I’d already been in the photography business for a number of years shooting covers for “regular” hetero romance covers when I had my epiphany (ten years ago now) to shoot gay book covers and make them as acceptable and mainstream as the others. It was a big risk and I was told by many people, especially people who advised me financially, that it might not be a profitable thing to do, and could quite possibly, ruin my reputation. But I was tired of seeing the proliferation of covers featuring a man and woman, the cologne and perfume ads featuring a man and a woman… every ad under the sun – only featuring a man and a woman, and knowing that only one side of life was being spoon fed to us by the media as the acceptable aspiration and ideal. In fact, it made me angry and crazy, and determined to do something about it. We were here… didn’t anyone see us?!!
I had several things working against me. The m/m genre was a fledgling and coming into its own, but television and the entertainment industry were slowly allowing us into their vision as folks who existed right along with them, and I knew the flux and flow of our literature was going to eventually change. Will and Grace helped that. Brokeback Mountain helped that. So I had hope and crossed my fingers that I made a good choice as well as a conscientious one. Along with that, I had to find guys daring enough to pose with each other in photos mimicking the same love and adoration as was seen in every Harlequin cover since time immemorial.. They had to embrace and kiss and portray romance.. between two people of the same gender. So finding the guys was going to be a chore… and finding guys in the Bible belt of the country, the Midwest, was going to be even tougher. But I did.
I began shooting and squeaking out a living on the book covers. But the books were still a spattering few, and not highlighted anywhere with reviews or coverage that got a lot of notice. So I began cautiously posting the photos in galleries at Deviantart.. where artists had a bit more liberal minds. There, the European magazines found me and I got a lot of playtime in fashion mags catering to gay lifestyles. And I became one of the first artists at Deviantart to break the same sex photo feature of the day. That, in my estimation, was historical. But with the attention, also, came the haters. I had to deal with that everyday. But once that barrier was broken more and more artists felt inclined to post their artwork and photos of homosexual love. We were making strides toward that artistic acceptability. Or, the mainstream world.
With marriage equality now making strides, with Fox News, the imperious, galvanizing hammer of hate toward us for many years, now making concessions to us because of their gargantuan losses, I do believe it won’t be long before we see our first perfume ad featuring two women, or cologne ad featuring two men. More and more wonderful movies of all types are being geared toward the gay community, but finding acceptance among a mainstream public. Brokeback Mountain did that. But these are still few and far in between. Very, very few pieces of literature are breaking that barrier yet. They aren’t finding a mainstream crossover of acceptance.
And so..I had another epiphany. To write a gay romance that could be read by a mainstream public. Young and old, gay and straight alike. A story that WOULD appeal specifically to young readers who need to feel and learn more than anything that gay love is real love, acceptable love and “normal” love, as much as anything, but also be a story for those of us remembering our first love with dreamy fondness. I wanted to show love bud and bloom like a flower. I wanted to show its heart and its hardships. But more than anything, I wanted to give hope that it could endure no matter what because the world is not a pretty place and we have to accept that sometimes our “happily ever afters” have to connect with the realities of a changing world that pulls surprises on us. But it’s worth the hope to stick and stay!
And that’s how my YA gay romance novel, “Memorizing You” was born. I wrote something for “us”, but was universal enough for “them”. I wanted to show everyone that love, itself, was universal… and that one day… there won’t be an “us” and “them”, one day gay marriage will be as ordinary as any marriage, that jewelry shops and wedding planners will welcome us with equal open arms. We’ll see ads featuring gay couples at McDonalds, shopping together at malls, and it won’t be something that causes a stir, or makes someone blink twice.. or make a remark. We’ll be as mainstream as them..