Show me the books he loves and I shall know the man far better than through mortal friends - Silas Weir MitchellJ.M. Snyder was probably the first author I read with very young characters, the pretty boys :-) The book was Power Play and it's still one of my favorite books. She obviously writes a lot of other stories, but I'm sure that, when the characters are young, I'm booked for a cute and sweet story. So it's with great pleasure that today I host J.M. Snyder!
I started writing gay fiction for a very simple reason ~ I didn't know any really existed and when I looked online, the slash fan fiction I found sucked. After reading a few stories I thought shit, I can do better than that. So I did.
But here's a secret that's ... well, not so secret. I don't like reading erotic romance. Why? Well, I am not a romance reader ~ I never have been. I don't even enjoy romance movies. How sad is that? I'm that geek girl who plays video games and hangs out in comic book shops. I love sci-fi and fantasy. I read horror or nonfiction ~ particularly strange books about forensics or disease or war. I'm a huge military history buff (I live in the former capital of the Confederacy, so I guess I have to be). I like to read Stephen King and Douglas Adams and Tom Robbins. I'm not a romantic by any stretch of the imagination.
So why do I write romance? I honestly don't know. Whenever I put pen to paper, I write cheesy love stories between men. That's just what comes out, no matter what other genre I try to write. There's always a love story in my books, even if I don't read them myself. I guess that's just the way it is.
Top 10 GLBT Books:
1) Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins. This was the first book I read that I remember reading which had a major queer character in it who made me realize being GLBT wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Sissy is a small-town girl who hitchhikes her way across country to an all-girl ranch where she falls in love with both a sexy young cowgirl named Bonanza Jellybean and an old Asian guru named Chink. I fell in love with Jelly from the moment I met her, and to this day she remains one of my favorite literary characters (I even have a cat named after her). My copy of Cowgirls is heavily highlighted and well-read, and when I met the author a few years back, I had the book with me so he signed it. It's one of my prized possessions. One of the things I love best about the story is how the characters don't make a big deal about being queer ~ they just are. Their sexuality is simply a part of who they are. That's something I've always tried to capture in my own writing.
Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Bantam (April 1, 1990)
Publisher Link: http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9780553349498
Amazon: Even Cowgirls Get the Blues
The whooping crane rustlers are girls. Young girls. Cowgirls, as a matter of fact, all “bursting with dimples and hormones”—and the FBI has never seen anything quite like them. Yet their rebellion at the Rubber Rose Ranch is almost overshadowed by the arrival of the legendary Sissy Hankshaw, a white-trash goddess literally born to hitchhike, and the freest female of them all. Freedom, its prizes and its prices, is a major theme of Tom Robbins’s classic tale of eccentric adventure. As his robust characters attempt to turn the tables on fate, the reader is drawn along on a tragicomic joyride across the badlands of sexuality, wild rivers of language, and the frontiers of the mind.
2) With or Without You by Lauren Sanders. This story really blew me away. I've always been curious about people who feel compelled to kill celebrities, particularly those they claim to love. Lillian falls for Brooke, a popular actress on TV whom she feels as though she comes to know through the roles Brooke plays, much the same way millions of teenaged girls do. Lillian goes out of her way to try to meet Brooke, with no real degree of sucess, even going so far as to attend the play Brooke appears in nightly in New York. Fate intervenes when Brooke and Lillian finally meet and, through a strange twist of events, Lillian kills Brooke (this isn't a spoiler ~ you know from the first sentence of the book what has happened and the rest is told in flashback and Lillane is in prison for most of the story). While the premise sounds fantastical, the events of the novel play out in such a way as to make perfect sense. I was left with an immense feeling of sadness for Lillian. The fangirl in me could imagine playing her role all too well.
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Akashic Books (March 1, 2005)
Publisher Link: http://www.akashicbooks.com/wowy.htm
Amazon: With or Without You
WITH OR WITHOUT YOU combines the aching adolescent heart of The Catcher in the Rye with the dark suburban soul of The Great Gatsby -- set against the starstruck voyeurism of American Idol. This book asks the quintessentially American question: Is life worth living if you can't be famous?
3) Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Yes, the same book of poetry you probably had to slog through in eleventh grade high school English class. Though I don't write much poetry now, I did write many poems in high school and college. I was never one for structured form, so when I was introduced to Walt Whitman's free verse, I felt a very kindred spirit. Even in my teenage years, I delighted in the sensual homoeroticism in Whitman's words, particularly the poems which dealt with camraderie during wartime (what'd I tell you? I like that theme). The more I read of Whitman, the more I discover in his words, and my own personal experiences color the way I read his poems when I revisit them. Now I see deeper nuances to his poetry that I didn't before, and I can appreciate his homoeroticism in a way I couldn't before. No matter how often I reread this book, it seems to change each time.
Hardcover: 184 pages
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 150th anniversary edition (April 15, 2005)
Amazon: Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (150th Anniversary Edition)
One of the great innovative figures in American letters, Walt Whitman created a daringly new kind of poetry that became a major force in world literature. Leaves Of Grass is his one book. First published in 1855 with only twelve poems, it was greeted by Ralph Waldo Emerson as "the wonderful gift . . . the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed." Over the course of Whitman's life, the book reappeared in many versions, expanded and transformed as the author's experiences and the nation's history changed and grew. Whitman's ambition was to creates something uniquely American. In that he succeeded. His poems have been woven into the very fabric of the American character. From his solemn masterpieces "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" and "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking" to the joyous freedom of "Song of Myself," "I Sing the Body Electric," and "Song of the Open Road," Whitman's work lives on, an inspiration to the poets of later generations.
4) The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers. If anything, this book is an anti-romance. No one ends up happy. John Singer is a deaf-mute who lives with his companion, another deaf man named Antonapoulos. At the beginning of the story, Antonapoulos is sent to an aslyum and Singer moves into a boarding house. The rest of the book is about how the inhabitants of the house interact with Singer, each feeling as though he somehow enriches their lives to some extent, though none of them ever really gets to know him or realizes he himself is deeply saddened by the loss of his friend. I don't know if it's considered a GLBT novel or not, but I always felt it could withstand a gay reading, as I saw the friendship between Singer and Antonapoulos as something much more than what was explicitly portrayed in the story. Given the way the book ends, there has to be more than mere friendship between them. If you aren't too hung up on happy ever after and want to lose yourself in some damn fine literature, give this one a try.
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Mariner; 1st Mariner Books Ed edition (April 21, 2004)
Publisher Link: http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/catalog/titledetail.cfm?titleNumber=689508
Amazon: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (Oprah's Book Club)
With the publication of her first novel, THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER, Carson McCullers, all of twenty-three, became a literary sensation. With its profound sense of moral isolation and its compassionate glimpses into its characters' inner lives, the novel is considered McCullers' finest work, an enduring masterpiece first published by Houghton Mifflin in 1940. At its center is the deaf-mute John Singer, who becomes the confidant for various types of misfits in a Georgia mill town during the 1930s. Each one yearns for escape from small town life. When Singer's mute companion goes insane, Singer moves into the Kelly house, where Mick Kelly, the book's heroine (and loosely based on McCullers), finds solace in her music. Wonderfully attuned to the spiritual isolation that underlies the human condition, and with a deft sense for racial tensions in the South, McCullers spins a haunting, unforgettable story that gives voice to the rejected, the forgotten, and the mistreated -- and, through Mick Kelly, gives voice to the quiet, intensely personal search for beauty. Richard Wright praised Carson McCullers for her ability "to rise above the pressures of her environment and embrace white and black humanity in one sweep of apprehension and tenderness." She writes "with a sweep and certainty that are overwhelming," said the NEW YORK TIMES. McCullers became an overnight literary sensation, but her novel has endured, just as timely and powerful today as when it was first published. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER is Carson McCullers at her most compassionate, endearing best.
5) Coup de Grâce by Marguerite Yourcenar. I read this book in college and absolutely loved it. This novella is set in Eastern Europe around WWI and focuses Erick's life as he struggles to live by his own strict code. While I was reading it, I wasn't aware on a tangible level that Erick was gay. But when discussion it in class, it suddenly hit me why he felt so strongly for his best friend Conrad and spurned Conrad's sister Sophie's attentions. It's very very subtle (I was the only one in the whole group who got it), but it really made me appreciate the book that much more. Another sad book, but a really excellent story.
Paperback: 164 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (May 1, 1981)
Publisher Link: http://us.macmillan.com/coupdegrace
Amazon: Coup de Grace
Set in the Baltic provinces in the aftermath of World War I,Coup de Grace tells the story of an intimacy that grows between three young people hemmed in by civil war: Erick, a Prussian fighting with the White Russians against the Bolsheviks; Conrad, his best friend from childhood; and Sophie, whose unrequited love for Conrad becomes an unbearable burden.
6) The Telling by Ursula K. LeGuin. LeGuin is one of the best voices in science fiction, and I love that she doesn't shy from giving voice to characters with alternate sexualities. This was an excellent story. I loved it immensely, and would recommend it to anyone. I found the imagery throughout the book to be very compelling, bringing to mind Fascist, Communist, and Socialist movements. The main character, Sutty, is a lesbian who lost her lover in a terriorist attack and thus is a survivor of a terrible past who continues to fight for what she believes to be true. In her struggle we hear echoes of those who stood up against the forces of tyranny throughout history.
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Ace (July 29, 2003)
Publisher Link: http://us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780441011230,00.html?The_Telling_Ursula_K._LeGuin
Amazon: The Telling
Once a culturally rich world, the planet Aka has been utterly transformed by technology. Records of the past have been destroyed, and citizens are strictly monitored. But an official observer from Earth will discover a group of outcasts who still practice its lost religion-the Telling. Intrigued by their beliefs, she joins them on a sacred pilgrimage into the mountains...and into the dangerous terrain of her own heart, mind, and soul.
7) Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller. Is this a GLBT novel? I don't know. Sheba is a teacher who gets involved with a young male student and Barbara, a fellow teacher who befriends Sheba, is the only one she confides in about the affair. After gaining Sheba's trust, Barbara slowly manipulates the situation, telling others about it while making Sheba entirely dependent upon her. Though there is nothing sexual between the two women, I felt Barbara wanted more than friendship from Sheba and went out of her way to try to attain it, even to the very end. This is an excellent look at how manipulative women can be. I really enjoyed it and when I read it, I couldn't put it down.
Paperback: 258 pages
Publisher: Picador (December 12, 2006)
Publisher Link: http://us.macmillan.com/notesonascandal
Amazon: Notes on a Scandal: What Was She Thinking?: A Novel
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Now a Major Motion Picture. Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has led a solitary life until Sheba Hart, the new art teacher at St. George's, befriends her. But even as their relationship develops, so too does another: Sheba has begun an illicit affair with an underage male student. When the scandal turns into a media circus, Barbara decides to write an account in her friend's defense--and ends up revealing not only Sheba's secrets, but also her own.
8) The Passion by Jeanette Winterson. Another novel I read in college. This is about Henri, a soldier, who falls in love with Villanelle, the daughter of a Venetian boatman, who lost her heart (literally) to a married noblewoman and wanders the world in search of it. When I say "lost," I mean physically ~ one of the best things about Winterson's writing is her words. I loved the language of the book, and I remember falling in love with Winterson's writing style (and it didn't hurt that her first name is the same as mine). Immediately after I read this book, I wrote quite a few poems about keeping one's heart safe in a box, then went out and bought a number of Winterson's other novels. If you haven't read anything by her, you're missing out.
Paperback: 176 pages
Publisher: Grove Press (August 7, 1997)
Publisher Link: http://www.groveatlantic.com/#page=isbn9780802135223%20
Amazon: The Passion
This arresting, elegant novel uses Napolean's Europe as the setting for a tantalizing surrealistic romance between an observer of history and a creature of fantasy.
9) Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk. This is the first transgender novel I read and for that reason alone it deserves a mention on this list. But it's also a damn fine story, and it keeps you turning pages until the very end. Shannon is a former model who has been shot in the face. During her recovery, she meets pre-op transsexual Brandy Alexander. With Shannon's bisexual boyfriend in tow, the three set off on an extended road trip once Shannon leaves the hospital as Shannon tries to outrun her own personal ghosts ~ she's haunted by her past, by constantly being overshadowed by her brother, by the accident that sent her to the hospital in the first place, by her appearance. This book explores the notion of "beauty" and how it's defined, not only by society as a whole but by individuals as well. And the twist at the end ... oooh boy. You have to read it to believe it!
Paperback: 278 pages
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (September 1999)
Publisher Link: http://books.wwnorton.com/books/Invisible-Monsters/
Amazon: Invisible Monsters: A Novel
Love, betrayal, petty larceny, and high fashion fuel this deliciously comic novel from the author of Fight Club and Survivor. The fashion-model protagonist of Invisible Monsters has just about everything: a boyfriend, a career, a loyal best friend. But one day she's driving along the freeway when a sudden "accident" leaves her with half her face, no ability to speak, and next to no self-esteem. From being the beautiful center of attention she becomes an invisible monster, so hideous that no one will acknowledge she exists. Enter Brandy Alexander, Queen Supreme, one operation away from becoming a real woman; Brandy will teach her that reinventing yourself means erasing the past and making up something better. And that salvation hides in the last places you'll ever want to look. In this hilarious and daringly unpredictable novel, the narrator must exact revenge upon Evie, her best friend and fellow model; kidnap Manus, her two-timing ex-boyfriend; and hit the road with Brandy in search of a brand-new past, present, and future. Changing names and stories in every city, they catapult toward a final confrontation with a rifle-toting Evie-by which time the narrator will have learned that loving and being loved are not mutually exclusive, and that nothing, on the surface, is ever quite what it seems. By turns witty, poignant, and exhilarating, Invisible Monsters will take you on a ride you'll never forget.
10) The Pink Triangle by Richard Plant. So many young gay people today don't realize the important significance of the pink triangle ~ they think it just another symbol of pride, and don't realize that it has been reclaimed from a horrific history in which many men died for their sexuality. This book helps the common reader understand why Hitler began his hateful anti-homosexual campaign. Through the survivor's stories, it paints a vivid portrait not only of the despicable depths of hatred to which men can sink, but it also shows us the indefeatable spirit of the human race to withstand and move on from such adversity. I cannot recommend this book enough ~ it is only through realizing what we have been through that we learn what we will be able to overcome.
Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; 1 edition (February 15, 1988)
Publisher Link: http://us.macmillan.com/thepinktriangle
Amazon: The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals
This is the first comprehensive book in English on the fate of the homosexuals in Nazi Germany. The author, a German refugee, examines the climate and conditions that gave rise to a vicious campaign against Germany’s gays, as directed by Himmler and his SS--persecution that resulted in tens of thousands of arrests and thousands of deaths. In this Nazi crusade, homosexual prisoners were confined to death camps where, forced to wear pink triangles, they constituted the lowest rung in the camp hierarchy. The horror of camp life is described through diaries, previously untranslated documents, and interviews with and letters from survivors, revealing how the anti-homosexual campaign was conducted, the crackpot homophobic fantasies that fueled it, the men who made it possible, and those who were its victims, this chilling book sheds light on a corner of twentieth-century history that has been hidden in the shadows much too long.
About J.M. Snyder: J.M. Snyder lives in Richmond, Virginia, with two very spoiled cats. In addition to writing, she runs Rainbow Reviews (http://www.rainbow-reviews.com). A self-published author of gay erotic and romantic fiction, Snyder also works with several e-publishers, most notably Amber Allure Press and eXcessica Publishing. Many of Snyder's short stories have appeared in anthologies by Alyson Books, Cleis Press, and others. Snyder also writes gay young adult romance as J. Tomas and non-gay fiction and poetry as J.T. Marie. For excerpts, free short stories, monthly contests, and purchasing information, visit http://jmsnyder.net.
Rockstar by J.M. Snyder
Paperback: 218 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace (December 31, 2009)
Purchase Link: http://jmsnyder.net/books/rockstar.html
Adam Blue is destined to be a rockstar. As lead singer of Viral Blue, he knows it's just a matter of time before he's on his way to fame and fortune. If he can just get a studio to sign his band and get his songs on the radio, he knows he'll make it big. When they land a spot onstage at a popular nightclub downtown, Adam hopes to get noticed. But he doesn't expect to meet sexy Paolo Raucci, owner of Raucci Entertainment, a local studio looking for fresh talent. Paol likes Adam's sound and, more importantly, likes Adam, as well. But when Paol brings the band into the studio, his partner Lewis isn't quite as taken with Adam's rockstar attitude. Lewis doesn't want to sign the band until Adam proves he's willing to work. Unfortunately, the band takes second priority to Adam's growing interest Paol ... an interest that has nothing to do with his musical career. The stress of recording their first studio album threatens to tear the band apart, and Adam's ego further drives a wedge between the members of Viral Blue. Paol does his best to keep the band together, but ultimately it's Adam's call. Adam wants it all-his band, his first record, and his new lover. Now that his dreams are finally within reach, what does he have to do to make them come true?