It’s Valentine’s Week here at RT, and we are feeling the love — more so than usual! We’ve been talking about the RT Convention for a while now, but this week we want to focus on one very special aspect of the event: the Men of RT! It’s takes a special kind of man to not only attend a week-long affair dominated by women, but to make a mark of their very own. Readers, meet the Men of RT!
Now let’s get to know Damon Suede!
Occupation: I write full-time. I came to romance fiction from scripting film/TV/theatre/comics so I’ve been writing for a living over twenty years now. I teach a few classes as well, but storytelling is my jam.
Astrological sign: Sun in Libra. Moon in Pisces. Cancer rising. Sun conjoins Mercury. Moon in Hayz. All true, yo. My family ran a super-detailed medieval chart for me when I was born and boy-howdy did I hear about it.
Dream date: My husband and I flying to Prague on the spur of the moment. Dinner in a little bistro we love which occupies a former alchemist’s basement, then a walk over the Charles Bridge to a garret in the Josefov quarter. Then locking the door for for 18 hours of Bohemian languor. Next morning propped up in bed, fresh-baked rohlíks and creamy preso.
You’re very active in the LGBT romance movement. What has been the movement’s biggest accomplishment thus far, in your opinion? Personally, I love hearing from readers who discover romance for the first time, but I think the biggest shift is public perception. Accomplishments-wise, I think I’m proudest of being included in the romance community at large. The entire genre has been so generous and welcoming. Five years ago, folks treated LGBT romance as this funny little wrinkle in the industry and now LGBT romances have started to break through into the mainstream. What seemed impossible is inevitable now … folks realizing that love stories are universal. That’s how you change minds: one heart at a time.
Best publishing industry anecdote: About a year after Hot Head came out, I was at RWA in Atlanta and Kristan Higgins was the keynote speaker and gave this incredibly warm, moving speech which hit me right where I live. Afterwards, I’m still weepy and happy and as I leave the ballroom I see her with her husband off to one side and I go up to gush at her. I’m about three yards away and I reach out to introduce myself and she says, “You’re Damon Suede!” I nod, confused and a little flabbergasted. She points at her (quiet, handsome) husband and says, “Firefighter” and winks like we all shared a secret. And then I knew: she’d read Hot Head and dug it. … Never would’ve occurred to me that she’d read a gay romance, and hearing it right at that moment, when I was so green, was an uncanny, wonderful gift from the universe.
Damon Suede Charles Paz
Tell us about your first RT convention. Aw, jeez. Well to start with I was pissing my pants. My friends had talked me into coming. The irony is that I still own my original copy of Kathryn Falk’s How to Write Romance from 1984, way before I’d even considered writing a romance, because it offered such great writing advice. For 20 years, I’d walked past the RT offices on Bergen when visiting friends in Brooklyn, but it was all theoretical until I wrote my first book and went to my first RT.
That first day, I showed up with no idea what to expect beyond a rumor that everyone at RT actively loathed LGBT romance. My expectations were pretty dismal, but I’d pulled on my big boy pants and leaped with no net. First morning, I come downstairs and I find myself in a ballroom mobbed with 3000 chatty women eating cheesecake at 7:30 am who all seemed to know each other. I felt like an alien: this pale, anxious loudmouth who wrote gay romance. No bueno.
I called home in a panic. “I shouldn’t be here! I’m insane! Gay romance? These people are gonna hate me!” A half hour later I attend a meet-n-greet panel with the editorial staff and Carol and they turn out to be the most loving, gracious, welcoming people I could’ve hoped. It turned out that RT was an enthusiastic supporter of great romance in any flavor and a real advocate for the genre’s evolution. I became an instant convert and RT became one of my must-attends of the year. Now I can’t imagine my year without it.
You’re one of the Pre-Con Boot Camp instructors at the RT Convention. What’s the one thing you want your aspiring authors to walk away knowing? I love Boot Camp. It just puts my head in the right space for the rest of the week.
The one thing I hope the students leave with is a clear sense of how powerful and supportive the romance community is. It sounds like a platitude, but romance really is about relationships, professional and personal, and if you approach the challenge with rigor and enthusiasm, the entire industry will conspire in your success.