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A Conversation with Megan Derr

Our LGBTQ Director, Amanda Jean, sits down with author and publisher, Megan Derr. Megan is a longtime resident of LGBTQ fiction, and keeps herself busy reading, writing, and publishing it at Less Than Three Press. She is often accused of fluff and nonsense. When she’s not involved in writing, she likes to cook, harass her cats, or watch movies. She loves to hear from readers, and can be found all over the internet via her website, Facebook, and Twitter.

AMANDA JEAN: Tell me a little bit about Less Than Three Press’ inception.
MEGAN DERR: Samantha and I used to talk and talk about the kinds of books we wanted to see, some of the stories we’d like to see more of, that just never seemed to crop up anywhere. And we didn’t like that so many romance sites put such a heavy emphasis on graphic content. One day, Samantha said, “We should try,” and I said okay. Sasha volunteered to help us with the web stuff and eventually came on board as a full partner. We started out with serial fiction for a year, then slowly moved into ebooks and paperbacks, and we’ve been going ever since.

Is it difficult to wear two hats as both a CEO and a writer?
It’s definitely time consuming, and hard to switch off. I feel like there is always something I should be doing. Being a publisher sometimes makes it awkward to be a writer, in that I’m in a strange position where it would seem I’m abusing my power or position to push myself as a writer, things like that. But mostly, it’s fun. I get to see all sides of the business and can do a lot to help other writers in ways I wouldn’t if I were just a writer.

What’s your favorite book of all time?
It by Stephen King.

There’s been a recent push for diversity within the realm of LGBTQ publishing. Do you feel a responsibility to make sure that your stories—and the stories that you publish—represent more than cisgender gay men?
Way, way back when I first started writing and reading M/M, it was incredibly hard to find original work. Fanfic was easy, but I always wanted original M/M, especially fantasy. I would spend hours trolling websites, forums, places like Amazon, trying to find anything I could, settling for whatever I came upon. Growing up, when I read mainstream fantasy, I remember always hating the women because they weren’t right. And they were never the main characters, always just the extras to be the love interest.

I haven’t forgotten what that feels like, spending hours upon hours, days upon days, trying to find one single book that resonates. LT3 has the ability to help counter that frustration for LGBTQ readers, so we’re doing our best. I think it’s lazy and selfish not to try to help other people find the same happiness in books that everyone else is enjoying—especially in M/M, which was a tiny, easily-ignored genre not so long ago, but people were willing to step forward and take the same risks and chances that publishers like LT3 are taking now for the rest of the spectrum.

But now that they’re cozy and the M/M genre is solid, growing, and even flourishing, too many of the people in it hear, “Hey, how about the rest of the spectrum?” and just turn away, ignore us, or act like the issue doesn’t exist. And that’s disappointing. This entire community could easily help spread the love, through writing, reading, and reviewing, but most of them don’t.

When did your passion for reading and writing manifest?
According to my parents, I was pretending to read long before I actually could. I’ve been in love with reading, literally, for as long as I can remember. Writing was always a wishful-thinking sort of fantasy for me, but I didn’t really consider it was something I could try until college.

If given unlimited storage space, would you be Team Print or Team Ebook in terms of your personal library?
Ebooks. I have moved too many books in my life, across cities, states, and even countries, to have any romantic or nostalgic feelings for them. I prefer nonfiction in print because of the way I use them for research, but ebooks are the greatest things ever. You don’t have to move them, clean them, or worry about pulling one off the shelf and SURPRISE, THERE’S A SPIDER.

If you could nix an entire genre or trope—you never have to read it, write it, or publish it ever again—what would it be?
Gay For You. It’s a horrible trope, perpetuates the ideas that bi/pansexuality doesn’t exist, or that you have to have slept with a certain number of men and women to qualify as bisexual/pansexual. More often than not, in stories that are labeled GFY, it’s about a man who always thought he was straight, but realized he was gay, thereby erasing/invalidating all the women he’d ever had a relationship with, so in addition to all the hurtful bi/pan erasure and such, it also perpetuates the genre’s hatred of women. I would love to see that trope die.

What do you do to unwind?
Most of the time, I read. But I also play video games, watch movies, and I really like to bake, especially bread.

Finally, is there a difficulty to running a small press that you didn’t anticipate when you started out?
It is way more emotionally and mentally draining than I ever anticipated. Anyone in a highly public circle feels the pressure of always having to say and do the right things. The way we’re expected to have thick skins and ‘just deal’ with things, like nasty reviews.

I did not anticipate how much more difficult that would be as a publisher, because it’s not just readers I have to deal with. When an author blows up at us over edits and declares we’re basically incompetent hacks who don’t know what we’re doing, when a customer regularly emails us just to list off his latest complaints, I’m not allowed to talk about any of that, not really. I have to take being snapped at by authors, talked down to by customers, and endure all the things that reviewers and readers say about every book we publish (or more often, I have to deal with the way they snub us because we don’t focus on the contemporary M/M that dominates the genre). It doesn’t matter what they say or do, or how wrong or out of line it often is, we have to be professional and deal with it.

And there are days that it feels like you can’t take one more person being snide, or questioning how you do things, or telling you that one of your editors is a moron, or one more rejection from an LGBT review site that claims to do the whole spectrum but only ever seems to accept M/M.

That being said, there are always emails from authors and readers who are so damn happy to see that we offer a home for the stories they want to write and read. At the end of the day, any frustration is worth it.

AMANDA JEAN is a publicist for Alternating Current Press and the LGBTQ Director for The Spark. She is also an editor (and writer) of LGBTQ romance, and when not wrangling manuscripts, she can be found watching space documentaries, looking at pictures of shoes, and attempting to read for pleasure. She has worked with Less Than Three Press, Torquere Press, Athgo International, The Typewriter, and the Seattle-based literary magazine POPLORISH, and has paid her dues writing dreary freelance content. Her latest project is coordinating and editing Silver & Gold, a queer May-December anthology published with Less Than Three Press, and it comes out in October of 2015.

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