I should probably own it. All of it.
What two things do my stories all have in common? I have issues with both so let's take each in turn.
(1) Romance. When I was a teenager, and a near light-year away from being in love, I read romance novels. At one point, I'd devoured everything Danielle Steele ever wrote. Then I became an adult and nearly threw up in my mouth reading Nicholas Sparks. I suppose the fall-in-love-break-up cycle I experienced in my twenties and thirties had something to do with. Get your heart broken and spend six weeks on The Break-Up Diet eating Sun Chips and drinking Mike's Hard Lemonade and I promise you'll grow a bit of skepticism about love and romance. I was certain - I am certain - it's all bullshit. All. Of . It. And yet... I write it. And publish it. And hope people buy it.
I feel a certain amount of culpability, responsibility. All this romance crap poisons the mind, sets expectations way too high. Reality isn't as I write it. Of course, I suppose we, as humans of the Western world, need to think that the fairy tale is at least remotely possible. Meh, a happy ending depends on when you stop telling the story. Fortunately when I'm writing, I get to choose where the story "ends".
Admission #1: I write romance novels.
But wait it gets better... What else do my stories have in common?
(2) Lesbians. My stories are like the Lesbian Channel. All lesbians, all the time. And because we prefer to read about the beautiful people, most of my lesbians are hot (Interestingly, my first novel is set in Little Rock. A friend there actually asked me where all the hot lesbians were because she hadn't seen many. I replied Oklahoma City. At least they were a decade ago).
Here's the part where I try to defend myself... When I first started writing fiction, I was terrified. I didn't have a clue what to write about and I wondered if the stories in my head were... um...appropriate to write. My creative writing professor, who may one day rue his decision, attempted to allay my fears by telling me to "write what I know." Okey-dokey I said as I unleashed a torrent of stories about lesbian tennis players. And runners. After all, it's what I knew.
It is absolutely no secret - I'm a lesbian. This summer it'll be officially 21 years (I came out the summer after Ellen's coming out episode in 1997) and unofficially 46 years (My mother told me that, when I was three, I said I wanted to be a dad). And truly, there's no hiding it, never has been. I can't seem to fool anyone; even to people with really crappy or completely non-existant gay-dar, it's pretty obvious (Crazy, because I'm not nearly the gayest person I know...).
And, you know, I've done a decent job of owning it, even in places where it was borderline dangerous to do so. But... I've never announced it, flaunted it, or waved a rainbow flag. That's not to say I'm not proud of who I am. It's just that being gay as always been a small part of me and I refuse to let it (or anything else) define me. I've always just been Stacee, who happened to be a lesbian...and a tennis player and a runner and an atheist and a writer and a wanna-be world traveler and a friend. None carries any more weight than another and it never will.
Now, though, I find myself with a burgeoning new identity. Even though I've always gone about my business quietly and have really, really, really tried not to make anyone uncomfortable (honey over vinegar, my friends), I feel a shift coming. I am no longer just Stacee. I am Stacee Ann Harris and wait for it....
Because lesbians tend to have a lot of relationships, it was a quick trip from stories about lesbian tennis players and runners to stories about lesbian tennis players and runners having relationships (Welcome to the plot of my first novel). And it just keeps happening.
Admission #2: I write lesbian romance novels.
Every time I say it, I cringe and wait for laughter or some kind of backlash. That, thus far (knock on wood...) hasn't come. And I have no idea why not. I'm embarrassed. Why isn't everyone else? Maybe because it's no big deal? Maybe because a lot of people read romance? Maybe because people, both gay and straight, know the LGBTQ community needs voices, even if one of those voices is writing romance?
If no one else seems to care, why should I? And that's why I've finally decided to own it.
When I was growing up, my parents told me that I could be whatever I wanted to be as long as I did my best and didn't quit (I am dead certain "lesbian romance novelist" wasn't on their radar). I may have only sold a handful of books so far, but I'll tell you something. My stories are pretty damn good. It's not who or what I ever expected to be, but THIS is who I am and what I do -
I am Stacee Ann Harris and I write lesbian romance novels.