Mallory Lass interviews Heather Rose Jones

Heather Rose Jones author photoHeather Rose Jones is the author of the Alpennia historic fantasy series: an alternate-Regency-era Ruritanian adventure revolving around women’s lives woven through with magic, alchemy, and intrigue. Her short fiction has appeared in The Chronicles of the Holy GrailSword and SorceressLace and Blade, and at Podcastle.org. Heather blogs about research into lesbian-relevant motifs in history and literature at the Lesbian Historic Motif Project and has a podcast covering the field of lesbian historical fiction which has recently expanded into publishing audio fiction. She reviews books at The Lesbian Review as well as on her blog. She works as an industrial failure investigator in biotech pharmaceuticals. When Mallory caught up with Heather, she was just about to take a trip east to visit family in Maine.

Q: What is something people would never guess about you?

Ooh, I both love and dread this sort of question because it depends on the audience. People at my day job are startled by the most ordinary of things–like, that I once turned in a homework assignment written in cuneiform on a clay tablet. Most people in SFF fandom don’t know much about my day job as an industrial failure analyst. And I can usually befuddle those who see me as a stuffy amateur historian by mentioning that I once had the police called on me for participating in a dog fight…as one of the dogs. (This story is best heard in person as performance art.) Once people start getting to know me, it’s hard to stump them because then they’re willing to believe almost anything!

Q: You often post photos of your desk rose on twitter. How did that start? Do you have a green thumb?

I have a brown thumb. I kill houseplants. I killed an aloe vera once, and that’s hard. But I live in California and have an automatic watering system, so it’s hard to fail too badly at growing things. For obvious reasons, roses are a meaningful flower for me. (Heather would be too, but it’s harder to grow here and not nearly as picturesque.) I have somewhere around 30-40 different roses growing in my yard but I don’t get to spend as much time enjoying them as I’d like. That’s why I started the habit of bringing a rose (or two) from my garden to put on my desk at work every week. That, and the insufferable smugness of being able to do so practically year round. I do a major pruning around January or February every year and take a break from the desk roses, but the rest of the year they come through. There’s a third, more philosophical reason for the desk roses. I pledged to myself that I’d never wait for anyone else to bring me roses–I’d not only give them to myself, but I’d plant an entire rose garden to make sure.

Q: Who and/or what has influenced your writing the most?

Another hard question. My influences and inspirations tend to get thrown into the mulch pile of my back-brain. By the time they’ve composted enough to fertilize story seeds, it’s hard to identify individual influences. I’ve read so many books from so many different–very different–authors. It’s easier to identify the abstract influences. One is a sense of the fantastic possibilities around every corner in everyday life. Not that I actually believe in fantastic things, but the stories that most inspired me usually involved an ordinary world with strange things happening. I still remember reading Mary Norton’s The Borrowers when I was ten years old and choosing to believe that every old house had colonies of tiny people living in the interstices. Every time I’ve lived in a house with a basement, my imagination has populated that space with monsters and secrets. My second most important influence was the lack of media representation I felt growing up. It was impossible to find characters I could identify with thoroughly. The closest I came were the “lost child from a different plane of reality” like Alexander Key’s The Forgotten Door. I started writing stories so that I could populate them with characters who made me feel less alone.

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The Lesbrary has Updated the Recommendations Page!

The Lesbrary has a recommendations master list, where I (Danika) keep a looooong list of all my favourite queer women books! You can check it out any time, but below is the updated list, with new additions from this month bolded!

Classics:

Mystery/Thrillers:

Fiction:

Historical Fiction:

Poetry:

Young Adult

Middle Grade:

SFF Young Adult:

Sci Fi:

Fantasy:

Horror/Zombies/Vampires:

Romance and Erotica:

Comics/Graphic Novels/Manga:

Memoirs and Biographies:

Nonfiction:

If you like what we do here and want to see more of it, buy us a coffee, or support the Lesbrary on Patreon for $2 or more a month and be entered into monthly book giveaways!

Lesbrary Amazon Storefront

A gif of scrolling through the Lesbrary Amazon storefront

A gif of scrolling through the Lesbrary Amazon storefront

The Lesbrary now has an Amazon storefront! I’m going through my Recommendation Master List and adding them all into the storefront, so if you like to browse by cover, you can check out all my favourites there! If you hover over each cover, you’ll see about a sentence of why I recommend each book, and a bitly link to the review. (You won’t be able to click on it, unfortunately, so you’ll have to type it in. Or, of course, you can check out the Master List.)

So far I have all the sapphic books that I’ve rated 5 stars in a list, as well as the genres Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thrillers, and Literary Fiction, but I will add all the genre categories soon.

If you buy anything through the storefront, I will get a small percentage of the sale.

Updated Recommendations List

Did you know there is a master list of all my (Danika’s) queer women book recommendations? It’s just been updated! In this post, the newest additions are bolded. Most will have my review linked, though some have reviews in the works, and others were before I started reviewing or are titles that slipped through the cracks. These are not all the bi & lesbian books I’ve read–it’s only the ones I would freely recommend! (These were all 4-5 star reads for me.) Check out the updated list!

My Top 9 Sapphic Books of 2018

As we start in on a new year, I always like looking back on some of the books that really made an impression last year. I made a video of my top 18 books of 2018, but I thought I would highlight the Lesbrary-related books specifically in a post. (Don’t worry, most of those other books in the video are still queer, just not with a sapphic main character.) Most of these books have already been reviewed at the Lesbrary, so I’ve included links to the original reviews if you want more info! These are mostly excerpts from those reviews. They happen to be mostly YA and middle grade books, which isn’t a knock against any other genres, just that they were the kind of books I read the most last year. Without further ado:

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gilman cover#9: As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman (review)

 

Melanie Gillman is one of my favourite artists. I am floored by the the intense detail and time put into every page, done completely in coloured pencils. This story follows Charlie, a queer brown kid feeling very out of place at a white feminist spiritual backpacking trip. Luckily, she finds connection with Sydney, who is trans, and feels that she would not be welcome on this trip if she weren’t closeted. Honestly, my only problem with this is that it’s only volume one, and it stop somewhat abruptly. I can’t wait for the next volume to come out for I can get back to this story! Check out the Lesbrary review for some excerpts of panels from the story.

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow cover#8: Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow (review)

Melly is 13, and the day before she was dropped off at Camp Rockaway, her parents told her they were getting divorced. She’s had no time to process this before she’s tossed into this new environment for 2 weeks, and even her best friend being there doesn’t seem to help, especially when Olivia is too busy hanging out with her crush to remember her. Melly may be a drum player, but she has trouble finding her own voice. One way or another, these two weeks will change that.

Olivia may not have been there for Melly as much as she wanted, but Melly wasn’t communicating with Olivia. Her parents may not have been fair to her to tell her just before she left, but maybe she wasn’t being fair to them, either. Melly needs to find herself and get in touch with her own emotions, but that doesn’t mean abandoning her empathy. Relationships–of all kinds–are complicated. Communication is difficult. And Drum Roll, Please doesn’t try to simplify it. We can be sympathetic from one angle and cruel from another. There aren’t easy answers.

Toil and Trouble edited by Tess Sharpe cover#7: Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft edited by Tess Sharpe

I somehow forgot to do a Lesbrary review of this one, which is a shame, because I really liked it! This isn’t entirely a queer collection, but there are about 5 stories with sapphic main characters. I loved the different takes on witches, from fairy tale-ish witches to more modern witches, and I liked how the women in the stories drew power from the cultural conception of witches, which have been used against women in history. Here are my pitches for the sapphic stories:

“Starsong” by Tehlor Kay Mejia: Luna’s mother is afraid that she’l follow the same path her tia Jasmin did, but Luna has found peace and power in the magic that the stars provide for her. When someone tries to start a debate with her on Instagram about science vs magic, she isn’t going to give them the time of day… until she realizes the commentor is a cute girl.

“The Heart In Her Hands” by Tess Sharpe: A common trope of tumblr stories is the soulmate mark: the first words you hear from your soulmate appear on your skin beforehand, so you know when you’ve met them. “The Heart In Her Hands” turns this romantic idea on its head with a protagonist who resents being told her fate, especially when she’s already found the love of her life.

“The Legend of Stone Mary” by Robin Talley: When a witch was killed in the woods by an angry mob, she cast a curse. That curse has continued in the town for many generations, temporarily placated by a statue in her honor. Wendy finds herself helplessly drawn to her ancestor’s statue on a stormy Halloween night, with no idea what will happen when she faces it.

“The Gherin Girls” by Emery Lord: Three sisters (one bi, one gay, one straight), all with different abilities (sensing emotions through touch, magic with plants, and magic with cooking). Deals with the aftermath of an emotionally abusive (M/F) relationship.

“Why They Watch Us Burn” by Elizabeth May: 13 girls are sentenced to a work camp for being accused of witches. They are meant to starve, disappear, or break in the woods. Instead, they might just find the power they’ve been accused of. Trigger warning for rape and victim-blaming.

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake#6: Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (review)

This is about a YA novel about Mara, who has always been very close to her twin, Owen. So when Mara’s best friend, Hannah, accuses Owen of rape, Mara is horrified. She seems to split, believing both of their conflicting stories simultaneously. And as she tries to sort through it, her own unaddressed trauma bubbles to the surface.

This is a premise that I would not trust most authors with, but I knew that Ashley Herring Blake could carry it. Girl Made of Stars faces rape culture head on. It had my stomach in knots, but I couldn’t stop turning the pages. I finished it one day–partly because Blake’s writing is captivating, partly because I was so invested in these characters that I wanted to know what happened to them, and partly to be able to walk away from this sickening situation. This was another 5 star read for me, and I will definitely be picking up anything Ashley Herring Blake writes in the future.

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages by Saundra Mitchell cover#5: All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout The Ages edited by Saundra Mitchell (review)

All Out is a much-needed book, because it locates queer people (teens in particular) through time. It is optimistic historical fiction: It imagines not only queer teens in the past, but how they might have found happiness there. It rejects the idea that queer people don’t have a history–or that if they do, it is fundamentally tragic.

There are a lot of different time periods (~1200s-1999) and cultures involved, although I would have liked to see more stories set outside of North America and Europe. The story that really stood out to me was Malinda Lo’s, and luckily for me, it’s being made into a novel! Although that’s my favourite, I really enjoyed all of them–I didn’t feel like there were any really weak stories in this collection. 

How To Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake#4: How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (review)

This book deftly deals with grief and unhealthy/abusive family dynamics. Grace’s father died when she was young, and since then, her mother hasn’t acted much like a mom. Grace feels like it is her responsibility to watch after Maggie. Again, this is a novel that has such nuanced, complex relationships. Grace’s best friend, Luca, and his mom have just taken in Eva (Grace’s love interest), who has recently lost her mother.

Maggie takes Eva under her wing, causing Grace to agonize over whether she should tell Eva the whole truth about Maggie. I thought it was masterfully handled, and I was completely invested in Grace and Eva–individually and as a couple. But overall, the treatment of abuse and grief layered with a bisexual (yes, using the word bisexual) love story and accompanied with a thoughtful examination of race and art (Eva is a black ballet dancer) all came together into a five star read for me

Space Battle Lunchtime Vol 1#2 & 3: Space Battle Lunchtime Vols 1 & 2 by Natalie Riess (review)

All-ages queer lady-type comics are probably my favourite thing to read. My favourite thing to watch is reality baking shows. This comic is an all-ages queer women comic about a competitive cooking show… in space. What could be better?? When I finished volume 1, I thought “Sure, it seems pretty obvious it’s queer, but is it technically subtext?” Which would be okay! I still would have liked it! But volume 2 instantly makes it very clear that it’s queer.  This is so cute and fun. The romance is sweet, the plot is full of hijinks and over-the-top action (“Cannibal Coliseum, where chefs compete to cook… each other.”) I mean, really, if “all-ages queer women comic about a competitive cooking show in space” doesn’t convince you, what else can I say?

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid#1: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (review)

Evelyn Hugo is an aging Hollywood starlet who has chosen a relatively unknown journalist to write her life story. Evelyn is such a fascinating character. She’s someone that I imagine people would describe as “unlikable.” Personally, I loved her. She is such a flawed, complex character. She’s also bisexual–she’s very deliberate that Monique gets this label right–and the great love of her life is not one of her seven husbands. She has a tumultuous, heartbreaking love affair with another actress. I felt so much for Evelyn, and it made me really think about what it was like for queer women in the 1950s. Evelyn was privileged in many ways: rich, famous, white-passing–but she was also trapped. She couldn’t publicly acknowledge the love of her life without losing everything else she had built. The most authentic part of her was the one she felt she had to keep hidden. This a beautifully written and fascinating story about one of my favourite characters I’ve encountered in a long time.

Those are my favourite sapphic books I read in 2018! Below is my video with my full top 18 books, if you’re curious. I think only one of them in neither by nor about queer people. Let me know what your favourite reads of 2018 are, and I’ll add them to my TBR mountain!

Sapphic Christmas Books

Sapphic Christmas Books

Find lots more (80+) lesbian and bi Christmas books on the Goodreads list!

Note: this is just a round up of the most promising sapphic Christmas books I have come across–I haven’t read them all myself. I can personally recommend Mistletoe Mishap by Siri Caldwell and Christmas Days: 12 Stories and 12 Feasts for 12 Days by Jeanette Winterson. The Winterson title doesn’t have a lot of sapphic content (only one story talks about her and her wife), but it’s my favourite Christmas book: the stories feel like timeless Christmas fables.

For more bi & lesbian lit lists, check out The Lesbrary Goodreads Project!

If you like what we do at the Lesbrary and the Bi & Les Lit tumblr, support us on Patreon at $2 or more a month and be entered to win a queer women book every month!

Shira Glassman Recommends F/F Sci Fi You Can Buy Outside of Amazon

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post full of links to f/f fantasy books I personally recommend, populated with buy links other than Amazon for any of you who don’t want to stop there or at least looking at cutting back on spending money there. I’d like to do another post like that, this time with some of my f/f science fiction recommendations. If you don’t see your favorite book on here, it might be that I haven’t personally read it, but it might also mean I couldn’t find a non-Amazon link for it. And happy endings only, of course. This is, after all, a Shira Glassman recs post!

First of all, you have to have anticipated that a post like this would start with a recommendation for Not Your Sidekick by CB Lee. This YA starring a bi Chinese/Vietnamese-American girl, written by same, kicks off a fun romp of a trilogy starring qpoc teen superheroes. The main character’s parents are superheroes, as is her older sister, but her powers haven’t kicked in yet. What if they never come? So in a fit of teenage pique she decides to start interning for the villain. Turns out things are a little more upside down than she anticipated. This is a good series for people who have been binging superhero fanfiction and people who want big happy queer friend groups instead of just romance.

Next, a wonderful, sweet piece about an outmoded android and a repair tech: The Cybernetic Tea Shop by Meredith Katz. The android woman still carries with her vast grief from missing her original human, and the path given to her by the plot is a metaphor for healing and vulnerability that really resonated with me.

You can read this one for free: “Né łe!” by Darcie Little Badger. Originally printed in Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time, a LGBTQ+ Native anthology, this is a romance between two Native women 1. in space 2. surrounded by 41 puppies. If that isn’t a heck of a selling point, I’m just going to go back to bed.

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi is about disabled queer women in space fighting Big Pharma. The sci-fi plot takes you everywhere from space opera to multiverse theory, and the romantic plot resolves in several layers of overlapping polyamory. TW for some fridged family members, and for the description of how one of the women lost a limb.

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver takes us to Parole, a city the US government trapped under quarantine to control the population’s mutant powers. Evelyn Calliope is a trans woman with sonic powers, in a f/f/f triad with a woman with plant powers and a woman with mech powers (they also have a son, and, if I remember correctly, a robot dog?) Together with Anxious Lizard Man Regan and some other characters they try to find hope, water, and other resources in the dystopian mess. RoAnna’s writing is full of positivity and cheerleading.

Medic to the Hive Mind by Kayla Bashe coverWhat is a connection? What is trust? In Medic to the Hivemind, Kayla Bashe plays with some classic questions of both the romance and science fiction genres. A woman stranded in space is comforted by another woman over the Space Internet, without knowing much about her. Hard to describe without spoilers. Also, Jewish lead/author.

Amazingly, “f/f romance set in an arts school in outer space” is becoming its own subgenre somehow! First, I’ll recommend Sparks Fly by Llinos Cathryn Thomas, set in a dance school on a space colony, involving a kind of dancing that uses zero-gravity and floating pods. One of the heroines has been working at the school for years and thought she’d have the headmistress spot to herself eventually, but it turns out she has to share the top spot with an injured dance star taking some time to recover. It’s sort of rivals to friends to lovers, but more awkward than really rivals. Secondly, Flowers of Luna by Jennifer Linsky, starring a biracial Japanese girl written by same, takes place at fashion design college on the moon. A new student meets a cute girl who’s sort of sexually adventurous (she often goes out in public without underwear, for example.) This one has a very ‘New Adult’ feel as well as many details of the main character’s fashion career.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie coverThe Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie is a futuristic dystopian adventure story in which a group of pirates, led by a vicious yet appealing woman captain, want control over a sea monster. The f/f is between a girl who’s been with the pirates for a while to support her family and the main character, who winds up with them initially against her will as part of their sea monster acquisition scheme. If teenage lesbians and a gigantic turtle are your jam, this is your book. TW for one of the pirate boys dying in a horrifying way. There’s a sequel I haven’t read yet. Side notes that this book is more likely to be in your local library without you having to request it than most of these others, and it also won’t out you to your parents or coworkers.

The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers is a mostly feel-good, episodic series of related adventures with one of those “the spaceship’s crew is like a family” setups. The f/f romance is only one of the side plots but does involve the main character. This is a book that has a lot of wonderfully neat alien species including polyamorous reptilians that have giant cuddle parties. Warning that you may want to read some reviews because there’s a disability related side plot unrelated to the f/f that some people found hurtful (I actually prefer the sequel, but it doesn’t have any romance and is more of a spinoff involving two minor side characters in Long Way.)

Cinnamon Blade by Shira Glassman coverThose are my offerings today! If you want to check out my own writing, the closest I’ve gotten to science fiction are either the short story “Aviva and the Aliens” in Tales from Perach, about how the queen’s girlfriend outsmarts the aliens who kidnap her in hopes that her cooking will be better than their spaceship’s replicator, or my brand-new superhero romance Cinnamon Blade: Knife in Shining Armor, in which an ex-thief who’s now the hero’s sidekick decides to finally ask out the damsel in distress she’s rescued several times. Can they ever have a normal date or are there too many monsters of the week?

11 Literally Perfect Sapphic Novels

Here’s another one of my recent booktube videos, this time discussing the sapphic novels and short story collections that I’ve rated 5 stars!

Books mentioned:

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