BY NATASIA LANGFELDER
Bridget Essex is a leading author of lesbian romance novels. Her work has been lauded by queer websites and adored by fans for giving them well written stories with well-rounded lesbian characters. Essex is best known for her “The Knight Legends” series, but her work is about more than knights…she also writes about vampires and werewolves. So if you wanted a well-written lesbian Twilight, look no further! We sat down with Bridget to talk about her novels, her inspirations and what makes lesbian romance so special.
The Knight Legends Series was named one of AfterEllen’s top lesbian romance picks. How did you start the series?
Using a different storyline, I actually started this series when I was a teenager! From a very young age, I knew I wasn’t like other girls…in the fact that I didn’t like boys, I liked GIRLS! Unfortunately, like almost all lesbian or gay teens, it was a scary thing to be a lesbian–I didn’t see myself in media, had no positive role models and was being told by my church that I’d burn in hell, so I wanted to read a POSITIVE lesbian story. I wanted to see a person like me with her own happily ever after to prove that it was possible.
When I was reading fantasy books, brought home by the armful from the library, I instinctively started to look for myself in these stories. I read THE LAST HERALD-MAGE by Mercedes Lackey when I was about thirteen, and I could not BELIEVE it–there was a gay character! So, I figured that if there were ANY stories in the world about a woman who loved a woman…they’d be fantasy books. But I could NOT find a lesbian character, no matter how hard I read, and it upset me so much! I’ve always been the type of person where, if I’m frustrated about something, I just fix it myself…so I started to write a series of books where women fell in love with other women, where there was magic and swords and sorcery, and everything else I wanted to see in a book but just couldn’t find. I evolved, over time, as did my writing, and A KNIGHT TO REMEMBER was born from those long-ago stories.
What messages/themes do you want your readers to take away from the series?
I feel that my biggest and most important messages are universal: you’re okay just the way you are, you’re lovable, you deserve a happily ever after, even if the world tells you that you don’t. My main characters are all flawed people, just like you and me (we’re human–all of us have flaws. Except for Lana Parilla, but that’s a different matter entirely!), but they find women who love them not in SPITE of their flaws, but often because of them. My strongest messages that I hope I convey in every single story are that there’s good and wonder in this world, if we only have the eyes to see, and that we are never, ever powerless.
What makes the lesbian romance genre special?
As lesbians, we’ve gotten the short end of the stick. We’re the most searched-for porn term in the world, and because of this, we’re often thought of as a fetish instead of as normal people who fall in love, and that frustrates the hell out of me, and–I’m sure–a lot of other lesbians! But, in the lesbian romance genre, sure, sex is sometimes part of it–but, ABOVE ALL, these are stories written by lesbians, for lesbians, full of LOVE. Gone are the male gaze narratives, replaced–instead–by strong women being powerful and not at all ashamed of that fact. Lesbian romance is astonishingly and amazingly feminist, and shows us as we really are, the narrative I wish the entire world would realize: we ARE strong women, powerful in ourselves, and we love deeply and passionately. These stories celebrate that.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Oh, my goodness, where DON’T I draw my inspiration from would be a much shorter list! I have a very overactive imagination, and anything and everything can turn into a story with me! Mostly, it’s those “what if” questions that enchant the hell out of me: what IF there was a magical doorway to another world (that a sexy lady knight strode through). What IF werewolves were real…what what it be like to fall in love with a woman who could turn into a wolf? Stories come from following those paths…and there are a lot of “what ifs” in the world, so I don’t think I’m ever going to run out of ideas!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
As cheesy as it sounds, first and foremost, my favorite author is my wife, Natalie Vivien. We met so many years ago, and fell in love through writing, and her stories will always be the ones that make my heart skip a beat. Besides her, Terry Pratchett, Tamora Pierce, Peter S. Beagle, Karin Kallmaker, C.S. Lewis, Chris Anne Wolfe.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write the story that you love with your whole heart, and only write the parts that you love! A lot of people slog through writing–it should NEVER be a slog! If there’s a part that you’re writing that you don’t like, it’s easy: don’t write that part! There’s no law that you have to write anything boring, EVER–if you’re bored by a scene, your readers will be, too! Make every scene that you write something that you love writing, and you’ll always love what you’re writing. It’s the secret to a writer’s life right there! And, oh, yeah–drink a lot of coffee.