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Relatable Misfits in Books and Real Life

By Edie Cay
May 3, 2022

My tag line is “writing relatable misfits.” A friend of mine said it in a review a while back, and I realized she was right—as is often the case, I was unable to see something that a lifelong friend could.

This last weekend, I went to the Chicago-North Spring Fling conference. The chapter has disaffiliated with Romance Writers of America (a move which I wholly support), and this was their first in-person hybrid conference since the pandemic.

I’ve been to many writing conferences, all over the country, and if we are counting online conferences, then I go international. But this one was special for two reasons, it was the first in-person conference that I’ve presented at, and it was my first romance-only conference. I’ve presented online both as a solo presenter and as a group with my fellow Paper Lanterns. And while I’ve gone to writing conferences to meet agents, gone to history conferences to learn about research, this was the first all romance, all the time conference…and I LOVED IT.

There was something so heartwarmingly inclusive in it. There was no judgement or hierarchy of what everyone wrote, whether they had published twenty books or one, if they were self-published or trad. And the entire experience was DELIGHTFUL.

Why? Because the headliners, Vanessa Riley (whom I interviewed on an Afternoon Tealight back in October) and half of Kit Rocha (a pen name for two writers), both spoke of feeling like misfits. They both talked of how hard it was to work within the confines of the publishing “system.” They spoke of the hard work to figure out their voice, and their successes. Not unlike the characters in my books, who chafe against the confines of the social class, their economic class, or their gender.

I took a session on fast drafting from a medical doctor who wrote psychic cowboy romances. I attended a session on the War of Art with Kathy Lyons/Jade Lee who writes across the spectrum, from Regencies to the book I won—WERE GEEKS SAVE WISCONSIN—about a group of werewolves who need tech support. (P.S. That book was delightful, I read it on the plane ride home). I signed up for a monthly sticker club, and I pitched a movie idea to a film executive.

But the best part? I was on the escalator and made friends. I had a glass of wine and talked about non-binary living and the HBOMax TV show OUR FLAG MEANS DEATH (please watch, it’s amazing). It was inclusive and fun. At no point was there shame when we discussed how many synonyms are there really for male genitalia? Another author told me hers was basically a “butt book.” I had lunch with a sex therapist and gave book recommendations about the best sex scenes, because she wanted some to share with clients (Courtney Milan and Sarah MacLean).

To be honest, every moment was like all one hundred and twenty three attendees were chanting “One of us, one of us.” Just like how my characters find their homes in their found families at the end of my books.

All of these authors are valid, from the illustrated covers of were-geeks to the photoshopped bare-chested demons. We all acknowledged in each other the misfit and the superhero. And that is why I love writing romance.

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Edie Cay
Written by Edie Cay

Edie Cay writes award-winning feminist Regency Romance about women’s boxing and relatable misfits. She is a member of the Regency Fiction Writers, the Historical Novel Society, ALLi, and a founding member of Paper Lantern Writers. You can drop her a line on Facebook and Instagram @authorediecay or find her on her website, www.ediecay.com

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