Happy book birthday, Black Iris.

Black Iris by Leah Raeder - "My head is bloody, but unbowed"Excuse me while I emo out all over this post.

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way: Black Iris, my super-queer dark-‘n’-twisted blood-soaked revenge thriller, is on bookstore shelves today. Here’s the obligatory link list:

That done, I want to talk about what this book means to me.

It’s personal as hell. It’s dark, twisted, and very queer. And it’s my first purely traditionally-published book, which is amazing in itself: that the first book of mine the industry believed in—without sales numbers to prove it a risk worth taking—is also my most challenging and boundary-pushing one. I’m wildly grateful to Atria Books for taking this chance on me, and for publishing a novel that depicts graphic love between girls. That’s pretty balls out, Atria. Good on you.

Recently, bestselling novelist duo Christina Lauren predicted the future of romance on Bustle:

The voices in this genre are busy telling the world what matters to women. Yes, we care about career, work-life balance, respect — obviously critically important things. But what if, the authors of these books are beginning to ask with their themes, we take those things as given and then ask for more: to be seen as sexual creatures who are in no way delicate, who come in every flavor and color, who like people, actions, or genders society tells them they ought not to? I even predict that within a couple of years we will see LGBTQIA romance alongside M/F romance in major retailers.

And that future is sooner than you think. Right now, in bookstores, Black Iris is sitting side-by-side with hetero romance novels:

And that’s pretty fucking amazing.

Thank you

I’m grateful beyond words to everyone who helped make this happen:

To my awesomely progressive publisher, Atria, and my wonderfully smart, gimlet-eyed, 80s-loving editor, Sarah Cantin.

To my fantastic agent and advocate, Jane Dystel, and everyone at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

To my blogger and author friends who’ve pushed for more diversity in YA & NA and who’ve promoted Black Iris. There are too many of you to list, but Dahlia Adler gets a special mention for her tireless, selfless advocacy for LGBTQIA+ representation in fiction.

To everyone in my life who’s been supportive and tolerant and loving and kind (even Alex) (jk jk he’s the most ridiculously supportive partner ever).

And most importantly, to every single reader who’s read my work, reviewed it, and talked about it, regardless of whether you liked it or not. The very fact that it makes you think, debate, argue, and discuss with friends is the greatest reward I could hope for.

I sure as hell hope Black Iris does the same. I hope it makes you feel something. I hope it makes you desperate to discuss it with others. And I hope it delivers a swift, hard kick to the floodgate holding back queer love stories in mainstream romance.

Christina Lauren was spot-on about the future of romance novels. And I’m here to help gay up New Adult.

Are you with me?

P.S.

Once you’ve finished Black Iris, make sure you read the acknowledgments. Trust me.

If you're reading #BlackIris today…read the acknowledgments when you're done.

A photo posted by Leah Raeder (@leahzero) on

Black Iris gets a STARRED REVIEW in Publishers Weekly. Plus, my first interview this year.

First, the news that has had me bouncing off the freaking walls all day: Publishers Weekly gave Black Iris a STARRED REVIEW. Excuse me while I run around in circles, squeeing like a loon.

Black Iris - Publishers Weekly Starred Review

This is, obviously, just a really lucid dream I’m having, right?

I’ve also got an in-depth interview with my fellow Menace to Sincerity, Dahlia Adler, where I talk about some of the major themes in Black Iris—queerness, mental illness, sexy Aussies—and dish some tidbits on my upcoming third book, Cam Girl. Plus, Dahlz is giving away a signed paperback galley of Black Iris, so make sure you hit this up!

Here’s a taste of the interview:

“When I was a kid, I needed to see portrayals of girls like me, portrayals that weren’t painfully stereotypical and that captured the fluidity of sexuality and attraction. I didn’t relate to characters who were 100% gay and never hooked up with or had wayward thoughts about the opposite sex. It made me feel like a ‘bad gay’ on top of already feeling like a freak for being queer. There are plenty of kids out there who benefit from those portrayals, but there are also lots and lots of kids who fall somewhere between 0 and 6 on the Kinsey scale, and there are far too few books serving them. Bisexuality is arguably more taboo than gayness now, FFS. How the the hell did THAT happen?”

Read the full interview here.

Two-book deal for Unteachable & my new NA romance.

PM book deal announcement

In case that’s hard to read:

Leah Raeder’s UNTEACHABLE, a gritty romance about a fiery eighteen year-old high school student’s passionate relationship with the one man who is supremely off limits, to Sarah Cantin at Atria, in a two book deal, by Jane Dystel at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.

There it is. All shiny and true. Atria bought Unteachable and my untitled NA romance WIP.

Things I know:

  • Unteachable will be republished under the Atria imprint in the very near future.
  • There will be a cover change. GOODBYE, RAINBOWGIRLFACE.
  • NACR2 should follow later this year.

That’s it. More news to come as soon as I get it!

Major gooey thank-yous to my badass agent Jane Dystel and my insanely cool new editor Sarah Cantin at Atria. Mad love to Aestas, Jenny & Gitte, Natasha, and every awesome romance book blogger who reviewed me. Big ups to the YA book bloggers, too: Emily May, Wendy Darling, Faye, Steph, Dahlia, and too many to list.

Most importantly, thank you to every single one of you who picked up Unteachable, read it, reviewed it, talked about it, and made this happen. Reading a self-pub book is still a dice toss, especially when the cover looks like someone puked up a string of partially-digested Christmas lights. (There’s that “lyrical prose” I’m known for.) You guys took a risk on me, and you made my dream of being traditionally published come true…long after I thought it was a lost cause. In return, I promise to fill pages and pages with the most poetic smut I’m capable of producing.

I love you guys.

And now, back to writing.

Unteachable: The Reading: The Results.

YOU KNEW THIS DAY WOULD COME.

So I finally sat down with my fellow menace to sincerity, Dahlia Adler, and listened to all of your entries for the Unteachable Read-Aloud Contest of Ultimate Doom ‘n Stuff, and as Wesley Brown would say…you are all VERY talented.

I’m gonna cut right to the chase and give you our chat transcript as we listened to these. Enjoy. I know we did. And I’m not culling the us-struggling-with-technology bits because they’re funny so deal with it. Continue Reading

Embarrass yourself for the entertainment of others! And maybe a prize.

Girl reading

In a recent interview with the lovely Dahlia Adler, she asked which passage from Unteachable I’d read aloud at a signing. The truth is, I don’t think I could. My blood alcohol level would have to be near-lethal to get me to do it.

But you guys aren’t as repressed as I am, right? Of course not, you filthy monkeys. That’s why you’re going to enter this for-fun (and maybe for-a-prize) competition to read a passage aloud from UT.

Here’s the deal: you can pick any scene from Unteachable, or you can read from the excerpt below. It’s up to you. Try to keep it under 5 minutes. Send me an audio or video file, or link me to where you’ve uploaded it. I will post all of the entries after the deadline and a Special Mystery Judge (read: Dahlia) will help me choose the winner.

Oh yeah, and I’ll be doing a reading too, just for fun. So feel free to send me booze.

  • DEADLINE: January 1, 2014
  • REQUIREMENTS: Audio or video of you reading a passage from Unteachable.
  • PRIZE: TBD, but probably a swanky Amazon gift card.

If you want to remain anonymous, that’s fine. Just make sure I can contact you in some way for the prize.

Here’s the default excerpt from UT (you don’t have to use this one).

Aaaaaaaand…go.