Monday, May 23, 2011

GUEST POST: Heidi Cullinan (author of The Seventh Veil)

Good evening, all! I am delighted to introduce you all to Heidi Cullinan, author of The Seventh Veil, who has stopped by to share her thoughts on why she writes LGBT love stories.

Heidi is the award-winning author of six novels and two novellas. Her short stories have been published in several anthologies. Heidi has always loved a good love story, provided it has a happy ending. She enjoys writing across many genres but loves above all to write happy, romantic endings for LGBT characters because there just aren’t enough of those stories out there. When she isn’t writing, Heidi enjoys knitting, reading, movies, TV shows on DVD, and all kinds of music. She has a husband, a daughter, and too many cats. Heidi also volunteers frequently for her state’s LGBT rights group, One Iowa, and is proud to be from the first Midwestern state to legalize same-sex marriage.

Before we get into things, let's take a quick look at Heidi's latest,The Seventh Veil, the first book in a sweeping fantasy series, published by Loose ID:

As a bisexual bastard born to a country stuck in antiquated mores and ideals, Charles Perry had learned long ago to set his sights low: all he wants is a drink, a dram, and a whore of each gender to share them with. But strange visions haunt his dreams, and now the ghosts are following him into his waking hours. Charles must seek help from an alchemist or risk running mad. Charles’s House blood makes him a high prize in magical circles, so he’ll have to be careful. But what the alchemist discovers in Charles's blood turns the whole world on its head. And in the arms of an exotic male pleasure slave, Charles will discover a destiny so huge it doesn't seem possible, but it's true. Charles Perry, noble bastard, is the lost consort of the Goddess of All Creation. And as the forces of darkness converge on him, Charles must learn to channel his power to save the world--or risk becoming the pawn that destroys it.


Why I write LGBT love stories
I frequently get asked why I write LGBT love stories. Why do I write them exclusively when I’m not LGBT myself? It’s a complicated answer to give, and usually I just have to settle for, “Because the characters who speak to me are LGBT.” And that is true. Why they speak to me so frequently I will never full understand, I think. But why I love to write them so much? Still a complicated answer, but I’m happy to give it.

When I “met” my first gay character, I was surprised. My characters always just walk into my head, fully-formed imaginary people, and they always are who they are. Well, one day one of them was a gay man. His name was Will, and he had several stereotyped elements, but that was just his surface and almost a cloak for a more complicated man beneath. He quickly demanded himself his own love interest, which I happily provided, and they proceeded to take over the story. That tale, in fact, is one so important to me I’m still crafting it, wanting very much to get it right, and as it’s set in contemporary Iowa with some gay rights issues attached, it keeps getting messed up by current events. It was and still is my lightning rod story. Will was the character who ushered in all my other gay characters, and now it’s almost all I write--though I am actively looking to write lesbian love stories as well.

On a simple level, gay romances are “new.” I’m not talking about market but about saturation. We’ve all seen boy-meets-girl to the point where absolutely nothing is new; in boy-meets-boy and girl-meets-girl, everything seems so fresh and open, especially when we’re talking about happily ever after. And as soon as I had a taste of male/male and female/female love stories, I was ravenous for more. I wanted to write more, read more, see more--and there are so very, very few. All I could think about was what if I were gay and wanted to see myself modeled in my romances? What if I’d always had to look this hard? And at that point, I think, I made the unconscious decision to write LGBT and nothing else. The world hardly needs more heterosexual romances. But gay romances and happily ever afters? Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

I’ve survived many dark and rough periods of my life by escaping into romance novels, where bad things will happen but in the end things will always work out okay and love will conquer all.  Writing LGBT romances has invariably led me to more LGBT activism and has increased my deep friendships with LGBT persons one hundred fold, and the more I hear the personal stories of my LGBT friends, the more passionate I become about wanting to write not just good but great stories where the LGBT character is the hero, not the sidekick. Where orientation isn’t an aberration but just another aspect of character. Where love, in any form, is validated and celebrated.

And then there’s sex. Most of my stories are considered “steamy.” There’s sex in them, and it’s part of the plot, but yes, I keep the curtains open. This is just as important to me as the LGBT inclusion, because for one, the “sex part” is what people object to so much--and for very silly reasons. Also, I think sex is where we’re united. We all want to connect. We all want to love and be loved and be raw and naked with someone emotionally, and as humans we tend to express that physically as well. I work hard to make even the “steamiest” sex beautiful and important and simply another expression of who the character is. A lot of my themes are about overcoming shame and a lack of self-worth--something again that crosses all boundaries of humanity.

But most important of all to me is that in writing LGBT characters I have learned a lot about myself. My LGBT characters have healed parts of me I didn’t even know how to access. They’ve taught me things I didn’t know to ask to learn. Oh, and yes, they’ve made me wonder over and over again, why I am straight--would I have been different if the world had told me I should be gay? Am I more fluid in my sexuality than I think? Mostly I get questions and not answers, but I enjoy the questions and the self-exploration.

More than anything, though, writing these stories has made my marriage stronger. My husband reads all my books and talks with me at length about how he wishes men could be more open, could have stronger platonic relationships regardless of orientation. He’s also my staunchest supporter, seeing my work as important, and he’s proud of me. It probably helps that I have dedicated books to him with acknowledgment that he is who taught me what a romantic hero should be like. But he supported me even before that. In fact, the hardest books usually see him urging me to finish.

So really, I think in the end that LGBT characters chose me somehow, and I have just happily gone along. As I am with any story and any character, I’m just happy to get to be the human translator. It’s true, I get an extra kick of satisfaction at thinking that maybe I help change a few minds, or that at least I confound a naysayer by being a nice white heterosexual mother writing about passionate gay men in between making dinner, switching laundry, and helping my daughter with her homework. But mostly what I love is watching characters come to life on the page, strong, wonderful, and as normal as anyone else in the world, no matter who they want to fall in love with.

          --Heidi Cullinan


Thanks so much to Heidi for stopping by. Please take a few moments to check her out online at If The Seventh Veil sounds like your kind of read (I'll be giving it a review soon, so be sure to check back!), you'll likely enjoy some of her other more 'fantastic' works:

Hero   Miles and the Magic Flute   Sweet Son   Myths and Magic: Legends of Love

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