I’ve wrestled with how one writes romance in a time when one’s country is under siege. In the United States, we are one U.S. Supreme Court appointee away from our legal freedoms as women, nonbinary people, POC, LGBTQ folks, and immigrants being gutted. I watched the Senate Judiciary hearings today as the patriarchy of white, straight, angry men did everything to maintain their power, ignoring the testimony of one brave survivor (and the millions she represents) in favor of one of their own. Am I angry? Of course I am. That is why I write LGBTQ romance.
There You Are takes place during a happier time involving the U.S. Supreme Court, when same-sex marriage was made legal.
“To female Supreme Court justices everywhere!” Phineas raised his glass of champagne. “All three of ’em!”
“Yeah!” Sandy nodded vigorously. “Plus Kennedy and that other guy! Also, here’s to me getting to drink something alcoholic!”
Cody returned Phineas’s happy smile and raised his glass along with them. “Hear, hear! Love wins.” He gazed at Phinney across from him in the candlelight, took in Sandy’s grinning face, and was seized with that fear-tinged joy he’d come to recognize as love.
“Yess! It’s so cool that anyone can get married to who they love now. Anybody in this country!” Sandy took a large gulp, then burped.
“Slow down, cowboy,” Phinney scolded. “Champagne is for savoring. And I for one am savoring this moment with my two best guys.” He reached his hand across the table to Cody.
“Me too.” Cody put his hand in Phineas’s.
“You guys!” Sandy beamed. “You can get married! Um, I guess you could anyway in Oregon, but still…. Isn’t it the best?”
Phineas kept his big brown eyes on Cody’s, his pink lips curving upward. Lord, he was so gorgeous. “Yes, it’s the best,” he whispered.
Such a happy, hopeful time. Then came the shocking November 2016 election.
The first book I wrote after November 2016 was In Over Our Heads. Most of the action takes place right before the election but the timeline extends to the few months after.
Sophia came to town for Christmas a few days before I was leaving for my visit, and we went for drinks to catch up. She had a few opinions of her own about the situation.
“Caro, this is nonsense,” she said as we waited for our mudslides. “Why can’t Walter come here, at least some of the time? We can’t lose you at the foundation!”
“You won’t lose me. I can always travel back for meetings, even if Walter stays in Florida. I won’t be at the ad agency, so I’ll have more time. It’ll all work out. Somehow.”
She threw me a doubtful glance. “Patricia isn’t asking me to move to Key West, thank goodness. She knows my work with Lambda Legal is too important, especially now with that madman about to take office.”
“Yes. Well, I can’t say I’m doing anything that important around here.”
She slammed down her glass and almost broke it. “That’s not true! The foundation is so important—now more than ever! Did you know that several trans kids committed suicide right after the election?” Her eyes filled with tears, and so did mine. “We have to keep creating safe spaces for these kids. And art is critical—giving the kids the chance to express themselves with art, and you doing your own art. We have to have it, caro. We have to have you.”
And the next story I wrote, A Holiday Crush, was not so much about Christmas as it was about political activism. It had one MC being a full-on part of the Resistance along with his buddies while the other MC ends up leaving his cushy law practice to become a lawyer for the ACLU. My wish-fulfillment epilogue has them celebrating the 2018 midterms in which Democrats flip both the House and the Senate.
“Hey there, roomie.” Eric dropped his backpack, launched himself onto his own bed, and turned on his side to face Will. “What’s up?”
Will mirrored Eric’s position so they could chat face-to-face. “Not much. Made it through my econ quiz. Oh, and I was thinking about your brother. Have you heard from him since yesterday?”
“I sent him a text, and he sent me back a billion emojis. Typical Doug. He’s doing okay.”
“That’s good. It’s cool the way you are with him.”
Eric waved it off. “He’s kind of annoying at times, but—”
“Naw, man. He’s lucky to have a brother like you. Me and my brother aren’t that close.”
“I don’t know. We’ve always been into different things. He’s really into the church crap.”
“Oh. Evangelical and all that?”
“Totally. Trump and the whole bit. My parents too.”
“Oh fuck. That’s tragic.” Eric stopped as a horrible thought occurred. “Unless… you’re not a Trump person, are you?”
“Are you kidding? I’m insulted, man. But yeah, my brother has turned into a right-wing pod person.” Will winced. “I knew my parents were a lost cause, but it sucks about my brother. Haven’t even been interested in talking to him since the election. He’s too busy watching Fox News.”
“Ugh. I’m sorry.”
I think there’s a place in the romance genre for stories that don’t reference politics at all—stories that are total sweetness, like a soft pillow-fort to retreat into, a shield against all the ugliness of current life. But my characters live in this world, they are LGBTQ folks, their liberties are at risk in this country, and that is on their minds.
What I love about this genre is giving my characters their happy ending in the middle of a screwed-up world. The world may be going to hell in a hand-basket, but people are still good and generous and courageous. Good people deserve to find love. In our genre, love always wins. And that is the best resistance of all.
Stay strong and talk to you next month.
After years of hearing characters chatting away in her head, CJane Elliott finally decided to put them on paper and hasn’t looked back since. A psychotherapist by training, CJane enjoys writing sexy, passionate stories that also explore the human psyche. CJane has traveled all over North America for work and her characters are travelers, too, traveling down into their own depths to find what they need to get to the happy ending.
CJane is an ardent supporter of LGBTQ equality and is particularly fond of coming out stories. In her spare time, CJane can be found dancing, listening to music, or watching old movies. Her family supports her writing habit by staying out of the way when they see her hunched over, staring intensely at her laptop.
CJane is the author of the award-winning Serpentine Series, New Adult contemporary novels set at the University of Virginia. Serpentine Walls was a 2014 Rainbow Awards finalist, Aidan’s Journey was a 2015 EPIC Awards finalist, and Sex, Love, and Videogames won first place in the New Adult category in the 2016 Swirl Awards and first place in Contemporary Fiction in the 2017 EPIC eBook Awards.