Ever since my very first book was published a highlight for me has been interacting with readers. I love learning about others and giving them a place to tell us about themselves. If you're interested in joining the fun email me at email@example.com or use the contact link at the top of the page.
Elizabeth: Would you tell us a little about yourself?
Kenna: I am an avid reader, explorer, napper, and dog lover, currently living in the amazing and terrifying city of New York .
Elizabeth: Do you have hobbies?
Kenna: Reading, urban exploration/hiking, going to concerts, and trying out hobbies—most recently I’ve tried board games, knitting, and scrap-booking, but none of them have stuck. I just really like trying new things but I’m bad at continuity. I also volunteer with an animal rescue shelter.
Elizabeth: Why did you decide to do this interview?
Kenna: A huge part of the draw of this genre to me is the community and the readers, so learning more about everyone sounded like such a creative idea! When I saw that more interviewees were needed, I volunteered on a whim.
Kenna: I think there was something really freeing in a way about getting my Kindle, something about browsing on Amazon instead of a bookstore really let me explore outside my literary comfort zone. (“Something about” she said vaguely, fully aware that it was privacy that made her brave enough to check out the sections she would avoid in a bookstore for fear of the censure of strangers.) I did kind of a slow drift into romance in general a few years ago and as I was exploring, I came across an F/F romance book and immediately started reading every single LGBTQ+ romance I could find. I especially loved any books that validated bisexuality. I had never felt any level of acceptance in real life at that point. Like in my experience, even a few years before then, ten years ago now, googling something like, “I like both men and women” led me to websites or posts about “How to tell if you are gay or straight” or “Everyone has stray thoughts about the same sex sometimes, you’re still for sure straight” or “How to come to terms with being gay”. In person, I was advised that “I kissed a girl and I liked it” (on the radio non-stop the first time I tried coming out in college, my second attempt in life) was only for attractive girls; at the same time, allies comforted me with assurances that, “We’re here when you’re ready to actually come out, no matter how long it takes”. So there were a lot of years where I really struggled with myself and fitting in and I felt like a liar and completely alone no matter where I was. It got to a point where I was sick (emotionally, mentally, physically) of hiding but I didn’t have any frame of reference for an alternative; I didn’t even know what to hope for. Reading about people experiencing what I longed for comforted me and it gave me a picture of what I could have. Finding LGBTQ+ romance in many ways saved my life, or at least made my life better, and eventually made me braver. Looking back, I can see that it gave me the inspiration and support I needed to make my own life better, through my own agency and action.
Elizabeth: Would you tell us a little of why were you drawn to this genre?
Kenna: I found a lot of comfort in the romance genre in general—I liked the assurance of an HEA, the general structure / framework of most romances, and the emotional connection I could create with the characters without feeling drained or depressed. It was buoying to me. Once I started reading more deeply within romance, I found queer romance and it was amazing. Happy endings for everyone! At first it was comforting, validating, and rewarding to read about people similar to me but like, enhanced. So relateable, but…romanticized, I guess. At first I read almost exclusively F/F, but then branched out across LGBTQ+. I still mostly stick with the ones with a guaranteed HEA, although I prefer the ones that have some real stakes to the characters maybe not getting it, so that there is tension and an investment on my part but I know it will be worth it.
Elizabeth: Why do you like this genre?
Kenna: I used to avoid romance because of its stigma—the same way any book about a woman that isn’t depressing is derided as “chick-lit”, I think—but once I let go of my ego, and what other people told me counted as literature, I discovered it’s got so much depth, creativity, emotion, and yes, fun. Some of my favorite authors, some of the most talented authors, are great for the very reasons the genre is mocked—they write light-hearted books about good people who experience good things and have a happy ending, with a few “happy endings” in between. And their books are just as valid representations of the human experience as books where everyone dies under the weight of their own angst or of dysentery or something. And there are a lot of very emotive, introspective, deep books in this genre too—I love its diversity and breadth and depth! Like so many different, perfect settings—like really rich fantasy, expertly researched historicals, truly representative contemporaries. And the characters! I find that as long as I’m conscious about which authors I support and which part of the community I engage with, I can find books that are truly representative and respectful of LGBTQ experiences. Sometimes that means they mirror or amplify my own; more often than not that means they are introducing me to the unique and varied and valid experiences of others. Those, honestly, are my favorite. I think they make me a better person and a better member of and ally in the LGBTQ community. (Because being a member of a minority community, in my opinion, does not alleviate me of the responsibility to be an ally to other members of that community.) And I think my favorite thing about the genre is the people—the authors, their characters, the community that loves them—because it helps me feel more at home in my own skin, that other people are seeking and celebrating the same things as me, even if it isn’t always the exact same thing as me and especially when they aren’t the same as me.
Elizabeth: Do you ever go to conventions to meet authors? How do you like interacting with authors on social media?
Kenna: I have not been able to go to a convention, just a lack of opportunity for the most part. I do like to follow authors on social media. It feels like even compared to a year ago most authors prefer to keep fans up to date on social media rather than by maintaining a website, so the best way to keep track of news and releases is through their twitter or Facebook account. Some authors have really great groups associated with their accounts and sometimes I like hanging out there with other fans—joining contests, question threads, reacting to exciting news, things like that. I love a good Teaser Tuesday!! There are also a lot of amazing reader groups which are great for recs and reviews and just general enthusiasm. I honestly prefer reader groups and have found a really great community online in them, especially Group. However, after really immersing myself in the genre and community I’ve learned to be discerning about which authors and groups I follow, let alone engage with, online. I have a one-strike policy with authors, individuals, and groups because I’ve found that if people are dismissive or offensive to another person or another group once, or allow that kind of behavior once, it will never, ever just be that one time. I can’t control what goes on IRL, but I can create a safe space for myself online. I’ve managed to create a very insular, cozy bubble for myself, and I prefer it that way.
Elizabeth: Tell us about your reading habits?
Kenna: I read ALL THE TIME. It’s ridiculous. I currently have a 2+ hour a day commute, so I’m always reading then. I also read at night to relax/unwind. And on the weekends. And at 3 a.m. on release days when the book goes live on Kindle. And on my Kindle app in line at the grocery store, waiting for the printer, at the counter at Starbucks…Sometimes when it’s nice out I go to the park so I can read while getting sunlight. If I find a book I love, I literally cannot put it down. I’ll end up staying up until 5 a.m. finishing a book. God help me if it’s a series and I have to immediately dive into the next one!
Elizabeth: Paperback, hard cover or eBooks?
Kenna: I prefer eBooks now because it saves me space, it’s easier to commute with, and I feel like the books in general are more accessible to me. However, if I truly fall in love with a book I also like to have it in physical form. I think I like the permanence of it, and it feels like doubly supporting the author. Hard cover is probably my least favorite – they’re big, heavy, and expensive! I usually only by hard cover used if that’s the only edition I can find of a book I want to own, or borrow from the library.
Elizabeth: What do you like in a book’s cover art?
Kenna: I guess I tend not to judge romance books by their covers because there are a lot of good books with really awful covers, but when I’m browsing I tend to be drawn to simple, evocative/emotive designs or photos, or ones that are unique and creative in some way. A lot of my favorite cover art ended up being a favorite after I read the book and realized how perfect the mode or image or imagery fit the character / plot / message. A few cover pet peeves of mine are stock photos that just don’t even remotely look like the people in the book, or are stereotypes of the people in the book, or like if it’s just torsos (like two shirtless guys with their heads cut off by the top of the page is kind of creepy) or if it’s too literal. Like, if the book is about a woman who falls in love with her kid’s soccer coach, the cover really doesn’t need to be a copy-paste mess of generic stock photos of a business woman, a woman wearing a whistle, and a random floating soccer ball. I mean, I’ll probably still pick up the book and read it—one of the benefits of a Kindle is it’s much easier to get over bad cover art—but I’ll cringe a little bit when I do. Sometimes fan cover-art or just fan art in general nails it and I want to replace the cover with their interpretation instead!
Elizabeth: And, lastly, what other types of books/magazines do you read?
Kenna: A little bit of everything! I read widely (but not very deeply) across genres. My 2017 resolution is to finally read my giant TBR pile of books I’ve bought or been gifted over the years and never read. To keep things interesting, I’m trying not to read two books in a row from the same genre. So far it’s been books in sci-fi, memoir, mystery, fantasy, narrative non-fiction, historical non-fiction, and a few random ones from classes in college. I break up non-fiction into categories I’m not sure are real because I have so many that I thought looked interesting and then never read. I also made a rule that if after the first 50 pages I am just not feeling the book, I put it in the give-away pile rather than forcing myself to continue. That’s been so liberating! I was stuck on this one sci-fi epic that is supposed to be a classic but it was so, so dense and I just could not get into it. I found myself procrastinating reading it—on my commute, I’d stare at the ads on the subway rather than read this book—and I was not feeling very positive about my resolution at all. Once I made the decision that it’s okay not to finish a book (and I have no idea why I was so against this to begin with), I’ve made so much more progress on my resolution and had a lot of fun doing it. Plus, I’ve made room on my shelves for books I love by clearing out the books I don’t and fallen in love with some amazing books that have just been sitting there the whole time!
Elizabeth: Kenna, thank you so much for sharing a little about yourself with the world. I am very pleased to have gotten to know you a little and hope to learn more!