The nice, gentle author of Bésame y vente conmigo, Olivia Ardey, has talked to spanishgayfiction.blogspot.com. We have discussed interesting issues such as romance fiction, the role of social networks in the current literary world, or gay characters in chick lit by straight female authors. Hope this appealing author will not leave LGBT themes behind in her future projects.
SPANISH GAY FICTION: Was Bésame y vente conmigo your first approach to LGBT themes in your fiction? What attracted you to this issue?
OLIVIA ARDEY: Until then, I had noticed—especially in American narrative, where homoerotic fiction is very appealing—that there were gay romance novels and straight romance novels. And in the latter, if there was a gay boy, he always was the main protagonist’s funny friend, but his love story was rarely told. Then I said to myself, “If in real life we are all together, why not in the novels?”
SGF: What is the difference between Nico and other gay minor characters in romance fiction?
OA: The only difference between Nico and Álvaro, the male lead, is that the one likes men and the other likes women. Nico’s somewhat divo personality arises from his TV stardom as a popular cook, and not his sexual condition.
SGF: Have you ever met any Nico? Or, is he rather an idealized mental projection? Where did Nico arise from?
OA: Yes, I have met more than one. Men who are the way they are with absolute easiness, with neither secrecy nor fuss. This character grew out of my imagination. I imagined a handsome, famous chef. I found funny he could drive women crazy when he was into men.
SGF: What do you think the recurrent presence of gay minor characters in straight romance fiction is due to? Is it just a nod to the homosexual reader?
OA: In contemporary comedy, I feel it is somewhat a reflection of films and TV comedies. I do not think that this is just a nod. As I said before, when I read several novels with gay guys, I got bored as they were always in the same roles of the girl’s confidants, perfect friends.
SGF: What has been the response of gay readers to Bésame y vente conmigo? Do you have many followers from LGBT groups?
OA: The truth is they have never got in contact with me. Romance male readers are a minority.
SGF: Regarding the impressive development of homoerotic literature by heterosexual writers and for heterosexual readers in the English-language narrative, would you say that Spanish literature is light years away in comparison? Or, are there already many examples in the current Spanish literature?
OA: It takes years to reach the levels of publication and audience reception of the homoerotic romance genre in the USA today. I do not know many Spanish writers devoted to this. As for Spanish publishers, I also know very few.
SGF: In the group of Spanish female authors who write homoerotic fiction, who are your favorites? Would you highlight any work in particular?
OA: I have read very few examples of homoerotic fiction, and even less written in Spanish. Mi favorite is Aeren Iniesta and her novella Segundas oportunidades (“Second Chances”). I was also fascinated by Rosana Briel’s story “Como un torrente” (“Like a Torrent”).
SGF: The ending of this novel would have been impossible ten years ago in this country…
OA: If you said eleven, I would say so. But just ten years ago the Spanish regulation handed this ending to me on a silver platter.
SGF: Keeping with modern times, what importance do you assign to social networks and other digital platforms in the current literature and, more specifically, romantic fiction or chick lit?
OA: Loads of romance novels are published…In some months, there are 70 new releases. Romance readers are truly faithful and read a lot. For writers like me, the presence in networks is essential to be in the spotlight. This is an excellent way to put yourself on the map, and that helps daily communication with readers, interaction, and word-of-mouth.
SGF: May fans support become an imposition? Are you afraid that, if you were riskier as for themes, you could lose your readers’ support?
OA: I am so fortunate that I have the support of readers, whether I write historical romance or contemporary comedy. They eagerly welcome a novel set in Italy, New York or Teruel in the same way, and that allows me not to be pigeonholed but write freely.
SGF: As far back as I can remember, I have always heard that two women having sex is one of the heterosexual men’s typical fantasies. Interestingly, many romance female novelists are showing that two men making love is a very recurrent erotic fantasy for heterosexual women. To what extent do you think that romance fiction by women has been relevant to develop, conform and give social visibility to female sexuality, so obscured and repressed over history?
OA: I think that this has at least been useful to speak about sex and our likings naturally. Many prejudices have fallen. Years ago, readers wrapped up the covers of romance novels. Today, romance books are recommended, discussed, and can be the main subject in conversation.
SGF: I am not the only one that sees in Jane Austen the unintentional founder of our times’ chick lit. Virginia Woolf said through one of her fictional characters that Austen was the author she liked most as she never tried to hide the fact that her narrations were written by a woman. What importance do you give to classic authors as influence and inspiration for your novels?
OA: Thanks to the 18th and 19th pioneer female authors, there is a current narrative of emotions told in a female way. I am not particularly crazy about Jane Austen, but that is just a matter of taste. Anyway, I think I made up my mind and write romance novels given how much I loved Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre in my youth. It is still my favorite novel.
SGF: In my view, the ultimate aim romance novelists are seeking is making your readers live, through your works, great love stories. And it is more than likely that, in many cases, these stories will happen only in their imagination. In that sense, romance literature makes people feel less lonely. It has a therapeutic value. Do you agree with me?
OA: The value of romance novel lies, in my opinion, in the happy ending. The good times you enjoy while reading help get away from daily concerns. The satisfaction you feel when closing the book with a smile and a sigh is just great.
SGF: Concerning the previous question, romance authors usually depict relationships so idealized that they can lead to think, “This only happens in romance novels.” To what extent do these unreal aspects get romance fiction connected to fantasy fiction, or even considered as a subgenre within fantasy fiction?
OA: You would be surprised if you heard the real stories that readers tell us—they are really stranger than the fiction we write. Even I have asked for permission to include some wonderful moments that they personally told me in some of my novels.
SGF: The evolution of our society, a relaxation of censorship…Many elements have led to the current situation in which romance fiction and erotic fiction (even pornographic, sometimes) may walk hand in hand. In Bésame y vente conmigo, your descriptions of sex between Celia and Álvaro are explicit and detailed. However, when it comes to Max and Nico, you seem more restrained. I have the feeling that Olivia Ardey is a straightforward author who does not mince her words. What prevented you from being more descriptive in homosexual sex?
OA: First reason, Nico and Max are not the main couple. The love story between Álvaro and Celia is the central aspect of the plot and I just wanted to focus on this. In fact, there is another straight couple, Susana and Javier, and their sex scenes are as less explicit as the boys’. We can see in both cases the before and after…I saved the during for the protagonists.
The second reason is that I wanted to transmit the fidelity of feelings, the unique love that remains despite time and difficulties. And to achieve this, I considered I could reach the readers’ hearts more deeply by showing the emotions in the reencounter. I needed to bare Nico’s and Max’s souls. Sex was secondary.
SGF: What are you working on now? What are your most immediate projects?
OA: I am working on the last corrections of the novel that Ediciones Versátil will publish in February. Set between London and Scotland, it is a contemporary comedy, full of both laughter and tears as life itself. And soon I will embark upon my next story, which takes place in New York and Boston in the 1920’s.
 Just to remind the reader, same-sex marriage was approved in Spain on June 30, 2005.
 This is the Spanish region were Olivia Ardey sets the fictional village of Tarabán in Bésame y vente conmigo. A charming way to remind us all that Teruel exists.
 A Spanish publisher devoted to romance fiction mainly.