It started with the classics. The Bronte Sisters, Jane Austin, Oscar Wilde, Virginia Woolf, and Thomas Hardy were the lullabies of my childhood. After I graduated, entered into the world of capitalism, and came into adulthood, I realized that I hadn’t quite become what I’d wanted to be “when I grew up.” I also practically stopped reading. I was so busy with the daily grind.
For years, I resisted getting an eReader. Lots of friends told me I’d love it; I could read any book anywhere without having to lug around a 1,500 page paperback—or worse—hardcover. Still, I resisted. “I love the smell of books,” I said. “I love the feel of the pages in my hands,” I argued. Then one day, I realized I’d gone from reading 5 books a week to 5 books a year. So, I caved, went online, and bought a Kindle.
Sure, I’d read lesbian novels before. Sarah Waters was a favourite, as was Jeanette Winterson, but it wasn’t until typing “lesbian fiction” into the search bar of my Kindle that a whole world opened up before my eyes. Within minutes, I purchased $100 worth of romance novels. It wasn’t until I spent another $300 that I slowed down enough to notice the “Try a sample” option.
My God. The future had arrived, and it was wonderful.
I devoured dozens of books in a matter of weeks. Just like that, I was up to reading 5 or more books per week again. The best part? They were all books about lesbians. I couldn’t get enough. It was then I decided to try my hand at writing a lesbian romance novel. Why not? I was already a writer and knew that was the road I planned to venture down full-time someday, so why not start with trying to write one of the books that had brought me so much recent joy. I wrote The Space Between. I sent it out. I got lucky.
After my first book was published, I wrote Rescue Me. Again, I got lucky. I started getting lots of messages and reviews commending me on my ability to write lesbian romance novels. Every one of these messages thrilled and encouraged me. The thing is, though, I had a secret: I’m not a romance novelist.
Romance, lesbian fiction, lesfic—whatever nomenclature you choose—is just one of the many genres that I enjoy writing, but what about my other books? The lesfic publishing houses that had offered me contracts for my lesbian romance novels didn’t seem as interested in publishing books that pushed the boundaries of the genre or that broke it all together. Sure, I always wanted to have a lesbian as the protagonist, just as most straight authors will usually have a straight protagonist, but I didn’t want to only write about romance. I love romance, don’t get me wrong, but just as I don’t read strictly romance, I also don’t want to feel bound by only writing it.
Writing is freedom. If I can’t write what I want, I feel shackled. There had to be a place where I could explore all the stories and find a home for them. I needed a publishing house that wasn’t just interested in lesfic. One that would embrace variety and diversity. Yes, I mean diversity in LGBTQ and other minority communities as well as the literature that represents us, but I am speaking specifically to the diversity in literary genres.
I like to write it all; and I plan to.
Dirt Road Books is a brand new women’s literature and LGBTQ author collective, publishing books on all parts of the spectrum. Fiction. Non-fiction. Cooking. Romance. Erotica. Mystery. Young Adult. Politics. Plays. Thrillers. Historical fiction. Paranormal. Supernatural. Sci-Fi. You name it. We write it. More than that, we’ll publish it.
Our origin stories have mostly been about looking back at where we came from, but I’d like to leave you with where we’re headed, to a future that is as open-minded as it is inclusive, as broad as it is far-sighted, and limitless as your imagination. I wanted to form Dirt Road Books not just for me, not just for my fellow co-founders, but for everyone who wants more out of their books, more out of the stories we invest ourselves in, and more from the characters who represent us as women, as members of the LGBTQ community, and perhaps most importantly as who we are without all the labels: as people. I wanted a publishing house that would accept and reflect this diversity, and be proud of it.
We started Dirt Road Books because it felt like going home again. So, no matter what road you’re on, we hope that one of our books can help make it a better ride.