It’s been a heck of a decade. In 2010 I was still riding the high of the publication of False Colors by a mainstream publisher. I had ticked off the main item on a lifetime’s bucket list, and achieved the one thing I wanted to do before I died.
That was probably the peak of my writing success. I had achieved some notoriety in the m/m romance field, and I carried on producing more m/m romance books throughout the rest of the decade. More on that later on.
At the beginning of the decade I still thought I was straight – though a strange desultory sort of straight where I wasn’t at all comfortable and had gravitated to slash fic because that was where I felt my people were.
At the beginning of the decade I thought I had two daughters.
The 2010s have definitely been the decade of queering my life. I discovered that I was in fact asexual and agender. I discovered that one of the children I’d assumed was a daughter was in fact a son. We went through the process of his legal and medical transition together until he hit 21 and was able to handle it himself.
Both of my children grew up, went to uni and had their finals, moved out and are now working and living successfully on their own two feet down in London this decade, though I’m happy to say they come back often.
This decade I had to support my father – of whom I was deeply afraid – through dementia to the end of his life. I had to have more to do with my dysfunctional family than I had since moving out myself. This resulted in me going to therapy, in an attempt to keep myself sane under the pressure. How I wish I had done it sooner! What a wonderful thing Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is.
This decade, my sisters stopped talking to me. This has turned out to be a blessing, though I admit there was a period where I was very upset about it first. Don’t get me wrong – the ordeal of my father’s last couple of years was the worst thing I have ever gone through – but the peace on the other side is also unprecedented.
On a happier note, this decade we discovered morris dancing, and the companionship, exercise, and fun that brought into our lives has been enormous.
Another bucket list item got crossed off when I learned to play at least one melody instrument – the pennywhistle.
I lived through a cancer scare resulting in an emergency hysterectomy, and my joy at being rid of all those reproductive organs that had always felt like an imposition on me, was spoiled by the realization of how much of the rest of my body the hormones had been causing to work properly.
To come back to my writing… After all of that, I suppose it’s not surprising that the 2020s find me feeling very differently about my m/m romance career.
When I began writing slash fanfiction (that’s fanfic involving a m/m relationship) it was partially because I felt that the slash community was my community. I felt at home there in a way that I had never felt in straight society.
A decade of introspection and conversation has revealed that I probably felt at home in the queer community because I am queer myself. Shocking, right?
But having reached that realization, it also began to come into focus that I didn’t actually like romance. I liked slash, but slash is not romance and doesn’t have to play by the same rules (though frankly I no longer want to write slash either.)
Once I realized I was ace, I realized I was allowed to not particularly care for the emphasis on sex in romance. I realized I never would understand what this ‘chemistry’ was that I’d heard from many reviews was lacking in my books and between my characters.
I realized that I had the options of continuing to fake an understanding of what sexual attraction was or maybe… maybe getting into a different genre where it wouldn’t be relevant.
And here I am now, after over ten years of writing m/m romance, at the top of the diving board, taking that big breath before I force myself to announce that I don’t really want to write romance any more. I’ve had ten amazing years and learned so much through it. I’m so grateful to all the people who’ve supported my neurotic self-examination and more importantly enjoyed my books, but the truth is that when I think of writing any more romance it is with dread and despair.
I don’t want to do it any more.
All my life I’ve wanted to be a writer of Science Fiction and Fantasy and/or mystery. That’s where my heart has always lain. I think the first day of a new year is a good day to stop pretending to be otherwise than what I am. It’s a good day to say ‘we had a good innings, but I do not want to go into the 2020s as a romance writer.’
In an uncertain world, I don’t know what the next decade has in store. (More knee problems, for certain.) But I want to start by Marie Kondo-ing my writing at least. Thank you, m/m romance, for a decade of self-actualization, for some great friends and wonderful experiences. I don’t use you or enjoy you like I used to, so it’s time for me to throw you out to make room for something else.
I wonder what it will be.