Writing M/M relationships with Courtney Maguire
First question: tell us about yourself.
Well, I was raised in south Texas and have lived in Austin for about twenty years (does that make me old? I think that makes me old). I've been writing in some form since I was probably in the fifth grade. I got involved with an online music magazine that promoted Japanese music and culture in the US and Canada. Very niche, I know, but it was a lot of fun. I also had a hard fan fiction phase, as I'm sure many writers do, and it gave me the bug for longer form fiction. It's an amazing sand box and taught me so much about pacing and character development in a longer format. I made as many mistakes and breakthroughs. My first published book, Wounded Martyr, was a finalist for the RWA Golden Heart Award for Contemporary Romance: Short as well as a finalist for the Contemporary Romance Writers Stiletto Contest in the same category and published in December of 2019. My second book, Drive, just released on April 20 with the same publisher, NineStar Press and I'm really happy to see it out in the world. I also have an upcoming paranormal series in the works with City Owl Press and the first book will be out late this year. Busy busy!
Wow. That’s all pretty impressive. You’ve been writing since the fifth grade? What inspired you to first pick up the pen?
It was a class assignment, actually. We were to write a short story about anything we wanted. I was really into the Animorphs book series at the time and I basically wrote an Animorphs fan fiction. It couldn't have been that good, but I remember reading it in front of the class and all the wide-eyed looks I got from my classmates. Everyone told me how great it was after and it just felt good. So I wrote some more. I had so much fun coming up with stories, even if no one really read them but me and my friends.
Tell me more about your publishing journey. You traditionally published, correct? I am traditionally published. After spending a lot of years writing for free on the internet, I got the bright idea that maybe I should get paid for this. The first book I wrote and queried is NOT the first book that published. I queried that first book for almost two years, revising and rewriting the whole way. I got so many rejections, I could paper my walls with them. In between waves of queries and rejections, I worked on a new manuscript that would become Wounded Martyr. It was a silly little thing that started out as a smutty one-shot I wrote for a friend. But I just kept pecking away at it until it became a novel. On a whim, I entered it into a couple of contests and ended up finaling for a Golden Heart. I queried a grand total of 7 publishers and agents, had 4 full requests and an offer in less than five months. In all that time, I was still querying that first novel. I was about to shelve it when I got a Revise Resubmit request from City Owl Press. I met the editor, Heather McCorkle, at RWA conference and she remembered my book. She had so many good things to say and really encouraged me to keep working it. So I did. That first book I almost gave up on is now coming out later this year.
Wow. That’s amazing story of grit. Or stubborness lol. The biggest thing people need to understand when getting into this business is that it's a long game.
Very true. Tell me more about the plots of your novels. Wounded Martyr centers around Ice, the front man of an aging heavy metal band. He's a recovering alcoholic, his band is struggling to stay relevant, and he is trying to work things out with the boyfriend he lost due to his substance abuse. While on tour, he has a one night stand with his bassist and best friend, Ashton. He's still in love with his ex, but he can't fight the physical attraction he has with Ash. Wounded Martyr has just released a new album that could put their band back on the map, but his guilt over his relationship with Ash and the ensuing spiral of substance abuse threatens to wreck it all.
Drive is the story of Redmond Cole, a deeply closeted auto mechanic in the small east Texas town of Black Creek. He's struggling to keep his life afloat and raise his much younger sister who is a handful to say the least. Then one of his regular clients, Victor Itachi, invites him for drinks as a thank you for some emergency repairs. Victor is the polar opposite of Red: slick and refined and beautiful. He invites Red to join him at a club for people with...off the mainstream tastes. Victor is a Dom and he wants Red as his dog. What follows is an intense sexual relationship that challenges everything Red knows about himself. But when Red becomes friends with the only out gay man in town and triggers Victor's jealousy, he has to decide what's more important to him, his relationship or his secrets. Those both sound so interesting. So your romance books are all male/male. What drew you toward M/M romance?
It's hard to say exactly. I think it's mostly because it's what I enjoy reading. They say write the book that you want to read and, well, I did that. I also have always written from a male POV. I know this sounds like a big line of bullshit, but I have a hard time writing women well. Even though I am one. It makes no sense whatsoever, but here we are.
That’s so interesting and I think every author has their quirks and talents. We need that in the literary world and I like that you know where your strengths and weaknesses.
What are some of the challenges to writing M/M romance ? Getting the representation right. Representation is so so important. Obviously, I am not a gay man, so I have to take care not to fall on stereotypes or present the relationships in ways that are harmful or fetishizing (even in those steamy situations). The main thing is be respectful, listen to the criticism even if it's hurtful at first. Mistakes will be made. Learn and do better next time. That’s great advice. You mention seeking out feedback/criticism. Do you have particular people you go to
I have a handful of trusted beta readers that have read quite of bit of my work and are familiar with my voice. I am also a member of several online writing groups and will solicit reads from their members. It can be a challenge to get reliable beta feedback, so when you find good partners, it's wise to hang onto them. I've had several readers that take weeks to read an MS and then come back with one or two sentences of feedback or disappear altogether. It's frustrating.
It’s definitely frustrating. Other than the obvious, what things separate M/M romance from other types of romance? There is definitely the added complication of social stigma. Unfortunately, though we've come a long way, there is still a lot of prejudice against gay relationships and you can't ignore that in any kind of LGBTQ romance. Prejudice from the community plays a big role in Drive, as the main character Red feels forced to keep his identity a secret even from his family. It comes up in Wounded Martyr in the form of a vaguely homophobic band mate. On the positive side, there are so many wonderful found families present in LGBTQ romance and literature in general. I find it really beautiful and uplifting to see people create a community for themselves when the one that should have sheltered them fails.
I think that is definitely something to include- both the internal and external struggle of social stigma. What advice would you give other writers who want to write m/m? It's probably mostly the same as I would give to any writer in any genre. Listen. Really examine your choices, especially if you're writing about a character that's part of a community that you aren't a part of. Have open and honest conversations with people and really hear what they're saying. Own your mistakes, because you will make them. Probably the worst thing a writer can do when they get called out for bad rep is tell the reader they're wrong. People have opinions about women writing m/m and if you are a woman, you will hear about it. They are entitled to those feelings. Just take it. Other than that, it's the same thing a hundred different writers have said before me. Read a lot. Write a lot. Don't give up.
That is beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing with me today. That was a lot of great information