or near the end) comment, I want to give some consideration to Matthew, the not-quite-Corinthian but defintely hunky boyfriend of my book's hero, Andrew. Matthew sometimes seems like the forgotten member of this unusual romance, the nameless "boyfriend" that Phyllida has to "share" her husband with.

Let's not forget that Matthew also has to share his man--with that man's wife! I think that's the reason that gay men distrust bisexual men--they know that being involved with a bisexual man may mean not having that man's full attention. It's also important to remember that not all bisexual people have two partners at one time. I wrote Phyllida this way because I thought it was hot, not because it's necessarily typical.

Matthew enters late in the story, more than halfway through. Why? Because he's Andrew's perfect match, the natural, love-at-first-sight, thunderbolt-across-a-crowded-ballroom ideal man (which is how I wrote their meeting). If Andrew had met him at the start of the story, he'd never have bothered to "do his duty" and find a woman to marry. He'd simply consider himself married to Matthew and hope that either his youngest brother, the rake Richard, would finally settle down someday, after "going through every woman under 60," or that his middle brother, Tom, away at the wars, will survive and come home and marry. Or he'd just figure, "Earldom--who cares?"

No, I knew Andrew had to be "between partners" if he was going to be able to carry through his plan of marrying a woman. With time, he and Phyllida can begin to establish a deep and lasting love and sexually satisfying relationship. Then he gets to meet Matthew. And now he has to find a way to balance the two loves in his life.

Matthew's romance with Andrew seems so straightforward (if I may use this term) compared to Phyllida's. Again, I see this as the difference between m/m romance and m/f. It's part of what makes m/m scenes such hot reading for some of us women. It's not complicated or talky. It's just hot, heavy, sweaty man-on-man action, and wow! is it great when it's happening. Nobody has to discuss his feelings or worry about going too fast or wonder whether he's pleasing his partner. They know what they like and what they want--each other--and they can just give it and get it good and hard.

Whew! Was that good for you?

If I had decided to write just this m/m romance it wouldn't be the 500-page novel that Phyllida became. It would probably be a short story. And that's why Matthew seems to come in a distant third in this relationship. Not because he's less important, but because his relationship with Andrew is so natural for the two men, whereas Andrew and Phyllida really have to work at theirs.

As I've said, by the end of the story Phyllida has a very busy, full life. She has as much of Andrew as she needs and wants, along with children and her writing. But Matthew: he's a man, with a man's needs. And he's the one who will suffer more from this sharing. I wrote a scene at the end where he and Andrew discuss this problem, and think up a possible solution. I'm not going to spoil the story and tell what that solution is, but I will say that it's only tentative and may or may not work out.

A lot depends on the fact that Matthew is such a nice guy. He knows going in that he's getting involved with a married man, and he and Phyllida like each other very much. There's a growing sense of sexual tension between these two partners of the same man that prevents jealousy, although it can lead to other problems.

I wanted to have the HEA (happily ever after) ending that a romance novel requires. But I knew that some issues simply couldn't be completely resolved. For example: will Phyllida and the two men ever try a threesome? Each reader ultimately has to decide for herself what the answers will be.

For myself, I'm hopeful that since these three people love each other, they will find a way to make their marriage(s) work.

Amanda said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Manda said...

Hi Ann! Hi Bellas! Sorry I missed the party. Wanted to drop in and say hello and tell Ann again how much I enjoyed her book. I thought it was thoughtful and very well done and the concept (though I'm one of the ones who would not be able to share my husband--even with another man) was groundbreaking.

Also, great casting, Ann! If I could have Clive Owen I just might be willing to share him...well, maybe;)

Hey Michelle, thanks for taking risks! Since I started hanging out with the Bellas I've expanded my romance reading horizons considerably;)

Julie in Ohio said...

Ann, thank you so much for coming back today. I love they way you break down your characters and make us see them for who they are based on their personalities not on their preferences in the bedroom.
I am probably one of the more prudish of the Bellas. I like my romance to have heroes and heroines being male and female, monogamous and ending in marriage, but you have given me something different to think about, given light to a "forbidden" topic, if you will. I enjoyed your discussion very much today. Thank you.

ann said...

Hi, mandacoll,

Thanks so much for telling me you enjoyed Phyllida. And I was interested to see how others feel about the casting of the movie. I can't take credit for Clive Owen--a friend who read the book early on came up with that inspired choice. The other two leads are my idea, though.

I also admit that sometimes the idea of "sharing" my ideal man only works because he's so hot. I'd rather have a piece of him than all of someone else ;D

Michelle, I can't thank you enough for giving me these two great opportunities for going on and on about my favorite subject. I love the cute Regency-lady graphics you found, too.

I'm really looking forward to checking in on next week's "Back to School" blogs. It should be informative and fascinating to get that persepctive.

ann said...

Hi, Julie in Ohio,

That is a very nice comment you just left and I am deeply appreciative.

I do want to say that I think that my heroes are both very masculine. Just because they like being with each other sexually doesn't make them any less masculine.

When I hung out with a lot of gay guys way back when, I was struck by the comments of one of my good friends. He was complaining about the common misperception that because he's attracted to other men, he's somehow "feminine" or wants to be a woman, or that, conversely, he wants the other man to be "feminine." My friend said that for him, the whole point of being gay was being a man who likes other men. If he wanted someone "feminine" he'd be straight. He liked being a man and didn't think of himself as feminine or want to change.

I also think that, in a way, my three main characters are monogamous. That is, my hero, Andrew, has one partner of each sex and is faithful to both. The other two, Phyllida and Matthew, are completely monogamous.

I'm not going to pretend that this is just like "regular" marriage or monogamy, only that's it's not as different as it sounds at first. It is, more than anything else, a love story.

Thanks so much for being open-minded and for enjoying this discussion. It's been wonderful, and this is a terrific group.

Vivi Anna said...

OMG, what did I miss???

Sammich stories?

Darn it! *knocks head on desk*

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Ann wrote: It's not complicated or talky. It's just hot, heavy, sweaty man-on-man action, and wow! is it great when it's happening. Nobody has to discuss his feelings or worry about going too fast or wonder whether he's pleasing his partner. They know what they like and what they want--each other--and they can just give it and get it good and hard.

Whew! Was that good for you?.


Holy God, yes! Gesu, Ann; That's why I love having you here, and was crazy for Phyllida.

Grazie, Bella Anna, for joining us today. From the comments, it seems we all enjoy reading your posts. It's a treat, cause you give us so much more than many writers would, you give us the psychodynamics of the characters, let us know what you had to do to get them to where they'd act the way you felt they should/would "authentically."

And thanks, too, for speaking openly about your struggles in publishing Phyllida. Can't say I'm shocked at the way your work was recv'd in various communities, knowing how easy it is for the "downtrodden" to cull the pack as well. But, karma, karma, karma, Ann. It'll all be good.

Please keep us posted, and come back when your next novel is out.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

Oh, Vivs. We can talk sammiches any time you like.

ann said...

Hi, vivi anna,

Don't worry too much. These were mostly m/m/f today. I think it was mentioned that you prefer m/f/m (?)

That's fun too of course.

But it was, as always, a great discussion.

ann said...

OK, Michelle,

Thank you for everything. I had a great time and I loved having this forum to talk about all the issues behind the story of the first ever (but not that last, I hope) bisexual Regency romance.

I'm finding that working on my P&P is much harder than Phyllida. Part of that is that I'm using a great writer's story as my jumping-off place, instead of just starting with my own characters and situation. But the idea has taken hold now in my mind and I want to get it done.

I'll be checking in on this blog from time to time and I will certainly let you know when I'm done with Pride/Prejudice.

You Bellas are the best!

Susan Higginbotham said...

Ann, I'm joining this way too late, but this has been a fascinating discussion! Looking forward to Pride/Prejudice.

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