Today we’re thrilled to have fellow queer romance writer SA Collins with us to talk about his new book Angels of Mercy Volume 2, Marco.
It’s a tough gig to be a writer. Whoever said, “eh, stories aren’t so hard to make up …” yeah, that person is no writer.
When you decide to write, usually the first thing you have to decide is what you want to write and why. Oddly enough, I’ve figured out that it’s the why that is more important than the what.
I am a gay man who, after the half-centennial mark, is happily married to a lovely man, with children and grandchildren in the mix, and who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area – admittedly a bastion of liberalism the likes of which exists nowhere else I can think of. We live in a proverbial bubble.
Queer people have had to define our lives because, by and large, we’ve been excluded from the heteronormative party. Our sense of community is built upon finding others like ourselves who have had to carve out their own slice of happiness, defining it to meet their expectations and hopes, be they couples, throuples or polyamory in scope. We embrace what makes us who we are – outliers and progressives (for the most part) who are only seeking to find some happiness in our lives.
Our stories are not like the heteronormative tales of love and desire. They may have common threads, common factors between them, but it is in how we apply those aspects of our lives and the rules we build to support them that separate us.
I’ve made no bones about what I think of the M/M romance as a genre. It is an industry unto itself and is self-perpetuating. It was built by our straight allies as an extension of the romance novels from antiquity through the modern era and applies the same confining tropic rules and genre expectations that have little to do with how queer people live.
I am not writing to disparage that part of the industry. Those straight women allies and the gay men who happen to follow those works can have at it. More power to them. To my way of thinking, that genre walks a very fine line of cultural appropriation from the queer community but constrains it with heteronormative expectations that only recently have become part of the gay vernacular as marriage equality quickly became a real possibility. Indeed, there is much talk within the community of whether we want to be part of that equality party in the way our straight counterparts are having it. Some do want that. But there is a vast collective of queer men and women who do not.
Who is writing their stories?
You see, from the (Wrote) podcast I run with my co-hosts (Vance Bastian and Jayne Lockwood) we had a very intense conversation with Erin and Rach about how the M/M romance genre doesn’t allow for the queer factor to play out as it does in life. Because of this, huge swaths of our stories are simply not being produced.
The argument is made that “well, that’s not what romance is.” Really? As queer people, we are VERY good at subverting what “is” in favor of what we “want” it to be. That is one of our strengths: progressivism and a keen eye to bending rules and remaking them to suit our purposes. Those stories need to have their time in the sun.
Many might say – “But that won’t sell.”
To those straight women whose heteronormative expectations have been hammered into us time and again (Disney Princesses, anyone?) on what constitutes a happy ending, I would probably agree. I would argue, however, as a queer person that our queerness would say otherwise. HEAs (Happily Ever After’s), by our standards, can mean so many other things. I think that it is a matter of Queer Romance not finding it’s audience yet – an untapped market, if you will.
Who says you can’t have a threesome and make it work? I know of several such pairings, with rearing children involved, even. Doesn’t mean they don’t meet their fair share of obstacles in just eking out their own form of familial happiness, but that can be excellent fodder for a ripping story. Where are those tales?
During the podcast we came up with a term we coined, saying we need to start making “Queer Romance” a thing, a form of storytelling that subverts the standard, owning our queerness blatantly and willingly, purposefully redefining what an HEA can mean. We commented in the show that an HEA should be a moving target.
Think of the powerful possibilities that open up with that thought: a form of writing that speaks to our own as we see ourselves, but where the bindings of what constitutes a romance are turned on its head.
Some may quip, “Well, then, it’s not romance.” I would reply, “You’re damned right it’s not. Because it’s queer and that’s the determinant factor here. We are redefining it for ourselves.”
To be honest, it would be an artistic endeavor to begin with – a slow burn. There is no proven track record for sales or marketability. However, it is also evident from just the discussion I’ve had with Rach and Erin that, as queer people, there is a huge element that isn’t written about when it comes to our relationships. We all feel this drive to push the envelope with each of our works, so let’s make it a thing.
I call on my fellow queer authors to join the bandwagon and start writing Queer Romance. It doesn’t have to replace what you do now. But a work here, a work there, will add to the Queer Romance coffers over time. Start with an inward “fuck this shit, I’m writing what this story needs to be” and meaning it. Write real page-turners where HEA is not a given, or if it is, it may not be what you’d expect.
Queer, I know. But that’s sort of the point.
I’ve determined that’s what I write about in my queer relationship stories. I don’t want rules. I want to fling shit around and see what sticks. See what works. Give voice to characters that aren’t so neat and formulaic. Fuck black and white. I want HUGE swaths of grey. I want our EAH (you’ll see what I mean below).
I am reminded of the words from my musical muse, Jay Brannan, from a song that addresses this very concept. The song is called Ever After, Happily (EAH, get it?). I was so pleased that when I pitched to him that his works inspired my own, that he allowed me to quote his lyrics in my book. It is an honor I am still in awe of – one queer artist supporting another.
“Ya know what? Go for it. I trust you.” What do you say to something like that? Truly, I was overwhelmed with his generosity.
I admire him greatly. Our queer storytelling is in very capable hands with him. This is Jay’s take on the realm of romantic fairy tales – it’s pretty spot on from a queer’s perspective:
Well that’s the way the fairy tale goes
Boy meets girl and they wed with roses
But that’s not the way it seems to be
And I’m pissed that they lied to me
Cuz boy meets boy, and boy runs away
Or girl meets girl, and she’s afraid to stay
We end up home alone watching Court TV
Not living ever after happily
But it is the last words of the song that perfectly capture the element of what I believe queer romance is all about. It is these words that Jay allowed me to quote in my own work (Angels of Mercy). It is the foundation of what I write no matter the subject matter of the story. This is the very essence of what I see as the seed of Queer Romance.
We’ll tell the story my way
The King of Imperfection
Takes back the Prince of Mistakes
What say you, fellow queer authors? Want to start something and define it for ourselves? We’ve done it before – the Violet Quill gang of the 80s and 90s wasn’t that long ago. It’s what we do. It’s what we’ve always done. I am doing it now with Angels of Mercy. Writing about us as we are, unfettered by tropic rules and expectations. I may have a happy ending, but the definition of what that means is a mystery until it’s written.
We need to reclaim the mantle of telling how our Kings/Queens of Imperfection take back their Princes/Princesses of Mistakes.
Queer Romance, it’s a thing.
SA Collins hails from the San Francisco Bay Area where he lives with his (legal) husband, their daughter and wonder of all wonders, a whirlwind of a granddaughter. A classically trained singer/actor (under a different name), Mr. Collins knows a good yarn when he sees it.
Mr. Collins specializes in character study work. It is more important for him that the reader comes away with a greater understanding of the characters, and the reasons they make the decisions they do, rather than the situations they are in. It is this deep dive into their manners, their experiences and how they process the world around them that make up the body of Mr. Collins’ work.
Angels of Mercy – Volume 2: Marco (The Fall of the Sforzas) will be out 11/30 – don’t have links yet for it as I haven’t built them (I am off all next week from work for the holiday so that’s when I’ll be digging in and getting them out there – I’ll send them to you both then).
“Elliot Donahey is the love of my life.”
Those words become a lightning rod for Marco Sforza, the man who seemed to have it all – looks, charm, money, a certain degree of local fame as the star quarterback of Mercy High – but when his teammates beat his boyfriend to the brink of death, Marco will have to learn what “standing by your man” truly means.
Angels of Mercy – Volume Two: Marco, picks up the timeline from the climatic ending of Volume One. How will these boys cope with Elliot recuperation as well as find a way to bring justice for the heinous crime committed against Elliot? Deception, lies and intrigue begin to thread their way into the boys lives as they struggle to just hold onto one another. All is not quite what it seems as we reach yet another climatic ending that will turn their whole world upside-down. The hate crime Elliot suffered was just the beginning of their woes. Is Marco and Elliot’s love for one another strong enough to see them through? Read Angels of Mercy – Volume Two: Marco to find out.
Angels v1 – published 4/1/15
Angels v2 – TBR 11/30/15
AoM – Phoenix In The Fire (companion to V2) – TBR 12/31/15
Angels v3 – TBR (Spring 2016)
Other releases in the Angels series – Marco’s Backstory Volumes:
Diary of a Quarterback Part 1 (Late Winter 2016)
Diary of a Quarterback Part 2 (Early Spring 2016)
ANGELS OF MERCY – Volume One: Elliot (His Summer of Love) – [first of a series]
Buy Links for V1:
SACOLLINS STORE: http://www.sacollins.com/store/index.php?catalog/all/-/date/1
Amazon – http://tinyurl.com/p6ykrms
Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/529495
On the cusp of his senior year at Mercy High, Elliot Donahey, an out but terminally shy gay young man who keeps to the shadows – never wanting to be seen or noticed – suddenly finds himself in the arms of the highest profile jock on campus, local star quarterback, Marco Sforza. Their lives, and those closest to them will never be the same.
Set against the backdrop of competitive sports, this character study work (the first in a series) deep dives into the lives of these young men who each must “play the game” so Marco can play the game he loves. They are just trying to find some small slice of happiness to call their own amidst their hellish final year of high school.
Author’s Note: Angels of Mercy is first and foremost, a series of character studies. A great deal of it is inner-monologue. Elliot will pause the action, will break momentum as he grapples with his world – all the while flipping a finger to the fourth wall. He knows you’re there. It was far more important to me as its author (and a gay man) that the reader come away with the whys of Elliot’s choices in how he navigates his often tumultuous world. The same can be said of Marco (his jock boyfriend) who will pick up the tale with Volume Two (to be released the summer of 2015).
I’ve read much queer literature and what I find rather interesting is that for the majority of it, very little is written about the character’s headspace. When you live in a world where you constantly have to be vigilant as you navigate through, it can make for some very powerful storytelling. That is my goal in writing these boys’ lives. I want the reader who may not be queer themselves to come away with what it might be like to be in a gayboy’s shoes – constantly polling and pulse-checking your world because your very survival depends upon it. All of that while you hope, you secretly pray, that you’ll find someone who will see you too and find they can’t live without you in their world. A small slice of happiness to call your own. And though you do everything to keep to yourself, you may still run into those who find your very existence threatens who they are and how they think the world should run. I pull no punches with this work. They are hormonally charged eighteen year old young men who are sexually active. While the sex is present in the work it is not gratuitous in that the main character does evolve from his physical intimacy with his high-profile boyfriend. It is not a genre romance read either, though it has a very strong romance threaded in the work. These elements bring a light to their relationship that attracts all the wrong attention.
In a time where more queer youth are coming out to their teammates and their loved ones, I find that work of this nature is both timely and necessary to tell. I hope you’ll find it as interesting and provocative a read as I believe it is.
Our Voices. Our Lives – as we live them.