Today is the 1 month birthday of Starling. Erin is off in the woods on holiday and almost entirely out of touch, and I’ve been deep in the weeds with my non-writing life, although we have some more exciting announcements coming up soon.
For now though, I want to talk a little bit about the 10 things we didn’t know about Starling until it was in readers’ hands. That’s sort of the coolest thing about writing, you keep learning things about the story you wrote. Considering we love these characters so much, and have committed to such a long arc with them, that’s a damn good thing.
So without further ado:
1. Starling is interstitial. If we tell non-romance readers it’s not a romance, we often get, “It’s totally a romance!” If we tell romance readers it is a romance, we often get some side-eye from those quarters too, despite the happy endings for multiple couples.
2. Starling is divisive. Okay, to be fair, we sort of knew this one. Starling is an angry book. It’s angry about fame. It’s angry about fans. It’s angry about what people do to the nail that sticks up. It’s angry about how marginalized people are expected to behave “reasonably” in unreasonable circumstances. It’s also filled with people who really don’t have the skills to deal with the circumstances of their lives. And when people read romances about fame, they often want to see glamor and riches, not 15 hour days and poor relationship choices. In short, for some people, it’s just not a story that works. Luckily, though lots of other people people really, really love Starling.
3. Starling also doesn’t exactly have a hero. Paul and Alex both need rescue. They also rescue each other. Liam seems like a mess, but that’s largely his coping strategy (more on that in future books). Craig, meanwhile, is just some poor guy caught up in the middle of all their shit. I used to think Starling just didn’t have an alpha hero, but these days, I don’t think it has a hero at all.
4. Unless Victor is Starling‘s hero. Sure, Victor’s the asexual dude in the b-plot, but he’s also the closest thing the book has to an alpha who whispers in your ear and tells you how everything is going to be and how much you’re going to like it. That he’s enigmatic, sometimes despicable, and finds most forms of sexual contact physically unpleasant is besides the point. There’s a lot more of all of that in Doves.
5. Some readers adore that Alex is an introvert, and we love that people feel that way. We love that Alex is an introvert too! But we had no idea this would be so meaningful to some of our readers. We’ve been really surprised and touched by this.
6. Some people view Starling as a love triangle between Paul, Alex, and Liam. Alex, of course, has profoundly intense connections with both of them, and one of the threads in Doves is very focused on all three of them — and especially Paul — learning to navigate that friendship between Alex and Liam. But I don’t think Erin and I ever thought of the book as a love triangle story, so that’s been illuminating.
7. Polyamory has proved to be unfamiliar and uncomfortable to some readers. This, I think, took us by surprise. We wrote about this a little bit at Mychael Black’s blog. Polyamory remains a key part of the series because it’s so important to Liam and Carly. But more than that, the Love in Los Angeles books are about lots of different types of love and lots of ways to build your own family, some of which can be pretty hard to classify.
8. Everyone is sure X character is Y celebrity. Except, and this is awesome, every character for whom this has come up has been the subject of multiple guesses. So let them be whoever you need them to be for you. We love hearing your castings! For us, though, they’re all their own, even if they have narrative DNA from lots of sources which very much also include our own lives.
9. People love Starling‘s women! Erin and I worried about this a lot. We heard, over and over again, that some people react negatively to the presence of women in M/M books. But we never really thought of Starling as an M/M book, and always wanted a strong female presence in the series. In Doves we’ll have more female sexuality — both on and off screen — than has been present in the series so far, so we certainly hope that enthusiasm continues.
10. Starling is really, really fun to read out loud. At the reading event I organized at The Stonewall Inn I was a little worried about it because it’s so dialogue heavy. But never, ever, have I enjoyed so much saying the words The Internet goes insane, mainly because the crowd that night laughed with it in just the right way.
Basically, this is a big thank you. For buying the book, talking about the book, reviewing the book, taking pictures of you and the book, and spreading the word about this very peculiar and ongoing labor of love. It means the absolute world to us.