Elaine White's Life in Books

The Author

 

Elaine White is the author of multi-genre MM romance, celebrating 'love is love' and offering diversity in both genre and character within her stories.

Growing up in a small town and fighting cancer in her early teens taught her that life is short and dreams should be pursued. She lives vicariously through her independent, and often hellion characters, exploring all possibilities within the romantic universe.

The Winner of two Watty Awards – Collector's Dream (An Unpredictable Life) and Hidden Gem (Faithfully) – and an Honourable Mention in 2016's Rainbow Awards (A Royal Craving) Elaine is a self-professed geek, reading addict, and a romantic at heart.

 

The Reviewer

 

I’m an author and reader, who just can’t get away from books. I discovered the MM genre a few years ago and became addicted.

Top #50 UK reviewer on Goodreads
#1 reviewer on Divine Magazine

Facts About Me: From MF to MM

You might have noticed by now, especially if you've been reading my 'Origin Story' posts, that I used to write MF exclusively and that I've ended up turning a lot of those old stories into MM stories. This is not, as some might say, a way to cash in on a popular genre. Hell, the simple fact is, I would make more money selling them as MF's. The reason I've switched the genre of these stories is simple: I never knew MM existed when I started writing.

I grew up in a world that was pretty accepting. I had gay friends, lesbian friends, bi friends. I knew people on the spectrum all my life and it was never an 'issue' or something like it's presented in Glee - that they're segregated or looked down on. If they were, I never saw it. It was all perfectly normal for people to be different in a million little ways. We had refugee children at our school when I was just in primary school, so under the age of twelve. There was a Bosnian girl that I was friends with and who came over to make Christmas decorations one year, which was also never an 'issue' to be discussed and debated in the news. It just was.

Yet, there was nothing like that in the novels I was reading. I wasn't even a particularly avid reader, back then, either, because I didn't have the time between school and TV. I was obsessed with crime shows like CSI from a young age, because I wanted to be a forensic scientist or an archaeologist - I was a serious child, as I think you can tell, by now. Books never really factored into it, unless they were non-fiction or the occasional Roahl Dahl or Sweet Valley High. There were never any characters, minor or major, that represented people I knew or that I wanted to read about, and I guess that's why I wasn't a huge fan of reading, back then.

It was much later, in my early twenties that I began focusing more on my writing and getting published. Purely by accident, I found a book on Amazon that was free and claimed to be 'mm'. Whatever that meant. I read it, loved it, and started searching for other books like it. FINALLY, there were people in books who were like the people I knew in real life. It was also around this time that I realised I was asexual - thanks to an article in New Scientist magazine, so thanks for that New Scientist! - and I began realising that although I loved to read about romances and didn't mind the hotter pages, at all, it just wasn't something *I* was interested in. You could say it was an awakening, of sorts. Perhaps a bit late, but then from the ages of 15-19 I was more concerned with staying alive, because of cancer, chemo and recovering from all that, so I don't think it's anything that can really be judged too harshly.

Up to this point, I had been secretly writing stories for years! From at least the age of twelve or thirteen. I remember staying at my gran's house one summer and asking if I could borrow a book from her bookcase, to read at nights. I picked up 'The Beach' - something she'd picked up for about 50p at the library sale table and hadn't read yet. Well, I read it and I wasn't nearly old enough to. I went back for another book and found this set of 3 Mills and Boons books. Nope, not old enough for them, either. But they sure were an awakening. Well, of a writer's sort. You see, I found issues in the books and the plots. I hate the whole Alpha male trope where the guy is basically a stalker, there's domestic abuse all over the place, and all the girl does is swoon at it. So I got a notebook and secretly rewrote parts of the plots - sorry Mills and Boons!

My writing career began, writing dirty snippets of Mills and Boons books, at an age I should never have been writing about what went on behind waterfalls between two adults who had been fighting sexual attraction for years. But, I began writing my own stories, starting with the Secrets of Avelina Chronicles and The Devereaux Case Files, both MF leads and both dramatic as all get out. Also, both terrible. I'm sorry for anyone who had to read them, because I know now that I can do SO much better!

Anyway, I wrote them and then a dozen more followed. As bad as it sounds, I never really liked them. There was always 'something' wrong with them that I couldn't put my finger on. I thought that it was just a case of self-doubt, because I didn't have any training, any experience and I had no real idea what I was doing other than writing what came naturally to me. MF was all I had ever read, so I never considered writing anything else. Of course, like my real life, there were minor LGBT characters, but I had never seen one have their own book at that point and, really, what did I know about being gay? I didn't have a sexual attraction to anyone, but I had read enough books to know what to write, how to write it and what was 'popular' - don't stone me for saying that! I was innocent and naive.

Eventually, once I discovered the MM genre in my reading, I began realising that I *could* write LGBT main characters. It was a real thing. I wouldn't be the only one who felt more natural writing from a male perspective (that probably means something, psychologically, but I have no idea what it is). All I knew was that I hated those simpering women from novels and I hated that, to fit in, I had to write them. At least, that was what I believed, at first. So I usually wrote more often from the male POV, because they could be strong and independent without limits or expectations and readers wouldn't get angry with me for it or say that I was some 'feminist' (still a dirty word, back then, for a writer). I really just wanted to write stories I loved, that people would like...and it was that last part that kept me prisoner to the MF genre for such a long time.

I didn't have the confidence or knowledge to break out and do something (that I thought at the time) revolutionary. I didn't believe in myself or my work enough to say - here I am, this is what I want to write and if you like it, great. If not, that's okay, but it's what I'm going to keep writing. It took YEARS to get to that place, and only after my first few novels had been published. Unsurprisingly (because I've read them!) they didn't sell well. I also had no idea how to promote myself, so that was a big factor.

But, even with the book in my hand, in paperback form, I wasn't happy with it. I wanted to change so much that I actually hated the fact that my mum placed it in the living room, in a case, on a book stand, for everyone to see. Because, though I didn't tell anyone, every time I looked at it, I felt like a failure. I had put something out there that was only half me. It was only part of what it should have been, because I hadn't been brave enough to really be me with it.

After reading MM books for about a year or so, I finally put my hand to writing it. My first attempt was Decadent, the single novel in its original format. It was kind of awful, too. But, by then, I had learned a lot and it was accepted by CHBB for publishing. They taught me how to market, how to brand, how to BE an author, and I found some amazing beta readers, one of which taught me what I'd done wrong with the story. I had given it an unnatural progression because that was what I had read in other MM books. Jumping straight to the dirty stuff. Again, I was making the same mistakes - doing what was popular, what I had read, and not listening to myself. When I got that feedback that it moved too fast, I instantly knew what was wrong, because I'd thought the same thing while writing it. So, I took a deep breath, pulled my big girl pants up and started rewriting...how I wanted it rewritten. The beta's approved. The buyers approved. It did well.

I started writing - and reading - more MM stories. Eventually, I stopped writing new MF stories and only gave the completed stories to my other publisher. I still wasn't happy with them, but I had read so much online, in groups and articles, about people changing their MF books to MM and being criticised for it, with readers saying they did it to corner both markets, that they were just looking for more money. I didn't want anyone to think that of me, so I kept my awful MF versions for a long time.

I was STILL caring too much about 'what people might say', as I always had.

After my second MM book was published, I sort of found myself. I found that I was more comfortable writing MM books, that it felt more natural and that I loved the way I could be more free with my storylines and characters, within them. I opened up, creatively. That was when I learned to do what I wanted to do with my stories. Maybe people wouldn't like it, but I was finally being real with myself and faithful to who I was.

A couple of years in, I began looking at my old stories and realising what I hated about them. I had never been made to write MF stories, but it was all I knew, at the time. And if there's one piece of writing advice that has been going around for eons, it's 'write what you know'. I knew MF, because it was every book I'd ever read. So that's what I wrote.

Once I knew MM existed, it was all I could write. All I still can write. I've tried going back to MF, but there are just so many stipulations to it, if you want a publisher to accept you. So many tropes that make me teeth itch and I just can't do it. I can't go back to being that person who just wrote what other people wanted. I've learned who I am as an author, a writer, and a person, so I have to be true to that.

Even if that means turning my awful MF stories into MM's. Because the reality is that they were probably always meant to be that way. Any time I wrote a strong female, she was regarded as too pushy or unrealistic or a feminist. That, or I was trying to copy the likes of Sookie Stackhouse or Anita Blake, because clearly any strong female had to be a carbon copy of someone else's strong female. But, if you write a strong male, he's not compared to anyone else. If you write a man who cries or who is sensitive in any way, he's not labelled a sissy or weak or beneath his counterpart. He's just as strong for being expressive. Femme, butch, androgynous - whatever a man is in a MM story, he's real and natural, because there are all kinds of men in the world. The same is never said about women. Not in novels.

Over the last two or three years, I've become more comfortable converting my old MF stories into MM's. It's so natural and so simple to make the change and that's the real reason I believe it was meant to be that way. If it wasn't, then surely it would be harder. I'm not just changing the pronouns and hoping no one notices. Each book gets a complete rewrite, because I've grown so much since then that they need that change.

Since the rights to some of my books were returned to me, I've been making plans for how to improve them. Recent changes include the novel Esthim, the story Darkness in the Blood being integrated into MM series Creatures of the Night, and plans to have the entire Secrets of Avelina Chronicles and Belesone Pack Trilogy novels converted into extensions of the Creatures of the Night spin-off, Rediscovering Vihaan. The novel Courage in the Kiss will be integrated into The Tales of S'Idiaz, a spin-off trilogy to follow on from the events of The Tales of Talyn. All of them need major rewrites, major plot changes and a complete overhaul. But I'm willing to put in the world, because the foundations are good; it's just a hard truth that they need to be knocked down, brought back to the bare bones and rebuilt.

Eventually, the only MF stories of mine that will be published will be those that are within anthologies still on sale, that I can't change. It will be confusing, because there are shorts for The Belesone Pack Trilogy and The Secrets of Avelina Chronicles in two of those anthologies, but nothing can be done about that. They'll need to remain stand alones and, maybe, depending on the changes I make to the original plots, I might leave the originals on Wattpad, for free, so that people can still read the rest. However, that will be at the discretion of my publisher, if they're accepted in their rebuilt form.

That's still far in the future. For now, I'm working one story at a time. I have so many WIP's that it will take a LONG time to get round to it all, but, in the end, I will have books that I'm proud to put my name to. Books that represent me.