Radclyffe on lesbian romance novels and “Love Between the Covers”

AE: But with so many genres out there, why did it come down to romance for you?

LB: It’s always been romance for me. I’ve always been a romance reader. I love science fiction writing, I love fantasy, but in those books, I was always looking at the character interactions. I always wanted to know what were the connections between the people. And the heart of a romance is the relationship. For me, that’s the most interesting thing about people, is the intimate connections that we make with one another. So writing those relationships, it never occurred to me to write anything else. Even if I’m writing an intrigue or I’m writing a paranormal, what I care about is the connections between the characters within the context of that setting. And I like a happy ending. I want to feel good when I get to the end of the book. I want to solve the problems in fiction at least that we can’t always solve in the world.

 

AE: What did your friends and family think of your decision to become a romance writer?

LB: Well no one said, “You’re nuts,” but I did get a sense that they thought I was kind of a little crazy. I don’t think they got what I really did until they saw Love Between the Covers. They finally got the scope of what this work is really about.

 

AE: Why the decision to write under pseudonyms?

LB: The decision to publish under my pseudonym Radclyffe was purely a marketing decision because when I got ready to publish I had already been writing and posting a lot of free fiction on the Internet. I started writing fan fiction as Radclyffe. The reason that I took that pseudonym when I started writing fan fiction is that it was an entirely new world for me. I had never shared my writing with anyone, except maybe my girlfriend at the time. It was incredibly private and personal. And when I started posting my fiction online and sharing it–with I don’t know how many strangers were out there reading it–it felt like a new piece of my life, a new segment of my life, was beginning. And I wanted a pseudonym that was special to that area, to that form of expression, for me.

I chose Radclyffe based on Radclyffe Hall. Because of the lesbian connotation. At the time, a lot of the fan fiction around The X-Files was being written by men. I had no problem with that, but I thought, “Gee, here I am. I should be writing this. I’m a lesbian.” And I wanted to kind of make that subtly clear. And I love the name. I related to it instantly. I am Radclyffe. When I write, when I talk about it, in this world that’s who I am. So when I got ready to publish traditionally, formally, I had a lot of readers and I didn’t want to lose them. I didn’t want to use a different name that they wouldn’t recognize. So I kept the Radclyffe pseudonym when I began traditionally publishing.

When I got to about book 35, I think, I decided I wanted to try writing a paranormal series and that’s a big departure from what I had written previously. A lot of romance readers don’t make the leap from romance to paranormal romance because the paranormal element isn’t something they’re interested in. So I was trying to send a signal when I took the pseudonym L.L. Raand. I was trying to send the signal to my romance readers–and I told them what it was. It wasn’t a secret. Some of my readers said, “Oh, I don’t want to read that. That’s not why I read your books.” So it was to give them the option to know there was something different coming down the line. And I also hoped that if I used a different pseudonym for the paranormals I might get a crossover audience, that I might get new readers who weren’t romance readers. So it was a little bit marketing and a lot of communication.

 Len with partner LeeLen and partner Lee

AE: Do you think queer women have a different relationship with romance novels than straight women do? If so, in what ways?

LB: I absolutely do. I certainly know from my personal experience how important it was to find any form of popular media that presented queers–and, for me, lesbians in particular–in romantic and sexually positive relationships. I think it’s absolutely true to this day that we don’t have that many positive, affirming images of queers in popular media. Many readers are voracious. They can’t get enough of this thing that they enjoy so much.

And there’s been very little in the way of popular queer fiction in the last 50 years in terms of volume. Those of us who were reading it could never get enough. And when you don’t see yourself represented in the popular media, it’s hard to feel like you’re part of the larger world. I think that for lesbians reading romance fiction with lesbian characters, they see themselves in positive portrayals of being partners, being employees, being women who make decisions, being leaders, being in love, having children, having good sex–all of those things that we may not be getting those messages anywhere else. I’m not saying that straight women don’t need that or want that or enjoy that, but they have lots of other avenues from the time they are born, practically, supporting them and affirming their lives. Only in our fiction can we see the full complete spectrum of sexual and physical and emotional fulfillment.

 

AE: The stigma that surrounds romance in terms of it being lowbrow literature–do you think that’s prevalent in the lesbian community as well? Or has a lack of lesbian representation in literature in general tended to make our community less snobbish about this genre?

LB: I think not. I think that the greater community at large probably shares the same stigma as the heterosexual world or the reading world in general. I think the people who read it absolutely love it with an incredible passion and devotion and are incredibly supportive of us as authors and publishers. But I think that there are lots of lesbians who have never read a lesbian romance because they think they won’t enjoy it, that it won’t be substantive enough. I think until they do, they don’t really appreciate what it’s all about. I mean, I’m at a literary conference right now where some of the partners of the women who are here are not quote, unquote “romance readers”. And yet several of them have stopped me and said, “The film was so eye-opening that I decided I really should try to read a romance because there’s so much more to it than I realized.” I think that’s common in our community.