Diversity in M/M Romances – Will we ever get there?

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Almost 2 years ago I wrote a blog essay about the lack of diverse characters in gay contemporary romances. My impression at the time was that M/M was a homogeneous twenty something Caucasian world and that the majority of our authors were not interested in writing about diverse characters. With some exceptions, that opinion hasn’t really changed a whole lot although there has been movement in a positive direction.  In my post 2 years ago when I used the term  “diverse” I meant characters who are older (over 35); people with different religious or cultural backgrounds – they may even be atheists or pagans; people who may be physically or mentally challenged in some way; and those who are of different ethnicities. YAOI stories require that the characters must be Asian so I haven’t specifically included them in the post, although outside of that genre Asian characters suffer the same fate as other ethnicities and are not part of the M/M milieu.

The majority of authors who commented on my post jumped to the  conclusion that I was only talking about a lack of ethnic diversity in M/M and they ignored everything else. Maybe they didn’t read the entire post. I tried to  spell out all the groups I felt were ignored or overlooked  in this sub genre. Most authors had reasons, which I’m sure they thought were valid, regarding why they couldn’t write ‘black’ characters. What we had was a failure to communicate. The post was about a lack of diverse characters, not about a lack of black characters. So I’m going to try this again , 21 months later..

It’s now 2011. Has there been a change in this area in the M/M sub genre since 2009? From my perspective not much, but I could be wrong.  There are some brave souls such as Catt Ford, Lee Benoit, A.M. Riley, Astrid Amara, K.C. Kendricks, Lynn Lorenz, K.Z. Snow, Sarah  Black, Anah Crow and Dianne Fox, Amber Green, Josh Lanyon, T.A. Chase, Ally Blue, J.L. Langley, A.J. Llewellyn, D.J. Manly, K.A. Mitchell, Angelia Sparrow and Naomi Brooks, Val Kovalin, Feliz Faber and a few others are trying to move the yardstick one book at a time. Readers seem more than willing to embrace diverse characterizations, based on comments on a recent review by Val Kovalin of a book by Catt Ford, The Untold Want, which has two black protagonists. So why aren’t more writers stepping up to the plate? Are they unaware of those readers who want books that are different from the old romance stereotypes and tropes that have been around for almost 100 years? I realize it takes time and a lot of effort to break the mold but it only requires a few authors to move the pendulum in another direction. Some authors claim that the research to write about diverse characters is time consuming. Writing about the physically challenged or older protagonists as opposed to twenty something characters is definitely different but I don’t and involves more research,  however our authors write about gay men even though, according to a survey on this site, about 65% of the writers in our sub genre are still straight Caucasian women. If straight women can write convincingly about gay men and many of them do such a great job (which must involve a fair amount of research since they are not gay men), is it so hard to write about diverse groups in addition to gay men? I know that there’s a whole lot more involved in getting the characters right and it’s not just the research, but isn’t it worth it?

When was the last time you read a gay romance starring American Indians (Cherokee, Navajo, Seneca)? Other than Two Spirits by Walter L. Williams and Toby Johnson which was written in 2006,  and a few stories by writers like Sarah Black I don’t recall reading many recent M/M books about American Indian protagonists although I’m sure they’re around.

Books with physically challenged protagonists are almost as difficult to find because very few authors write them. Ethnically diverse protagonists in M/M romances are as scarce as hen’s teeth, and when we find them a large percentage are Latino characters where the plot involves drug cartels.

Have you read books with a hearing impaired gay character lately? If so I would love your recs. In 2008 there were 35 million hearing impaired people living in the US where most M/M authors reside, and probably 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 persons (depending on which statistic you believe) in this group are gay. Yet they are almost ignored. Blind protagonists are not heard from a lot either. I read Mexican Heat by Laura Baumbach and Josh Lanyon a few years ago, and a few books by T.A. Chase but there’s not a whole lot of blind protagonists around.

Just because a gay man can’t see or hear, or may have different cultural values, or is not Caucasian, that  doesn’t mean he can’t be sexy!

Many soldiers are back home who have been injured in different wars which have placed them permanently in wheelchairs. Going by the statistics, if these soldiers reflect the general population, 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 are gay, and it would seem that there are stories to be told about these heroes if only our authors would let their imaginations soar. Many other gay men are injured in garden variety accidents that are serious enough to leave them wheelchair bound for the rest of their lives – another potential source for plot bunnies.

The latest world population statistics indicate that we are at 6.9B people and are expected to grow to 7B by next year. The countries with the largest populations are mostly ethnically diverse and non Caucasian, with China at 1.34 B, India 1.2B, Africa 967 million. The European Union 500M, USA 311M, Russia 142 M, Britain 62M, Canada 34M and Australia 22M are some of the countries with large Caucasian populations. The population pendulum will continue to swing to countries that are ethnically and culturally diverse and people in the most populous countries in the world want to read about characters to whom they can relate. It would therefore seem to make good business sense for M/M authors to tap into this market and increase their fan base. In addition, think of the built-in conflict! The characters would provide the internal conflict, and if readers want external conflict, there are always disapproving  families, friends, communities, work situations, and the general public to provide realistic conflicts. Authors wouldn’t have to invent amnesia or stalkers!

Here are a few comments on the review two days ago of The Untold Want by Catt Ford which I mentioned earlier:

“It seems like 90% of gay romance fiction centers on generic, 30 year-old white guys with no real cultural identity who live in a generic, unnamed North American city while working at a generic, unspecified profession or perhaps a thinly described “job” like the ever-popular author, artist, or BDSM club owner. It’s almost enough to make me stop reading in the genre.”

 “Sounds like this would be worth reading regardless of the heroes’ ethnicity, but the all-whiteness (or lack of real cultural depth to the occasional latino or native american character) in the M/M milieu is just creepy.”

“Oh wow, older guys AND they’re African American? Val, you must have tapped into my subconscious – just the other day I was *desperate* to read something like this! Thank you for a great review, I am totally buying this book NOW”

“KZ Snow’s character Fan in Mongrel was so compelling and relatable, and he suffered from bipolar disorder.”

“this book sounds SO up my alley! to me, actually the character’s ethnicity don’t matter so much as long as it fits with the story told, but you’re right, m/m characters get harder and harder to remember, simply because they are so similar, as are the stories sometimes”

” I completely LOVED it! It’s been forever since an m/m romance took my breath away. Many thanks to the author for a refreshing read & to you for helping me discover it. I’ve slowly been developing m/m fatigue & I think it’s because of the, among a laundry list of things, lack of ethnic diversity. Job blandness I can deal with & overlook if the story/writing is excellent but I really desperately want to read about people who look like me.”

If you check this website you will notice that the bloggers come from all over the world. They read M/M romances or they wouldn’t be here.  As a reader of these books, are YOU tired of the sameness of gay characters in M/M romances?  Have you read many M/M books lately with diverse characters? If you want to try something different on the menu or you’re a member of that rapidly expanding group called “diverse” and you want to read stories with characters that you can relate to, you will have a difficult time finding books that aren’t “mainstream.” (In publishing parlance “diverse” means that you’re not part of the mainstream and that includes all of the  groups that I discussed in this post.)  Are M/M authors willing to walk and write outside the lines, do a paradigm shift and give some readers different characterizations that reflect the global environment in which we live today? The more we read about ‘diverse’ characters in our favourite genre (and I include the entire spectrum covered by that word,) the more accepting we would all be in terms of regarding diversity as normal and not something that we have to make a conscious effort to integrate into our lives. There are authors who are writing these stories but more of them would be very welcome.

What do you think readers? Do you want more diverse characters in M/M romances? The last time I wrote about this I offered to hook authors up with readers who would be willing to read their stories and give them advice on the authenticity of their diverse characterizations, but only one author took me up on that offer.

As always, I’m also looking for book recommendations that eschew the typical fare. There’s nothing wrong with twenty somethings – I love them, but if you have the same meal every night it becomes boring so perhaps we need something to spice up what’s on the menu in order to turn M/M around and make the books more compelling and exciting. Someone once told me that there’s nothing original or new in the world of writing. Well I respectfully beg to differ – there’s a lot that’s new or can be made new with a an open mind. Let’s take a walk on the wild side authors. :)

I look forward to your recommendations as I know there are a lot of hungry readers out there in M/M land.

191 thoughts on “Diversity in M/M Romances – Will we ever get there?

  1. Sirius

    Excellent post Wave. I think so much more can be done with diverse characters in this genre. Untold want was superb, and absolutely part of the reason why I grabbed it the moment I saw it was because *both* characters are african-american. I know this post is not about black protagonists only, I am just saying that I am trying to remember and actually I fal to remember a book where both characters are not caucasian. One – I have read few (very few), but both? No, on the top of my head I do not remember. Lets see, “One thread of forever love” by Nicole Kimberling was awesone, I think it was reviewed here and one of the characters is japanese. “Somathestesia” by Ann Sommerville, where one of the guys is black was wonderful too. “Caught” by AB Goyle was wonderful. I am trying to think of non yaoi influenced books and I am drawing a blank sadly. I understand that it takes more research and care to draw protagonists who is not caucasian and younger than thirty, but why not? Surely many readers would love that?

    Oh, with older protagonists “Caricatures” by Jardon Smith features guys who got together when they were in their sixties. That was sadly pretty much the only book I have read with that much older guys. Thank goodness now more writers remember that people in their late thirties and forties can still fell in love, but still not enough if you ask me. After forty? Nothing.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Sirius
      Thank you for commenting.

      I’m hoping that more authors will join the band and realize that there is a real market for diverse characters that are written as an integral part of their stories and not just as a throw in.

      Thanks also for your recs. I have Jardon Smith’s book Caricatures for review and I’ll try to get to it soon. Re your other recs., I hope that your fellow readers will check them out.

  2. Val Kovalin

    What a totally cool post to be reading here at the airport at oh-dark-thirty! I’m the one who reviewed The Untold Want by Catt Ford, and it is so well written on top of being diverse — a joy to read. It will rank right up there with the five or so best things I’ve read this year.

    If I can be permitted some shameless self-promotion, my new book Call And Answer has black characters and French Cajun characters. Believe me, this is outside of my own ethnic heritage, such as it is, ha, ha! I mean, we women are already doing the research and practicing the empathy necessary to write about gay men, so why not stretch outside our own experience some more and write about different cultures or mental / physical challenges or religions?

    Fiction revs:
    Shell shocked by Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks
    Mongrel by KZ Snow
    Golden Boys by Amber Green
    Driven to Distraction by Anah Crow & Dianne Fox

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Val
      Thanks again for your review of The Untold Want which made me revive this topic that’s so close to my mind and heart.
      I also added your name to the list of authors who dare to go where only a few others are testing the waters. :)

      we women are already doing the research and practicing the empathy necessary to write about gay men, so why not stretch outside our own experience some more and write about different cultures or mental / physical challenges or religions?

      That’s exactly my point. M/M authors have to research the whole gay spectrum for their books so why not add another dimension to their research and write a story about a physically challenged gay man and his lover?

      Thank you for the recs. Val. I hope that some of the readers will check out these books.

  3. Alaina

    Seems like a classic case of privilege denying on the part of the genre. What people don’t see, experience or think about in their daily lives often won’t be something they consider in their writing. People are so used to thinking about diversity as being synonymous with blackness that they have a difficult time associating the word with any other meaning. And when they do realize that there a loads of other kinds of Others out there they resist having to reconceptualize their world-view to include the presence/voices of people who were previously invisible. It’s hard and it’s scary and it’s just easier to be dismissive of the significance of the erasure than it is to address it.

    The LGBTQ community has done a pretty good job of normalizing perceptions of itself in the last several decades. I don’t know why it’s had success while other communities continue to struggle, although we can consider the fact that white men are some of the louder voices speaking to the general public and often serve as posterchildren for the community. Gay men and women of color or who aren’t able bodied don’t have the same presence, probably for the same reasons that they’re silenced at large. Similarly, white women writing m/m often come from a privileged position that doesn’t encourage them to challenge the structure of the genre.

    I know some people will probably take offense at that idea, but that’s how I see it, anyway. I’m not saying that all authors and readers are guilty, or that all gay white men are to blame or are even unaware of their own privilege. It’s a discursive, hegemonic problem, not a person specific one.

    I don’t think the issue of diversity in m/m is going to be satisfactorily addressed any time soon. It’s not just that we’re seeing a strong resurgence of overt racism and homophobia on the American political right. The real problems come with the assumption that things like the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act solve the problem of discrimination simply because they ensure against the most public forms of it. Ideas that we live in a ‘post-racial’ or a ‘post-sexual’ society only serve to erase the voices of those who are most oppressed. Even the most open-minded can resist hearing complaints if they’re taught to believe that the real problems have already been solved. And if they aren’t aware there’s a problem they’ll just reproduce it in their writing.

    It’s going to take lots and lots of incremental changes and probably a lot of backward steps. But conversations like this, a regular return to the issues and a reassessment of where the genre is are vital to making those changes happen.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hello Alaina

      Thank you for commenting

      Seems like a classic case of privilege denying on the part of the genre. What people don’t see, experience or think about in their daily lives often won’t be something they consider in their writing. People are so used to thinking about diversity as being synonymous with blackness that they have a difficult time associating the word with any other meaning.

      That’s exactly my point. If you don’t “see” it you can choose to ignore it. The last time I wrote abouot this the majority of the authors assumed that I was talking about diversity in the context of being black, because I’m black. They either didn’t want to address the other issues around diversity or they never thought about them.

      It’s hard and it’s scary and it’s just easier to be dismissive of the significance of the erasure than it is to address it.

      Another excellent point. However if we continually ask for books that have diverse characters the authors may not be able to continue dismissing diversity.

      …white men are some of the louder voices speaking to the general public and often serve as posterchildren for the community. Gay men and women of color or who aren’t able bodied don’t have the same presence, probably for the same reasons that they’re silenced at large. Similarly, white women writing m/m often come from a privileged position that doesn’t encourage them to challenge the structure of the genre.

      Since M/M is such a small element in the romance genre, even though it’s getting bigger every day, it should be a lot easier for readers to approach authors and ask them to write diffferent types of characters. Email works. :) Posting comments on their websites also works.

      In the two years since my first post nothing much has changed, but I’m hoping that an open dialogue today will help change some authors’ perspective.

  4. kaija

    While I was reading this post I realised I tend to gravitate towards books with these kinds of diverse characters. I also tend to remember them even if they are not particularly good, probably because they are so rare.

    I haven’t read Untold Want yet but I will because so rarely internal conflict is allowed to be enough. Far too often I feel at the end of the book that there was a completely unnecessary external conflict that brushed characters aside. I want to read about the character’s internal growth not how he reacts to external issues. After having read Val’s review I can kind of see why this is so much harder to write well that reacting to external factors is.

    Anyway, about the diverse characters. Without doing any checking I can think of at least 5 books with blind protagonists in addition to Mexican Heat (two by Sean Michael and two by TA Chase and one in the Love is… series by Andrew Grey), one with Native American going deaf (Be the Air for You by TA Chase), couple of amputees, couple of men dealing with the effects of stroke (one of them is actually a guy over 40, so it fills in both the age and disability box) and then there is Carol Lynne, especially with her Cattle Valley series. For all her faults (mainly insta love, fluctuating back stories, sloppy attention to details…) she has used very diverse main characters: Native American, black and Latino characters, characters in a wheel chair, with HIV and with bipolar disorder, one of the characters was illiterate and I just the read the blurb for the latest Cattle Valley book, where one of the characters will be Native American and the other transgender. In her other series she has used a mentally challenged protagonist whose partner is an amputee. Another character in the same series suffers from a severe depression and his partner is an Arab, presumably a Muslim although religion never enters into the story. I’ve never thought about it before but maybe half of her books have protagonists on the diverse side of spectrum.

    As for Asian characters, Sedonia Guillone’s entire White Tiger series takes place in Japan with mostly Japanese characters.

    Overall I’ve read hundreds of M/M books in 3.5 years I’ve been reading in this genre, and it is pitiful how few books with diverse characters I can think of. I haven’t really noticed it before but that may be partially because as a non-native speaker from a different culture there is a certain amount of “otherness” in even the most banal of M/M books.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Kaija

      Thank you for commenting. As you said

      …it is pitiful how few books with diverse characters I can think of. I haven’t really noticed it before but that may be partially because as a non-native speaker from a different culture there is a certain amount of “otherness” in even the most banal of M/M books.

      I see your point that coming from a different culture you can appreciate all aspects of this sub genre, even though there are so few books with diverse characters.

      One of the problems I had with this post was not to repeat too much of the information or too many of the books and names of authors in my previous post – some of whom you mentioned: Sean Michael, ZAM, Carol Lynne – all of whom had covers featured in that post. I reviewed a few of the books you mentioned – T.A’s Be the Air For you is an example.

      I will try to get a volunteer to develop a list of books and authors so that other readers can access it if they are interested.

      Thank you for your recs. Kaija

      1. kaija

        Wave, I remember reading your original post but quite obviously it didn’t have a same impact on me as this one did, since I don’t seem to remember much about it. In a way it emphasises your point about lack of diversity that I mention same books and authors you did nearly two years ago.

  5. Laura (rureadinganotherone)

    Great post Wave, I myself love diversity, but I know of many readers that don’t, which could also hamper the m/m market. Is it that some writers and readers are just scared to step out of the comfort zone?? Is it that writers have to hold everyday jobs and write on the side, so therefore no time?? Is it that today’s m/m market has so many new releases the writers feel like they have to turn out books quickly just to keep up with the competition?? Or is it that many writers have not just reached that age and feel more comfortable writing with an age their familiar with? Or is it that one cannot determine another persons definition on per-say “diversity”? So many questions that make me say :thinker: hmmm….. I love to read about older men, love the salty black hair, but not to old, cause who wants to read about old saggy balls. :shock: I love books that deal with problems that I have not had to face and some I have, so yes I’m all for diversity, lets hook a girl up :yes: Ok I going to quit rambling now cause I have some writer friends and they might come out to kick my butt :strike:

    1. Laura (rureadinganotherone)

      Awww, just had an epiphany on a certain someones story their working on and it would be perfect, now off to convince him. :idea:

    2. Wave Post author

      Hi Laura

      I myself love diversity, but I know of many readers that don’t, which could also hamper the m/m market. Is it that some writers and readers are just scared to step out of the comfort zone??

      There are many readers who don’t love BDSM but authors still write these stories. There’s always a market if the books are available.

      I understand all of your questions around the issue of diversity but I tried to define what I meant by that term. Writers are like everyone else. They work, they come home and then they have their second (or third) job as writers and they have to compete in the real world in an ever competitive field. However writing books about diverse characters could give them that competitive edge.

      A lot of M/M writers are middle aged straight females as Val said, just as there are many younger writers. If everyone writes twentysomething protagonists where is the variety in that? About 20% of writers in this sub genre are gay and that number is growing; those writers would only have to research the ‘diverse’ aspect of their stories.

      I like to read about all kinds of characters, not just diverse protagonists, and I’m hoping that other readers have similar tastes.

      I agree that not everyone wants to read about a character in his sixties with saggy balls LOL but when I talked about older characters I mentioned those over 35.

      I hope your writer friends can expand their thinking – there’s a whole lot to choose from in terms of ‘diverse’ characters. :)

      1. Zola

        I’d just like to chime in here–before I read through all the comments–that I know some damn sexy 60 year old men and women, lol. Some people age better than others.

        My biggest concern around this issue is that while I crave books with ethnically, physically, religiously, and economically, diverse characters, I sooo don’t want to read a slew of books where it’s obvious the writer(s) has checked off boxes on a quota sheet. I want characters who have vitality regardless of what they look like, or where they come from. And I think that’s also what’s contributing to my m/m fatigue:the entirely white/able bodied/young/pretty/rich reality that’s displayed in most m/m books lacks vitality and totally bores me out of my skull.

        Thanks for this essay Wave, and for quoting me. Whoo hoo. This is something we need to talk about continually if we’re ever going to get anywhere.

        I’ve decided to just say no to generica.

        1. Wave Post author

          Hi Zola

          Thank you for dropping by and commenting.

          My biggest concern around this issue is that while I crave books with ethnically, physically, religiously, and economically, diverse characters, I sooo don’t want to read a slew of books where it’s obvious the writer(s) has checked off boxes on a quota sheet.

          Those are pretty easy to spot because the characters are phony and it’s also obvious that the plot is usually something the author also checked off a sheet or “borrowed”.

          Most readers look for authentic characters and when an author can deliver, we’re in heaven.

          I’m very happy you’re pleased. :)

  6. Leslie S

    Great post, Wave. Many of us live in diverse communities so yes, why doesn’t M/M fiction reflect that more often? I would love to read about Indian guys, for example (Indian as in the subcontinent). I would love to read about characters of different religions and strongly different cultures. Feliz did a great job at sensitively depicting a Muslim character in ‘Desert Falcon’ for example. There should be more books like that.

    I must mention KA Mitchell’s Korean hero in ‘No Souvenirs’ – that’s a great book! I’m sure I’ve read another book with a Korean lead but can I remember it now? :???:

    1. GR

      Leslie, yes! I was just thinking of “No Souvenirs” – I love the way the character starts as a bit of a stereotype – cold and success-driven asian – and then at the end you find out there’s a lot more to him (that is in fact related to his cultural background too – I wish we’d heard more about that, but it’s not the way Mitchell writes I think).

      1. Zola

        I loved Jae Sun in “No Souvenirs” he so reminded me of one of my favorite characters on the tv show The Mentalist, Agent Cho–that man needs his own show stat!

    2. kaija

      ZA Maxfield has a Korean protagonist in E-Pistols at Dawn. Kara Larson has a Korean (or maybe Thai) character in one of her short stories as well as Maori characters in her other books.

          1. Leslie S

            Ei, only stuff like ‘hullu’ and lyrics to Anssi Kela songs! I have a friend in Hameenlinna and have visited her several times :smile: Finland is a fantastic country, I love it there. But Finnish is such a hard language to learn!! :eek: :grin:

    3. Wave Post author

      Hi Leslie
      I think many of us readers feel the same – we live in diverse communities yet the M/M world is painted almost lily white.. although some writers are breaking out of that box.

      One writer commented on the last post and said that she didn’t know anyone who was “ethnic.” WOW. I don’t envy her living in such a bubble.

      Thank you for reminding me about K.A.’s Korean hero in No Souvenirs. If you do remember other M/M books with diverse characters please come back and leave a comment. Someone (Kaija) has volunteered to put a list together. :)

  7. Jules

    Wave,
    Thanks for this post. I think your first post on it – was it only 21 months ago!? – was the first thing that pinged my “Oh hey, maybe I’m not paying attention to this enough” radar. It was one of a number of things that steered me into choosing my college minor – social justice – that has really opened my eyes so much to diversity. I hope other people are as inspired. :)

    I know Loose Id has a specific category on their website for multicultural romances, although it doesn’t break it down into m/m vs m/f vs menage. (They do even have a couple of f/f stories, which makes me inordinately happy.) But that might be somewhere you can look next time you’re specifically digging for one.

    And hopefully I can self-promote as graciously as Val… I have a book coming out May 3 with Loose Id that features one white, able-bodied, agnostic, 35-year-old hero, and his 48-year-old Korean American love interest, who happens to have a prosthetic leg. (With many deep thanks to people who have prostheses who were willing to answer questions for me!) So that sounds like something you might be interested in. :)

    You already mentioned KA Mitchell in your list of authors, but she does a great job with that. Aaron in Collision Course is some form of multiracial, from a difficult socioeconomic background; Jae Sun Kim in No Souvenirs is non-yaoi Asian; Regularly Scheduled Life features a Latino protag; and of course there’s An Improper Holiday with a hero with an amputated arm.

    I didn’t know about that book from Catt Ford, which just means I’m falling down on staying in the loop lately. I will go check it out! I like Catt. :)

    1. Sirius11214

      Jules I can’t wait for your book :) and yes, I loved -mproper holiday. I thought recommendations are for the later books (2O10 and this one), but yes loved it.

    2. Wave Post author

      Hi Jules

      I’m so glad I inspired someone. LOL Usually I get brickbats and i already got one from another author who is always pissed at me. :(

      I know that LI has books that they call “multicultural” but I checked those books at the time of the last post and the majority of them were M/f. Also they didn’t have any information on other diverse categories.

      On this site we’re trying to tag books that are diverse so that readers who are looking for them can find them. It’s not perfect yet but we’re working on it.

      I have a book coming out May 3 with Loose Id that features one white, able-bodied, agnostic, 35-year-old hero, and his 48-year-old Korean American love interest, who happens to have a prosthetic leg

      Jules you didn’t do such a great job promoting your book because I still don’t know the name. Maybe you can insert it after your comment? :)

      K.A does a terrific job with diverse characters.

      Catt’s book was just released from Dreamspinner last week so it’s very new.

      Thanks for commenting.

      1. Jules

        *laughs* I did forget the name, yes. Okay, so fine -

        PAPER PLANES by M. Jules Aedin, out May 3!

        *grins* Does that work for you?

        1. Wave Post author

          Thanks for the info. Jules. I’ll make a note and request it for review. :)

          If you work at this promotion thing you might get it right some day. LOL

  8. Helena

    Wave,
    Thank you so much for this interesting post that I´m sure I will be checking back both for the comments and for the recs :cool:
    You are so rigth about the lack of all kind of diverse characters. It´s a plus when this diversity is actually related to the story, personality…, no just something else that is added to the mix.
    Lee Benoit´s Cuban (Azul: Baílame) and African (Smoke: Askari) books have been my latest ethnically different readings.
    For people that enjoyed Barbara Sheridan´s Beautiful C*cksucker books, there is a new short in the series (Love Revisited) featuring a May-December relationship, and being one of them Japanese.
    Mickey B. Ashley Basque series (Loving Edits and Tono) includes an old (and happy) couple.
    … :???: Trying to think about more titles :thinker:

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Helena

      Thank you for commenting.

      Kaija has volunteered to put a list of diverse books together so hopefully in a few weeks we’ll be able to post them on the site.

      Any time I read about a diverse character the diversity has to be an integral part of the characterization and the story or I don’t enjoy it – it shouldn’t be just something tacked on.

      I haven’t read Lee’s books that you mentioned but we’ll definitely ensure that they are on the list and any other books that you mention.

      1. Helena

        That´s great, thank you Kaija :smile:

        I was thinking only in my recent readings and there are a lot of recs already but just to add something else Chis Owen´s 911 series includes a couple with a black American (Cheek to Cheek / Turn the Other Cheek).

      2. Helena

        Besides AJ Llewellyn books, Pisces: From Behind That Locked Room by Pepper Espinoza tackles weight issues too.

      3. Helena

        For HIV also:
        VGL Male Seeks Same / NEG UB2 by Rick R. Reed
        (sorry for multiple post, books seem to pop unexpectly and I don´t know when Kaija is picking all the titles)

        1. Sirius11214

          Oh I finally found Drew Hunt’s book and I do not think it was mentioned yet. It is called “Trapped nerves” where one guy is in the wheelchair and another one HIV plus.

  9. GR

    Fabulous post, Wave, thank you! I would like to add a few things.

    Frequently the “ethnic” characters who do appear either have no real cultural background or are stereotypes (there especially seem to be a lot of tempermental latinos – for example the recent novel in which a supposedly brilliant lawyer acted like a 15yo boy).

    The characters who have physical disabilities are usually shown as needing being emotionally immature, needing to be taken care of and “fixed” by their able-bodied lovers.

    The focus on youthful characters, “glamorous” jobs, and urban settings frequently makes it much harder for this reader to suspend disbelief. A guy in his late 20s who’s over bars and hook-ups and wants to settle down? Possible, but judging by the men I know, give it a few more years, til he’s well into his 30s or maybe even 40s. And since many authors clearly aren’t familiar with the cities and occupations they’re writing about, you’ll then have ridiculous details like a 30-something, supposedly hip gay man in a design profession who spends time in large cities dressing up by wearing a pair of Dockers (I promise you: never).

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi GR

      The characters who have physical disabilities are usually shown as needing being emotionally immature, needing to be taken care of and “fixed” by their able-bodied lovers.

      I think that has a lot more to do with writing ability than anything else. Hopefully the more these characters are developed the more authors will improve their craft and give us true three dimensional protagonists.

      I know what you mean about the youthful characters with glamourous jobs. :) I always try to remember that M/M is like every genre or sub genre — everyone has different tastes and I know that many readers love these characters and the books sell, or authors wouldn’t write them.

  10. Ally Blue

    Slipping out of lurk mode to pimp my crit partner Kimberly Gardner’s wonderful novel Too Soon For Love from MLR Press, which features a blind hero. I know of at least two other blind-hero gay romances which have been released in recent months, but I can’t remember the titles and haven’t read them so couldn’t recommend one way or the other anyhow.

    Pimping my own self now, I’ve always written heros up into their 40s in addition to the younger ones. Also various racially diverse heros in addition to the whitebread ones. So far religion hasn’t played much of a part in my books (except the Mother Earth series, in which my future society worships an Earth Mother), but most of my guys tend to be atheists like me. I should really branch out a little…

    I know you guys are already well aware of JL Langley, but for anyone here who isn’t, her With & Without series features Native American wolf shifters. It’s an awesome series and the latest installment, With Abandon, came out last month :)

        1. Wave Post author

          I’m a lapsed Catholic and have joined the athiests. Can we have buttons and signs and march on Washington? :) In my case the march would be on Ottawa. :)

          1. Zola

            Woo hoo, for atheists. I used to spend a lot of time on an interracial romance board (m/f) and there were so few out atheists there it was a little disheartening.

            Wave, I’m not sure how well you could organize a bunch of atheists to march on washington, but I’d sure love to see it happen. I’d rock a pin though.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Ally

      I had no idea about Kimberly’s book and I just requested it from Laura for review.

      With regard to your books, you were in the previous post 2 years ago and you’re back on the list today. As I told AJ Llewellyn, I wrote this post late last night and early this morning so I didn’t have the time to do much research and of course I forgot to add authors’ names who I knew for sure wrote diverse characters. :( This is one of those posts where I will definitely forget a whole bunch of people and in any case the idea was to give a sampling, not an exhaustive list.

      J.L is on my list and one of the readers (Kaija) has volunteered to put together a list of books and authors so that other readers can buy the books.

      but most of my guys tend to be atheists like me. I should really branch out a little…

      You really should branch out and worship something Ally. It’s so unseemly of you to be an athiest or pagan. LOL

  11. Ingrid

    All true what you said Wave but I have to admit that didn’t “see” it until you pointed it out. I though about my family and friends (irl), people in my appt building (16 appt), they are all caucasian white part 1.

    As for the recs, these are from my recent reads: Alan Chin’s Island song features a Hawaiian. You have Urban Shaman by Lyn Gala, Where the heart is by Elizabeth Silver. And Crooked by Michael Gouda, I can’t really recommend that one though because it was a dnf for me.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Ingrid
      I di understand your point. If you don’t live in a world IRL where people are diverse it’s hard to wrap your mind around diversity.

      Thank you very much for the recs. and I’ll remember what you said about Michael Gouda’s book :)

  12. AJ Llewellyn

    Wave, this is another insulting post to a genre that you seemed to delight in bashing. Feliz Faber is one of your own reviewers with one book pubbed, so I think your favoritism is showing there.
    From my own perspective, I believe I personally have written MANY diverse characters. I have an African American leading man in my entire Mingo McCloud series. I have an injured boxer recovering from a coma in “Xu.” I have an injured boxer forced to give up his career in “The Bouncer.”
    I tackle weight issues in “The Oasis” and “Beyond the Reef.”
    I have a blind character as a supporting player in my “Waikiki Wizard” series.
    I have Native Hawaiian characters in about 50 of my 100 + published books.
    I tackled male breast cancer with DJ Manly in “Island Heat.”
    We also tackled a current and serious issue of bone marrow disease in “Black Point Forever.”
    We highlighted the VERY REAL issue gay parents have with blended families, adoptions, surrogates etc and what happens when a child becomes ill and there is no family match for a donor.
    We took great care with that story since it was part of a beloved series and our two heroes, Matt and Thomas finally realize their dream of having a baby, only little Rose develops a grave illness.
    Speaking of DJ, he has a Native American character in “Schism.” These are just off the top of my head. I tackle homelessness, unemployment, all kinds of social issues,
    We have tried valiantly to bring up new ideas constantly. We do not shy away from the harsh realities of life but these stories don’t necessarily appeal to readers or reviewers.
    If you check many reviews here and elsewhere, readers are the ones who demand PERFECTION, not us authors. I am happy to write diversity. I do it every day. You might not know it, but we are not the only ones. Many, many authors out there are daring to be different.
    Rick R. Reed is a prime example. And he is brilliant.
    Even a flawed character, or one who is perceived as unlikeable gets attacked in reviews. Interesting, but factually incorrect post.

    1. Wave Post author

      AJ
      I’m answering your comment out of order because you seem to feel that I have deliberately excluded your name from the list of authors in the post.

      Since I can’t personally come up with an exhaustive list of recommendations, I asked the readers to come up with books about diverse characters that we can recommend to other readers. My intention is to develop a list of books that readers can access from time to time, however there will no doubt be omissions even from that list since we will probably forget many books. Clearly we won’t be able to name every single author who has written diverse characters in their books, but hopefully as the number of books is expanded more of them will be included.

      This is supposed to be an opportunity for authors who have written diverse characters to list their books so that readers who are interested can purchase them. I’m sorry if the post offended you but it’s a fact that very few M/M authors write books that are not mainstream. As you pointed out, you and DJ are two of the authors who do write diverse characters and I would be more than pleased to add your names to the post. You will notice that there are other M/M authors who listed their books without making it appear that I deliberately slighted them. I added Feliz’s and Val’s names after they or other readers pointed out that they had written books with diverse characters and I’m continually updating the post.

      Obviously I can’t list every author who has written brilliant books (and I totally agree about Rick Reed since he is one of my favourite authors and I have reviewed many of his books). It’s a given that many authors’ names have been omitted from the post which was just supposed to give a small sampling of authors who had written M/M books with diverse characters. I wrote this post last night and consequently was unable to do more research. I’m sorry if you feel it was a deliberate slight on my part not to add your name and there will be many other authors who feel the same way I’m sure.

      1. AJ Llewellyn

        Hi Wave,
        Thanks for your response. The bottom line is this. I am an extremely prolific author by anyone’s estimation. I therefore have the luxury of experimenting with themes, and with diversity and I can tell you that my fluffier fare still sells more.
        Sad, but true.
        So, for authors who aren’t so prolific who are looking to make money and a name for themselves, they won’t take so many chances. I’ve also seen right here in the comments that many authors say they are afraid to tackle themes that might not be well-received.
        That’s a shame. I have never felt that way. I even took on ebook piracy in one book and of course, that didn’t sit so well with some people :)
        I think that there are many diverse stories. I used mine as an example but I am not the only one. There are some wonderful stories by authors that you would probably enjoy.
        DO they sell? Only those authors can tell you for sure…

        1. Wave Post author

          Hi AJ

          I do understand that fluff will always appeal more and that the market for books on serious topics will never compare.

          I think that authors like yourself who are more established and can afford to take chances are probably the ideal candidates to write diverse characters, if you wish. I don’t really expect that the brand new authors would go there but it’s disappointing that of the approximately 1000+ M/M authors (more or less) so few are willing to tackle diverse protagonists.

          If you would like to provide a list on the site of all your stories that have diverse themes or protagonists I will ask Kaija who has volunteered to put a list together to make sure that your stories are included.

          Thank you for commenting.

  13. Christopher Koehler

    Excellent post. This is something I worry about with my own writing and have definitely noticed as a reader.

    I live in a reasonably diverse area and since my stories are set in a thinly disguised version of my location, I try to make my characters reflect that. But that leads me to another concern, specifically that right now, it’s mostly the supporting characters where a lot of the diversity shows up (although one of the two main characters in Rocking the Boat was Hispanic). Is that tokenism? I really don’t know, but it’s something I try to be aware of.

    That said, my stories feature rowing, and one of the biggest developments in rowing is adaptive rowing, which is just what it sounds like: modifying the boat so people with varying physical limitations can still row. One of my WIPs features a character injured on the job who gets into rowing as part of his rehab, and this has inspired me to consider making his injuries permanent.

    As for stories featuring older characters, I’d like to recommend ZA Maxfield’s “Family Unit.” It’s a wonderful read.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Chris

      Sorry to be getting to you so late.

      I live in a reasonably diverse area and since my stories are set in a thinly disguised version of my location, I try to make my characters reflect that. But that leads me to another concern, specifically that right now, it’s mostly the supporting characters where a lot of the diversity shows up

      You have a distinct advantage over other authors because you live in a diverse neighbourhood, so your stories should not require a whole lot of research in terms of the location. Perhaps in terms of the diversity they might.

      I haven’t read your book as yet which I believe was reviewed a few days ago so I can’t say whether I consider the way you have structured the characters to be tokenism. At least you’re bucking the trend and writing diverse characters, which is something I admire. I will definitely put Rocking the Boat on my TBR soon since I love books about sports – so that’s a double whammy. LOL

      I reviewed ZAM’s Family Unit so I’ll make sure it makes the list.

      Thanks for commenting.

      1. GR

        Chris & Wave, I’ve never read “Family Unit” – like ZAM, but that damn cover is so off-putting! Those guys look like they’re in their 60s when they’re supposed to be in their 40s (my age, thank you very much)!

  14. Diane NYC

    Do books about diverse characters sell as well as standard stories?

    If there is a large audience for diverse characters and very few books featuring them, than the few books that are on the market should be selling like hotcakes. Are they?

    (We shouldn’t count books like Mexican Heat because the reader doesn’t know about the disabled character when they buy it.)

    My point is.. readers may say they want books with diverse characters, but do they actually buy them in large numbers when they are released?

    1. Tam

      Good point Diane. Also I’d be curious if statistically they are out of the norm with society. .3% of American’s are blind. Do books with blind characters represent that in the genre? In ANY genre including m/f? Maybe, I have no clue.

    2. AJ Llewellyn

      Good point, Diane. THEY DON’T! How many times have you read reviews where they rave about ‘fluffy’ books and the standard characters we’ve come to expect from romance fiction, regardless of genre?
      The bottom line is, people want what is easy and digestible.
      I found that when I stretched my wings from writing lighter fare to “The Wine-Dark Sea” which tackles gender reassignment (among other topics), I had readers emailing me that they wanted my fun books back lol.

      1. Ally Blue

        AJ, I’ll have to agree with you that the “fluff” does seem to sell better than the darker, more difficult themes, for the most part. Sex also sells better; my own sales definitely bear out both of those points. Not that I’ve really written any real fluff, ha.

        I don’t think this applies to diversity in characters’ race, religion, nationality, etc though (and I know you didn’t say it did, I’m addressing that portion of Dianne’s point). Whether or not those things sell seems to depend more on the popularity of the author, or in some cases (like with Sirius) readers who are specifically looking for non-white characters. I’m sure there are probably readers who specifically look for white characters, but I don’t kow any. I think there are more people like me, who don’t care what color/nationality the characters are.

        1. Sirius11214

          I am not specifically looking for non white characters :), I guess I am looking for the characters who more accurately reflect the world around me, you know? It is like after few years of reading the genre, it feels sometimes (and I know there are books that reflect diversity as others pointed out) that the world is heavily populated by white caucasian hunks in their twenties _ maybe mid thirties. Again, I have read the books with diverse protagonists, but I want more, much more. Shell shocked is wonderful and I am trying to remember Drew Hunt’s book with the guy whose legs are paralyzed after the gay bashing attack he was the victim of, but could we have more stories with guys who are not completely healthy? And the list goes on and on. I do not know of course, maybe there are a lot of readers who only want to read the fluffy escapism with the characters who have limited characteristics, but while there is nothing wrong with well written fluff, I want to read more than that.

          1. Ally Blue

            I hear you. I feel the same way, I’d like to read more of that as well. I totally misrepresented you, I’m sorry! That’s what I get for letting my fingers get ahead of my brain >_<

            Personally, I'd like to see more stories tackling tough, unpopular issues like cheating, but that's a whole other blog. Heh.

          2. Sarah Black

            two thumbs up! I agree completely. The world is so rich and dangerous and complicated, and so are people- maybe we writers need to make sure our characters are written to be as mysterious and complex as real humans, with truthful conflicts- which means they will be unlikable sometimes, total assholes, with serious character flaws- greed and selfishness and prejudice. And dealing with the selfish, greedy, prejudiced world- and coming out the other side like angels. Like real people. I love difficult characters.

            When I wrote Border Roads, at Loose ID, they were very supportive of the story- both a different structure, told in stories and multiple POVs- and a Native American character, and a character who was badly injured in Iraq. My very best and very worst reviews were written about that book- I think in both instances because people’s expectations were not met, and it was difficult to have to adjust to the reality of the story.

        2. GR

          AJ & Ally – I’m just a reader, so I don’t need to make a living here, which means I don’t have a stake in this like you all do. The last few years of my life have been quite stressful (several deaths in my immediate family, among other things), and I read M/M because it’s one of the most escapist genres (for me). I would probably not buy something about facing terrible racism but I do often enjoy realistic characters with believable lives that may be different from mine: in the last month the books I’ve bought have included “Untold Want,” “Candy G” (I’m a WASP), “Faking Perfection” (I am a complete atheist and was not raised in any faith), and “Admit One” (I know nothing about living in small towns or in Texas – you probably couldn’t pay me to do either). (And yes, I did enjoy the lovely Capri setting of “Relentless Passion”!) As with many of these comments, just one person’s opinion, of course.

    3. Wave Post author

      Hi Diane

      There are a few authors like K.A. Mitchell and ZAM who write a fair amount of books with diverse characters and I would assume that there must be a payoff or they wouldn’t do so.

      My point is.. readers may say they want books with diverse characters, but do they actually buy them in large numbers when they are released?

      I can’t answer that question but I can certainly ask some authors what their experience has been in terms of sales. Of course we also have to take into account whether the book was highly recommended or panned because there was somethng else wrong with it. I don’t LOVE every single diverse M/M book that I read, but I love being given the option of their availability.

    4. Sarah Black

      mine do not sell as well. But I’m not sure we know why- I suspect it’s not the nature of the diversity, but the fact that we know diverse characters are going to have a rough time of it, and those books tend to get into the nitty gritty themes. If you have a character who is HIV positive, and he is also black and an IV drug addict, his story is going to be darker and harder to read. Which is why we love to write those stories! I want that poor baby to climb right into my writerly arms and let me rock him to sleep- even though I know that story will be lucky to sell 10 copies.

      1. Wave Post author

        Hi Sarah

        If you have a character who is HIV positive, and he is also black and an IV drug addict, his story is going to be darker and harder to read.

        I totally agree with you there. I would have to be in the mood to read a story like that but if it’s well written, when I do read it I would definitely enjoy living in your world. I don’t expect every book to be fluff but sometimes I do like it after a tough day. That’s when I read about my twenty something hot guys. :) I have this down to an art – hot guys with a glass of wine after a tough day and the rest on the weekend when I have the time to devote to a serious book.

        1. Sarah Black

          now I’ve said that, I’m busy trying to think up a name for this dude, who has moved into my kitchen in the last five minutes and won’t leave. I think he’s homeless, too.

    5. Angelia Sparrow

      So far my best seller is Glad Hands, which features a Cherokee trucker and a runaway with some mild brain damage (affects his motor control) from ECT. (over 1000 copies)

      For Love of Etarin, which features a spacer in love with a eunuch has sold over 900 copies.

      Privateer’s Treasure with a half-white Barbados man, and a lapsed Moroccan Muslim is doing all right (in the 400s).

      Shell-Shocked, a PTSD vet in love with a double amputee phone psychic, is one of my best non-Ellora’s Cave sellers. (also in the 400s)

      1. Wave Post author

        Angel
        Based on those numbers you seem to be doing rather well. I guess in soem cases diversity pays — maybe. :)

  15. Sirius11214

    Diane, that’s a good question, especially since one of the commenters (Laura? Sorry typing from Blackberry and it is confusing to go back and forth) mentioned that she knows readers who do not love diversity. I can only speak for myself, but while I will happily buy a book about well developed caucasian characters from the author I know and love, all other things being equal I will grab the book with diverse characters *much* faster whether I know author or not. Like with Untold want, sure Catt Ford’s name was part of the appeal, but had she been completely unknown author, I would have still given book a chance because of who the protagonists were.

    1. Zola

      Sirius, I totally know what you mean about buying a book from someone unknown if the characters are non-caucasian. I definitely did that with the Catt Ford book. I didn’t have a clue who she was or whether or not I’d like her style. Hell, I didn’t even bother to finish reading the sample on Kindle before I hit “buy now.” I grabbed it immediately based on the strength of Val Kovalin’s review (who I totally respected enough after reading through her blog like two weeks ago to make an auto purchase) and the fact that BOTH characters were black.

  16. Aunt Lynn

    How timely, Wave! I will be reviewing Too Soon For Love by Kimberly Gardner on Monday, which, as Ally said, features a blind protag. Let’s see…I reviewed Canine TLC, which has a wounded Latino vet and the other protag was Middle Eastern. There was also Cutting Cords by Mickie B. Ashling that had a going-blind Japanese protag. Ummmm…Kiernan Kelly’s El Cedral had one of the protags Mexican — and he was not involved in drugs. Her Two Dads by Ariel Tachna had one Latino and one Indian protag. Schism by DJ Manly has a half-American Indian. I am trying to stretch for more that I’ve reviewed over the last couple of years, but am blanking. But even if there are a few more, this just a handful of the hundreds of books I read during that same period of time. I want more, dammit! Authors, step up! Gimme protags over 40. Gimme the physically and mentally challenged. Gimme men of color like those I see every day walking around Berkeley. Gimme a few Jews and Buddhists and Muslims and pagans and Hindus and Taoists.

    1. Wave Post author

      Lynn

      Authors, step up! Gimme protags over 40. Gimme the physically and mentally challenged. Gimme men of color like those I see every day walking around Berkeley. Gimme a few Jews and Buddhists and Muslims and pagans and Hindus and Taoists.

      That’s a long laundry list. LOL. but i do understand your point. When we do get diverse characters some of them (not all) are almost as white bread as the twenty somethings :)but it’s a step in the right direction.

      Sorry if I confused both you and Ally about Too Soon for Love. I’m definitely looking forward to reading your review.

      I hope that Kaija is getting all these books for her project. i don’t envy her. :)

      1. AJ Llewellyn

        Wave there are tons of these characters. BTW Serena Yates has a character who is disfigured in “The Chauffeur” which was a terrific book and AB Gayle tackles suicide in her book “Caught.” These are recent ones I’ve read. I was impressed with both these stories and these are just a couple.

    2. Val Kovalin

      Gimme a few Jews and Buddhists and Muslims and pagans and Hindus and Taoists.

      Time for more shameless self-promotion, here. :blush: I have a Jewish character and a pagan character in my newest book, Ink Illusions to be released April 24.

  17. Sirius11214

    Oh I am also trying to remember a book actually set in Mexico and both guys lived and worked there, not just Americans coming on vacation. I think “Normal Miguel” by Eric Oranta, but I may be confused.

    1. Ally Blue

      Now see, to me this brings up a whole other level of discussion. Y’all aren’t going to see any books from me set in another country, because simply researching the language and culture isn’t going to cut it. You absolutely CANNOT get any sort of real feel for a country foreign to you without spending some real, quality time there, IMO. You WILL miss things. Seemingly little but essential things about the culture and the way native residents interact with the place and each other, and if you miss those things or get them wrong readers who are familiar with those things will notice and strike you down. As well they should. I’ve never spent more than a week at a time anywhere outside the U.S., other than Jamaica, so while I’d love to write a book set in Copenhagen (don’t ask), I won’t because I can’t afford to go spend a summer there getting to know the place. More’s the pity.

      And yes, I know I set part of Fireflies in the Orinoco River basin. That doesn’t count, it was the jungle and the guys didn’t interact with any other people!

      1. Wave Post author

        Hi Ally
        I don’t expect authors to research other countries but if you would like to, you could do a book set in Canada and I would help. LOL

        I agree that it takes a bit more time to research different countries but I thought I was talking about diverse characters who live in the US. Maybe I missed a few of the comments and jumped to yours because I know you always kick my proverbials. :)

        Copenhagen huh? Is there a story there? I could go there and help you with the research.

        1. Ally Blue

          Naw, you didn’t bring it up and I don’t think you missed any discussion, really. Sirius mentioned a book set in Mexico rather than just Americans vacationing there, and that made me think of the difficulties — or rather, MY difficulties, since I can’t speak for anyone else — in writing books sets in cultures foreign to the author :)

          You never should have offered to help me with a Canada book, Wave. Between you and my friend Jade Buchanan (who lives in Calgary) I’d have TWO people to irritate to death and therefore I might actually do it one day *g*

          1. Wave Post author

            Looking forward to your book set in Canada. Just remember that the distance between Calgary and Toronto is similar to the distance between Southern California and NY and you’ll be all set. LOL

    2. Aunt Lynn

      Kiernan Kelly’s El Cedral is set in Mexico where an American doctor and his Mexican friend/lover from med school run a clinic. It’s a short that was included in the Healing Heart Sips from Torquere. Was that it?

  18. jayhjay

    Great post, and very interesting comments. Here are a few that I can think of with some diversity that I enjoyed:

    - KA Mitchell, No Souvenirs – Asian hero, cultural background plays role in his backstory although not a lot in the book itself.

    - ZA Maxfield – Drawn Together and ePistols at Dawn both feature one Asian hero. In both cases I think their men’s cultural backgrounds are very prominent in the story, especially Drawn together

    - Anah Crowe and Dianne Fox – Slow Bloom has a major May/December with the older man being 48. Not actually IRL old, but old for romance hero.

    1. Wave Post author

      Thanks jayhjay for the recommendations. I actually reviewed No Souvenirs and read ePistols but not Drawn Together as yet. I heard good things about Slow Bloom and I should put it on my TBR. Great recs.

      1. jayhjay

        Drawn Together is my favorite Z.A. Maxfield. I loved both Rory and Yamane. Great story, very excited and super sexy.

        I loved Slow Bloom although the age difference made me squick a little. Although I think the point was to push the boundaries of reader comfort. But really good story and also super hot.

  19. Serena Yates

    BLIND CHARACTERS
    Onyx by Mychael Black at Phaze Books (blind sub)
    Onyx 2: The Next Step by Mychael Black at Phaze Books (blind sub)
    Sight Unseen by Mychael Black and Shayne Carmichael at Torquere Press (blind vampire)
    Stripped Bare by S. Blaise at Dreamspinner Press (blind character)
    Emerald by Kimberly Burke and J. Falcon at Torquere Press (blind professor)
    Out of the Light into Darkness by T.A. Chase at Total-E-Bound (vampire going blind)
    A Voice in the Dark by Jamie Craig at Silver Liquid Books (blind character)
    A Christmas Carl by Ryan Field (blind social worker)
    Love Means: No Bondaries by Andrew Grey at Dreamspinner Press (blind musician)
    Leading the Blind and Where the Blind Leads by Michelle Houston in Blood Slave at Phaze Books (blind vampire)
    Blind Desire by I.D. Locke at Torquere Press (blind character)
    Hershie’s Kiss by Carol Lynne at Total-E-Bound (blind character)
    Snshine by J.L. Merrow in the SIndustry anthology at Dreamspinner Press (character going blind)
    Love is Blindness by Sean Michael st Torquere Press (blind vampire)
    Second Sight by Sean Michael at Torquere Press (photographer going blind)
    Seeing Love by Sean Michael ar Torquere Press (blind businessman)
    Welcome Home by Sean Michael at Torquere Press (blind rancher)
    Awakening 1 and 2 by Terry O’Reilly at Aspen Mountain Press (blind character)
    See Me, Feel Me by Zarah Owens in the Sindustry II anthology at Dreamspinner Press (blind masseur)
    Overture by D.G. Parker at Dreamspinner Press (blind pianist)
    Kittign Streak by Julia Talbot in the Play Ball anthology at Torquere Press (bling ex-baseball player)
    Blind Faith by Claire Thompson at Ellora’s Cave (blind character)
    Hearing Beauty by Mike Shade at Torquere Press

    1. Wave Post author

      Thanks so much Serena. These are wonderful suggestions. I have read only about 50% of the books on the list and I know that many readers would love to get their hands on some of these books.

      As I mentioned earlier, a reader (Kaija) has volunteered to put together a list of recommendations. We’ll permenantly display the list on the site for these readers who would like to walk on the wild side. :)

      Great job compiling this list Serena – I’m really grateful.

    2. AJ Llewellyn

      Great list, Serena. I think you are one of the best-read authors I know. BTW, I mentioned your book “The Chauffeur” here because the lead character is disfigured. I loved how you represented that. It is a wonderful book.

    3. Angelia Sparrow

      Torquere did an anthology called “Eternal Darkness” a few years back, which was all blind vampires.

      Unfortunately, it was also boring. How we ALL managed to make blind vampires boring is beyond me. (yes, Naomi and I are guilty too)

  20. Ally Blue

    BTW, off topic but not really…
    If anyone here is part of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians or knows someone who is, I would really appreciate it if you could email me at some point, ally AT allyblue DOT com (y’all know how to make an email addy out of that I think *g*). I’m writing the 3rd Mother Earth book right now, but after that one I really feel like I’m going to have to write the book that’s been poking at me for months now, starring a black man in nursing school and a Cherokee who’s an amateur Elvis impersonator. I’ve done a fair bit of research into the history and culture of the Eastern Band, and have cared for many Cherokee at the hospital where I work, but still, I’m not part of the tribe so there are going to be things I can’t possibly know. I would very much appreciate an insider’s point of view if I can get it :)

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Ally

      I don’t know anyone with that background but Toby Johnson who co-authored Two Spirits might know someone. I could contact him for you. If you email me I’ll send your information to him.

      I just realized that Sarah Black is probably a better contact since she has actually lived on the reservation and has written books about American Indians.

      1. Ally Blue

        Awesome, thanks Wave! The Eastern Band is such a specific culture and so isolated from the rest of the Cherokee (at least partly, I think, because of how it came into being in the first place, and the geography of this area), it’s really hard to find non-tribe-members who are all that knowledgable about them. At least at the level I’m looking for :)

      2. Sarah Black

        oh, I’ve been an Ally Blue fangirl for years! But I don’t know much about the Eastern Cherokee- I’ve been to Cherokee, to the museum and to roam around, but that is an interesting bunch, their history. Have you read 13 Moons by Charles Frazier? One of my favorite books ever.
        I lived with the Navajo, and spent 6 months down on the border with Mexico with the Papagao- Tohono O’odom.

        1. Ally Blue

          I have not read that, no. Although I really should. My reading time seems to not exist anymore, which sucks balls in a bad way. Sigh.

          You are a sweetie, thank you!! **hugs** I really hope all those readers who are looking for some deeper, more thoughtful reads find your work. You’re a terrific writer and everyone needs to see that!

          1. Sarah Black

            13 Moons has a narrator who goes to live with the Cherokee before and during the Trail of Tears, and stays with the group who stays. It’s really good- I have it on audio, so the handsome Will Patton can read to me!

  21. Sarah Black

    Thanks for including my books in this discussion, Wave. I don’t want to just talk about myself, but quite a few of my books have Native American protags and older men- Anagama Fires from Dreamspinner are both >40, for example. I have new books coming out this year with multi-cultural settings and characters that I really like- Tuareg coming from Loose ID is set in Zanzibar, and the characters are African, Tuareg, and American. The new story coming from Dreamspinner in Nov-ish that I just finished has a first person POV character of Lorenzo Maryboy- Navajo. I worried I had been writing too many Navajo characters, but I did it anyway because I like the story.

    I think it’s easy for me to write culturally diverse characters because I move all the time, and always have- Navy brat, and I did a career in the Navy, and I just can’t stop! I lived out on the Navajo reservation for 6 years, so Navajo characters are just guys now- since men are men, and they are just as irritating when they’re Navajo as any other boy who won’t pick up his dirty socks!

    I see 2 concerns- it seems that when reader’s expectations aren’t met, when characters don’t behave like people are expecting them to, and when the sex isn’t like a reader is expecting, then readers get pissed and write bad reviews.

    In order to tell the truth, older characters can’t rise to the occasion like they did when they were 17- and when they don’t, readers get pissed and write bad reviews.

    I have had a publisher warn me (this year) that if I want to write books with Native American characters, I have to get used to them not selling. And sadly, that is the case. If a cowboy is on the cover, or in the title, the books will sell better than almost anything else.

    If we as writers write our books like we don’t care about selling them, but just about the story- making it real and rich and beautiful and as truthful as we can stand, then you get diverse books which do not sell very well. Like mine.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Sarah

      I now understand why you write such diverse characters – you have the life experience to back it up and make your stories authentic.

      I see 2 concerns- it seems that when reader’s expectations aren’t met, when characters don’t behave like people are expecting them to, and when the sex isn’t like a reader is expecting, then readers get pissed and write bad reviews.

      In order to tell the truth, older characters can’t rise to the occasion like they did when they were 17- and when they don’t, readers get pissed and write bad reviews.

      If someone buys a book with an older character they can’t expect him to have sex at the drop of a hat 10 times a day. That would be totally unrealistic as well as silly. Even the young’uns can’t reload that quickly.

      Maybe you should have a cowboy on the cover along with the Native American character to guarantee sales. LOL

      I think part of the reason that diverse stories don’t sell as well as fluff is because it takes time for them to jell with the readers, but I sure hope that they will be clamouring for your books soon Sarah. :)

      1. Sarah Black

        as luck would have it, I don’t really care as much about sales as I should. I really REALLY care about the writing. On my deathbed, I’m going to be hunting feverishly for cliched phrases to re-write.

    2. Lee Benoit

      I was excited to see this post (and grateful to be mentioned in it!). Sarah, you’ve said so much that I was thinking and feeling as I scrolled through the comments. My stories with non-White characters don’t sell as well or get as much reviewer attention as my other stuff, probably for many of the reasons you mentioned. There seems to be an assumption that books featuring non-White characters will be “issue” books, and of course sometimes they must be. But more often characters of all kinds of various backgrounds are pretty ordinary and their HEA depends on them as people rather than on the resoution of some larger issue.

      My Paulo and Preston series of light-hearted D/s features a Cape Verdean sub whose ethnic heritage and traditions are an important part of who he is and how he moves in the world, but that’s just one aspect of his character. His most memorable trait isn’t his race, but his talent as a singer. One of the most perplexing comments I got about that series was from a reviewer who found Paulo’s lover, retired Dom Preston (who’s pushing 50 and suffers from arthritis that forced him and Paulo to be very creative in their play), to be less than sexy. So Sarah’s thoughts about expectations being met/unmet are borne out in my case.

      Like many of the authors commenting here, I don’t write stories set in Cuba or Kenya because I hope they’ll make me scads of money — they won’t, but neither will my other stories — but because I’ve had life experiences in these places that changed me, or because characters stormed into my head and wouldn’t leave until their stories were done. I’m thrilled that we as a community of readers, reviewers, and writers are talking about this in such a lively way.

      By the way, the GLBT bookshelf has several book category pages devoted to stories with ethnic and other variations. Authors and publishers can add books themselves and readers and reviewers can browse according to their interests.

      I am relishing this discussion!

      1. countrygirlxxoo

        I love Lee’s Paulo & Preston books! Most of the Paulo & Preston books can be found in the Toy Box line at Torquere Press. Just go search out Lee’s name. There are also a few free on her web site.
        http://www.leebenoittales.com/index.php

        I also love the Dragonwalker books (Chief, the love interest of the main character, is older and David, a secondary character, is blind, but he gets his own story in book 3).

        Benoit, Lee – Dragonwalker 1 – Dragonwalker
        Benoit, Lee – Dragonwalker 2 – Endicott Rex
        Benoit, Lee – Dragonwalker 3 – Live By The Sword

        Argentinean main character
        Benoit, Lee – Haven & Tadeo 1 – Haven
        Benoit, Lee – Haven & Tadeo 2 – Code Switching

        Latin/Hispanic characters (main character is 1/2 rest of family is 100%)
        Benoit, Lee – Vade Mecum

        Latin/Cuban/Spanish characters
        Benoit, Lee – The Hustler Prince

        1. Lee Benoit

          Thanks Countrygirl for your kind words. It’s funny, but your list surprised me. I almost forget about the “diversity” in my characters because it’s organic to them the same way their sexuality is (and, I hope, the same way all the “diverse” elements of real people are parts of whole). It’s quite humbling to know that readers connect with them!

  22. Catt Ford

    Great and thought-provoking post, Wave. And I am loving all the comments and reading what people think about it. It’s lovely to have everyone posting their rec’s, a wonderful resource.

    And of course, thank you for the shout-out. *g*

    One of my issues in writing Untold Want was a desire not to offend anyone in the black community with my ignorance, so I did do a fair amount of research in hopes of getting the flavour right. However, I can see this as a bar to any author trying to expand their horizons, which leads me to an uncomfortable observation. In the fight for all people to be considered equal, it seems there’s always someone on a lower rung than you. Are we less afraid of offending gay men by writing their stories even though we’re middle-aged females, than someone of a different ethnicity, or physical/mental condition?

    Almost all people experience a feeling of being other, or left out of a group at some point in their life. It’s possible to extrapolate that to an empathy of another person’s experience, but I feel I must be humble and respectful when writing of gay men, no matter what colour they are. As a woman, I’ve certainly experienced discrimination, but I can get married if I want—to a man. So while I deplore the fact that gays can’t marry in the US (Oh, Canada! Glorious and free!) I can’t feel that frustration from a personal POV.

    I think it might get in the way of some authors not willing to take the chance of offending, though clearly there are a lot of brave souls here!

    My inspiration for writing Untold Want came from the graphic artist side. In doing covers for DSP, I get a lot of cover requests and very rarely is race or physical disability mentioned.

    As I scroll through the stock photo sites, I see so many photos of hot beautiful men of all races! How nice is it to just see two black men on a cover? I had noticed a lot of books with one black character with a white character, which gives the conflict in the book its own direction.

    Romance is a difficult area; readers are often looking for the happy ending respite to the realities of their own lives. Believe me, I am a huge fan of a happy ending. But I think it does lead to popular clichéd plot lines selling well. Trying to walk the line between romance and realism.

    Of course the comments made me laugh too. The idea of the gay male in a big city in a design job wearing dockers! ROTFLMAO! Even middle-aged and older gay men in that category don’t wear dockers. (Thanks GR!)

    And Sarah Black:”If we as writers write our books like we don’t care about selling them, but just about the story- making it real and rich and beautiful and as truthful as we can stand, then you get diverse books which do not sell very well. Like mine.”

    Sad but it made me laugh.

    Thanks for providing a place for such thoughtful commentary.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Catt

      One of my issues in writing Untold Want was a desire not to offend anyone in the black community with my ignorance, so I did do a fair amount of research in hopes of getting the flavour right. However, I can see this as a bar to any author trying to expand their horizons, which leads me to an uncomfortable observation. In the fight for all people to be considered equal, it seems there’s always someone on a lower rung than you. Are we less afraid of offending gay men by writing their stories even though we’re middle-aged females, than someone of a different ethnicity, or physical/mental condition?

      I can’t answer that question, only the writers can. I never thought of the perspective you raise. What you’re saying is that authors are so afraid of offending someone that they would much rather avoid the issue – a valid point. Yet there are some authors like TA Chase who writes about disabled gay characters a lot and she either does a whole lot of research or gets the characters right every time.

      Romance is a difficult area; readers are often looking for the happy ending respite to the realities of their own lives. Believe me, I am a huge fan of a happy ending. But I think it does lead to popular clichéd plot lines selling well. Trying to walk the line between romance and realism.

      I do understand the need to fulfil readers’ expectations and what that takes. I also recognize that M/M is a young sub genre and there will be many hiccups and changes along the way. Perhaps I’m too impatient. BTW I also understand the authors’ need to ensure that there’s a fair return on their investment.

      I’m glad some of the comments made you laugh. :)

    2. Zola

      Thanks so much for writing The Untold Want (and for quoting Whitman). I hit the buy button so fast and so hard after reading Val’s review, and that’s something I never do for run-of-the-mill characters.

      About the issue of not offending the black community, I urge you to drop kick that worry now because black people are not monolithic, and not offending anyone at all is impossible. You wrote the hell out of Davion & Myles’ characters and I’ll leave it at that before I go completely off topic.

      1. Catt Ford

        Thank you so much for saying that. I know the black community is not monolithic, nor is any community. I just didn’t want to write with a lack of respect or make assumptions that are out of focus. Watching Black Men Revealed was eye-opening for me, in a good way, although the homophobia made me sad.

        I am so glad you enjoyed it and feel I did a good job. One thing that made me persevere was that humans are emotional (barring sociopaths and the like) and if I could get their emotions right, it would probably be okay.

        It seems that for you I got it more than okay, and I’m so glad and grateful for that. Thank you again. :smile:

  23. Ethan Stone

    I’m a fairly new author so I don’t have an extensive list of works, but I have included some diversity.
    My short “Being Taught” includes a man over the age of 35.
    Half of my couple featured in In the Flesh and Flesh & Blood is Colby, a black man.
    Gabe, an Hispanic, is featured in both Flesh books and stars in Blood and Tears, which was just accepted by Dreamspinner.
    I don’t avoid diversity but I write what the voices in my head tells me. When I told a friend that a main character in my first book was black he asked me why I wrote a black man. My answer: “Because Colby is a black man.” That’s how he came to me. I just wrote what I felt.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Ethan

      Thanks for commenting.

      When I told a friend that a main character in my first book was black he asked me why I wrote a black man. My answer: “Because Colby is a black man.” That’s how he came to me. I just wrote what I felt.

      I think what you said makes absolute sense in terms of how you write. You can’t force your characters to to be or act a certain way, but for a brand new writer I think you have certainly pushed the envelope because you have diverse characters in all of your books so far that I have read.

      I’ll ask Kaija to include your books on the list she’s compiling for all the readers who want to read stories about diverse characters.

      BTW I’m loving all the new posts on your blog and website – you obviously have been working hard. Great job! :)

  24. Lilli

    I’m honestly not quite sure what your post is supposed to be about, Wave. If you want a discussion about the demand for diverse characters in m/m and provide authors and readers with a platform to recommend their/such books, why dump all this negativity on the genre? I’m wondering here, and I’m bewildered at your overall negative tonality.

    Your post has quite a pushy note to it which I don’t think is the best way to inspire anybody. Telling authors what to write and interpreting their not doing it as “dismissing diversity” intentionally is a rather thin line you (and other commenters) are walking, imo.

    I’m hearing you when it comes to wishing for more diversity in the genre. But on the other hand I’m wondering – as Tam mentioned above – if the percentage of books with diverse characters does already mirror that of society. If so, I’d say that would be rather natural. A friend of mine mentioned to me that she has the impression the percentage might be even higher than irl with all the hurt/comfort-stories out there.

    Anyway, I’d love to hear more authors’ voices on this and there have already been mentioned interesting facts that should be taken into consideration. Someone remarked about a discrepancy between readers’ wants or declaration of wants and readers’ buying and reviewing behaviour later. When I read the headline of your post the first thing that popped up in my mind was flawed characters and how readers seem to want them all the time but obviously can only tolerate them within a certain (personal) “tolerance frame”. I think an author hinted to this in the comments, saying how those books get bad or even hateful reviews.

    Sarah Black said: “it seems that when reader’s expectations aren’t met, when characters don’t behave like people are expecting them to, and when the sex isn’t like a reader is expecting, then readers get pissed and write bad reviews.”

    I can totally see that and it backs up what I just said. Just to give an example: similar things happen with books that include abuse and especially how it’s dealt with in the aftermath. I learned just recently thanks to a short, quite personal and open discussion that my expectations of these subjects are in parts totally idealized and not necessarily close to reality. (And I don’t shy away from reading dark stuff.) Consequently I might have given a book that hadn’t met my idealized, non-realistic expectations a bad review although there was nothing wrong with it when it comes to the facts. (I’m not talking about writing style and plot.)

    And I think it’s similar with other themes in books, especially disabilities. They require a lot of research on the author’s part, and a whole lot of sensitivity and still the risk is high to get some really bad reviews. And that’s not necessarily due to a lack of research on the author’s part but a lack of knowledge on the readers’ part.
    I’m not saying that’s a reason to not write about characters with disabilities, I’m just saying that I can imagine that authors have to take into consideration so much more than just the will to write diverse characters. Part of that, naturally, is the market potential as well. And a few authors already mentioned that apparently books with diverse characters do not sell as well. This is very sad.

    So it seems it’s not necessarily a problem of authors “dismissing diversity” but of economical conditions and genre realities.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Lilli

      First, I can only offer as part of the reason for my aggravation, which came through in the post, is that I was writing this at 4.00 A.M and I was tired. Second, it’s been more than a couple of years since I wrote a similar post about the lack of diversity in our genre and it didn’t seem, to me at least, that we had made a lot of progress.

      A list of M/M books with diverse protagonists, similar to the other topics on the site, is a first step, hopefully, in getting the readers more enthusiastic about diverse characters and more writers actually thinking about it. Maybe this will encourage readers to purchase some of these books.

      And I think it’s similar with other themes in books, especially disabilities. They require a lot of research on the author’s part, and a whole lot of sensitivity and still the risk is high to get some really bad reviews.

      There is always the risk of bad reviews and admittedly with diverse characters the risk is even greater. There’s no getting around that, which is why research is so important.

      So it seems it’s not necessarily a problem of authors “dismissing diversity” but of economical conditions and genre realities.

      Sales are also an important consideration, which is why I don’t expect authors who are brand new to M/M to jump headlong into writing diverse characters, but a few of them, like Ethan Stone, are doing so successfully. It’s all about the writing I suppose. T.A. Chase also seems to be quite successful writing diverse characters.

      My disappointment at the slow progress did show in the post but it’s hard to read and review hundreds of M/M books and find so few with diverse protagonists. That’s the sad part.

  25. Denni

    I LOVE non-traditional characters :biglove:

    “…A lot of M/M writers are middle aged straight females as Val said…” and thank you for validating a suspicion of mine. I love authors (really I do) but some just seem rather mainstream, middle aged, sheltered, and naive. No interracial acquaintances? that’s just sad.

    A few that come to mind:
    -Besides e-Pistols @ Dawn & Drawn Together, Z.A. Maxfield also wrote a hearing impaired hero in St. Nacho (Jewish in Jacob’s Ladder). Oh, and Jamaican in Jumping Off Places in the Home of The Brave anthology.
    -James Buchanan (a personal fav), the Cheating Chance series features goth heroes, Native American & Jewish. Twice the Cowboy, Twice the Ride has a Latino (as do a couple of her novellas), and IIRC Hard Fall has a Mormon character (wherein they wrestle with holy underwear and modesty).
    -Channeling Morpheus for Scary Mary by Jordan Castillo Price. The youngest hero in Psycop is late 30′s, the other is over 40 (& AA?).
    -Mahu by Neil S. Plakcy, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander
    -Raised by Wolves series by W.A. Hoffman (historical) pairs an atheist & his ‘mad’ lover.
    -Two Spirits by Jory Strong (from the Thunderbird Chosen anthology).

    There’s a few more if the reader doesn’t mind dipping into m/m/f.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Denni
      Thank you so much for your recs.

      It’s great that you’re so enthusiastic about books with diverse protagonists. I forgot about the Cheating Chance series – now I can read the books. :)

      Kaija has her work cut out. LOL

  26. K.A. Mitchell

    Thanks to everybody who mentioned my books above. My books always start with character (good thing ’cause I can’t plot for shit). They pop into my head and either tell me their backstories or make me poke them until they spill. Other than the old rule of making the worst thing possible happen to your character, I don’t do much planning. They are what they are when they come to mind. If I set out to tell a particular issue-bound story (and believe me I’ve got a soap box always trying to get under my feet), I’d probably bore everyone.

    1. Wave Post author

      K.A.
      We love your characters and the fact that some of them are diverse makes me love them more. Sometimes the characterizations are all that matters, and whatever you’re doing works so I wouldn’t change a thing. :)

  27. Angelia Sparrow

    I call this the “Straight-acting young white atheist seeks same for book genre” problem.

    The boys have no culture, no religion, no ethnicity, nothing except hot sex and maybe some pretty pretty problems.

    Me, I know my limits. I know my comfort zone. And I know what sells. And yes, my last four books have all been Whitey McWhiterson and his Pretty White Boy are Kinky. (although Master Bear had Black and Jewish and Catholic and Pagan characters, the last two were subtle)

    You probably won’t see a hearing impaired character out of me. It’s the same problem I have writing women: not sure where I end and the character begins. (yes, I wear a hearing aid)

    I think most people write what they know, and most people I know don’t go looking for friends or experiences outside their comfort zone. We are creatures of habit and like our ruts.

    Most of mine deal with some sort of intersectionality of race, religion, ability, culture or age. Even a bit of fluff like Thigh to Thigh still has significant age gaps between the characters.

    I need to check my current work (most of which is not m/m, I’m writing nonsexual horror and children’s books at the moment) for that. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Angel

      I think most people write what they know, and most people I know don’t go looking for friends or experiences outside their comfort zone. We are creatures of habit and like our ruts.

      I’m getting that more and more today. I suppose that means that the level and numbers of diverse protagonists in M/M will probably remain the same because people are creatures of habit. while I appreciate the point i’m still disappointed.

      1. Angelia Sparrow

        I’m still on it, playing with the intersections of race and religion, age and disability.

        My best seller is Glad Hands, with a Cherokee trucker in love with a slightly damaged hitchhiker (has spasms from brain-damage during ECT) It’s sold 1068 copies and made about $2400 over the 2 years its been out, and it just came out in paperback.

        My worst m/m seller is Sky-rat at 105 copies, which has made $194, total. Two pretty white boys, doing steampunk.

        Worst seller of all? Cyberpunk about a pretty lady courted by sexy identical Israeli twins. 16 copies.
        I’ve sold more of the self-reissued story collections than of that story through the publisher.

      2. Sarah Black

        Wave, no need to be dissapointed- I feel actually much better about this issue after today- we need culturally and physically diverse characters, but we need them to be WELL-WRITTEN, complex, real characters with that hint of mystery that the best characters have- that suggests we will never really know them completely. And it sounds like we writers are on the job! We all want to write so well that a reader would recognize one of our characters on the street and want to shake their hand; while the story is not finished until it finds its way into a reader’s mind, our job is to write the characters as real and as well as we can, so you can recognize them. And it sure sounds like, from listening to everyone, that writing good characters is upermost on writer’s minds. So, not to worry. We’ve got this. :smile:

    2. Mikou

      I was composing a list to post and yours (Shell Shocked) was one of the books, since it dealt with 2 protags who are veterans and, between the 2 of them, have several mental and physical challenges.

      The whole list (sorry if some of theses are repeated from other posts):

      Physical/Mental Disability
      J. Rocci Taction
      David Sullivan The Sound of Your Voice (deafness)
      Z.A. Maxfield St. Nacho’s series (deafness)
      Willa Okati Dona Nobis Pacem (deafness)
      Angelia Sparrow Shell Shocked
      Isabelle Rowan A Note in the Margin
      J.M. Snyder Power Play
      Eden Winters The Telling
      Sarah Black Wolf (HIV)
      ID Locke Blind Desire (blindness)

      Religion
      James Buchanan Hard Fall (Mormonism)
      Laney Cairo Circle of Change (paganism)
      Andrew Grey Love Means… No Shame (Amish)

      Age
      Gwenna Sebastian Lost and Found

  28. Angie

    To address the question of what sells, I’ll toss in a couple of my own data points.

    Currently my best selling short story is “Candy Courage,” which has two black main characters.

    My third best selling short is “Chasing Fear,” where both main characters are of Mexican heritage — one is of Mexican descent only, the other is half white, although the latter fact doesn’t come out until “Catching Courage,” a follow-up free short sequel where the guys go to Martin’s family for New Year.

    My second worst selling short, of stories that’ve had more than one royalty reporting period, is “The Joy of Exchanging Gifts,” which is SF but one of the characters was a human on another planet, not explicitly said but coded non-white. (There’s a mention of the other guy pushing his hands into the first guy’s dreadlocks; I have no idea how many readers did or did not pick up on this.)

    My worst selling short is “Learning to Love Yourself,” also SF. These are my only two published SF stories, and both sold very poorly, so I’m attributing the sales figures, with caution, to the fact that SF isn’t the most popular subgenre in m/m.

    A Hidden Magic has a Latino supporting character (Manny) who’ll be getting his own romance a couple of novels from now. Current plan is for his guy (whom readers haven’t met yet, although I know who he is) to be white; with the ensemble cast, I don’t want this to be a case of “Of course the brown dude has to pair up with another brown dude, while the white guys are with white guys.” Additional diversity would be good, and I can add more of that later, but I was trying to avoid a different stereotype, similar to how Wonder Woman and Batgirl always fight the female villains. :/

    Looking over all my sales data, though, and admitting I don’t have nearly as much of the data as other writers do, my own experience is that including racially diverse characters does not kill sales. Second-to-last in sales is very nicely balanced out by best and third-best.

    And I’m willing to toss out an actual number and say that “Candy Courage” has so far made me $82.46 (that’s from October ’08 up through December ’10) and is still selling a bit every quarter. The impression I’ve gotten from the very few numbers that do get thrown around is that this is quite good for a short story in our end of the industry, and it’s not done yet. Having two black MCs doesn’t seem to have hurt it any.

    Angie

    1. Wave Post author

      Angie

      Currently my best selling short story is “Candy Courage,” which has two black main characters.

      That’s the first bit of positive information I’ve seen today.

      So far I’ve been told that books with diverse characters don’t sell, and if that’s what other authors are told it’s no wonder they don’t want to write diverse protagonists.

      I read A Hidden Magic after Cole reviewed it and quite enjoyed the characters so I’m looking forward to the follow up stories.

      Thanks for commenting Angie.

      I ahd no idea that SF sold so poorly. I love sf and I assumed that it had a large following

      1. Angie

        I was an SF fan before I was a romance fan, and enjoy writing it quite a lot. It really doesn’t seem to be very popular in m/m, though. One way of checking that out is to look at what gets published — many writers will generally glom onto any subgenre that’s selling well, such as BDSM. (Which attracted so many writers for a while, it was clear that quite a few of them found it distasteful and faked it very badly, but that’s a different rant.)

        Check out the SF section pretty much anywhere that sells m/m, though. With every publisher or vendor I hang out at, the SF section is one of the smallest. And it’s usually grouped with fantasy, with SF being a minority of the SF/Fantasy shelf. There are certainly popular books within that area, some of which sell very well, but in general it doesn’t attract many readers compared with other kinds of m/m.

        I’ve pretty much given up on SF m/m; my SF efforts are primarily targetted at the mainstream SF genre now. The competition is much tighter, but there are lots of fans and they’re very enthusiastic. :)

        Angie

  29. Meredith Shayne

    I think fear of causing offence is a very real and valid concern for authors, and I find the idea that all you need to write characters outside of your own experience is research an oversimplification. Just as making a character Australian takes more than having them live in Sydney and say “mate” every few sentences, making a character realistically disabled takes more than just dumping them into a wheelchair. And yes, you can research, and by doing that you’ll go some way towards a realistic portrayal, but there are cultural and societal attitudes towards disabled people that translate into day to day experiences an able-bodied author couldn’t possibly capture, mainly because they’re so far outside an able-bodied person’s own experience that they wouldn’t even think to ask about them when they’re doing their research. Imagination also only goes so far; in some situations it’s not enough to say “well, I’m a woman who suffers discrimination so I know what it’s like to be discriminated against as a disabled person”. No. No, you don’t. Not at all.

    1. Wave Post author

      Meredith

      I think fear of causing offence is a very real and valid concern for authors, and I find the idea that all you need to write characters outside of your own experience is research an oversimplification.

      I guess my question would be: How do the authors who write diverse protagonists successfully do it?

      …making a character realistically disabled takes more than just dumping them into a wheelchair. And yes, you can research, and by doing that you’ll go some way towards a realistic portrayal, but there are cultural and societal attitudes towards disabled people that translate into day to day experiences an able-bodied author couldn’t possibly capture

      I have read and reviewed a few books with disabled protagonists and although I couldn’t even pretend to be an expert in this area, the authors certainly seem to know most of the key factors that go into making their characterizations seem realistic.

      1. Meredith Shayne

        “I guess my question would be: How do the authors who write diverse protagonists successfully do it?”

        Not everyone will think that the portrayals are successful, that’s the thing; we all process the books we read based on our own experiences, and for every person who thinks the author did a great job portraying a black/asian/disabled character, there’ll be someone who threw the book at the wall.

        “I have read and reviewed a few books with disabled protagonists and although I couldn’t even pretend to be an expert in this area, the authors certainly seem to know most of the key factors that go into making their characterizations seem realistic.”

        Again, it’s a matter of different experiences. Just because it seems realistic to people who are not disabled doesn’t mean that it actually is. Certainly the big picture issues associated with being disabled are easy enough to capture: the mechanics of being unable to see/hear/walk, the possible self-esteem issues associated with being disfigured, etc, but it’s the little things that make a fully realistic picture of someone’s life, and they are not the easiest things to even find out about, for the reason I mentioned above. I just don’t think this issue is as simple as you make it out to be, that’s all, and to imply that it’s only because of laziness and/or ignorance on the part of authors is misguided, in my opinion.

        1. Wave Post author

          Meredith

          I hope that I didn’t imply that writing a diverse character is as simplistic as looking something up on the internet.

          I do recognize that it’s a lot of work to make diverse characters credible. I worked for the principal organization for the blind here in Canada decades ago and I get that portraying a blind person is more than a white cane. Perhaps one of the reasons I care so much about integrating diverse characterizations into M/M romances is because of my deep interest in disabled individuals in real life.

          I do however get your point that perception is not reality.

          1. Meredith Shayne

            Wave,

            And I hope that I’m not making you think that I believe that diversity in characters is not a good thing/isn’t needed in the genre, because that’s not the case at all, on the whole I agree with what you’re saying. I just don’t think that the reasons why it’s not happening are so cut and dried. I also have personal reasons for why this issue – particularly the portrayal of disabled characters in fiction – is a hot button one for me, and I guess (I’m realising as I write this comment) I’m one of those people who believes that if you’re not going to do it properly you shouldn’t do it – I think I’d rather there were no disabled characters at all in the books I read than a whole slew of unrealistic ones. While other people would probably think it was a good thing that authors were at least trying to put these characters into their stories.

    2. S.

      Absolutely took the words out of my mouth! As much as I love diversity, I would cry if more authors attempt to diversify by putting out stories that aren’t properly researched.

      If you want to write people from a different nation/culture/race, you had BETTER do your research – deeply and fully – making sure you know enough about them to treat them with respect. It’s exceptionally difficult to write about a different race/culture, and as a reader (who’s also a minority), I can always, always pick up if the author actually knows what he/she is talking about within my own culture.

      There’s actual danger in writing about Native Americans or Tibetians or Indigenous people of various locations. There is far too much pain that comes with it and I’d rather they not be exploited just for the sake of diversity.

      No disrespect meant for the authors, but you need to be careful about what you write.

      1. Wave Post author

        Hi S.

        If you want to write people from a different nation/culture/race, you had BETTER do your research – deeply and fully – making sure you know enough about them to treat them with respect

        That’s exactly the reason why I offered to hook authors up with people who are diverse to make sure they get it right. I recently did exactly that for a book with black characters, and I think the positive results were well worth the time I spent.

        There’s actual danger in writing about Native Americans or Tibetians or Indigenous people of various locations. There is far too much pain that comes with it and I’d rather they not be exploited just for the sake of diversity.

        We have writers who have lived on the Native American reservations who I’m sure would help if asked. Sarah Black is one author who would be happy to do so I’m sure. There are others too.

        Like everything else, although writing is a solitary occupation the authors have to know when to ask for help if they want to get something right.

  30. Rhys Ford

    Well, you can count me in on the more diverse, I guess. Dreamspinner’s publishing my novel Dirty Kiss, mystery-romance coming out in July or August featuring a mixed-race (Japanese-Irish) detective and his Korean love interest. I know that sounds like a plug. But more really I wrote it because I wanted to see more contemporary Asians in the genre.

    My biggest concern isn’t so much the “skin colour” of the characters as much as the cultural aspects. But I suppose the key would be portraying that culture in such a way that is accessible to the reader.

    I did love seeing the shout-outs to the authors I read and have on my must-buy list. Thank you!

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Rhys

      Whether or not your comment is a plug I’ll take it. :) From my perspective, the more books about diverse characters the better.

      My issue is not at all about skin colour but the fact that ethnic characters should be portrayed in a way that’s realistic, even if it’s fiction. There were a few amusing comments earlier that I’m sure everyone got. LOL

      The recs. will hopefully be published on the site in a few weeks so that they are accessible to everyone who drops by.

      Thanks for commenting.

      1. Rhys Ford

        I am in full agreement. Not to say that one should cleave to stereotypes… although I do have a lot of Asian relatives who pretty much define those… I would love to see a more diverse ethnic and “abilit” landscape in m/m fiction. Fully in agreement with you.

  31. kiracee

    Interesting post, Wave. On the whole, I agree with you but I think I have to play devil’s advocate. I don’t read fiction to raise my social consciousness (I think that it is pretty well developed on its own, thank you). To be blunt, I read for entertainment.
    i have read and loved many of the books listed here in the comments but when I’m reading I don’t think, ‘oh, here is a character who is black, Hispanic, blind, etc.’ – I think ‘oh, this is an interesting person I want to spend time with’. Diversity is admirable, but it is not enough to make a book worth reading all on its own.
    You have to remember, too, that writing is not mechanical – authors write the stories that come to them. I think that Ally was right to say you can’t write convincingly about a country you haven’t lived in, at least not well enough to feel real to someone who has lived there. A culture is even more difficult. I don’t think a non-writer has any idea how difficult that can be. To be brutally honest (and maybe rude), I don’t think most writers have the skills to pull it off.

    Okay, I’ve been rude long enough. Books to add to your list:
    And Call Me in the Morning by Willa Okati (older characters)
    Doce & Amorzinhos by BA Tortuga (Portuguese bullriders)
    Heart Doctor by Drew Zachary (East Indian character)

    Interesting and thought-provoking post, as always, Wave.

    1. Wave Post author

      HI Kiracee

      On the whole, I agree with you but I think I have to play devil’s advocate. I don’t read fiction to raise my social consciousness (I think that it is pretty well developed on its own, thank you). To be blunt, I read for entertainment.

      I understand where you’re coming from and I, too, most of the time read for entertainment. However when I read 100 books and maybe only 5 have diverse protagonists I ask myself why these characters are overlooked. There could be valid reasons and a number of authors have mentioned them, but it still makes me wonder.

      You will be pleased to know that I have read and reviewed 2 of the 3 books you recommended (And Call Me in the Morning & Heart Doctor – both of which I loved) and I’ll happily check out the third. :) Thank you.

    2. Denni

      “…To be brutally honest (and maybe rude), I don’t think most writers have the skills to pull it off…” Sad but true. IMO an unfortunate (and growing) number of authors fail to do any research whatsoever. If they can’t even get the ‘average’ daily facts correct, what happens when more complex issues are added?

      BUT, when done well the results are AWESOME!

  32. Sarah Black

    Wave, you mentioned in the original post that you previously offered to hook writers and readers up so a culturally diverse character could have an expert eye for review. Does this offer still stand? I sort of feel like Hermoine Granger with my hand up in potions class, but pick me! We could have a reader challenge- let a reader suggest a culturally or physically diverse character, and I’ll write them a story- (just not a kid with autism please, since my kid in the other room has autism and I have no sense of humor about that at all.)

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Sarah
      I did and the offer still stands. All I need to know is what the writer is looking for and I’ll post something on the site.
      When I first mentioned this idea the readers were very eager to help and I’m sure they still are, going by today’s comments.

      If you email me when you know what you want I’ll do my best to hook you up with someone. :)

  33. Brett

    As many have said, this is a great topic Wave, thanks for bringing it up. I too have felt that there is occasionally a sameness about a lot of the fiction available out there…middle class white guys, and they all seem to come from similar backgrounds, with the same 5 or 6 back stories and the same 5 or 6 occupations. It feels like someone just took out a generic character sheet from D&D and threw him in a story. :D

    One thing I think some authors need to be cautious of when approaching this, though, is to make a “different” character (blind, cultural, handicapped, etc.) interesting. I have come across some books where one of the characters is black, and I didn’t even know until I skimmed back through the description on a re-read! They don’t have to talk all “brotha” or anything, but maybe some other things that make them unique, as well as point out the fact they are different from the white boy norm. Maybe have someone make a comment about a multicultural gay couple, or discuss the challenges of dealing with audism (not a typo, like racism for the hearing impaired). It doesn’t even have to be the focus of the story, but it would do great things for a character to make him unique.

    I remember one story, The Other Side by Shawn Lane, where cultural differences were explored but in a new way. The black family was actually pretty well-to-do, the gay black character was a well-respected doctor, whereas the white character was from a lower middle class, blue-collar-type family, and was a cop. The tension between them wasn’t just about race, it was also about their jobs and their income class in society. It made for an interesting dynamic….I want to see more of that, twisting stereotypes on their sides.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Brett

      One thing I think some authors need to be cautious of when approaching this, though, is to make a “different” character (blind, cultural, handicapped, etc.) interesting

      Maybe that has to do with writing skill, whether the character is “generic twenty somethng white guy” or someone who is of a different cultural or other diverse makeup. Some writers take the cop-out route and assume that if they just throw a few markers in the book that they have an instant diverse character.

      I reviewed the book by Shawn Lane you mentioned The Other Side and, too,I was struck by how she managed to re-draw the charcters and make them into something completely unexpected. As you said, she turned the stereotypes on their sides. She did a great job.

      I think that as authors gain more experience writing diverse chracters they will get better at it, at least I keep hoping. :)

      Thanks for commenting Brett.

  34. Merrian

    ‘Sam’s Reviews’ by Jan Irving and pub by Loose Id has an ex-marine who is wheelchair bound as a hero. Sam is also primary carer for his nephew and his grandmother and has been homeless in the past. One of the things I loved about this story is that it is about community and connection and while the reality of Sam’s life with disabilities is important it wasn’t what defined him.

    I am not into ‘diversity’ because I want to see my real life reflected in the books I read, but because diversity as anthropologist Wade Davis says forms our ‘cultural biosphere’ and the perspectives of diversity “…ha[ve] unique answers to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human”.

    I also wonder if writing and reading about twenty-something white males is about power and possibility? Are these stories about the point in time before a life trajectory is determined and the mistakes and mis-steps and ordinary burdens of living come home to roost? It is interesting that stories about older protagonists are often represented as stories about second chances. I wonder if ‘diverse’ characters are automatically equated with lesser power and fewer choices?

    1. Josephine Myles

      Very interesting point about power and possibility, Merrian. I think this deserves pondering…

      I can see why writers might not want to chance writing about characters whose life possibilities are restricted by age/intellect/physical health/mental health, etc, but these are the kind of conflicts that I find particularly rich and rewarding to write and read about. Even if it might seem that those characters have few choices, a talented writer can find significance in the smallest choices they make.

    2. Wave Post author

      I read Sam’s Reviews and quite liked the story. As you mentioned, his disability didn’t define him and that’s what good writing is all about. If our writers use their considerable imagination these stories could be just as hot and fun as one about twenty somethings.

      I wonder if ‘diverse’ characters are automatically equated with lesser power and fewer choices?

      In real life ‘diverse’people DO have less power and fewer choices – jobs are not as available to them, and this lack of opportunity has a major economic impact on them. Sad but true

  35. Reggie

    I would like to recommend Alan Chin’s “Match Maker”. It has characters with strong Chinese and Buddhist backgrounds.
    Yes! I,too, would like to read stories of couples together for more than a couple of months! Some more stories about long term relationships (8+yrs) would be great! Life doesn’t all of a. sudden get boring, it tends to get more complicated instead.

    1. Wave Post author

      Thanbks Reggie. I’ll make sure that Match Maker is included on the list.

      What you’re saying is that you want to read stories where the HEA goes beyond the last page and “I love you” LOL

  36. Cleon Lee

    Hi, Wave.

    I’ve been enjoying your review so far. Lynn Lorenz also writes diverse characters. Some I remember are:
    1. David’s Dilemma – deal with Alzeimer’s disease (sorry for the spelling)
    2. It Takes a Hero – the protag was crippled soldier and the therapist was black.
    3. Breakfast At Tiffany – one of the character is black, I think.
    4. No Good Deed – the protag is Chinese American.

    I haven’t read all of them, except Breakfast at Tiffany (is currently reading it), but they are on my wish-list.

    Since I am an Indonesian and a Chinese, I am hoping I can write books dealing about people from my country and race too since I have intimate knowledge of them.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Cleon
      Thank you for the recs. I’ll ensure they are included. I loved It takes a Hero which was one of the covers I used in my previous post a couple of years ago on this topic. also Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a 5 star read for me.

      I hope you do write books with diverse protagonists. The more ethnically diverse writers there are in this sub genre, hopefully the more realistic the stories and the characters will be.

  37. LadyM

    Well, I’ve read all the replies above (yes, ALL OF THEM) and first I have to say that it’s a great thing that the readers want (as they clearly stated) more diversity in their stories and that authors clearly respond to this, if only to explain their concerns (and some of the concerns are very real).

    Sarah Black said (fan here! :wave:)

    we writers need to make sure our characters are written to be as mysterious and complex as real humans, with truthful conflicts- which means they will be unlikable sometimes, total assholes, with serious character flaws- greed and selfishness and prejudice.

    I’m 100% in agreement with this. It’s not all-white 20-something healthy gay hunk world that bothers me in m/m genre. It’s the generic characters all cut out of the same cloth. There is no reason why a white 20-something healthy gay hunk can’t have as interesting background as a character of different race, nationality, faith, non-generic profession, etc. The other concern are characters whose difference is only skin-deep and has no bearing on their life, relationships with other characters, etc., AT ALL. It’s not enough to say: There is a black/Tahitian/Mongolian/green with pink stars/limping character in my story. It is what does that difference mean for character’s life that is important. It is the writer’s treatment of that difference that is important. It is important that the writer makes me see and understand that difference. So, clearly, this is not a simple issue. I believe that as this genre matures and grows, the readers will become more and more demanding and the quality of the stories (including the treatment of diversity) will need to significantly increase to catch the readers attention. I think that discussions like these can help the genre a great deal. Wave, don’t ever change! I think you ask valid questions that need to be taken into account, even if you ask them at 4 AM and sometimes your passion for the genre decreases somewhat your diplomatic abilities. :flowers:

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Lady M

      You and I are probably the only 2 people who read all the responses to this post. LOL

      First I want to re-state that sometimes my frustrations and enthusiasm cause me not to be as diplomatic as I should be. I readily admit that, but we’re all human, and at the end of a very long day and night it’s hard to be objective about what you write.

      In my defence, I worked years ago for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and I saw how blind individuals had to struggle to be given even the most basic human respect that we all demand. It was heartbreaking. For them to be ignored in a fashion, along with other diverse people, by the sub genre I love, makes it very difficult to watch and say nothing. That’s an explanation – not an excuse – for my tone in the post. I should have re-read it before it uploaded – hindsight is always 20/20. :)

      The other concern are characters whose difference is only skin-deep and has no bearing on their life, relationships with other characters, etc., AT ALL. It’s not enough to say: There is a black/Tahitian/Mongolian/green with pink stars/limping character in my story.

      I agree with this comment 100%, which is why when I wrote the previous post I offered to find beta readers for those authors that were willing to write stories about diverse protagonists. As I said earlier, only one author took me up on my offer. Many times when I read these stories about diverse characters I want to throw my Kindle against the wall because some of the authors don’t get the subtle differences of what being an ethnic minority or disabled person entails. Oh they get the bigger issues, but that’s not enough. I keep hoping that with practice will come a much better product.

      I love the twenty somethings but at times there’s a sameness to them and their issues seem so superficial! I know that the majority of readers read for entertainment only, but I wonder why the authors didn’t dig a bit deeper to give us flawed, three dimensional, nuanced characters.

      I keep hoping that discussions like we had yesterday, even the authors who thought I was dumping on them and the sub genre, will help make M/M a better sub genre. When authors realize that readers want a quality product and readers’ expectations are modified somewhat by reality, maybe we can meet halfway.

      Thanks again for commenting Lady M.

      1. Merrian

        Me three for reading all the responses!

        As much as anything I read your original post as being about a quest for the real; not in the sense of a quota driven representation of ‘diversity’ (whatever that is)but in the sense of these stories of love and hope being about and for all of us. I often think that the ordinary person is only an accident, or an illness, or a GFC away from ending up on the ‘diverse’ side of the street and that poverty is the thing we are not allowed to talk about in romancelandia.

        To assign ‘diversity’ to skin colour alone or the good or bad luck of the genetic draw when it comes to health and disability seems to actually be an interesting state of denial. That it is about others and not us. Yet for those cradled in the arms of ‘diversity’ it can seem that their entitlement to hopes and dreams are dissappeared along with their selves when the stories don’t include them.

        I should also note that a similar thread arose on SBTB a few months ago in a discussion of whether heroines can be chronically ill or disabled. M/M isn’t alone in struggling with this.

        1. Wave Post author

          Hi Miriam

          Thank you for recognizing that I’m trying to raise the consciousness more than anything else. I am one of those “others,” everyone is talking about. Having lived it I know exactly how it feels even though I’m one of the lucky ones because I had a good education and wonderful jobs.

          However I’m in the minority in that sense as most ‘diverse’ people are not as lucky. For example, being blind is a huge disadvantage in finding a good job, and the more we can demonstrate in books that while diversity is a challenge it’s not an insurmountable impediment to a good life, the more people will accept that and believe.

          I know that M/M is a young sub genre and that it will grow over time, and maybe I’m impatient, but an occasional push might achieve a good result or two even though a few authors might be pissed at me for daring to go there. :)

          Thanks for commenting Merrian.

  38. Allie2

    I like characters (and the places they inhabit – that’s a different post)to be distinctly drawn. I don’t have a problem I have with “young white guy” as the markers for a character if that character is well-drawn as an individual. After all, “young white guy” in itself covers a lot of distinct personalities, with different backgrounds and experiences. I can think of m/m books in which characters meeting that general definition have become very real and distinct personalities to me. I can think of others where they haven’t, and those are not books I’m at all likely to go back to or recommend.

    One point to make in defence of m/m fiction is that it is already dealing, expressly or impliedly, with one discrimination issue, that of the unequal status generally accorded by most societies to same-sex preference. Adding another discrimination issue to a plot already dealing with one such issue could unbalance what is mostly still escapist fun. Plus the issue of “double discrimination” (ie someone dealing with two or more types of discrimination) is a difficult issue to deal with in real life, and one which has only relatively recently come to prominence. I suspect it is under-represented in literature generally, not just m/m.

    1. Wave Post author

      Allie2

      One point to make in defence of m/m fiction is that it is already dealing, expressly or impliedly, with one discrimination issue, that of the unequal status generally accorded by most societies to same-sex preference. Adding another discrimination issue to a plot already dealing with one such issue could unbalance what is mostly still escapist fun

      I understand that many readers don’t want realism in their escapist books but M/M authors have been writing about drug dealers, teenage prostitution, homelessness, gang rape, serial murders, and a host of other serious topics so I didn’t think that diversity would be too serious a topic to add.

      Like all the other topics in fiction, it’s up to the authors to decide whether they want to write about it. I hope that this post is not construed as taking the fun out of M/M because I, too, love most of the stories of the twenty somethings, some of which are quite enjoyable – who doesn’t like a bit of fluff with their morning coffee or a glass of wine in the evening?. I’m hoping for a balance, that’s all. :)

      1. Angie

        Another consideration is that members of disadvantaged groups are not completely defined by their disadvantage. Just as not every story about a gay person is all about homophobia and gay bashing, not every story about people of color is about racism, not every story about poor people is about classism, not every story about someone with a disability is about ablism, etc. There are plenty of stories about women which are not all about the evils of misogyny. The idea that any story that has, say, a Latino protagonist has to be all about racism and immigration issues is a fundamentally racist idea.

        There’s no reason not to write a basic “OMG does he like me and will he come out of the closet for me??” gay romance with characters of color, or Jewish characters, or deaf characters. Yes, we certainly can write a story about multiple issues — as when a story is about both homophobia and teenage prostitution — but we don’t have to, and the idea that we do have to in the case of any protag who’s not an able-bodied WASP is seriously flawed.

        Sometimes members of a marginalized group want to see issues particular to their group addressed in fiction. And sometimes they’d just like to see people who are like them finding love, solving the mystery, saving the world.

        Angie

        1. Wave Post author

          Angie

          You make some important points.

          Yes, we certainly can write a story about multiple issues — as when a story is about both homophobia and teenage prostitution — but we don’t have to, and the idea that we do have to in the case of any protag who’s not an able-bodied WASP is seriously flawed.

          No one is “forcing” authors to address social issues in M/M romance. I think my point is that diverse protagonists are all but invisible in M/M, except in a few books (few compared to the numbers that are released every week), and since diverse people read your books and would like to read about people that reflect their reality, perhaps there’s a way to meet half way.

          Sometimes members of a marginalized group want to see issues particular to their group addressed in fiction. And sometimes they’d just like to see people who are like them finding love, solving the mystery, saving the world.

          I would choose the latter as a start.

          Like most other readers, I read for entertainment and most of the time I don’t want to read about issues like gang rape, serial killers, drug lords, teenage prostitution etc. but I do as a change of pace.

          I love fluff just like everyone else but sometimes I like fluff to reflect my reality as well.

          1. Angie

            Wave — I was actually agreeing with you. [wry smile] I haven’t read all the comments here, but I skimmed the earlier ones and have read all the comments since my own first comment. It seems that many of the defenders of the status quo are saying that they don’t want to see any kind of movement toward inclusiveness because they think that automatically implies a much higher percentage of “issue” stories. The idea that writing a story about black characters (for example) automatically means that racism has to be a major component of the plotline seems to be unfortunately common. I was refuting that idea, not your desire for more inclusive character choices.

            I think we can do both, including both “issue” stories and stories where the marginalized character simply gets to slay the dragon this time and doesn’t have to fight off white supremacists or whatever simultaneously.

            Writers who’ve never written characters of a different race or religion or class or ability would probably be most comfortable with the latter. The trick seems to be getting the word out that they can, that it’s okay and even desirable to write basic romances — fluff, if you will — about diverse characters, because there are far too many folks who believe they have to focus on all those issues they’re afraid of if they want to write diverse characters. This certainly isn’t the only discussion where I’ve seen that idea thrown around; it seems to be unfortunately well entrenched. :/

            Frex,. a mainstream SF/Fantasy writer whose blog I read said a bit ago that she’d had people argue with her that she shouldn’t have made one of her protags blind, because the character didn’t “need” to be blind. It wasn’t required by the story, the blindness wasn’t a major Issue with the plot, therefore the character should have been sighted, and the author made a major mistake in making her blind. Same thing — if your story doesn’t focus on the Issue that makes a disadvantaged person disadvantaged, then you shouldn’t be writing that kind of character. That’s a poisonous idea and wiping it out would improve every genre of fiction immeasurably.

            Anyway, I’m pretty sure we’re in agreement here, unless I’m misunderstanding you pretty badly. :)

            Angie

            1. Wave Post author

              Angie
              Blame the lateness of the hour and the fact that I have been up since forever. As you can see from the number of comments on this post I have been responding to comments since yesterday morning.

              Yes, thank the gods we ARE in agreement. Why is it that authors assume that every story with diverse characters has to be a serious “issue” story? I would love to read about a blind man just getting it on with another guy – come to think of it I read a story called Onyx (very hot) by Mychael Black and Shayne Carmichael about a blind sub in a fetish club a few years ago. It was a fun story! I wish we could get more like that. Diverse characters can be fun if the authors write them that way. I think if we move the yardstick a little and get readers accustomed to diverse characters who are just like the twenty somethings maybe they will be more accepting. Both types of stories can be written and I wish authors understood that.

              Thanks for clarifying Angie. Now I’m off to bed and that’s where you should be too. Have a good evening.

        2. Val Kovalin

          There’s no reason not to write a basic “OMG does he like me and will he come out of the closet for me??” gay romance with characters of color, or Jewish characters, or deaf characters.[ …] Sometimes members of a marginalized group want to see issues particular to their group addressed in fiction. And sometimes they’d just like to see people who are like them finding love, solving the mystery, saving the world.

          Yes, I totally agree!

  39. Josephine Myles

    Fascinating post, Wave. I am particularly keen to read (and write) stories about characters who live outside of mainstream society – those in communes, the homeless, the mentally ill, the disabled, travellers, etc. I tend to be much more interested in those facing the challenges of poverty and discrimination than overprivileged young white men.

    Of course, that’s not to say that overprivileged young white men can’t be fascinating characters in their own right, but I’m inherently more interested in characters that break the mould. I’m definitely interested in a rec post if you happen to put one together. I’ve read some wonderfully diverse shorts in anthologies too – perhaps writers are more willing to take a chance writing diverse characters in a shorter piece?

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Josephine
      Thank you for dropping by.

      I am particularly keen to read (and write) stories about characters who live outside of mainstream society – those in communes, the homeless, the mentally ill, the disabled, travellers, etc. I tend to be much more interested in those facing the challenges of poverty and discrimination than overprivileged young white men.

      I think we both like complex characters who live on the edge. If you recall, the first book I recommended to you was A Note in the Margin about a homeless man. I was so touched by that story that even today I pick it up occasionally to re-read, even though it’s not a generally upbeat book. The writing was exceptional and that’s what I hope authors will bring to diverse characters – exceptional writing.

      A reader volunteered to put together all the recommendations on this post and I expect that it will be ready within the next 2 – 3 weeks. I hope that this will be the impetus for more readers to read these stories and more authors to write them.

      You could be right about testing the waters in anthologies – I never thought of that but it makes sense.

  40. countrygirlxxoo

    Here’s a few more stories I’ve found with either racial or other diversities. Hope everyone finds a few to read in here.

    Sullivan, David – The Sound of Your Voice (deaf)
    Kelly, Kiernan – Skywalker (native American)
    Winter, Vic – Billy And Bear (black)
    Winter, Vic – Wheels (paraplegic)
    Irving, Jan – The Contenders 1 – The Janitor (mentally slow)
    Irving, Jan – The Contenders 2 – The Boxer (mentally slow)
    Tortuga, B.A. – Roughstock: Blind Ride – Season One (blind)
    Lane, Amy – Truth in the Dark (physical & emotional disability)
    Snyder, J.M. – Power Play (athletic injury-wheelchair bound)
    Snyder, J.M. – Tricked Out (black)
    Priest, Zathyn – Left of Center (permanent brain damage due to accident)
    Priest, Zathyn – The Curtis Reincarnation (epileptic)
    Thompson, Clare – Blind Faith (blind)
    Barnette, Michael – Plague Dance (black)
    Winter, Mary – Live Action Hero 1 – Mission: Carnal (black)
    Winters, Eden – The Telling (disability, hispanic)
    Winters, Eden – Wish 2 – Valentine Wish (black)
    Singer, P.D. – On Call 1 – Afternoon (black)
    Singer, P.D. – On Call 2 – Dancing (black)
    Singer, P.D. – On Call 3 – Crossroads (black)
    Shade, Mike – The Stallon And The Rabbit (arabian)
    Sheridan, Barbara & Cain, Anne – Child’s Prey 1 – Orange Moon (asian)
    Sheridan, Barbara & Cain, Anne – Child’s Prey 2 – Winter Song (asian)
    Sheridan, Barbara & Cain, Anne – Child’s Prey 3 – Under A Silver Moon (asian)
    Sheridan, Barbara & Cain, Anne – Child’s Prey 4 – Secret Moon (asian)
    Sheridan, Barbara & Cain, Anne – Blood Brothers 1 – Blood Brothers (asian)
    Sheridan, Barbara & Cain, Anne – Dragon’s Disciple 1 – Silk & Poison (asian)
    Sheridan, Barbara & Cain, Anne – Dragon’s Disciple 2 – The Dragon’s Disciple (asian)
    Sheridan, Barbara & Cain, Anne – I Do (asian)
    Sheridan, Barbara & Cain, Anne – Parallel Process (asian)
    Baumbach, Laura – Out There In The Night (native american)

    1. Wave Post author

      Thanks so much for this list countrygirl. I really appreciate all of your hard work looking up these books and I know that other readers will definiitely appreciate them.

      Have a great weekend.

  41. Patty

    Wave, I didn’t read through each and every comment, so maybe somebody already asked or said something about this. I’m curious about how many of the people who read m/m romance are themselves from a diverse background? I’m not. However, my husband is Mexican American and because of this it is interesting to me to read about southern Texas and some of the places in Mexico we’ve traveled to. We are also Navy vets, so we’ve met many interesting people and enjoy different cultures and places. (My son is going to be teaching in Gallup, NM, and I can’t wait to visit him there!)I have many family members and friends who are gay and enjoy reading m/m romance. Put that together and I am a reader who appreciates diversity in m/m romance.

    My fear is that those of us who comment on your site are the minority as AJ’s and Sarah’s editors stated. We ask for diversity because we are the vocal, interested readers. However, the majority of the readers- the ones who are not asking for more diversity on any blog posts- are the readers who drive the editors perceptions of what readers want. How do we change that bias?

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Patty

      My fear is that those of us who comment on your site are the minority as AJ’s and Sarah’s editors stated. We ask for diversity because we are the vocal, interested readers. However, the majority of the readers- the ones who are not asking for more diversity on any blog posts- are the readers who drive the editors perceptions of what readers want. How do we change that bias?

      Baby steps. Changing biases doesn’t happen overnight but over time. I’m hoping that compiling a list of “diverse” books is one brick in the wall. Readers can write the publishers and ask for books with diverse characters and that’s another brick in the wall. They could also write their favourite authors and ask them to write stories starring diverse gay protagonists – another brick in the wall. Everything counts as a positive step forward.

  42. Jen

    Another one to add to the list – Shayla Kersten’s Double Happiness has Chen Jin Tai, a Chinese doctor with an interfering mother.

    1. countrygirlxxoo

      This was a great book! I can’t believe I forgot it. It also reminded me that Syd McGinley’s Tommy & Tanaka books are diverse (Tanaka is Japanese). They are a subset of her Fell/petsitting Universe. I would recommend reading her other Fell/Petsitting books first as you get to know Tommy in these (Tommy is 1/4 Japanese…I think. Maybe 1/2.)

      These are these are the purely Tommy & Tanaka stories. Some are individual stories and some are in Toy Box collections.
      McGinley, Syd – Pets 08 – T&T 1 – Ain’t Misbehavin’
      McGinley, Syd – Pets 09 – T&T 2 – Un Bel Di Vedremo
      McGinley, Syd – Pets 10 – T&T 3 – The Wrong Customs
      McGinley, Syd – Pets 11 – T&T 4 – Tommy And The Magi
      McGinley, Syd – Pets 12 – T&T 5 – White Day
      McGinley, Syd – Pets 13 – T&T 6 – Wax On, Wax Off
      McGinley, Syd – Pets 14 – T&T 7 – Paper Cranes
      McGinley, Syd – Pets 16 – T&T 8 – Little Fishes

  43. Angelia Sparrow

    We do this kerfuffle about every 9-18 months in the SF/F/H community. Why are there no women in this anthology? Why aren’t there more stories with [your group here]? How dare you write a story featuring [your group here] when you are not a member? Do your homework, [your group here] members are not required to educate you!

    My position: I write as the muses move me, creating characters suited to the story I need to tell.

    If you want more stories featuring [your group here], write them. If you’re tired of Group A getting recognition and Group B not, write better stories than Group A (my position on the Lambdas) Yeah, a privileged position, but if you have time to gripe, you have time to write the stories YOU want to see told.

    1. Wave Post author

      Angelia

      If you want more stories featuring [your group here], write them. If you’re tired of Group A getting recognition and Group B not, write better stories than Group A (my position on the Lambdas) Yeah, a privileged position, but if you have time to gripe, you have time to write the stories YOU want to see told.

      Sorry, I’m not a fiction writer and therefore I can’t write stories about diverse characters. However, I hope that some of our current M/M writers might want to take a chance on writing diverse characters.

  44. Jules Jones

    Starting with someone else’s first — Stevie Carroll’s short “The Monitors” in the erotic romance anthology Echoes of Possibilities from Noble Publishing features a blind protagonist. (It’s also on this year’s Tiptree Award longlist.)

    Looking at my own – most of my characters are in their thirties or older. One has type 2 bipolar disorder. Another has cancer. None of them are American. I don’t this to tick off boxes. I do it because I write about characters I find interesting, and I’ve been doing it since the last millennium. I am apparently doing adequate sales numbers, because I was the co-author of the first m/m book that came out from Loose Id, and they’ve been signing my stuff ever since.

    Some of the publishers have been open to diversity for years, and not just the diversity named above. Not covered by this blog’s subject matter, but one of the calls I saw several years ago was for Big Beautiful Women, by an editor who was sick unto death of the idea in mainstream romance that a plus size heroine is someone who isn’t clinically anorexic. The joy of epub small presses is that they can take a gamble on stories that don’t conform to what The Mainstream Romance Reader wants to read. You want to see it, go ahead and write it.

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Jules

      Thank you for your recs. and also for your perspective on why you write diverse characters. I agree totally that the character has to move the author or s/he can’t do it and the book justice. The intent of the post is not to tick off boxes but to raise awareness among M/M writers, which is all I can do since I’m not a writer.

      Re the Big Beautiful Women, as you know this site only reviews M/M, but I do remember a few books about overweight men -I think one was by Amy Lane, although they were trying to lose weight and get fit – of course the two objerctives are not necessarily synonymous. :)

  45. Sylvia

    I live in a diverse world both personal and professional. I’d love to read more about diverse characters. I’m so happy you wrote this post because now we get a great list of books to read :)

  46. kiracee

    Just out of curiosity, I looked over the m/m books I own. I have books by 65 authors, and I have multiple books by most of those authors. Of those 65 authors, 20 have at least one book where one or more of the main characters is not young, white, etc. That’s 31% of authors which is more than I expected.

    Here are some more books for your list.

    The Assignment by Evangeline Anderson (hispanic)
    Heart and Soul by Evangeline Anderson (hispanic)
    Renovations series by Anah Crow and Diane Fox (black?)
    Finding Home by Cameron Dane (hispanic)
    Saying I Do by Cameron Dane (hispanic)
    Nine Lights Over Edinburgh by Harper Fox (Jewish)
    Catch Me If You Can by LB Gregg (hispanic)
    Where the Heart Is by Elizabeth Silver and Jenny Urban (one black, one native american)
    And Hell Itself Breathes Out by AR Moler (pagan)
    Seeking Kokopelli by Shelley Munro (native american)
    Jumping The Fence by Stephanie Vaughn (hispanic)

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Kiracee
      Thank you for the list. You and I must have similar tastes because I have read and/or reviewed all of them except for And Hell Itself Breathes Out which is on my to read list. This is great because your list reminds me to re-read some of my favourites. :)

  47. Eden Winters

    How about:

    Amy Lane – Talker series (disfigurement)
    J.J. Massa – The Edge (Native American)

    1. Wave Post author

      Hi Eden

      Thanks for reminding me about Talker which I reviewed.

      The Edge is new to me so I’ll be sure to check it out.

  48. Lacey

    Mickie B. Ashling’s Cutting Cords and Penny Brandon’s Blind Passion both have blind characters.

    1. Lacey

      And Bonnie Dee’s Undeniable Magnetism and Anah Crow’s Renovations series feature interracial couples.

  49. Moonchild

    You mentioned hearing impaired gay characters – Learning to Dharn by Ann Somerville comes to mind, which came out just recently.

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