Friday, March 23, 2012

Meet Elisa Rolle, Pioneer Reviewer and Supporter of M/M Romance

When I started my LiveJournal in 2006, I was feeling like the new duck in the pond, and by the way an “odd” duck. All right, that was a strange pond per se, but I was Italian, I talked “funny” (how many bad remarks I received for my grammar mistakes, but I also received big support from friends, replying that even if my English is funny they like it, and trust me, my Italian is way better ;-) ), and I was arriving from the Romance field, not the fanfiction. I have never actually read fanfiction, except those authors who moved from fanfiction to fiction adapting their novels. My interest in Star Trek was merely related to the fact my father and my aunt liked the show when I was a little girl, I have never read Harry Potter and I thought Torchwood was a type of candle ;-) Oh, and by the way, I read Annie Proulx when her novella was still title Gente del Wyoming (Wyoming People) and the movie was not even in the mind of the director. Sure I went to see the movie, but I didn’t know there were fanclub for it, especially not in Italy, like I later found out.

I have always loved Romance novels and movies, especially historical romances, but at the time, 2006, I was becoming bored by the usual stories. I was in a yahoo group and one of the woman there sent me Crossing the Line by Stephanie Vaughan (what appropriate title…). It was love at first “read” and I eagerly browsed the net for similar stories… it was not a long browsing. At the time it was really possible to buy all the backlog of a publisher in M/M romance without emptying your bank account.

At the beginning I was a reader, simply a reader. There were few blogs, mostly romance review blogs, who reviewed M/M romances, but not specific one, and truth be told the reviews on those blogs were mostly the copy and paste of the blurb with a final sentence like “I liked it!”, “I loved it!”, but why the reviewer liked or loved it was seldom explained. Moreover the books were mixed with thousands and thousands of other genres and it was difficult to pick the stories you liked.

So I started my LJ. I can proudly say I was the first 100% M/M blog out there. TeddyPig, Mrs. Giggles and some other bloggers were kind with M/M romances, but they also read and reviewed other genres. Other today popular blogs were far on the horizon. I think the boom started around end of 2007 beginning of 2008. Many opened and closed, but I’m still here. But first of all, why I opened this blog? I’m a maniac ;-)

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a maniac since I read M/M romances, I’m a maniac since I have an impossible to resist impulse to catalogue everything, to list everything, to check everything. To put in order the chaos that was the M/M world, and being the first in doing so, was a nightmare for everyone and a dream for me. Plus I’m a bookwhore, and I couldn’t resist the instinct to buy ALL the books (now I need to resist, since I have a reading list of 2.500 books [yes, it’s not a mistake, I have the folder here in my laptop] and I cannot buy all the more or less 200 books coming out every month).

Why the boom? I can sincerely cannot say. If it had lasted a year or so, I would have said it was the flavor of the month, but now it’s more than 3 years and instead of going down is growing even more. I was recently having lunch with Rick R. Reed and William Neale (at GayRomLit, where I also met Taylor V. Donovan, among the others) and I told them my reason for reading M/M romances (or at least what I think is my reason, it’s a little too Freudian for me to be sure): I’m a working woman, and I’m not married, I don’t have children and it’s a choice; if I see me with a partner, it will be more someone with whom I will share my life free of bonds than a husband to whom I will obey (yes, now in the Catholic marriage vows there is no more the “obey”, but still…) All the romances I read were about women who dreamed the knight in shining armor. Even if they were women in career, in the end, they were simply waiting to be rescued… I don’t want to be rescued! There are many women who said they love M/M romances since they love to see two men together… that is more than possible, and that is the reason why there are so many ménages a trois out there (M/M/F), in the end, those women like/want to be part of that dream; I don’t like so much those ménages since I think for me the reason it’s different. Laura Kinsale once wrote that a female romance reader doesn’t identify herself in the heroine but in the hero, and that is the reason why there are strong heroes in romance novels (and sometime stupid heroine, let me say); applying this concept to the M/M romance, I don’t have any issue at all, I can identify with both heroes, and by the way, I’m not annoyed by the stupid heroine. Sorry if I seem harsh with the female heroine, but I think many of you will agree with me when I said sometime I’d like to kill her!

Anyway, 5 years later, my journal is a little less popular than before, but I have still many silent readers ;-) on the other hand, I’m now a Top Amazon Reviewers, and I can proudly said that I reached that target reviewing only M/M romances. Have to give to Caesar his own, and there are other reviewers on Amazon that are specialized on M/M romance, Jem and R. Parklane to name two, but I don’t think they have a dedicated blog. On the other hand now there are a lot of groups and a lot of authors and a lot of readers… sometime it’s really difficult to navigate to a safe place!

Last but not least the Rainbow

Awards… how does everything start? Remember that I’m a maniac? And that I love lists? The only specific award I could find at the time was the Lambda Literary Awards, but while it’s a fantastic award, it was not really keen on romance. The only available category received so few submission that it was hardly exhaustive or indicative of the best of the year. So I opened the Rainbow Awards; it was supposed to be more devoted on Romance, but as soon as I started it, authors from other genres asked to submit books and it was really mismatching to have romance with general fiction with mystery with sci-fi…and so it became more extensive, more inclusive, the categories multiples, the submissions exploded…Last year I had more than 300 books and 100 judges reading them. Like the Lambda Literary Awards and few other Awards out there, the Rainbow Awards are not a popularity contest, and you can probably see that from the fact the winners are often mostly unknown (to the wider readership) authors, like Kyell Gold and Tamara Allen the first year, Alan Chin the second year and Marten Weber and Fay Jacobs. But I was very proud to have also mainstream publishers like Random House, Simon&Schuster and Kensington Books submitting books and gay cult authors like Patricia Nell Warren and Felice Picano. Arriving first when you share a podium with them I think it’s a great boost of confidence for newbie authors. And maybe that is the reason why, this year, the Rainbow Awards were acknowledged by a wider audience, arriving to have the list of winners posted on The Advocate.com.

That’s all, and probably even enough ;-) If you are an author, be aware the submissions for 2012 Rainbow Awards will start around March (closing in September); if you are a reader, you can find me at http://elisa-rolle.livejournal.com, and if you are planning to attend the 2012 GayRomLit at Albuquerque, maybe I will be there.


Elisa Rolle

16 comments:

  1. I never thought I would be a romance reader one day, the notion was ridiculous, I had better more serious things to do. But many writers I liked and were friends with were being reviewed by Elisa Rolle. Who is this Italian woman? I wondered. I quickly found out and she even reviewed a few of my books though they didn't fit in with the romance category. Now I write 'normal,' as well as 'romance books,' and I enjoy doing both. Thanks a lot Elisa, great that you're are doing the things you do.

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  2. Elisa, thanks for taking the time to tell us how you got your start in both reading and reviewing M/M romance, and how the Rainbow Awards got started. Wow. The things you've accomplished are truly worthy of note.

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  3. Partnership of equals... that's what I always wanted (and finally got) in my own life, and that's what I love about same-sex romance. Strong, Manly Hero and Spunky but Ultimately Submissive heroine? No thanks... though some m/m has the same tiresome dichotomy as het and some het romance is more balanced.

    You've also become a resource I link people to when they ask about gay films with happy endings. Everyone knows about Brokeback, but a lot of people are tired of 'and then one of them died, the end.'

    Bravissima!

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  4. @Mick: so I corrupt you with the romance? LOL I still remember your first email Mick, it was really nice of you to contact me.

    @Cherie: it was so long ago that by now it's almost history ;-)

    @Lee: you are right Lee, you can find the TSTL (too stupid to live) heroine also in the M/M romance, only that she is in misguise. I need to start to see movies again, unfortunately the time is always so short

    @Treva: and thank you for being the first publisher I browsed and for the quality of the M/M romance I found, if not for you probably I would have not opened my LJ

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  5. yes, thank you, Elisa! Thanks for sharing your story and for all the support you show to all of us authors. You are amazing! xoxoxo

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  6. Hi Elisa. Your reviews & Rainbow Awards play a very big role for me. Your review & blog is the first blog I've read when I first started reading M/M romance so I really thank you for your guidance in my foray to this genre. :)

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  7. You're an invaluable asset to us, Elisa. And, man, I wish I had a fraction of your energy!

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  8. Oh, by the way, if anybody ever again makes fun of your grammar mistakes, dare them to write their books or reviews in perfect Italian. ;-)

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  9. what K.Z. said! *g*

    And, like I've said to you before, I think that broken English is absolutely charming :-)

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  10. I'm one of those silent readers and I've often bought books on your recommendations so thanks.

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  11. Elisa, I remember reading your reviews (and those of some of your compatriots whom you name) on Amazon, before I knew there was a Goodreads, or even your blog, when I first somehow find my way to m/m books, so it's particularly great to see how you've parlayed that into such success.

    At the time, every new book I heard about had to go into my to-be-purchased list, but as you said, it was easier then, before so many books were published every month.

    Congratulations for your success, and mille grazie.

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  12. @Tim: thank to you authors for being so kind with me, and to support my broken English

    @Cleon: I was doing it for myself, I though it was only useful to share it with you all

    @K.Z.: now it happens less frequently, but sometime there is still some morone around... but it's easier now to ignore them

    @Taylor: thank you :-) and thank you to correct this post too

    @Iolo: thank you, I know there are a lot of silent followers, but I don't mind, the important thing is that you are buying the book! :-)

    @MC: Grazie a te. Italian readers of M/M are more and more everyday, but indeed 6 years ago I was an odd duck, and people looked twice at me for that

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  13. Ciao Bella. So cool to see you here. I keep seeing your name - I always read your reviews on Amazon. You are my favaorite kind of reviewer. You tell how you feel about a book without being mean. You leave someone to feel free to buy the book even if you didn't like it much. Keep up the good work. I never have trouble understanding you because I'm Italian descent lol(living in Canada). Ciao.

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  14. Thank you Mary. You understand me perfectly. I don't rate a book in my LJ but who is used to my reviews know if I really loved or simply liked a book. I'm probably not an ordinary reviewer, but as I said, I'm an odd duck in this pond.

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  15. Cara Elisa,

    I had only now time to read this very interesting interview. As I already told you, I keep wondering where do you get all the energies to do what you do. My compliments for what you accomplished!

    Ciao

    Antonella

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