Q&A: Cat Sebastian | Romance Preview 2019

Since the 2016 release of her debut historical romance, The Soldier’s Scoundrel, Cat Sebastian has been queering historical romance with books featuring complex but exceedingly lovable gay, bisexual, nonbinary, and other diverse characters. We asked the author about her path to romance and the pleasures of mixing history and small-town mystery.

Since the 2016 release of her debut historical romance, The Soldier’s Scoundrel, Cat Sebastian has been increasingly winning over readers with each new title published. Queering historical romance, her books feature complex but exceedingly lovable gay, bisexual, nonbinary, and other diverse characters. We asked about her path to romance and current series mixing history and small-town mystery.


 

Before publishing your first book you had careers in education and law. What prompted you to start writing historical romances?
I started reading a lot of romance when my kids were little and I was staying at home with them. When they got a bit more independent and I had a more time on my hands, I decided to try writing. Since I was reading so much romance, and loving it enormously, that was what I chose to write.

In addition to varying sexual, gender, and romantic orientations, your stories feature characters of diverse racial identities and those with physical, mental, and developmental disabilities. How do you ensure these characters are portrayed with sensitivity?
History is filled with disabled and neurodivergent people and people of color. Historical fiction that doesn’t reflect that reality is a tool of oppression. I know that sounds dramatic, but when you repeatedly see a version of reality that’s overwhelmingly white, abled, rich, cis, and straight, you start to accept that as the default identity of human beings, even if logically you know better!

When I’m writing outside my identity, I either hire a sensitivity reader or ask someone who shares the character’s identity to do a sensitivity read. Every time [...], the reader has found things I never in a million years would have considered problematic.

Among your self-published works, Hither, Page (Jun.) combines a romance and a small-town mystery. What was it like incorporating these two genres into a single novel?
The biggest challenge was making sure neither stole the show. The book is primarily a romance with a mystery subplot, so I didn’t want the mystery element to get out of control. But at the same time there has to be a satisfying resolution with an appropriate build up of clues. My critique partner responded to an early draft by politely pointing out that actually readers might want to know who the murderer was and why they did it.

What research do you do to familiarize yourself with different time periods and places? How do you guarantee historical accuracy?
I’m pretty familiar with the basics of life in the periods I write about, so usually my research involves details such as figuring out stagecoach routes and what the state of early railways was in 1823. If there’s a book that covers a topic that is outside my knowledge but central to the story I’m writing, I read it. When I was writing a black English character, I read David Olusoga’s Black and British. Ann Wroe’s Perkin has provided a lot of information for the Perkin Warbeck novella I’ve been threatening to write. That said, I think I get something wrong in every book, and I’ve decided just to make peace with that one inevitable error.

What are some of the challenges and advantages of self-publishing and traditional publishing? Do you prefer one to the other?
Traditional publishing has the advantage of a team of people [...] supporting my book. Self-publishing, though, gives me the freedom to take risks.

Can you tell us more about your forthcoming books?
A Delicate Deception sees a grumpy engineer and an agoraphobic novelist fall in love despite layers of misunderstanding and half-truths. The main characters, a man and a woman, [...are] both bisexual. Two Rogues Make a Right is a friends-to-lovers romance that I’ve been referring to as Only One Bed: The Novel.


This article was originally published in Library Journal's October 2019 issue as part of Romance Preview "Love for All

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