Karin Kallmaker: Romance
Karin Kallmaker’s latest novel, The
Kiss That Counted, will be published in June. The out author has dozens of
other novels in print, many translated into foreign editions, and Kallmaker
recently joined her publisher, Bella Books, as editorial director, giving her
the opportunity to mentor a new generation of writers.
AfterEllen.com: Do you
recall the first lesbian romance novel that had a lasting impact on you?
Karin Kallmaker: Curious Wine. There was nothing like it before and
nothing like it since. I read it twice in one weekend, and cried through the
entire second reading. It was validating, inspiring … and remains so.
AE: How have romance
novels developed or changed in recent years, especially in terms of portrayals
of lesbians and bisexuals?
KK: The coming out story per se
is almost cliché now, but "coming-into-self" themes with the issues
around choosing to live openly as a queer person, balancing home, family, work
and callings remains a central romance character arc, supported by an
entertaining, compelling story.
AE: What are the
elements you look for in a good romance novel? How do you decide if a
particular book is worth finishing?
KK: I’m so caught in the dilemmas and issues of the characters that I
can’t wait to see how they solve them. If I respect the characters and believe
they have earned happiness and passion, I will savor every last word on their
Engaging stories of how two women create happiness, against all odds,
never grow old to me. We work, love, laugh and deal with life 24/7, and romance
novels take our "ordinary" existence and make it extraordinary.
Which, if you think about it, love is extraordinary, whenever it occurs.
AE: Why do you write
KK: Romance novels are the only genre where the everyday survival issues
and matters of the heart are given the attention and focus they really take in
our lives. A romance heroine can be larger-than-life, but the issues of life
and heart she faces connect with readers like nothing else does. A reader can
lose herself in a romance novel for the entertainment and finish it thinking, "She
found love and respect in her life — so can I."
AE: You’ve written
more than two dozen novels. How do you keep your topics and characters fresh?
KK: The only way I can describe it is casting a big net, keeping my eyes
wide open, looking for something that inspires. It can be a phrase, or a song,
or a situation. While I might look at how movies and television are presenting
women and lesbians, I search for themes in the lives of real women — like body
image, family, financial risks, self-esteem, respect, safety, etc. Some themes,
like respect, are so central to our lives that a writer can approach it dozens
of different ways and write a different story every time.
AE: Recommend three or
more romance novels that relate to a single subject of personal interest or
KK: Five Music as the Food of Love
Dress, Lori Lake
When Love Finds a Home, Megan Carter
Gossamer Axe, Gael Baudino
Love’s Melody Lost, Radclyffe
Maybe Next Time, Karin Kallmaker (if
I may be so bold)
Tomorrow, in part two, we’ll present interviews with Sarah Waters on
historical fiction, Shamim Sarif on international fiction, Val McDermid on
mysteries, Kelley Eskridge on science fiction, Lillian Faderman on nonfiction,
and Rebecca Walker on memoirs.