Penelope is a highly respected professional book reviewer and blogger of different books including the gay romance genre. Her blog features a lot of insightful reviews on the best reads and she works closely with a lot of independent authors. If you enjoy reviews and exploring different books to read, I highly recommend you check her blog out!
Tell us about you and your gay romance blog. Where can we read it?
I’m on the interwebs at http://www.pennyreadsromance.com/.
What got you started as a m/m blogger or reviewer?
I write about what I read, and at least 90% of what I read is M/M or LGBT, so that tends to be what I write about. When I discovered gay romance books, it was like a whole new world for me. I read my first gay romance novel when I was 32. I didn’t know stories like that existed. I had already decided I was going to start a blog, which at the time I had thought would be about het romances, because that was all I knew. I read L.A Witt and Damon Suede, and it was all over.
Why are you passionate about reading and reviewing m/m books?
I like them. I connect with the stories. I fall in love with the characters. I think the sex is hot. As a female blogger and reader of M/M, I’m never sure how to answer this. If I say because the sex is hot, am I essentially contributing to the objectification and sexualization of gay men as an unrealistic fairy tale trope? I don’t know. I’m not trying to, and I think that fairy tale tropes with no substance, no mater what gender the MC’s are, are kind of crap. Being a women, I understand objectification and can relate, but I’m also human, and know I objectify people too. (Case and point: my tumblr feed). I really do think the sex in M/M can be incredibly hot, but I think that has more to do with how well written the story is and how emotionally invested I am in the characters than anything else. In fact in most of the M/M stories I read, the ones I really love are ones where the sex is really just the gravy on a great story, not the focus.
I like the people who write and read LGBT romance. The M/M Romance group on Goodreads is the best. The people are fun, accepting, hilarious, explicitly honest, and I really feel incredibly lucky to have found them and to be part of that community. There is a group of members, both writers and readers, that I get together with a few times a year to chat in person, and they’re just awesome.
One of the reasons I enjoy reading LGBT stories is that I’m bisexual. I’m married to a wonderful man, and I love the life we have together, but it took me a long time to come to terms with myself, and to be okay with me. Anyway, since discovering LGBT books, I have read a number of books that would have been extremely helpful to me in my formative years. Though I knew and was friends with many gay men in my teens and early young adulthood, I didn’t know what the hell I was, and having something to read that I could relate to would have been a godsend.
I also read and blog because eventually I would like to write my own stories. (I’m one of those.) I’ve written a few short stories, and I am planning to attempt the NaNoWriMo challenge in November. I am going to write M/M romance and also young adult LGBT fiction.
Many of my readers love reading m/m blogs but what makes yours unique compared to others?
We are all unique- like snowflakes. All I can say is my writing is my own and I have my own voice. Though I probably occasionally sound like Eddie Izzard.
Define success as a m/m blogger and reviewer.
For me, it’s not about success, just enjoying the reading and reviewing. This is something I do for fun. I want to continue to build my readership, but I don’t have a magic number in my head as a projected goal for subscribers or anything like that.
What are some of the best m/m books you’ve read this year?
Into this River I Drown by TJ Klune, hands down, best book of the year for me. Also: 151 Days by John Goode, Fever Pitch by Heidi Cullinan, Educating Simon by Robin Reardon, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz, The Art of Breathing by TJ Klune, Tough Love by Heidi Cullinan, and Bullied by Jeff Erno. There were also a ton of amazing stories in the Goodreads M/M Romance’s Love Landscapes event this year. The stories are free and available at http://www.mmromancegroup.com/.
I also read fanfiction, mostly Sterek, Drarry, and Holmes/Watson. My favorites I’ve read this year are Turn by Sara’s Girl, The Progress of Sherlock Homes by Ivy Blossom, and the Divided We Stand/ United We Mend series by KouriArashi.
What would you like to see more in m/m literature you don’t see now?
I would like to see more substantive shifter stories. I love shifter stories, but the good ones are few and far between. For shifter authors I really like Kaje Harper, Mary Calmes, Cardeno C and Chris Kat. What I want is less Knocked Up by His Werewolf Dom and more Hidden Wolves.
What advice can you give to aspiring m/m reviewers and bloggers?
Go forth and write, and use spell check. Really, if you have something to say, say it. If blogging makes you happy, do it.