This weekend, Erin and I are participating in OutWrite, a queer literary event in Washington DC. I’m doing a panel and a reading, we’re seeing friends and selling books, and we’re super excited. This year, we’re even more excited because we just got word that an excerpt of The Art of Three is going to appear in MetroWeekly, DC’s longest running gay weekly, which has been in operation since 1994, the year I left Washington DC after completing university and working, briefly, at the legendary Lambda Rising. What a weird, magical, full-circle moment. Especially for a book that is odd, personal, and despite being wildly gentle, was a genuinely terrible ordeal for Erin and I to write. There was a lot of crying involved through which we found the theme of that story, as well as the theme of trying to be ambitious people with complicated lives: You can change your life without blowing it up. You can build on what you have. You can find your way home.
Today, we also received our RITA scores for The Art of Three and A Queen from the North. Neither book finaled, which is fine. A Queen from the North did exactly as we expected in terms of scores. The Art of Three actually did too, even though those scored ranged from 3.6 to 9.5.
But hey, it’s not a book for everyone. Low-heat polyamory doesn’t show up in romance a lot. And the book’s pace is slow. While it was named a winner in the Bisexual Romance category in this year’s Rainbow Awards, we weren’t expecting anything from the RITAs other than a huge range of scores, and we’re completely happy with that. Seeing how niche romance lands for a relatively random selection of romance professionals is a super valuable experience.
Here’s what we’re not happy with:
When judging the RITAs, judges must answer whether the book contains a central romance and whether the book has an ending which is satisfying and optimistic. And one judge said no.
Here’s the central story of The Art of Three: A happily married couple who have been polyamorous for their entire 20+ year marriage have a relationship with a younger man with whom they form a polyfidelitous triad. An unexpected pregnancy within that triad is then received with joy.
Here are the supporting stories of The Art of Three: The younger hero’s sister with Down Sydrome gets engaged to her boyfriend. One adult daughter of the married couple gets married. Another adult daughter of the married couple gets engaged. A third adult daughter of the married couple has a baby. The older hero learns how to be a better husband and father. The heroine learns she can have everything she wants with the support of men who love her. The younger hero falls in love, has a family, and strengthens his relationship with his supportive parents. Also in the book? What it means to have survived generational trauma with joy and love — whether that trauma be the AIDS plague years, the damage done to women and families by the Magdalene laundries in Ireland, or the erasure of faith in the heritage of those who are of converso Jewish backgrounds
So I don’t care if someone gave the book 3.6. Maybe you were bored. Maybe you hated the characters. Maybe you don’t like our prose. Maybe you really wanted a higher heat level. But don’t tell me it’s not love. Don’t tell me it’s not optimistic.
The great joy and problem of romance is that it’s always personal. Whether a given book reflects our relationship(s) or not, it does reflect what we think love is. And to tell any author polyamory can’t be love or that bisexual people can’t be loved is profoundly ugly. And that’s what happened for us today.
But hey, tomorrow, 45,000 people will get to read an excerpt of a story I cried my way through Europe to write. And one day, the damn bigots will get out of the RWA, and Erin and I will earn our 3.6’s on the merits of our storytelling and not the judgement of our identities and lives.