In this installment we talk with Jane Kolven. Jane Kolven is a Romance author who likes to write about her own life and the people she knows and love: lesbians, queer women, trans and nonbinary people, and a variety of LGBTQ people with a variety of genders and sexualities. She focuses on telling happy stories, since the world in real life can be pretty dreadful. But doesn’t shy away from heavy political issues that shape our community every day. She believes that rather than being “mere fantasy” or “escape,” romance can be a tool for social change,
Q Can you tell us about your journey to becoming a published author?
I was always writing as a kid. You’d never find me without a pen and paper in hand. But my first commercially published book came out in 2013 under a different pen name. It was a male/male romance I wrote on a lark, and the first publisher I submitted to accepted it. I was shocked. My first book as Jane Kolven was written in 2019 after I taught a university course on romance and decided to get back into writing. The important difference this time was that I was writing about the queer women, trans, and nonbinary people I knew and loved. I mean, I love my gay male friends, but it’s nice to write about people who don’t typically get to be romance heroes.
Q What do you think are the important elements when crafting romantic tension in a novel?
Right now, there’s a lot of debate about the third act break-up, or the “all hope is lost” moment. There are a lot of readers who absolutely hate this part of the plot, but most writers feel it’s an essential part of the formula of romance. I think the disconnect comes because sometimes readers perceive the conflict between the two lovers as too significant to surmount. So that third act break-up feels more like the end, like a recognition that this relationship can’t work, than an obstacle the couple has to overcome together. In my current work in progress, my solution has been to focus on conflict external to the relationship. There have to be reasons the couple can’t get together right away, or there’s no story, but if those reasons are things other than the couple, then the break-up and reunion might feel more emotionally satisfying. I’m trying to write it so there’s absolutely no doubt these people belong together and know they belong together. Society just needs to get out of their way.
Q Have you ever had a character take on a life of their own and surprise you with their actions?
Every time! This is one of my favorite parts of writing. No matter how much I outline the plot and plan my characters’ psychology, I love the moment when they start doing unexpected things. I think my job as a writer at this point is to get out of the way and let them. That probably sounds bonkers to someone who doesn’t write, since ultimately I’m the one typing the words on the page, but that’s definitely how it feels. The characters take on their own life. As a brief example, I designed my work in progress to be a sweet romance, but the characters keep hooking up. They’re just determined to be together.
Q I saw you had gone through a period of re-examination of your writing career and even started using a new pen name, what prompted this evolution?
At the time, a few m/m romance authors had been “outed” as women, and there was a lot of debate among writers and readers about whether women can or should write this genre. I was also dissatisfied with the stories I was telling and wanted to tell stories about my own world. Now, about ten years later, it seems like this debate is largely over. There are writers of all genders writing gay romance and having wild success. But I’m happy to be writing stories about queer women and nonbinary people.
Q Your writing focuses on a wide variety of characters, do you think representation in media is helpful in promoting social change?
Absolutely, on two fronts. Readers deserve to see themselves reflected on the page. Whether that’s with more romance with Black characters and other minority groups or with a range of genders and sexualities, everyone should get to have that moment where a character speaks to them and their existence. But this also impacts readers. My first book, The Holiday Detour, was really written for people who didn’t yet understand what nonbinary meant. (This was when the term was still somewhat new in popular discourse.) By having more diverse representation within my books, I wanted readers to get to learn and grow. My mom once told me that her friend’s kid came out as nonbinary, and my mom was able to explain to her how to use they/them pronouns because she’d read my books. That felt like a pretty useful thing for a romance novel to do.
Q Have you any thoughts on what your next book is going to be?
My next book is so fun! It’s about a former millennium pop star who’s now in their early forties. They fall in love with a very down-to-earth woman who has no idea they used to be famous. And then Hollywood comes calling with a chance for the pop star to return to fame. It’s a celebrity romance and a nostalgia piece for everyone who came of age around Y2K. I’m writing the pop song lyrics for the flashback scenes, and it’s cracking me up how terrible they are.
Q} if people want more info about you or your projects where should they go?
Final four questions –we ask everybody
Q) When the zombies take over the world where will you be?
I wish I could say I’d be a bad ass fighting them, or holing up somewhere safe doing something cool, but I’m pretty sure I’d be one of the first victims. I’m way too nice to strangers.
Q ) What is your favorite Fandom
Star Trek, in all its iterations, has always been my sanctuary.
Q) What piece of art, be it in the form of music, a book, a film or picture, do you think people must experience before they die?
I should probably name a romance here, or something explicitly LGBTQ, but I’m going to say Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I absolutely love the ending – that she’s had an entire life with various men, and now it’s just her and her soul. Maybe I like it because the character’s name is Janie…
Q) Give one fact that most people would not believe about you?
I never got my wisdom teeth.