Transcript: 9. Beck Grey
Full episode transcript
Lee: Welcome to episode #9 of the Low Angst Library podcast.
Today, we have an interview with Beck Grey, and I am your resident librarian Lee Blair.
This library is your stop for all things light, fluffy, funny, sweet, spicy, and everything in between. I not only publish low angst, queer romances, but I’m a voracious reader of them too. I created this podcast because I wanted to talk to other authors who write romances with main characters on the LGBTQIA2S+ spectrum so that I could learn more about what draws them to the lighter side of angst, about their books and their writing processes.
I cannot believe we are already at episode nine of the podcast. I’m excited to say that within the past week we surpassed 500 listens. I’m so stoked. I’ve also been having a bunch of fun with my writing projects and just sent a soon to be announced project. Ooh. Off to my editor. It’s low angst, schmoopy goodness.
I’ve also tried to push hard to finish the draft of Ty’s book in my brewery series. Oh, my God. I adore that guy. I decided with this one, not to make an editing appointment until I finished a first draft to kind of try out that process. But I’m starting to worry that not having that deadline makes it harder for me to finish. I am so externally motivated. I don’t know if any of you can relate.
In non-writing news, I have had two ceramics classes so far. I learned basic pinch pot hand building and how to center clay on a wheel to make a basic bowl. It’s kind of hard as hell, but I’m really enjoying it.
Also it’s my birthday this week, which means birthday freebies. Let me tell you how many emails lists I’ve signed up for to get a birthday freebie. I love gathering as many as I can. And now that I live in the big city, it’ll be much easier to amass my celebratory horde.
All right, enough of an update on me.
I’m so excited to share my interview with Beck Grey. We talked about non-cis representation in romance, being a character-first writer, and their experiences as a non-binary trans author.
Beck is a non-binary writer of sweet, sexy LGBTQ happily ever afters. Why? Because everyone deserves all the happy. They live in the Northeastern United States with their two adorable dogs. Weekdays are spent working their day job, but nights and weekends are devoted to writing stories involving hot characters, favorite tropes and happy endings. Any additional time includes reading, laughing with friends, drinking red wine and playing D&D. If there’s cake involved at any point, it’s a win.
I agree. And a quick note, the audio is a little bit rough in bits for the first five minutes of the interview, but then it smooths out for the rest of the conversation.
All right, onto the interview.
Beck Grey, thank you so much for hanging out with me in the Low Angst Library. I’m so thrilled you’re here.
Beck: Thanks for having me. I’m really excited.
Lee: Yay. This is gonna be a fun conversation.
So, jumping right in. I would love to know what got you into writing books and specifically romance.
Beck: I’ve always read romance ever since I was old enough to realize that, you know, people could be interesting in a romantic way and that books like that existed. Obviously given the time I started with MF romance and I consumed every type from the Hallmark fade to black to some really, really spicy, holy moly I can’t believe that’s on the page kind of books.
And then I’d always kicked around the idea of writing and I had a couple setbacks with that in high school with teachers saying this story isn’t really plausible or whatever. Uh, and at the time I, it was a creative writing class specifically, and I was writing sci-fi/fantasy, and the teacher’s like, this isn’t plausible. And I’m like, it’s not really supposed to be. But just the way they kind of presented it, it, it crushed my writing for several years, um, decades actually.
And then I was enjoying the things I was enjoying and I’ve always been a big reader and a big gamer and I really fell in love with, um, BioWares video games. And I know you’re saying to yourself, where the heck are you going with this? But, um, it was the first time on screen that I had exposure to anything where you did not have to have an MF romance. You could have no romance, you could have romance with someone of the same sex. It just blew my mind.
And I wanted to see what else was out there either talking about this game or in relation to this game. And I fell into fan fiction. And fan fiction is a beautiful place because when you are, especially for writers, when you are a new writer and you wanna cut your teeth on, you know, how is this gonna go? There are writers of every level in fan fiction. There are the newbies, there are the people that you’re scratching your head wondering why these people aren’t writing books. And you get that immediate feedback from readers, which, oh my god, I absolutely adore reader feedback. Please, more of that, please. It’s very addicting. And so you get that very quickly and it helps you learn the craft.
So I cut my teeth in fan fiction and then, and that’s where I met one of, one of my very best friends. And we got to the point in writing where we both kind of looked at each other and went, well, why don’t we try writing a book? And it was like, well, if you do it, I’ll do it. And okay, if I do it, you’ll do it. Okay. So then we decided to jump in and, um, then here we are, you know, four books later, um, and several years. So I technically got started in fan fiction, which I know a lot of people are ashamed of, but I’m not. I love fan fiction. I still read fan fiction.
Lee: There’s so many people who got their start in it, and I love it, and I love that you have the buddy system with the writing books to that-
Beck: Yeah. Well-
Lee: -mutual peer pressure.
Beck: I, and I don’t know that I actually would’ve taken that leap without somebody else saying, you could do this, and okay, let’s do it together, you know? So, but yeah, that’s where I got my start.
And romance specifically because there’s enough mystery and angst and depressing everything going on in the world. And romance always ends with the happily ever after. Yeah, it’s fade to black and even with the epilogues, you don’t necessarily see past the epilogue as something. But you can pretend. You can totally suspend your disbelief that these people will be happy together and live forever.
Lee: That’s one of my favorite things too. It’s just so encouraging and it’s such a wonderful escape from life to just fall into that positivity for a while.
Beck: Absolutely. And that’s why I read. I do not read to- And maybe this sounds horrible, but I don’t read to educate myself very often. I don’t read to have suspense or mystery or I, you know, yeah, that’s, that’s, it’s nice, but I read to escape. And, um, anything that, that takes me out of real life and puts me in a happy place, positive place, I’m all for it. That’s what I will read.
Lee: That’s fabulous.
So one thing that I love to ask every guest, obviously, since it’s kind of the point of this podcast, is what drew you to low angst stories, specifically?
Beck: Um, no stress. There is enough anxiety in my life. There is enough stress in the news in day-to-day life. I read to escape, and, and I don’t, I get the whole why there is the arc in a story. You know, you build up, build up, build up, and then the big crescendo and then everything resolves itself at the end. I like a speed bump. I don’t want a mountain.
Beck: You know, there. There’s enough anxiety and angst in my life. I don’t need to read about it too. I read to escape. I read to pretend that bad stuff ain’t happening in the world. It’s my escape and I don’t want extra stress. I’m a soft little marshmallow.
Lee: Me too. I love that people have that option who crave it, and I love that people like us have what we can read to keep us in our little safe bubbles.
Beck: That’s right.
Lee: Can you tell me about what low angst means to you? Because I find this varies a lot between people.
Beck: It really does, because I gotta tell you, I, I don’t market all of my books as low angst. And the reason I don’t, because to me, they are low angst. But two of my books, there are emotional scenes in like really emotional scenes in them. And I’ve had, not a lot, but I’ve had reader feedback where they said this is not a low angst book. So I market it as medium-low or lower angst because it’s – I gotta listen to the readers like it, you know. Because I don’t want to blindside anybody. But to me, low angst means that there’s not a lot of conflict.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges. That doesn’t mean that it’s, hey, I just met you at the library and we really hit it off and now we’re soulmates and let’s go live happily ever after. The end. You can have that, or you can have challenges and obstacles to overcome. They just don’t have to be devastating.
Lee: Yes. I love that. That’s a good way to think about it because it, and then devastating varies so much. I get so in my head about it because what’s devastating to one person is totally different to another.
Lee: It’s just like spice levels. You can’t, there can’t be like a universal rating system, I don’t think, because-
Beck: Right. Now, because, because, and, and- There doesn’t necessarily have to be. I enjoy my spice just as much as the next person does, but I also enjoy a good fade to black. If you are telling a story where I am invested, it’s not necessary to have more than kissing. I would like to see some on page affection. But if it’s a great story, you don’t need the explicit spice.
My own spice levels vary based on what my mood is when I’m writing it. And pretty much the characters. They dictate a lot of the book. People may think authors are in charge, but they are so wrong. It’s the characters.
Lee: Well, that’s actually the perfect lead into the next question in terms of your writing process. So it sounds like you are very character led in a way of they’re making some decisions. Can you tell me about your writing process?
Beck: Oh yeah. Um, definitely. Yeah. Characters are always where I start. Even if I get a little teaser idea, like, oh, this would be really cute a a really meet cute, cute moment, you know. But then it all comes back to, well, who would be meeting cute? What kind of people would find this cute? And so it all snowballs back to the character creation.
And that actually is my favorite part. Um, and I go so overboard. I write backstories and I talk about, I have, I have, um- So since I’m writing a series, it started with the first book, but it turned into a series compendium where it talks about all the characters and how they’re interconnected and like who is who and what the places are.
And, and I mean, characters. I’ve got who their parents are and how their parents met, and you know, how many pets they’ve had and what their names were. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s ridiculous. Not every character gets that, but pretty much if they’re a main character in one of my stories, you can bet there’s stuff in that compendium that never makes it onto the page. But I just get stuck in, oh, and then this about this character.
So whatever they’re willing to tell me at the beginning About themselves goes on a page, and then I start writing the story. I am an affirmed panster. I do not have a plot bone in my body. I would love to, it would make writing so much easier. Um, but I’ve tried to plot and the, the best job I’ve ever done at plotting is actually my newest book where the plot just flowed.
And I wrote it out on note cards and I had ’em, and we’re gonna do the scene and we’re gonna do that scene. And it was really great. It was a great story. It’s not the story that ended up in the book. Probably about 60% of it ended up in the book. Um, but you know, I mean, so the characters just are like, no, we’re making a left here. You wanted to, you wanted to make a right, but we’re going left and this is where we’re taking this story. And I just throw up my hands and go, okay, you guys lead. Here we go.
Lee: Hey, it’s working. Whatever works.
Lee: So we’ve talked about how you’re character led, but then you get fun ideas for plots or characters, different things. Where do these ideas come from for you? What’s your source of inspiration?
Beck: I can find inspiration in just about everything. One time I was driving through Florida and there were two of the same exact car following each other. Two teal, Jeep, four by fours. And I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if those people parked in a parking lot at say a Target or something like that and then forgot where they parked and went out and tried to get in the other person’s car? And wouldn’t that be a funny meet cute?
Lee: Yeah, it would.
Beck: But you know, it’s just stuff like that where it just, it could have been two people moving these two cars from car dealership A to car dealership B, and I just happened to see them, you know? But yeah. Absolutely anywhere. TV, talking to people, you get little snippets of ideas that then just snowball. Sometimes they work for what I’m doing right now and sometimes it’s just such a great idea I write it down and hope I have an opportunity to use it at some other point.
I do a lot of brainstorming with the friend group, getting online and, and okay, wait, I’m thinking about this. What do you guys think about that? And um, honestly, a lot of that is everybody just going, yeah, yeah, that sounds great. It doesn’t necessarily involve a lot of feedback about, and then your character could do this. It’s more like me monologing.
Lee: And then validation.
Beck: Then we could, and then, you know. So yeah, it’s more like having a sounding board.
Lee: It helps so much to just verbally process and then get that validation because then if no one says, whoa, whoa, whoa there. What about X, Y, Z? You sort of have that comfort of, oh good. No one threw out any major red flags about the idea.
Beck: And it’s, it’s also, you know, how excited the other people who were listening to you get.
Beck: If they’re like, oh, that sounds great. You’re like, yay, I’m on the right track. And if they’re like, yeah, that sounds really nice. Okay. Maybe I’ll put that in some other book where it gets a little bit more exciting or something like that, you know? So it’s, it’s that feedback where, yeah, it’s a good idea, but it’s not a great idea or, yeah, that’s a fantastic idea. Or, I don’t know about that. You know, here are the problems with that particular whatever you were talking about.
Lee: Do you find with your ideas that they tend to center on any favorite tropes for you that are your favorite tropes to read or write? Or are your favorite tropes all over the place?
Beck: Oh, I have, I have favorites. I definitely have favorites. You can look at the books that I own and see my favorite tropes. Um, I love best friends to lovers. Absolutely love it if you throw in fake dating. I am so I, yeah. Here, take my money.
Beck: Um, and you know, there are the ones I like and I- so here’s the thing. I love tropes and I will absolutely buy a book because of a trope. But I write a story and at the end I’m going, what even is the trope here? You know? I get the characters, they get together, they start telling me what the story is about, and I write it. And afterwards I’m like, okay. Um, well I guess that could be that trope or- And that’s the way this entire series has been.
I have not- The closest I came to picking a trope was Choose Me with brother’s best friend. But I didn’t actually pick that. They picked that in book two, and I went, oh, okay. Well, well, Jules is into Eric. And you know what? Eric’s into Jules. Okay? So that’ s next, but I didn’t consciously say I need to write a brother’s best friend book. You know?
It. Um, however, the writer’s curse. I’m already thinking about the next series and I’m thinking to switch things up a bit, at least from a writing perspective. I very well may plot out book tropes first and say, book one is gonna be this, book two is gonna be that. And I think I’m gonna give it a try. I don’t know how successful I’ll because I really do just let the characters lead me down the road, right? Fingers crossed that works. If it doesn’t, I’ll just go back to winging it.
Lee: Yeah, the winging it works. And maybe if you’re picking the tropes, your subconscious brain will start to think of characters who fit that trope, and maybe it will work for you. Who knows?
Beck: It absolutely could. I, well, and that’s probably what will happen is I will say, okay, so this is gonna be, uh- I would love to write enemies to lovers, but I struggle to write mean characters, so I really don’t know how that’s gonna go. So I probably would avoid that one at least until much later if I see that this works, because I would have to then come up with a character like that. But I would probably pick a trope and then think about what kind of character would be stuck in that situation. And then, probably the snowball will start rolling. So we’ll see. I still have to finish this series. I can’t think about the next one yet.
Lee: It’s impossible not to for series writers, oh my gosh. I swear my brain is like working three series down the line. I’m like stop it. I have more books to write in this series, but then I want my brain to like in the background percolate so that there’s ideas there when I’m ready for them.
Beck: Right. Exactly. So everybody, when I ask in Facebook groups and things like, so what’s your favorite trope? I’m fishing for ideas, so throw ’em at me when you get there.
Lee: Yes. I love that when authors do that in their Facebook groups, I’m always lurking like, ooh, what are people saying?
Lee: So as a character driven author, I feel like my next question is going to be even harder for you than it might be for- I’m more of a plot driven author, but I still find this question hard. What has been your favorite book or characters to write so far?
Beck: Oh, okay. That’s, you know, which of your children.
Lee: Pick a favorite.
Beck: Um, it, it’s, it’s hard. I, I do absolutely love them all, but I do have favorites. But picking between my favorites is almost impossible. So I have two that are probably tied for similar but different reasons. Tadhg from Embrace Me. I loved his character so much. He’s feisty and he’s driven and he knows who he is and he’s had to overcome a lot of stuff. He is unapologetic about whatever his struggle is. You know, like, deal with it. You can’t speak my language. I can’t speak yours.
He’s Deaf with a capital D. He’s immersed in the Deaf culture, and while he’s understanding of the hearing culture, his entire family is hearing, he can’t necessarily meet people halfway. And in the areas that he can, he does so at the peril of losing himself. And I love that. I love that whole dynamic. And he is such a sweetie and he tries to be understanding, but it’s like, you know what? I can’t give you everything and get nothing back. And I totally respect that.
Um, and then my sweet, soft, little cinnamon roll, Jules, whom I adore. Oh my God. He’s very much me amped up on anxiety. Um, I’m, I’m an anxious person. Um, I have social anxiety to a degree. Definitely not the same level, but I so empathize. With his situation. And he is such a kind soul. He is truly the sweetest character I think I have written ever. And again, he just tries. He accepts what he’s been dealt and he tries to make the best of it. And he has maintained his gentleness and his kindness through it all. And that is, I mean, he is just a sweetie and I adore him.
Lee: I adore him too. I adore both. I- Lies. I adore all your characters, but those are two of my favorites too. He, but you’re right, he is. He’s just, you just, yeah. You just wanna like, just snuggle with him because he just seems like he’s just so warm and cuddly.
Lee: Oh, I love him.
Beck: Yeah, he’s, he’s my sweetie. Yeah.
Lee: Well, I think that’s a fair answer. They’re both great.
Well, let’s move on and talk about this series since you’ve talked about some of the characters. People who might be new to your books would, I’m sure love to know more about the series.
So you’re currently writing in your Love in the Pacific Northwest series and it’s set, obviously, in Pacific Northwest.
Lee: Which is an absolutely amazing part of the country, but I am a very biased Oregonian. So what drew you to setting the series in the Pacific Northwest and so far from where you’re currently living in the U.S.?
Beck: Well, you know, the Pacific Northwest is sort of a personality unto itself. It’s sort of like when people think of L.A. It’s almost like L.A. as a personality. When people think of the Pacific Northwest, it’s kind of the same. It’s maybe a little crunchy. It’s maybe, you know, granola-y tree hug-y, but it’s almost a mecca for the idea of being able to be free and who you are and accepted and without all of the hubub of a Chicago or an L.A. Or a New York. Those in my mind as settings are very busy and very urban, and I wanted someplace that was, that felt like you could breathe.
Beck: And along with all of the acceptance and, um, yeah, maybe a little crunchy granola-y. You know? And that was the Pacific Northwest. That to me was the place. And then I actually went to the Pacific Northwest and went, oh yeah, this is, this is it, this is, you know. I could definitely move to Seattle and not have a problem with that.
Lee: Do it. Do it.
Beck: Um. Um.
Lee: Selfishly, do it. Readers, convince Beck to move to Seattle. Readers, please help.
Beck: I, uh, it’s so I, I set it there. And then it was a matter of where in the Pacific Northwest do I wanna set it? Really, I kind of threw a dart and Seattle won. But, series two I am 99% sure it’s gonna be set in Portland.
Lee: Yes. Whoop, whoop, whoop. Research trip. Research trip.
Beck: Oh yeah. You know it.
Lee: It is wonderful here. I love Portland. Selfishly.
Beck: Good to know. You’ll be like, yeah. I’ll be like, Hey, what’s, what’s going on here? And what’s this like and-
Lee: Yeah, especially now that I actually live in Portland. Moved from the rural area out to the big city. So I’ve got all sorts of info.
Can you tell us more about your series and these books?
Beck: Sure. It is a, um, semi connected series of standalone books. If that makes any sense whatsoever. Each book can be read by itself. You’re not going to feel like you’re missing anything or missing anything really big. Like, oh my God, I don’t understand this entire section of the book. They’re all set from the main character’s points of view. It’s a dual POV series, first person about those characters.
You see other characters from other books or characters who have yet to have their book who make cameo appearances or maybe have a little bit more of a small bit part in the books. So you get to revisit friends you’ve met in prior books or be introduced to ones who will get their own happily ever after somewhere in the series. It is going to end up being a six series book. Or six books series, excuse me. And four will be coming out next month. Holy moly.
Lee: A month, a literal month from today, the day we’re recording.
Beck: Yes. I’m still not ready. Yeah, so it’s a friend group. A couple of them are siblings, but even those siblings are friends within the group. They all know each other. What I didn’t wanna do when I wrote this was write a group of really close six friends who were like all besties. Because let’s be real, that’s not really how friend groups work. You can be friends with five other people, but you’re gonna have the people that you’re closer to. It’s not that you’re not close with the other ones, but you have a best friend in that group. And you have, if I’m going here, I’m gonna do it with A and B. And if C wants to tag along, great, I’m fine. But I really wanted do whatever that thing is with A and B.
And I didn’t wanna present a series where it was like, it’s a hoard of people parading through all of the books. And I think that you get that when you read one of my books. It’s okay, this character is really close with that character. And you can see that friendship. And then that character maybe is still best friends with the person in the other book, but they have these other two people that are friends with and they maybe work with them or they do some sort of sport with them or something like that where there is another connection. And the reason that maybe that person got introduced to the friend group.
I tried to make it as organic as I could. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a, we have five friends who’ve been friends since high school and we’re traipsing through life together. That’s great. I love those books. I love the books where it’s eight brothers and we get to see six or seven of those relationships happen. I adore those books. I love those series, but I always end up throwing some sort of monkey wrench into the standard. Something has to be interesting to me to make me wanna write it.
So it was interesting to me to start this with how are these people connected and like, where did they meet and how did that organically happen that you’ve got this group of like nine people, I think. I did the math at one point. It’s nine. Nine people, six books. Yeah. And how do you make that organic?
Lee: Which is tough. It it feels that way though. It really does. Because it’s not like you’re at the outset, establishing this framework in book one of here are these brothers. Here are these coworkers. Here’s this like finite group of people. It’s like you’re teasing out almost one or two main characters of the next couple books in the current book to where it’s like a little bit further ahead.
And so it feels like the spider web that grows in terms of how the characters are interconnected throughout the series. Because when you read book one, you wouldn’t know by the time you got to book four what that friend group looks like because it has just been built so organically. And I think you’re totally right with that.
That needing that compelling thing for you because it is a wildly different time, effort, and energy investment to read a book than to write it. And I will happily lose myself for a few hours into a story, but if I’m going to dedicate dozens to hundreds of hours on something there writing it, there has to be something that’s gonna draw that creative side of me versus the escapist side. So I totally, totally get that.
Beck: Yeah. And, and, and if there’s not that something different hook, I will lose interest halfway through and be like, now what? And there is nothing worse.
Lee: Well with those hooks, something that has, and you’ve talked about this a little already, something that shifted throughout your series is that angst level. Your earlier books having a little bit of a higher angst level in the series, and then it’s been lightening as the series goes. So is that more attributed to you finding your voice in place as an author or more attributed to the characters and the demands that they have pulled for their story or something else entirely?
Beck: I think it’s a little bit of both. I think that as I get into this series, I’m not writing college age main characters. These are people with careers. These are people who have been through college already and have at least a couple years of work under their belts, been in the real world. Understand that it’s not somebody who’s not gonna stand there at the front of the room and hand you a syllabus and tell you exactly where to be and how to do it. They’ve lived.
And at least for me, I mean, in real life, I am as drama free as I can make it. I don’t do well with drama. That’s not to say that I can’t be firm or whatever. It’s just pick and choose your battles and is it really worth getting upset over X, Y, Z? Or do you just move on? And that’s kind of the characters that I, I write is, you know, they’re not- Okay, I’ll take that back.
Stef is a little bit of drama, but only in the good way. I don’t write characters who live to make situations dramatically stressful because those are the types of people I avoid like the plague. So I will write those kinds of characters as plot motivators, as side characters who further the plot, but they are never gonna be an MC and I’m never gonna do that learning curve of how to tone it down in that respect.
Those stories are great. I have nothing against those stories, it’s just not something that- I don’t like, like you said. We’re gonna be spending a ton of time with these characters and with this plot. Months and months and months from start to finish. I don’t wanna hang out with a high angst, high stress character. That will cause me stress. So I tend to write high communication, high empathy characters.
As I get farther into the writing thing, it’s a lot of outside influences. It’s not necessarily something that happens within the couple. And they normally have really high communication because that’s important to me. That’s not to say that I won’t ever write that, but there will always be a reason. Am I foreshadowing another book? I might.
Um, and, and you know, when I write stuff like that, there is always a reason and it’s not just drama for drama’s sake. I’m not trying to, you know, well, gee, I ran out of ideas, so let me throw in this really angsty monkey wrench into the story right now because I don’t have anything else I can say about these characters.
When that happens, when an angst point happens, it’s because that storyline had it in it. It’s not that I ran out of ideas and threw it in there. Or it’s that character did something that caused that. And it’s not- Like I said, I’m a discovery writer. I don’t plot. So all of that angst, if it happens, is organic from the character. And yeah, that was maybe the front end of my series, but I think that’s just a timing thing. Surprise, hey, that happened. Because I’m sure there will be other books where it will be lower angst but not low angst. Because the story dictates something like that happening.
And again, like in Save Me, the angst is outside of Jamie and Ash. The trigger that happens is outside of them as a couple. Ash having to go into witness protection is outside of them. The thing that brings Ash back to Seattle is outside of them. And so a lot of that stress for the two of them comes from outside. So it’s, it’s lower. I would consider it low angst because it’s outside the couple, but it, you know, not all my readers agreed, so I figured I’d err on the side of caution.
Lee: That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for explaining that.
So my next few questions are centered more about queerness. And this is a podcast, you know, low angst is a part of it, but it’s specifically queer romance. And today we are talking the day after Transgender Day of Visibility. And this seemed like a good enough segue as any into talking about your experience as a trans author.
And I remember when we were at Gay Romance Lit Retreat in October. As newbies, we were just talking about how safe we felt there and how amazing that space was for us as readers and authors to just really feel comfortable in our queerness instead of othered. And I remember you talking about specifically as a trans author, feeling comfortable in that space and the kind of love and acceptance that was going around. And I would just love to know whatever you’re comfortable sharing in terms of your experiences as a trans author in our corner of publishing and books.
Beck: Absolutely. Love the question. As you said, I am a non-binary, trans writer of LGBTQ fiction. Romance, specifically. And the community of LGBTQ romance, much to my surprise, has been so incredibly supportive and open and accepting of all new authors, not just me. The number of times that another author has said, hey, let me help you with that. Or let me give you this piece of advice about how to make that easier for you. Or if somebody asks a question, it’s absolutely, let’s share this information. It’s more group knowledge. It’s rise in the water lifts all boats. Or however that saying goes. You know what I mean. Everybody is about helping everybody else succeed, which was shocking to me and so wonderful. So absolutely wonderful. I am so glad I landed in this genre. Thank God it exists to begin with.
But there are still challenges though for as accepting as it is and it is very accepting. Just like any community, there are still challenges. Especially being trans and or writing trans characters. The genre itself tends to write on the binary and tends to write very cis characters. Which is fine. I mean, you know, supposedly the majority of the population is male or female. And okay, great.
But there are other characters out there. There are other people out there who would like to see themselves represented in the pages of their romance novels because everybody wants to find their person. That person may not be a cisgender person. Or the person looking may not be cisgender, and it’s nice to see that representation in romance as well. And that’s great. And there are authors out there like myself writing those characters as well. I absolutely love MM fiction. Love it. Consume it daily as a matter of fact.
But one of the challenges I’m running into, speaking directly to your acceptance statement, is not all promo groups are open to, um, something other than MM fiction or MMM fiction. And that’s a little upsetting. Um, it’s disappointing, I should say. It’s, it’s disappointing. It’s not unexpected, but it is disappointing. I would really love to have the experience obviously our little corner of the writing world, everybody’s open. We’re all kind of in this corner for a reason.
Whether we are part of the LGBTQ community or whether we support the LGBTQ community, we’re here because that’s the corner that we all met on the corner of LGBTQ and reading or writing, you know. And everybody has the things they love to read and I am one of those people and I totally get it. But you don’t know necessarily if you like something, if you’ve never been exposed to it.
Maybe if somebody has only read MM and they never even thought about reading something else. Like, you know, MX and X is used for the non-binary characters and the trans characters and the people on the gender spectrum who don’t identify necessarily as male or female. Maybe they would like a book like that, but they don’t know it exists. And maybe if I would post about a book containing a non-binary character in a reading group, they would say, oh, hey look, that looks really cool. I’d like to try that.
But if they’re not exposed to it, they’re never gonna know. But there is a pseudo gatekeeping going on in some of the reader groups where no, no, if it’s not MM, my readers are not gonna like it. And so you can’t post about that book here.
Lee: Cis MM especially.
Beck: Yes, yes, yes. I, you know, won’t go into the comments about, we don’t like “girly bits”, but, um. Yeah, that’s, that was disappointing. But I would love to see more readers exposed to more different types of characters than just the cis characters. And I would like to see readers be more open to trying it and, you know, maybe it’s not their cup of tea.
And as with every type of book, there are going to be, this is my kind of writer, this is not my kind of writer. So I would like to challenge my fellow authors to write more characters who aren’t cis. Because the more options we have out there, the more chances somebody’s gonna read a book and go, you know what, this was an amazing book, and I want more. Not everybody’s gonna like my writing style, so maybe I have a great character, but I, they just, they don’t gel with how I write. But that doesn’t mean that they’re not gonna gel with somebody else’s version of writing an MX couple or an FX couple or whatever.
Lee: Yeah, that’s such a great point. Or the angst level. Someone might be wanting high angst and yeah, that’s a really good point and an important angle to think about in terms of representation and the breadth and availability of that. Yeah. Thank you for sharing.
Lee: Well, you know, talking about MX couples, your upcoming release is an MX book and- Yes, it’s so good. Secretly readers, I got the chance to read it and it’s really good.
So one of the things that we’ve talked a lot about and I’ve heard you talk about is, you know, like you just did broader queer representation and just how important that is in not only MM romance, but LGBTQIA2S+ romance. And your upcoming release Free Me, which is out on May 1 of book four in year Love in the Pacific Northwest series has an amazing gender fluid main character. And I would just love to hear you talk about what went into creating Stef, because I know you just made so many intentional choices that I think are just amazing and I would love for you to share whatever you’re comfortable sharing with that.
Beck: Thanks. Yeah, no, absolutely. Um, I will start out by saying I did not intend for Stef to be gender fluid. I got a chapter and a half into the book and had to stop and went, oh, okay. Um, Stef is gender fluid because Stef told me they were gender fluid and that kind of- Remember that part when I said that 60% of my plot made-
Lee: Stef’s like “psych.”
Beck: Yeah. Like, you know, that stuff you wrote that was gonna happen? Yeah. That’s not happening now.
Lee: Joke’s on you.
Beck: Right. So real early on, Stef told me they were gender fluid and I had to sit with that for a minute and figure out what that meant for them in this story and how that informed how they act and who they are. Because Stef, prior to this book, because Stef has been in other books, was an out and proud gay man and owned that identity and all of their fabulousness.
And then, so I’m planning on writing this book about this really fabulous MM pairing and Stef’s like, hmm, you know, in the year that happened between these books, I did a little self-discovery and guess what? Um, so part of that developed because Stef had made some intentional and unintentional decisions for other people in other books, and they had to sit and think about that for a while. And in that self-discovery, how do I feel about this? What parts do I like about that? What parts don’t I like about that in myself? They understood that this was really a part of who they were.
They really would just be still unapologetic about it. And I knew that the minute that I knew that Stef was gender fluid, I knew Stef was still gonna be like, yeah. You know, um, and they do live out loud like that. They are very outwardly confident and they are sure of themselves, but they know that it’s not a choice and they know that that will impact other people besides themselves. And really the book for them, the growth is how do I feel about that? And how do I react? How do I live true to myself while not negatively impacting the people that I care about.
And the book is they’re- Getting all excited about talking about it. Their journey in the book is that journey. I am who I am and I love who I am, but- I don’t think this is a spoiler. Um, they pretty much have just assumed that because of this very non-mainstream part of themselves that they really will never find their person. Which is quite honestly, unfortunately a lot of queer people’s perspectives. I am so something—whatever that something is—that I’m never gonna find somebody who’s gonna be okay with that.
They may say they’re okay with that, but then down the road we’re gonna find out that no, that really isn’t the case. And so they’ve pretty much said, I’m gonna be fabulous over here and I’m just not gonna ever have a relationship.
So his- Blake’s portion of the- Blake is the other main character, rambling here. Blake, his journey is totally different and then their worlds collide in a really big way and it’s opposites. It’s surprise connections. It’s meet-cutes and meet-spicies and everything in between. Obviously it’s a romance so Stef gets their happily ever after at the end.
Lee: Which I love.
Beck: Me too.
Lee: I think why I’m so excited about this story, the version of it that I was reading, I remember thinking, I see posts in the MM book rec group spaces or the queer romance group spaces looking for gender fluid and non-binary characters where that’s part of the story, but it’s not the center of the conflict or the angst. I see requests. I’m looking for just something low angst where there’s representation, but that representation isn’t the thing causing pain. And I just kept thinking that when I was reading your book because that feels like what it is. It’s there, it’s not ignored. It’s talked about. It’s part of the journey, but it’s not treated like the barrier.
I don’t know how to explain it right, but, or articulate what I’m trying to say. But I just really like that, like, it just felt like a comfortable, cozy representation that feels real, but it doesn’t feel. You know, if that’s a touchy point for a reader and they’re, and they don’t wanna be hurt by reading. When people go to these book rec groups, a lot of times they’re like, I need you to vet this for me so I feel safe and comfortable reading something. This feels like a safe and comfortable book.
Beck: Thank you. Absolutely. Thank you. Because that is intentional. I will never write a book, and I am using the word never. I will never write a book where sexuality, identity, gender, any of that will be the crux of the struggle in the book. My books are for people to maybe learn about something else. And there are some absolutely wonderful books out there where it’s a self-discovery of sexuality. It’s a, I’ve been disowned because I am some form of LGBTQ. I am struggling with my own identity or whatever. That’s great. And those books are absolutely necessary and there is a reader who needs those stories.
Lee: Yep, for sure.
Beck: As you pointed out. There is also the reader who just wants to see themselves in a book, in a happy ending without having to be on that angst rollercoaster to get to it. I write the books for the people who say, I just want to see that somebody like me doesn’t have to be dragged through the mud to get to their person. My books are hopeful. I write them as a love letter to everybody’s future. You can be whoever you are and there is still somebody out there for you. Because look at this. It’s the ideal. It is how it should be. People are gonna have problems. Gender, sexuality, identity should not be the barrier that unfortunately in a lot of instances it still is.
So again, I read to escape, I write to escape. I write to be that escape for other people. So my books won’t have that as the quote unquote problem in the book. Ever. The end.
Lee: The end. Well, I think that’s important for readers to know. Readers build relationships with us as authors in a way. I mean, at least this is what I do as a reader. I tend to develop expectations. If I’m seeking a certain mood or vibe or reaction, or I want to evoke a response in myself. I’ve got certain authors I go to for that. So I think it’s nice to help readers know what to expect from you.
And just on the topic of readers since this podcast is intended for readers of low angst queer romance, is there anything that you would love for readers to know or to think about in terms of writing or reading?
Beck: First of all, thank you for reading and we all love our readers. Comment and tell your favorite authors how much you love them and why. Because why is always important for us because we wanna do more of that. Whatever that is that you love, we wanna keep doing it so you keep reading and keep telling us that you really love what we’re writing. So, so keep those comments coming.
I wanna sit down with all the readers and just have a long old chat with them about so many different things. I think just tying it into Free Me because that’s the one coming out next. I know going in that the sales on this book are gonna be lower than the sales on prior books. And now why do I know that? Because every, well, not every, you can’t say every, but a lot of authors who write non-cis characters see a dip in sales because there is a certain element of the readership who will skip that book, even if it’s in a series.
I would ask the reader to sit with that for a minute and ask themselves why. If they’re reading for a love story, it’s still a love story. If they’re reading for spice, it’s still got spice. You know? Parts are parts and people are people, and if you love the character, just like, if you love a person, it doesn’t really matter what the body parts are. So maybe give those stories a chance.
And if you cannot read FF or MM, or MX or MMM or whatever, ask yourself why. If you’ve truly given it a try and it’s just not your thing, hey, it’s not your thing. I guess don’t prejudge based on what you think you are or aren’t going to like.
I had an author friend who read one of my books who, um, she writes FF romance. And it’s beautiful stories. And she said she was surprised that she enjoyed the MM book. She didn’t think she would and she absolutely loved it and loved the characters and loved the emotion in it and the relationship was believable. And she had not expected to go in and have that experience, but she allowed herself to be open to it. So I would just use that as an example and say, give it a try. Be open-minded and give books with non-binary characters and trans characters a shot and see what you think, and then make a judgment.
Lee: I love that.
Lee: Well, you know, thinking about readers and us as readers, because you and I are both very much readers in the genre that we write in.
Beck: Big consumption.
Beck: An embarrassing amount of my, uh, my bank account goes to new books.
Lee: And you’ve talked a bit already about how you are a low angst reader as well as a writer because of just needing that type, that specific type of escape. I’m curious and as well about your reading. Do you read while you’re drafting a book? Do you read in the genre that you’re drafting or do you try to avoid, you know, where do you fall with that?
Beck: I am an avid audiobook consumer. 95% or more, probably more, of my book consumption is on audio because I can do that while I’m doing other things and it makes me forget that I hate cleaning my house or that I don’t want to wash my car or whatever it is that I’m doing. It helps me on my drives to and from my day job.
So I have a lot of opportunity to consume books via audio that I would not be able to consume, actually sitting down and reading. Having said that, my consumption of books is exclusively LGBTQ, relatively low angst stories. Um, Anything that is not low angst that you know, that I, that I’m not sure is low angst going in, I do have, um, sensitivity readers.
Lee: Your buddy system is back in play. Yep. Yep.
Beck: Yes. Uh, and then they will rate it on the Beck safe scale of, you know, can I consume this or not? One of my best friends will tell me, skip chapter 20 through 22, you’ll be fine. I’ll give you the summary. You don’t have to put yourself through that. Right. Um, so everybody should have a friend like that.
Um, I mostly consume paranormal romance and contemporary romance. I will dabble in historical romance, but most of the time those tend to be all about the queerness as the issue. So I struggle with those. If they’re not, I’m all about it. I am like all about the just suspend disbelief or whatever and be queer in the 18th century and not get in trouble.
But I don’t slow down my consumption while I’m writing. And in fact, if I am struggling with a certain scene, I try and figure out why and then I might go back and listen to a certain author I know does that really well. To get some ideas of maybe language usage or voice. They have a character that’s very similar to a character I’m trying to write.
It might be idea starters or whatever. But I don’t slow down consumption. And if I’m struggling to write something that maybe it’s because I’m listening to another contemporary and it’s getting confusing, I’ll switch to paranormal. So I’m still getting the fun and I’m still getting to, to listen. And I’m still getting that language input, but it’s so different from what I’m writing that it allows me to get past whatever that hurdle is in my current work in progress.
Lee: I do the same thing. I think also for vibes, like, like, you know, if we’re supposed to, or a piece of advice, not that we’re supposed to, but a piece of advice is write what you want to read. And so for me, I do the same thing. Like my reading is just as heavy, if not heavier while I’m drafting because I want to continually feel inspired by what I want to read, and that inspires what I’m writing. Like not in a way that’s like, oh, I’m trying to copy other people. It’s like, no, this is where I want to spend my time as a reader and a writer, and it just helps me like keep that energy alive.
Beck: Exactly. Exactly. You don’t want to copy somebody’s tone or somebody’s style, but they are inspiring and it allows you to consume the best parts of that and feed it into your own style.
Lee: Yeah, definitely. Speaking of books, any low angst book recommendations that you have?
Beck: I am currently, I’ve been on, um, can we name names? Okay. Um, E.J. Russell. I’ve been consuming- She’s had a string of audiobook releases and I’m like, oh my God, yay, it’s Whispersynced. Um, and so I’m listening them back to back to back. I will binge series of things like Louisa Masters. Just is, you know, I could, E.J. Russell, Louisa Masters and Meghan Maslow are comfort reads of mine. So like when I just need to feel better about whatever’s going on or tune out the angst in the world, I put those guys on and just immerse myself in their happy little worlds. And, yeah. Trying to think. And it’s, it’s just off the top of my head, I’m trying to think of a contemporary low angst that besides you, because, you know.
Lee: Aw, thank you.
Beck: But, um.
Lee: Charlie, you talk about Charlie’s books.
Beck: Charlie, oh yes. I’m so embarrassed. I can’t believe. Charlie Novak. Yes. Isla Olsen. Those two I, yeah. Comfort reads definitely. Keira Andrews.
Beck: You have not listened to or listened to? Yes. You know, you can tell I’m an audiobook consumer. Uh, Honeymoon for One. Ah, oh my God. Read that book. I love that book.
Lee: So many good authors. When you were talking earlier about spice levels and how there’s so many good books that are fade to black or that if they have some sort of intimacy. I think of E.J., E.J. Russell’s books are just so, just emotional and the romances are so sweet, but often don’t have the spice or behind closed doors or sort of referenced and it doesn’t feel like there’s anything missing because the emotional pull is just so strong. Oh God, I love her books so much.
Beck: The number of times that we’ve finished an E.J. Russell book and weeks later we’re talking about it and it will be like, there wasn’t even a sex scene in that book. Like we didn’t realize it while we were listening.
Beck: It, it totally wasn’t missed.
Lee: Yeah, absolutely. She’s so good. And when we’ve talked about representation, one element that E.J. Is really good about with representation is on the ace spectrum and some of her characters being gray ace or demisexual. And I just, I love, as someone on the ace spectrum demisexual, I just love when I encounter that in books, it just.
Beck: I just listened to, I literally just finished this morning, um, Skinny on the Djinni. Yeah. And I’m literally, just like kept getting emotional every time a new character was introduced because her representation, she covers everybody in her books.
Beck: And it is organic and it is believable, and it is, it’s never, she’s never shoehorning something into a scene because she wants to g- It’s just, it totally makes sense and it is beautiful. And the representation is literally the entire rainbow is, uh, you know, is in her books and it’s wonderful.
Lee: And if you like Pacific Northwest set books, she is an Oregonian, so her books are often set here, so that’s great too.
So, as we’re wrapping up, I would love to know what can readers get excited about in terms of upcoming projects from you?
Beck: Well we did touch on this a little bit. I’ve got Free Me coming out May 1, Lord help me. I’ve actually got a very rough draft of book five done. I have to work the heck out of it. But hey, it’s done. There will be a sixth book, which I have the general idea of what’s going on in that book and whose book it is, but not much more past that.
And then yeah, the looming series number two, which is going to be a spinoff of the current one, love in the Pacific Northwest. I don’t know what it’s gonna be called. And I don’t know what the naming convention of the titles is gonna be, but it will be connected and I think readers will enjoy the connection.
Beck: And I don’t want to think too much about it because then I’ll get stuck thinking about it and
Lee: You’ve got two more books to get out in this series.
Lee: What can people expect from a Beck Grey story?
Beck: Representation that is not force fed. The representation will never be the issue in the story. Characters, I really. Characters are so important to me. I know I remember those characters that I fell in love with in stories and I wanna be their best friend, or I wanna find somebody like that, or I wanna whatever. That’s what I want to write for other people. I want those kinds of characters where you could see yourself absolutely dropping right down in the middle of that book and being at home and wanting to be there. And hopefully that’s what you can expect from a Beck Grey book.
Lee: I love that.
What’s the best way for readers to find you on the internet?
Beck: Well I have a Facebook group, Beck’s Blanket Fort, so feel free to drop in there. You can always find me and all my social media links on my website, which is BeckGrey.com. And if you are on Linktree, I am at Beck_Grey, so you can see links to my books and all my social media links and I’ll throw this out there. There still aren’t a lot of people there, but I am on Discord and I am on Discord probably 18 hours a day. And I’m happy to chat over there, like you’ll real time chat. And that link is in my Linktree. So yeah, feel free to drop into the Blanket Fort on Discord and ask me questions and tell me what you think of the book and whatever.
Lee: Wonderful. I’ll put links to all those in the show notes. Thanks so much for talking with me today. This was so much fun.
Beck: It was a blast, and thank you for asking me to be here. I absolutely enjoyed myself so much.
Lee: I had a great time talking with Beck. And if you’d like to meet them, they’ll be attending the Gay Romance Lit Retreat in October. Registration is open now for about awesome reader focused event in Virginia this year.
Thanks for joining me in the Low Angst Library. I hope you enjoyed this interview.
Is there an author of low angst queer romance that you’d like me to interview? There’s a link in the show notes and on LowAngstLibrary.com with a guest suggestion form.
And if you’re an author writing low angst queer romance, there’s a self-suggestion form in the show notes and on the website as well.
A major goal of mine with this podcast is to have guests writing main characters in romance novels that represent identities all over the queer spectrum. So your suggestions will really help me with that.
And if you’d like to financially support the podcast to help offset the costs of hosting, editing software and transcription for accessibility, you can buy me a coffee. The link is in the show notes.
Other ways you can support the podcast, our sharing episodes with your reader, friends leaving a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or another podcatcher you found the show on. The show is also on social media @LowAngstLibrary.
Until next time, keep reading.