The fantastic team behind Canadian Lesfic kindly stopped by the BCLA LGBTQ Interest Group blog to talk about Canadian lesbian fiction, must-have lesbian titles for any library collection, fantastic resources and much, more!
First off, describe Canadian Lesfic in one sentence. (answered by the group)
Canadian Lesfic showcases lesbian fiction by Canadian authors.
(Bonus sentence: If you’re a Canadian lesbian fiction author, please contact us through the contact page on the site. We’d love to list your lesbian fiction books.)
What exactly does Moose Hall mean?! (answered by Benny Lawrence)
Canadian Lesfic came about because Henriette Meissner of Curve Reviews decided to bully us all in the most sweet and supportive way possible into getting on with it. Think someone who demands that you run a marathon, and then shows up with cupcakes every day that you’re training, and runs behind you with a megaphone shouting compliments. We suspect she might be a Canadian in secret.
While the site was under development, Henriette showered us with help, suggestions, and advice. But she made one demand, namely that we post a moose on our placeholder “Site Under Construction” page. We complied- it seemed only polite- and our flannel-clad moose became our semi-official mascot. Inevitably, since our site is created by raging nerds, the moose has a name, which is “Pamplemousse.”
We considered naming the site “Moose Hall” in honour of Pamplemousse, but we didn’t want people to mistake it for a very strange hunting lodge.
Who are the awesome people behind the scenes? (answered by the group)
Liz Bugg: Liz schedules blog posts on the Canadian Lesfic site and is also a regular contributor. Based in Toronto, she writes novels (the award-winning Calli Barnow Series), short stories, and non-fiction.
Lois Cloarec Hart: Lois has been writing since 1999, and is published by Ylva Publishing, a German-based, internationally distributed company. She mostly sets her novels and short stories in Canada, and has had six novels and a collection of short stories published, as well as a dozen other short stories included in various anthologies.
Sarah Ettritch: Sarah writes science fiction, fantasy, and mystery stories with main characters who just happen to be lesbian. Some of Sarah’s stories have romantic plots or elements, but others don’t. When a story takes place in the real world, Sarah sets it in Canada (others are set in worlds she dreamed up). She lives in Toronto.
Benny Lawrence: Benny is the troublemaking one and she’s grateful that the rest of these nice and talented people haven’t thrown her out of a window quite yet. Her bad habits include advertising for the site with pictures of beavers in corsets, and disappearing from the Internet months on end while she pretends to be a mature and responsible lawyer in Toronto. She is reliably informed that she is strange and she writes about anything that interests her, from gay bondage pirates to post-apocalyptic Ontario.
Tracy Richardson: Tracey is the author of seven romance novels with Bella Books since 2008, including the popular Last Salute,No Rules of Engagement, The Candidate and The Campaign. She was a 2010 Lambda Literary finalist for No Rules and has been a finalist several times over for the Golden Crown Literary Society. In 2010, Tracey’s novel Side Order of Love won a first-place Rainbow Romance Award of Excellence by Rainbow Writers of America for contemporary romance with the Rainbow Writers of America.
Imagine you’re trapped on a desert island – what five books would you want to have with you? (answered by Benny Lawrence)
1.) The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, by Alison Bechdel. It’s reading material! It’s a security blanket! It’s both!
2.) The Parable of the Talents, by Octavia Butler. It’s a book I can re-read over and over, and when I’m tired of reading it, I can entertain myself by screaming in frustration about the fact that she never got a chance to write the third installment.
3.) The Collected Works of Dorothy Parker. Because in a life or death situation, you can never have too much caustic wit.
4.) Fall on your Knees, by Ann-Marie Macdonald. The first time I read this, I felt like I was reading for the first time, and everything was wonderful and new.
5.) The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, by Joan Aiken, but in a special edition, so it’s six foot tall and waterproof and you can use it as a boat.
How do you think Canadian lesbian fiction compares to the genre in other countries, in terms of output/success/market reach/diversity, etc.? (answered by Sarah Ettritch)
At Canadian Lesfic, we focus on lesbian fiction by Canadian authors, which doesn’t necessarily mean their books are published by Canadian publishers. Several of our authors are published by presses in other countries. Since our population is smaller than countries like the US and UK, we have fewer authors and produce fewer books. That aside, I don’t think there’s much difference in terms of output/success/etc. Every Canadian author can choose from among several viable publishing paths (or dabble in all of them!) and can market her books to the world. I’ve sold books to readers in Canada, the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, and many other countries. The Internet has opened the world to us. It doesn’t matter where an author lives these days.
Who are some of the leading publishers that library staff should be keeping on eye on? (answered by Lois Cloarec Hart)
Bella Books http://www.bellabooks.com/
Bold Strokes Books https://www.boldstrokesbooks.com/
Brisk Press http://www.briskpress.com/home.html
Clover Valley Press http://www.clovervalleypress.com/
Intaglio Publications http://www.intagliopub.com/
New Victoria Publishers http://www.newvictoria.com/ (I’m not sure how active they are now, but they have an impressive back catalogue.)
Regal Crest http://www.regalcrest.biz/
Spinsters Ink www.spinstersink.com/ (This is an imprint of Bella Books.)
Ylva Publishing https://www.ylva-publishing.com/
Bella is not only a publisher of their own writers, they are partnered with, and distributors for a number of other lesbian and women’s fiction publishers. You can sign up for monthly e-mails on each publishers’ new releases, but Bella does a very good job of featuring releases from all of the major lesbian-focused publishers. You can find smaller publishers associated with Bella here: http://www.bellabooks.com/Browse-by-Publisher-cat.html
Additionally if the BC Library Association LGBTQ Group is interested in audio versions of LGBTQ stories, Bold Strokes had a number of their books available through Audible http://www.audible.com and Bella, too, has some audio books available at http://www.bellabooks.com/audio-cat.html
Do you think the emergence of self-publishing has impacted the world of Canadian lesbian fiction, or LGBTQ fiction in general? (answered by Sarah Ettritch)
Absolutely. Not only has it allowed more writers to bring their stories to readers, but it has improved the diversity of what’s available, which means more choice for readers. There are downsides. The quality of some self-published books is questionable (though the definition of quality is subjective), and the deluge of books can cause good books to languish. But overall, the emergence of self-publishing is having a positive impact on Canadian lesbian fiction and LGBTQ fiction in general, for both readers and writers. Readers have more choice, and writers have another viable publishing route.
What are some must-have titles or authors that you think every library should have in their lesbian fiction collection? (answered by Lois Cloarec Hart)
This is a purely subjective list, and I won’t feature those already on our site, though that’s an excellent starting point for Canadian lesbian fiction of all genres. The authors listed below are ones I trust for an entertaining, well-written read, and in cases where there is one of their books or series that particularly stands out, I’ll note that.
Abbot, Erica (mostly mystery/romance) – Her Fragmentary Blue is a stand-out.
Ames, Lynn (romance) – All that Lies Within is outstanding.
Aptaker, Ann (mystery) – Criminal Gold & Tarnished Gold Deservedly award-winning.
Baker, L.J. (humour/fantasy) Fun reads.
Beers, Georgia (romance) – solid and consistent writer. Her 96 Hours about the Gander aircraft diversions on 9/11 is not to be missed.
Benson, G. (romance) – Reliably entertaining.
Bramhall, Andrea (romance) – Nightingale and Clean Slate are particularly good.
Culpepper, Cate (paranormal/romance) – Sadly gone now, but her A Question of Ghosts is outstanding.
DeLancey, Fletcher (science fiction) – Excellent writer, another award winner.
Fletcher, Jane (fantasy) – Anything she’s written.
Forrest, Katherine V. (mystery and science fiction) – rightly esteemed for her Kate Delafield mystery series and her science fiction novels. She is a grande dame in the lesbian fiction world and renowned as writer, editor and mentor. Has won numerous awards and her Curious Wine is a classic of the genre.
Garden, Nancy (YA LGBT) –no library is complete without Garden’s classic Annie On My Mind.
Hill, Gerri (romance and paranormal) – prolific and skilled writer of engaging stories. Would recommend in particular At Seventeen.
Hunter, Cari (suspense) – Snowbound outstanding.
Jae (historical/mystery/romance/speculative) – very talented writer. Her shape-shifter series, an allegory of LBGT life in America, is particularly good.
Jordan, Jennifer L. (mystery) – Her Kristin Ashe mysteries are excellent.
Kallmaker, Karin (romance/science fiction/fantasy) – Another award-winning grande dame of the lesbian fiction field. You cannot go wrong with any of her books, but particularly recommend Touchwood and its sequel,Watermark. Kallmaker doesn’t shy away from putting her readers through an emotional tsunami.
King, Laurie R. (mystery) Though not as well known as her Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes series, King’s Kate Martinelli lesbian mystery series is excellent.
Lake, Lori L. (mystery/romance/historical/short stories) Highly recommend Snow Moon Rising. The “Gun” series, Ricochet in Time, and Different Dress are also excellent reads.
Lane, KE (romance) – As far as I know this author has only published And Playing the Role of Herself, but she really hit it out of the park with this one.
MacGregor, KG (romance) – reminds me of Karin Kallmaker for enduring excellence. Can’t recommend just one because I’ve enjoyed everything she’s written.
MacPherson, Helen (romance) Not a prolific writer, but the three books she has written are engaging reads.
Martin, Marianne K (romance/literary) Beautiful writing, particularly Tangled Roots and Under the Witness Tree. Another stalwart of the lesfic community, who has won the GCLS Trailblazer award.
McCoy, Robbi (romance) Always a solid writer. Outdid herself with Two on the Aisle, a hilarious romp.
McMan, Ann (romance) Dust and Jericho are outstanding.
Meagher, Susan X (romance) I prefer her stand-alones, though her early San Francisco series is good, as well. Of particular note, Arbor Vitae and The Reunion.
Moran, Sandra (literary romance) Another author we lost too soon. Letters Never Sent was particularly touching.
Norris, Bett (literary romance) Miss McGhee and What’s Best for Jane are excellent.
Paynter, Chris (romance) Survived by her Longtime Companion is outstanding.
Perkinson, Ruth (general lesbian fiction) You can’t go wrong with any of her books, but Mystic Market is particularly good.
Redmann, JM (mystery) Her Mickey Knight series, set in New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina is engrossing reading.
Robinson, Pol (romance) Her debut novel, Open Water, was excellent.
Rowlands, CP (romantic intrigue) All her books are good, but Lake Effect Snow is excellent.
Saracen, Justine (historical) All of her work is well written and meticulously researched. The Witch of Stalingrad stands out.
Scoppettone, Sandra (mystery) Her Lauren Laurano series sparkles.
Sims, Elizabeth (mystery) Her Lillian Byrd mysteries are fabulous, funny, and fun to read.
Vali, Ali (speculative, romance, mystery) Her Balance of Forces and The Dragon Tree Legacy are excellent.
Watts, Julia (romance, YA, paranormal) Sets her wonderful novels in the Deep South. Wildwood Flowers andFree Spirits are particular favourites.
Werlinger, Caren (historical, lesbian general fiction) It’s hard to settle on just one of her books as a favourite, but Miserere is amazing.
Wilson, Catherine M. (fantasy) Her When Women Were Warriors trilogy is outstanding.
Winter, Lee (romantic suspense) Her debut novel, The Red Files is not to be missed.
What are your thoughts on the state of diversity in Canadian lesbian fiction (women of colour, women with disabilities, women from different countries/cultures, etc.)? (answered by Liz Bugg)
Female writers continue to fight an uphill battle within what is still a male-dominated literary world, even in Canada. If the female writer happens to be a lesbian, she’s at more of a disadvantage. If she is a woman of colour, has a disability, or is from a different culture, her struggle is compounded. Nevertheless, support and recognition are starting to improve, particularly in the larger cities. In recent years I have witnessed a much higher visibility for women writers of colour and those from different cultures, but unlike the visual arts scene, disabled women writers seem to lack a collective voice. Fortunately web-based resources such as the Facebook’s Diverse Canadian Writers do exist, and this year Brampton’s Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) had a successful beginning. The Ontario Arts Council also includes deaf artists, artists of colour, and artists with disabilities as a priority group for literary grants.
Most of these opportunities for exposure and support, however, are not focussed on lesbian or LGBTQ writers. There are venues (again I am speaking from a Toronto perspective) that foster diversity in the widest sense while at the same time promoting queer writers. Two leaders in this area are the Brockton Writers Series and Glad Day Bookshop. It’s not that Canada lacks lesbian fiction writers of colour, with disabilities, or from different countries or cultures, it’s just that we need to make more of an effort to find them, read them, and spread the word. These writers offer unique perspectives on the world, and their words can enrich us all.
Can you share any resources that might help library staff stay up to date on LGBTQ literature?(answered by Liz Bugg)
All of the resources listed below are available on the Internet. Many of them have come to my attention over the years due to personal contact (reviews of my books, interviews, readings etc.).
Canadian – General:
– Glad Day Bookshop, Toronto, http://www.gladdaybookshop.com/
– Indie presses that publish LGBTQ authors (Arsenal Pulp Press, Caitlin Press, Insomniac Press & others)
– Literary festivals that might include an LGBTQ component (i.e. The Word on the Street)
– Casey the Canadian Lesbrarian, https://caseythecanadianlesbrarian.wordpress.com/
– University libraries (special collections)
LGBTQ Publications – Canadian
– Plenitude Magazine, http://plenitudemagazine.ca/
– The Daily Xtra, http://www.dailyxtra.com/
– Wayves, http://www.wayves.ca/
– Outwords, http://outwords.ca/?s=books
Non- LGBTQ Publications that frequently include reviews of LGBTQ books – Canadian
– Taddle Creek, http://www.taddlecreekmag.com/
– Broken Pencil, http://www.brokenpencil.com/
– Huffington Post Canada, http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/
– This Magazine, https://this.org/
American or International:
– Goodreads (many LGBTQ groups)
– LAMBDA Literary, http://www.lambdaliterary.org/
– Golden Crown Literary Society, http://www.goldencrown.org/
– American Library Association, http://www.glbtrt.ala.org/overtherainbow/archives/546
A big, big, BIG thank you to the amazing team at Canadian Lesfic for generously sharing some of their incredible knowledge with us here at the BCLA LBGTQ Interest Group! For more information, be sure to check out their website.