Today I am so pleased to welcome Melanie Hansen to Joyfully Jay. Melanie has come to talk to us about her latest release, Signs of Life. She has also brought along a great giveaway. Please join me in giving her a big welcome!
Hey, I’m Melanie, and recently I’ve ‘come out.’ What I mean by that is that I’ve come out as an m/m romance author to several people in real life over the past few months. Almost every time I’ve been asked: Why do you want to write gay romance? For me, there’s no easy answer to that question. I thought long and hard about it, and I’m about to get really personal. Please bear with me!
I was raised as an evangelical Christian. With an abstinence pledge, the teachings of Focus on the Family, the whole nine yards. What does that have to do with anything? Well, now I write m/m romance, which would be considered a terrible sin in that world, and if my family knew about it – well, it wouldn’t be pretty. They raised me to believe that being gay is a lifestyle choice made in order to indulge in filthy, disgusting sex, and it can only end with burning in hell. Didn’t matter that my own uncle was probably gay, we just didn’t talk about him and his “roommate,” only prayed for their redemption.
My journey from then to now is a long one. How does one go from believing gay people are going to hell to believing whole-heartedly that love is love, and that love in any form is natural and beautiful and a gift from God?
Because it started with love. Love for certain people in my life, specifically a friend I’ve had since the age of 11 who came out to me as a lesbian when we were in our early 20s. That same year, my uncle’s “roommate,” a man I was very fond of, died of AIDS. My uncle then revealed to our family that he had AIDS, too, and it was full-blown. He’d lost most of his friends, then the man he loved, and now he was next. I was horrified. How, under any stretch of the imagination, could being gay be a choice he’d made? Wouldn’t he have chosen to be straight, then, to avoid the gay bashing and humiliation he’d endured from elementary school all the way up to college? Wouldn’t he have chosen to avoid watching people he loved die a slow death from a terrifying, then-unknown disease, and for God’s sake chosen to avoid contracting it himself?
These events rocked my belief system, and caused cracks to open up in the rock-solid certainty I’d had up to then that being gay was wrong. I didn’t dump my lesbian friend, although my family urged me to, and I grieved with and supported my uncle through his partner’s death and his own diagnosis. How could a loving human being not do that?
A couple of years went by, and during the course of my duties as a freelance court reporter, I showed up for a deposition in a lawyer’s office one morning. The witness? A trans woman who was suing her employer for discrimination and wrongful termination. Mind you, this was the early ‘90s, and here was this woman bravely suing a large employer for discriminating against her. She had to open her life up to all sorts of prurient scrutiny and curiosity under the guise of “legal discovery.”
I sat in the conference room next to her and wrote down every word as the opposing lawyer asked her all sorts of intrusive questions. She’d had sex reassignment surgery, and he made her go into excruciating detail through every step of the process, what happened to her penis, what her sexual practices were then and now, everything. I was uncomfortable and embarrassed for her. But what struck me most about the whole thing was how poised, gracious and stoic she was about it all. She answered the questions with calm and dignity, not lowering herself to react to the nasty baiting the other lawyer was subjecting her to.
During the breaks in the testimony, even her own lawyer made fun of her behind her back, calling her “ugly” and “a man in a dress.” They asked me to tell them what she did in the bathroom since she, of course, used the women’s restroom with me. They wanted to know if she sat down to use the toilet! I declined to spy on her, saying that it was her private business and they should just ask her on the record if they felt it was pertinent information. They never did, because it wasn’t pertinent, just salacious curiosity.
Over the course of the next several years, I visited my friend and her girlfriend in DC, and attended their commitment ceremony. I was there when my uncle (he was able to get the med cocktail just in time, which took him down into HIV status and he’s still with us) met his current husband on a blind date. I’ve always been an avid romance reader, sneaking Harlequins as a teenager and then discovering beautifully-written historicals by such shining lights as Tessa Dare and Courtney Milan. But one of my all-time favorite authors is Joey W. Hill, and I completely devoured her Nature of Desire series. When she published a book in that series, Rough Canvas, I was shocked to find out that it was actually an m/m story. I had never heard of such a thing, a gay romance book? But oh, it was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever read. The emotions, the feelings, the journey…it remains one of my favorite comfort reads and I highly recommend it to anyone who hasn’t read it.
I loved it, and I wanted more. So I went to Amazon and found a lot of gay erotica and PWP, but I was looking for romance. On a romance blog I finally found some awesome m/m recs, and that led me Tumblr, eventually fanfic…and here I am, releasing my second novel with a third on the way.
I think what fulfills me the most about writing gay romance is looking back at far I’ve come, from bigotry and intolerance to celebrating love through the art of writing about it. I like to look at it as not writing m/m romance, but writing romance, period. Writing about people who are trying to get through life like everyone else.
We’re all just people, and love is love.
To that end, I would like to briefly mention my newest book, Signs of Life, which released a week ago, and encourage anyone coming to GRL to please stop by the Supporting Author signing to meet Andrew Christian model Cory Zwierzynski, who is featured on my gorgeous cover!
Thank you, Joyfully Jay, for hosting me today! See you in San Diego!
Successful lawyer Jeremy Speer has it all—a loving husband, a beautiful home, and a cherished dream that’s about to become reality. He’s learned not to take happiness for granted, meeting the challenges of life and love head-on with unwavering commitment and fierce devotion. A series of tragic events leave Jeremy shattered, adrift on a sea of unimaginable pain. He’s able to piece his life back together, but instead of embracing it, he merely exists, using isolation and punishing physical exertion to keep the world at bay.
High school teacher Kai Daniels has a heart for at-risk kids—he was one himself, and a teenage brush with the law and some troubled years behind bars left him scarred inside and out. With courage, hard work, and the support of friends, he’s built a fulfilling life that leaves no time for a relationship.
An intense encounter with Kai at a gay club ignites a spark in Jeremy that he thought was extinguished forever, but he’s unwilling to destroy the fragile peace he’s managed to create, and he leaves Kai humiliated and disappointed. Things should have ended there, but a bizarre occurrence brings the two together in a way neither of them expected.
Melanie Hansen has spent time in Texas and Florida prisons…for work. She’s been in a room with a 17-year-old mass murderer who was also one of the most soft-spoken and polite teenagers she’s ever met. After a 13-year career as a court reporter, she can tell many stories both hilarious and heartbreaking.
She grew up with an Air Force dad, and ended up marrying a Navy man. After living and working all over the country, she hopes to bring these rich and varied life experiences to her stories about people finding love amidst real-life struggles.
Melanie left the stressful world of the courtroom behind and now enjoys a rewarding career transcribing for a deaf student. She currently lives in Arizona with her husband and two sons.
Melanie has brought a $10 Dreamspinner Press gift card to give away to one lucky reader. Just leave a comment at the end of the post to enter. The contest ends on Thursday, October 8th at 11:59 pm EST.
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