Lauren Gallagher (who also writes m/m under the name of L.A. Witt) is an innovative writer whose prolific output maintains a consistently high quality. I reviewed Light Switch here, and I'm very much looking forward to her newest ménage book, Who's Your Daddy?, which came out this Tuesday from Samhain.
- What attracts you to writing ménage on an emotional level and/or intellectual level?
A ménage is more complex than a couple, and the possibilities are endless. For me, it’s interesting to take the tension and conflict of a relationship, and then add a third person and see how things finally settle. It’s fascinating to see how two people handle a relationship, even more so with three. That fascination is what attracts me to writing romance in the first place, so it’s just a natural progression to ménage.
- How do you perceive the market for ménage? From my perspective, it's a bit frustrating. I feel that a lot of the books work from a menu of very limited tropes, like the woman who escapes an abusive husband by running off to a ranch where she strikes up an instant soul mate relationship with 2+ cowboy brothers who may or may not have the magical ability to transform into various large mammals. There's nothing wrong with liking these or writing these, and they're obviously popular because they appeal to fun and imagination, but I wish there was more variety in the genre. I'm sorry this is more of a rant than a question!
LOL. Yeah, I’ve seen that trope quite a few times. Nothing wrong with it, it’s just not my cup of tea. As far as the market goes, I think its only limitations are what we the authors produce. I’ve noticed readers are tremendously receptive to all kinds of ménage, regardless of what trope it does or doesn’t follow. There are countless creative approaches to a ménage story, and as a reader, I definitely like the ones that take a new spin on the idea. As a writer, I like coming up with new and innovative ways to throw three people into a situation and see if they can work it out. Mostly because I’m cruel to my characters. Suffice it to say, I do agree that it’s frustrating to find the same tropes out there. Of course they’re out there in large numbers because they work and because readers enjoy them, but there are so many other uncharted waters to explore!
- I loved how Light Switch had so much about friendship and how it overlapped with love and sex and romance. Can you talk about that in your new title as well, because it sounds like friendship also plays an important role?
Much like the characters in Light Switch, everyone involved is deeply concerned about how this could ultimately affect their friendships, and even when emotions start getting involved, the primary concern is losing each other as friends if things go south. Because really, falling in love with your best friend is great… except when you split up and lose not only your lover but your friend. Make it a ménage, and suddenly you’re at risk of losing two lovers and close friends. Carmen in Who’s Your Daddy? and Kristen in Light Switch both find this out the hard way when things get complicated with their respective guys, and they can’t go to their best friends for advice because their best friends are the ones they need advice about.
And of course, for the characters of Who’s Your Daddy?, while they try to sort out feelings and preserve their friendship, they have the added complication of a baby on the way, which means there’s no “let’s just pretend we never did this.” Because I’m mean.
- How do you see the role of bisexuality in ménage romance as compared to m/m and m/f romance?
It really depends on the group of characters. I mean, I’ve written a M/M/M ménage that involved a bisexual character. Even though he wasn’t involved with a woman at that time, he had been in the past, and his bisexuality was still part of his identity. And a lot of my characters in my M/M stories are also bisexual, and though they may not be actively involved with a woman or interested in pursuing a woman, they are still bi. One thing that makes my teeth grind is erasure of bisexuality: the assumption that when a person is monogamous, they cease to be bisexual. A man who’s with a man is gay. A woman who’s with a man is straight. Etc. As a woman who is monogamously with a man, but remains attracted to women, this irks me. So, bisexuality does show up in a lot of my stories even when the characters are only involved with one gender within the context of the story. Ménage gives me a chance to really explore a character’s bisexuality, and let that person actively engage in both facets of their sexuality.
Who’s Your Daddy? was a lot of fun in that respect. Donovan didn’t figure out he was attracted to men until he was in his mid-twenties, and Isaac didn’t figure out he was attracted to women until his late thirties (in the story they’re 34 and looking-down-the-barrel-of-40, respectively). Donovan has a teen son, so obviously he’s been with a woman before, whereas Isaac has never been with a woman until the night they play with Carmen. So you have Donovan who’s completely at ease with his sexuality, and Isaac who’s pushing forty and just now sort of getting a handle on it. He deals with it pretty easily – the background as a marriage counselor helps him sort through emotions and such – but it’s still something he has to get used to. Especially since he has a little performance anxiety with a woman, and it’s kind of unnerving for the poor guy to have another person there – even if it’s his own lover of five years – when he’s with a woman for the first time. Donovan, of course, is more than accommodating, though. ;) So for me, part of the fun of writing Who’s Your Daddy? was having two bisexual characters who were involved with both men and women rather than being, I guess, “inactively” bisexual (i.e., attracted to both but only actively involved with one). And it made for some fun sex scenes.
Of course not every character in a ménage is bisexual. Matt in Light Switch is definitely straight. Kristen is, I think, a little bi-curious, but hasn’t had the opportunity to explore that. Little known fact? Scott is bisexual. There was a conversation between him and Kristen where he was open about that, but the conversation ended up on the cutting room floor. There’s always a possibility of a third book in that series, and who knows? Scott might finally get to play with another guy.
- You've written nearly the entire spectrum of sexualities and combinations. Have you ever considered doing an MFF, and if so, how do you think you'd approach it?
It’s a possibility, yes. I’m absolutely not closed off to any sexuality or combination thereof, I just haven’t necessarily come up with a story for all of them. How would I approach an MFF? Honestly, I have no idea…yet. It just depends on the characters I come up with and how their backgrounds and personalities mesh and clash. What I usually do when coming up with a story – ménage or otherwise – is figure out who my characters are, and then let them tell me the story. With The Distance Between Us, I started with three guys, and eventually figured out that Rhett and Ethan were breaking up after a decade, and Kieran was going to be their roommate while they tried to pay down the mortgage that’s tying them together. With Out of Focus, same thing: started with three guys, and the details sort of worked themselves out. In that case, Angel and Dante had been together for a long time, but were both Doms and wanted a sub…so here comes Jordan. Light Switch? I immediately knew I had a Dom, a voyeur, and a curious switch, and the rest quickly followed.
I have come up with a few character combinations for an MFF, but none of them have really crystallized into a story. Sometimes it takes a few false starts, but sooner or later, something will stick. And most likely, it will NOT be a straight guy with his bi-curious or bisexual wife/girlfriend/partner who want to bring in a bisexual girl for threesomes.
- What would you tell someone who was interested in reading Who's Your Daddy? but skeptical about whether a ménage relationship could work?
Keep an open mind. I think a lot of people are skeptical of ménage relationships, and it’s understandable. We’re conditioned to accept couples, and polyamoury is a very alien and taboo subject in our culture. It’s difficult to understand if the only examples we’re exposed to are oppressive forms of polygamy (because let’s face it, that’s the only kind of poly situation our media demonstrates or acknowledges). I used to have plenty of reservations and hang ups about the idea, but with time and exposure to functional, healthy poly groups and ménage relationships (yes, I’ve known a few in real life), it becomes a lot easier to see that they can, in fact, function. Are they more complicated? By nature, yes. But can they be healthy and functional? Absolutely.
- In your opinion, what's the hottest sex position with two guys and one girl? And does it happen in Who's Your Daddy?
I believe they call it “Lucky Pierre”: Woman on her back, man on top penetrating her, other man penetrating him from behind. And you’d better believe it happens in that story!
Who’s Your Daddy? is available August 7th at Samhain, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.
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