I will admit that I often read romance novels. I love getting lost in a good love story. Unfortunately, I often find myself reading heterosexual romance stories and it makes it so much harder to personally relate. Obviously, there are parts of the intimate scenes that I skip over all together. No thank you, I do not ever wish to read the word “shaft.” In all these years, I have yet to find lesbian romance novels that I can get into. They’re almost impossible to find and when you do find some, it is hit or miss. But then I discovered Cori Garrison.
Garrison, who currently lives in St. Louis, wrote a self-published book titled New Beginnings. It is not a full novel as this her first attempt at breaking into the world of self-published books. I was hooked from the first moment and I was disappointed to reach the end, but Garrison promises that this is the first in a series. She has begun working on the second installment and I am impatiently awaiting the arrival. This first book is the story of Sam, who loses her husband in an accident and the changes that occur after this tragedy. She is given a chance to start over and live life more authentically. The story also features Sam’s older sister, Shawn, who is an out lesbian. Garrison plans on featuring Shawn and her storyline more in the coming books. Both main characters are real and perfectly flawed, making them easy to relate to. I think most LGBT women can find pieces of the characters and their relationships that resonate with them. Of course, what would a romance novel be without some steamy intimate scenes? Garrison does not disappoint. All of her writing, especially these scenes, is raw and real.
As a fan of the genre and someone who wishes there are more lesbian romance novels, I was curious how one even begins writing such a story. Garrison got a taste for writing in the 90s when she wrote on short story romance boards in her mid-20s. At the time, she wrote heterosexual romance. It was not until she met her first girlfriend that she began writing lesbian romance stories. As many of us can agree, romance stories are quite likely to be a strikeout.
“I became interested in [writing romance stories] when everything I read seemed so cheesy and so far from reality,” Garrison says. “I thought I certainly could do better than that.” After reading New Beginnings, I would have to agree. She does better than many of the stories I have read.
The fact that Garrison finds time to write at all baffles me. She has a full time job as well as a partner and 2-year-old son. But she makes time to write because she loves it. She hopes to bring something to the lacking lesbian romance genre.
“My experience with the genre has been pretty disappointing,” Garrison reveals. “Similar to what we find in lesbian movies, there are few lesbian romance novels and fewer quality ones. I feel that most of them are so unrealistic and poorly written, or they focus so much on the sex and not enough on the romance that it leaves you feeling like you wasted your time.
“Sex certainly has a place in any romance but the reality of any true romance is love, not just sex,” she continues. “There are good lesbian romance writers out there, but they are not easy to find.”
Do not misinterpret, you will still find intimate scenes in Garrison’s stories. “Erotic scenes are certainly a must,” she says. “I don’t like to just jump right into a sex scene, I like to build to it, almost like foreplay.”
Garrison’s attitude toward the authenticity of her story only further emphasizes the importance of having a lesbian writing lesbian romance. These stories should be about, for, and by lesbians.
She explains: “No one knows the intimacies of lesbian sex like a lesbian does, right? We know and understand the feelings that happen in those moments. I find intimate scenes written by a non-lesbian to feel so much like a heterosexual scene that it turns me off. It would be like me trying to write a heterosexual sex scene — I will never truly be able to live in that moment and draw on personal experience to write it. I just don’t have those feelings, those physical reactions and those emotional responses to be able to authentically put it into words.”
The same is true about understanding the love between two women. There are aspects of a lesbian relationship that are unique to women. Garrison perfectly captures both the romance and the intimacy in her story.
Garrison lives with her partner, their son, and their plethora of animals (three dogs and one cat). The couple is currently waiting to see if they are chosen to adopt a second son. When she isn’t working or writing, you can find Garrison and her family spending time with their best friends, Summer and Lori Osborne, supporting local LGBT musicians.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JONATHAN PFEIFER