A New Voice in LGBTQ Publishing: Interview with CL Miller, Publisher at Duet

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Interlude Press, a boutique publisher of LGBTQ romantic fiction, came onto the scene in 2014. Earlier this year, they announced the future launch of a new imprint, Duet, to focus on LGBTQ fiction for young adults. I had the opportunity recently to talk with CL Miller, the Publisher at Duet, about what goes into starting a new imprint and what we can expect to see from them in the months to come.

What brought about the idea of starting Duet, a new imprint focused on LGBTQ YA?

Creating a YA imprint was part of our very first conversation when we started building a business plan for Interlude Press. We knew from the start that we wanted to publish titles appropriate for teen readers that featured fresh voices and relatable, diverse LGBTQ characters. We’re thrilled that we got there as quickly as we did.

What do you think sets Interlude/Duet apart from other LGBTQ publishers out there?

Interlude Press Logo, 2014I think every publisher brings something to the table. In our case, we’re a small, boutique house, and we intend to keep it that way. For readers, we want that to be reflected in the quality of books we produce. We’re committed to publishing exceptionally well-written and beautifully designed novels that are respectful of their readers. Our books don’t fit cleanly into a formula for romantic fiction, and we’re proud of that.

Our goal is to introduce new authors to the genre, to give them a lot of attention before, during, and after their books are released, and to publish literary-quality books. Our editors are all publishing industry veterans, and many of the authors are surprised how many layers of detailed review their manuscripts go through. We’re also committed to developing and embracing a backlist. We don’t believe that books exist for a couple of months after launch. We believe they’re here to stay, and we are committed to each title long after its release.

What goes into starting a new imprint? What steps did you need to go through?

It involves dark circles under our eyes and some disconcerting stray gray hairs. Honestly, it’s an enormous amount of work, both individually and as a team. By the time we have released our first two titles by the end of June, we will have had both books in development for well over a year. Our second title, Summer Love, is an anthology of nine short stories, and each of those authors went through the same editing process as each of our novelists, so a huge volume of work went into Summer Love.

We were really fortunate to have Killian B. Brewer as the author of our launch title, The Rules of Ever The Rules of Ever After Killian B. Brewer Duet 2015After. He first began drafting this manuscript twenty years ago, and he has such a solid sense of the books, its characters, and his goals for both that it makes the work a joy.

What were some of the challenges you faced?

We’ve faced the same challenges as any small, young business. We have to balance the need to get ourselves known with the realities of cost of marketing, which can swallow up a budget faster than a Little League team can eat a bucket of chicken nuggets. Starting a new business can mean devoting more hours to your business than to your other priorities, like family, food, and sleep. Our books also tend to cross over to different audiences without fitting cleanly into a single group of readers. We’re looking for a particular audience that wants a little romance in its books, but isn’t interested in conventional romance novels.

But we love what we’re doing, and the family of authors, editors, and artists that we’re working with. At the end of the day, building this little publishing house has been a joy.

Tell us a little bit more about The Rules of Ever After, the first novel you’ll be releasing (for this question, Duet passed us over to the author of The Rules of Ever After, Killian B. Brewer).

In writing The Rules of Ever After, I wanted to create the kind of book I would have liked to read when I was younger, but those kind of books just didn’t exist in that time. LGBTQ characters didn’t get the fairy tale, so Rules is a fairy tale for people who have been left out of fairy tales until now.

The story follows what happens when two gay princes decide that their kingdom’s rules don’t really allow for the “happily ever after” they seek. It also looks at what life can be like for a princess when she discovers that the kingdom’s rules for her life may not allow her true happiness either. This group of royals and their friends set out on an adventure together and, on the way, learn about themselves and how to write their own rules.

By giving LGBTQ readers a chance to imagine themselves in the types of tales we all heard growing up, I hope they can question the rules that are standing in their own path toward happiness. Of course, I also want the reader just to have a good time on the adventure, too.

Summer Love, Duet Press, 2015You mentioned the other title you’re releasing this June is Summer Love, an anthology. Why did you choose to pursue this project?

This project really speaks to our commitment to introducing readers to new and diverse authors. Summer Love is the result of our first open submissions project. We only open for submissions occasionally, because we aren’t staffed to handle full-time manuscript review, but we opened up last summer with a prompt for young adult short stories. Our hope was to get to know some new authors from diverse backgrounds who could write solid, respectful stories for a teen audience. Our short stories include lead characters from across the LGBTQ spectrum and were penned by authors who also identify across the spectrum. We got what we hoped for and more, and the project not only resulted in the Summer Love collection, but also in several upcoming YA novels. There’s some amazing talent out there!

What other kinds of books are you looking forward to publishing? Are there any themes/elements you’re looking for specifically?

I’m going to speak generally here, because this is as relevant to Duet as it is to our adult titles.  As I mentioned, while our company has its foundation in romantic fiction, we don’t like to follow traditional romance formulas. We publish love stories that have an additional dimension to them.

We’re already looking to branch out to genres that aren’t singularly romantic. Our upcoming titles, both for Duet and Interlude, include fantasy, paranormal, adventure, and historical. We have a couple of novels in the pipeline where romance is secondary to the main story, so we’re looking forward to developing the literary fiction side of the business. In the meantime, we’re doing what we do best, and that’s well-written, genre-defying love stories.

What advice would you give to authors thinking about submitting to Duet?

First, a self-promotive heads up: Though we don’t always accept submissions, we have announced an open submissions period throughout Pride Month. So, if an author has a novel that’s ready to go, they can submit it to us any time in June.

As for advice, I’d recommend this: We’re looking for great writing, and it’s important to view your manuscript as you would a final novel—polished, edited, and in a condition that you would be proud to have anyone read. We’re looking for dynamic characters and relatable stories that have enough complexity that readers don’t feel they’ve read them dozens of times before. And most importantly, we look for books that are respectful of their audience as well as of their characters. We love it when authors have a solid sense of what they’re writing and why, and who are passionate about creating the best story they can and following through to help develop a long-term audience for their future works.

Books from Duet will be available this June from Duet Books and book retailers. You can also follow Duet on Twitter and on Tumblr.

Other upcoming titles include Seven Tears at High Tide, a fantasy love story by C.B. Lee about a selkie who answers a young man’s request to experience real love, and Hold, a paranormal novel by Rachel Davidson Leigh about a boy who discovers his ability to freeze time after the untimely death of his sister.

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