Guest Post: The current state of asian representation in LGBTI+ romance (spoiler: it’s not great)

Hi, let’s talk about asian cultures and LGBTI+ romance publishing.

 

In particular, let’s talk about asian main characters and love interests written by white authors who might have an interest in the culture but will have never lived it or understand it. The character names aren’t even always names but rather phonemes from an asian language strung together (and not even always from the same language as the character’s ethnicity), the title refers to at least one stereotype, and the cover invokes anything generically asian from imagery to font. It seems deliberately designed to offend anyone with any degree of racial sensitivity. 

 

Now, off the top of my head, I can think of four or five novels/novellas that fit the bill. And I’m betting that there are tens morel I haven’t run across yet.

 

These authors and publishers claim to respect the culture they represent, but do they? These are more acts of exploitation. Is this what’s meant to pass for diversity?

 

LGBTI+ romance publishing community talk the big talk about equality and diversity, but there is very little evidence I’ve seen of that. I can’t talk for other ethnic minority groups and their representation, for obvious reasons, but at least when it comes to asian characters I frequently end up salty as fuck.

 

What exactly is the problem, some people might ask. Isn’t it great just to have these asian characters living their lives as anyone else would? Sure, I love the idea of people being treated like anyone one else (aka the white american dude that is the baseline apparently) but culture and skin colour informs our lives in a thousand of small ways. It’s the smell of our homes and the way we relate to others in our community. It’s our childhood names and the little habits we develop because of those folklores and beliefs. And even second generation immigrant kids carry some of that with them through their lives.

 

And if you think all of that can be conveyed by making the character eat kimchi/noodles/sushi and throwing a few korean/chinese/japanese words in there, well then, let me politely say, fuck you very much.

 

Remember this? [Source]

As Jasmine Hong rightly points out [Source]

Yeah, lemme tell you, it’s great to see asian authors being told “you need to make them more Other” while poc characters by white authors (who are basically white characters with white childhood but asian names) get published without drama.  

 

And hey, let’s not even touch on how many of these characters are actually half-white, which seems to be a convenient way for authors to write Other without them being too Other. And its often done without understanding or respecting the position of mixed race individuals in culture and society.  

 

I think what bothers me most about all of this, is that there are popular LGBTI+ authors and boutique publishers happily producing these stories, and no one is calling them out. I’ve seen PoC authors I respect promoting these authors and these books. I’ve seen respected reviewers call the books “amazing” and “unique” and “diverse.”

 

No, they aren’t. And the sooner we acknowledge that the better.

 

I’m a believer in providing solutions along with pointing out an issue. So here are some solutions. If you are a writer, get a sensitivity reader/consultant. Make sure it’s someone who will tell you the truth. Consider whether this story is one that needs to be told by you. Ask yourself why you’re writing this story. Is it to get the pats on the back? Is it because asian characters are hot right now? And if you’re a publisher, seek out and publish PoCs. Think about what you’re putting on covers

 

Just. Make the effort. Please.

 

Added note:

1) God do I hate that I have to even use the word ‘asian’ as if we’re all one homogenous culture.

2) Notice how many of these books are about Japanese culture and characters? Because I guess that’s the only asian country worth noticing and fetishising.

Peace out,

M. Sithu

Author Interview: Tami Veldura

Tami Veldura is the author of Dawn Patrol, a short 10k M/M romance about a surfer and an artist.

Sie says: “It’s going to be the first in a series contemporary stand alone stories set in the fictional Washington state town of Tidewater. It’s scheduled for release on July 28.

I’ve been publishing since 2010, cut my teeth writing fanfiction and fantasy roleplay, and this will be my 16th story published either through a press or self. I’ve released books with NineStar, Less Than Three Press, Bottom Drawer Publications, DreamKeeper Publications, and I have a short on submission with Dreamspinner.”


What’s your writing process like? Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of your pants? A little bit of both?

I’m 100% a planner. Ideas start on their own file in a folder I call the Idea Box. If they have legs they’ll be moved to one of my penname folders as I develop an outline. By the time I have an outline finished I know if I want to submit the story or self-publish it, which may be dictated by content. The drafting part is hardest for me, so I try and write the story in one big push, handing it over to my editor right away. I really enjoy revision and editing, though, so I take my time once I get the story back, massaging it into something great. Then it’s off to the proofreader, the details are formatted, and it’s published!

What writing program do you use and why?

I write either in google docs (outline, ideas, notes) or 4thewords.com (drafting). 4thewords is a gamified website that rewards wordcount as you do battle against monsters with loot. The story progresses as you move through the quests. I ADORE this website. I’m so glad a friend of mine found and told me about it!

What do you read for inspiration?

What I read depends on what I’m writing or outlining. I’m currently about to draft a science fiction military story so I’m reading The Intrepid Saga by M.D. Cooper, which is a hard military scifi quartet. (I’m loving it) My Patrons get a regular serial story featuring vampires that’s dark and twisted.I recently went on a very dark binge and read through Dark Silence by Katze Snow and Susanna Hays, Spoils of War by Hannah Walker, the Beautiful Monsters trilogy by Jex Lane (much adore!), Call the Coroner by Avril Ashtton and Kraken by M. Caspian (heart eyes!). I have KU so I get a lot of my reading chosen through Amazon’s suggestion list.

How do you unwind?

Reading, videogames, and browsing the internet are my go-to hobbies for relaxing. I’m working through Slime Rancher on PC, Horizon Zero Dawn on PS4, Wolf Among Us on Xbox One, and Pokemon X on my nintendo handheld. I can spend an entire day browsing Imgur, Tumblr, and Pinterest if I let myself XD

Which do you prefer: happily ever after, happy for now, or rocks fall everybody dies endings?

I prefer MURDER which makes for awkward romances, let me tell you. I had a conversation with my writing friends about a marriage scene that followed a big dramatic fight. Would a dead body in the background be a total mood killer? The dead body was not a popular idea. Ok, what about half a body? I was informed half a body was NOT better. So… there’s no body. 🙁

Do you write better in sunny weather or rainy weather?

Sunny sunny sunny! I have clinical/seasonal depression and even an overcast day can really get to me. Thankfully there’s a cheerful cafe in a nearby inland town that I love working at, so I can get away from the coastal weather if I need to. I’m very open about my mental health, I chat about it regularly on twitter.

What social network do you use most often and why?

Twitter! I love twitter. I use it constantly and I’m always looking for interesting people to follow and talk to. Come find me: @tamiveldura. I usually end up chatting in long threads when something interesting happens in my life to make reading easy.



Elias lives for the waves. He’s been surfing off the Tidewater coast since he could crawl, and the connection he’s forged with the ocean is fundamental. Every morning he shares a ritual swim with the local pod of dolphins. Elias is desperate to find a way to express what the sand and the sea mean to him, and local artist Theo could be just what he needs.

Theo’s art has helped him move mountains. It granted him freedom from abusive family and supports his quiet lifestyle. He’s ready for more. So when muscle-bound Elias commissions him for a mural on his bedroom wall, Theo has more than one reason to take the job. It’s time to reach with his heart, an easy thing when Elias is so eager to share what’s in his.

Water is essential when painting, and color is what brings the ocean to life. Elias and Theo were made for each other. It’s only a matter of time before Tidewater brings them together.

Available at Amazon Kobo B&N Smashwords

Continue reading Author Interview: Tami Veldura

Guest Post: What to do when you’re an alien in a culture you belong to by M Sithu

This post is written by a friend of mine. A spec fic writer, genre mixer, and all around excellent writer, she struggles with similar feelings originating from diaspora. This is her post regarding that subject.


I’m an Australian-raised Burmese Buddhist who went to Catholic primary and secondary schools. Now, there’s a mouthful. To complicate matters, although I was born in Burma, I identify as Shan (an ethnicity from Eastern Burma). To be more precise, Northern Shan. My family came over when I was nine and, as is usually the case when you’re a PoC in a primarily western community, I’ve lost touch with my heritage. I had the choice of giving the other kids even more fodder for mockery or being as Aussie as possible. I went with the route of least resistance.

About three years ago, I became interested in writing a novel set in Burma, or rather, set in a silkpunk world that has elements of Burmese history and myths. To that end, I started archive diving. I got my hands on every academic article and books (mostly written by western academics but I took what I could get) on the subject. Hounded my parents with questions. Haunted blogs.

The trouble came when I started writing. Despite all my research, whatever I wrote felt very much like a westerner’s interpretation of things. The more I learned about my culture the more questions I had, and the more I worried about doing it justice. Worse is that the myths and legends of Burma are intricately tied into the country’s religion, which is another minefield to traverse. (Honestly, you can’t go a mile without encountering a shrine to Buddha or a stupa or a sacred objection in Burma. That could be a fun and lethal drinking game if you ever travel through there.)

Eventually, I started to wonder if I had any right to my culture, not only to claim it but to write it. I suspect this isn’t an uncommon attitude in immigrants who came over as children or the children of immigrants. I claimed to be Shan but I could neither speak the language nor understand it. Not only that, the little things that come under the umbrella of culture like food and childhood nicknames and playground games and toys and deep rooted prejudices about other ethnicities, the little things, were missing in me. If anything, I was more Burmese than Shan–and, trust me, that is an insult given the history between the Burmese Kingdoms and the Shan States throughout time–and I was more Australian than Burmese.

As a writer, I felt as if there were even more of a responsibility on me to present a perfect microcosm of Burmese culture in my novel. For good or ill, the western world’s view of Burma is very much centered around the Junta and Aung Sang Suu Kyi, and ye olde colonial times of Kipling’s poem ‘Mandalay‘. I wanted to show that there was more to my home country than corruption, and to showcase the glory of Burma before the British invasion. I wanted to write about the belus with their monstrous appetites, the nats who guarded home and hearth and treasures, the weikzas who swam through the earth, the wise Princess Learned in Law, the keinayyas and the nagas and and and…

But how was I meant to do any of that when I didn’t even have a grounding in the most basic of things?

I don’t really have an answer to that. I don’t know how to recapture the connection to my culture I’ve lost by immigrating to another country. I don’t know if I ever can. In lieu of going back in time, I research and read. I’ve found books by Burmese authors either written in or translated to English that give me a window into their experiences in Burma. There are thoughtful and well written blog posts by current and former residents of Burma. There are more and more academic articles emerging about the history of Burma. I’m trying to teach myself the language again. 

In the meantime, I continue to work on my novel because diversity is important. I would rather this story be written by someone with a personal stake in it, for whatever it’s worth. When it’s done, I hope to find Burmese sensitivity readers because, as I have learned, writing based on research is different from writing based on experience. Further, experiences differ.

I’m going to miss the minor details and accidentally westernise ways of life or use western aphorisms and proverbs. I might accidentally use a very Shan sounding name for a Burmese equivalent person in my story. Do I have to take every critique on board? Of course not. But in writing about a community, any community, I think I owe it to them to do everything I can to get it right.

 

Author Interview: Brenda Murphy

Brenda Murphy’s most recent release is Sum of the Whole, a contemporary F/F erotic romance. You can read the blurb after the Q&A.


What times of the day are best for writing for you, personally?

Morning is best, but I take what I can get. I have kids so I have to be flexible. I usually write from 9:00am until about 1pm. My brain is cooked by then so I eat lunch, answer email, do social media, etc. I hit the gym before picking up my kids at school. This is pretty much my routine during the school year. Summer time the kids are home with me and I work when I can, but average about an hour or two each day.

Do you write to a playlist?

Yes. It focuses me and when it starts up it is like the starting bell at a horse race, my brain knows it is time to write. It also helps shut off distractions. I have wicked ADHD and music is one of the best ways to focus for me.

Do specific stories/books have specific playlists? Do characters?

Yes, each book has a playlist and each character gets a theme song, and then the rest of the music is chosen to reflect the action/mood of the work. I spend as much time choosing a theme song for each character as other people do choosing a photo for their character sketch.

How do your friends/family/pets handle your writing schedule?

My wife is very supportive, she is an academic and a writer too, so we get how the magic works and work together to give each other time to write. My kids are young but they understand about writing time, although I schedule most of my writing around their school schedule. What is really gratifying to me is the way they will sit next to me and work on their own creative projects.  

Who supported your writing first?

My wife. She has always been my number one fan.

Do you have a group of writing friends? What’s that like?

I have an eclectic group of friends who write including academic, non-fiction, children’s literature, horror, romantic fantasy, and romance writers, traditionally published, hybrid, and indie published. It is great, because even if we don’t write the type of stories we all get the struggles and are able to support each other.

How emotionally entangled do you get in your writing?

After I finished my last book,  One, scheduled for release in November with NineStar Press, I found myself missing the characters and their world. I wanted to start a sequel just so I could hang out with them again. The only solution was to start another novel so I could play with new characters.  

Do you have to have specific conditions in order to write? What’s your work space like?

HAHAHAHA. No. I have kids. I do have an office, and I use it, but I can write anywhere, and have because I listen to music while I write. One of the best things about ADHD is hyperfocus, which means when I’m into what I’m doing you could blow the room up around me and I wouldn’t notice.

About Sum of the Whole, Brenda says: “I once described it to a friend as Pretty Woman with BDSM and lesbians. It is my first novel. It started out as a short story for an edited collection that was rejected. I had a good friend read it and she made some suggestions and that is how Sum of the Whole came to be a novel. Rejections are hard but this one had a happy ending. If it had been accepted it might have taken me longer to have a novel published.  I have been very fortunate to have had rejections that offered helpful suggestions and/or requests for revise and resubmit.”


Jaya Pomroy falls desperately in love with Sarah while vacationing at an exclusive BDSM pleasure house. Unwilling to become Jaya’s possession, yearning for independence, Sarah refuses to leave with her and they part after a bitter fight.

Six years later they meet again. Fighting to leave her past behind, but unable to resist her attraction for Jaya, Sarah agrees to try again. Jaya has to cope with new rules and new roles. When a former client threatens to expose Sarah, Jaya risks everything to protect her.

Can their love survive in the real world filled with vengeful ex-lovers and deadly secrets?

Available now from NineStar Press and Amazon.