I'll start by introducing you to the book I hoped would change the face of NA. I don't know that it has, to be honest. It's a book that's read often, but usually without comment. I'm okay with not knowing how the book has fallen into the hands of readers, as long as people are reading it. Willow Erwin is a proportionate dwarf with rheumatoid arthritis who teaches English in Two Harbors, Minnesota. When I first met Willow in my last release, Forever, Phoenix, it didn’t take me long to know I was going to write her story. My heart told me there was something special about Willow that made her different from any other I had written before. Not knowing just what it was yet, I set her aside, knowing someday she would get her own book.
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That ‘someday’ came a lot sooner than I expected. This past spring, I was talking with my daughter Emily. She’s fourteen (She's 16 now!) and reads at a college level, so she’s very much into mainstream new adult books. She told me something in that conversation that made Willow’s story click. She said, “There are no sweet NA lesbian romances that I can find on Amazon. There are all kinds of erotica books, but no true love story about two girls who fall in love.” I spent about an hour searching Amazon, and I had to admit she was right (It was difficult to tell my teen that mom was wrong). My daughter is pansexual, which means she doesn’t see gender, but see’s the person’s personality above all, and that is what she falls in love with, regardless if the person is male or female. I’ve written a story with a pansexual character already, and it’s one of my most popular books. My NA romance, April Melody, is about a young man named Martin Crow who is pansexual. Emily ate April and Crow’s story up in a matter of a day, because she was starving for a romance she could relate to.
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After that conversation I felt compelled to write a sweet NA lesbian romance about girls who were perfectly imperfect. The first thing I had to ask myself was if a book like that would get any traction in the marketplace. I honestly had no idea, so I started writing After Summer Ends with blind faith, and a whole lot of hope, that it would. That said, it didn't really matter to me if didn't. I would be satisfied to know that my daughter, and other girls like her, would have a story they were longing to read. A few months later, when I finished the rough draft, I handed it over to my daughter to read. I wanted to gauge her reaction to the story before I went any further with editing and publishing. She disappeared into her room and we didn’t see her again until hours later when she was finished. She came out with her tablet crushed to her chest, and walked around on her tiptoes for a few minutes as she absorbed the story. She talked about it for days afterwards, and she showed me what a story like Willow's can do for someone who is aching to relate to the literature they read.
Since Emily is my daughter, and not exactly a unbiased party to my writing, I sent the story off to several others who read NA, but not LGBT, romances. I had to know if people outside of the genre (and my family) would relate to the book. Their response? “You had me hooked at the prologue and I didn’t put it down until it was done!” MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
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You might be asking yourself what my definition of a sweet NA lesbian romance is. I can answer it very simply; After Summer Ends is about the love story. It’s about the emotions of meeting that special person for the first time when your heart starts to pound just a little bit faster. It’s about the impromptu first date that leaves you walking on air all the way home. It’s about the things you teach each other every time you’re together. It’s about the bumps along the way that wake you up and show you how to be a better person for the one you love. It’s about soft kisses in the moonlight on the warm sand of a nighttime beach. It’s about standing by your convictions and learning that fear has no place in your life when you love someone truly, completely, and forever. Love is what I hope I captured within the pages of After Summer Ends, and soon, in Finding Susan.
When I wrote After Summer Ends I wanted to show the ever-changing face of new adult literature. We need to ask ourselves if one of those faces needs to be more diversity in LGBT romances. What’s your opinion? Can we stretch the NA genre even further to include LGBT romances that touch the heart and not the libido? Looking at the numbers of how many copies of After Summer Ends I've sold, and how many pages read on KU, I can see that we can stretch the NA genre to sweet LGBT romances. It's a case of if one person tells you they are looking for a genre of literature not available, then chances are, many others are looking for the same type of literature.
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