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Bi author Ann Herendeen on the woman's POV in her fiction

Book jacket photo
Courtesy of Ann Herendeen

Ann Herendeen, the author of two books that were wildly popular in the bi community, "Pride/Prejudice: A Novel of Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennet, and Their Forbidden Lovers"; and "Phyllida and the Brotherhood of Philander"; is hosting a literary event about her work on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on Sunday. I was curious about what she is up to, so I thought I would ask. Here is our interview:

SL: Tell me about your upcoming event at Bureau of General Services—Queer Division (BGSQD.)

AH: My event at BGSQD is a comedy presentation or talk, interspersed with readings. I want to tell people about myself and my writing, what it's "about" and how it has evolved over time, illustrated with short readings from my works. At the end there will be Q&A.

SL: The title of your event is: "Writing from the Third Perspective: a woman’s POV." Why is the women's POV the third perspective?

AH: I call the woman's point of view the "third perspective," because I am writing as a woman in an m/m/f ménage, where the men are lovers. It seems to me that people assume the woman either doesn't know about the men's relationship, or if she does know, that she doesn't like it, that she's just "putting up with it." So hers is the POV that is overlooked or ignored, because people think they know what it is. They don't even consider it could be a positive response or that she could deliberately choose this kind of relationship.

SL: What is so appealing to you about being in a three-way relationship that involves two men? Would you be lovers with both? Or just the one?

AH: I think the appeal is one of those mysteries of sexual and romantic attraction. Why are we attracted to one gender or another, or to more than one? Why are we bisexual or monosexual? We just are. However, I also find the relationship between two men "special," existing outside the heteronormative world. It's more "purely" romantic, with none of the practical considerations that have dominated male-female marriage in the past. Being the woman in an m/m/f ménage allows me to participate in this special relationship without destroying it. (And yes, I think relationships between two women are special too--but that's another story!)

Whether I would be lovers with just one of the men or both depends entirely on the individuals involved. I write fiction, not memoir (I wish!) and every person and relationship is unique. In most of my stories my character is involved with one man primarily--her husband--but may have sex with the other man occasionally.

SL: How do you envision this relationship working? Do you all live together? Or does the boyfriend come and go?

AH: Again, every relationship in different. Where the social class of the characters and the norms of the society they live in permit it, I like all three to live together. They are all equals in a marriage of three, regardless of their titles ("husband," "boyfriend," "partner," "wife"). In my fantasy/sword-and-sorcery stories, it's perfectly acceptable for the nobleman husband to live with a wife and a male partner, whereas in the English Regency-period stories, another man living permanently with a husband and wife might raise eyebrows. However, as we know from social history, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and other stories written in the past, upper-class households consisted of many more than two people. A male "visitor" who spent most of his time living with a married couple would not be unusual--especially if he brings his own wife as well!

SL: In my experience. Three-way relationships require a lot of communication to work and all three people have to have good communication skills and low jealousy.

AH: Oh, yes, absolutely! My stories all begin with honesty. That is, early on, the characters are open about their sexuality and desires. The woman knows her potential husband likes men or is bisexual; the male partner knows his lover is married and is not hiding this relationship from his wife. Usually the husband is up front with his potential partners from the beginning. Occasionally, as with Mr. Darcy in my Pride/Prejudice, the man must wait for a signal from the woman that she is willing to hear the truth (and of course in this case she knows it already!) But the act of truthfulness is essential.

In all my stories, the first step for the woman is recognizing that she is turned on by men being together sexually. This leads her to want a husband who will have a male partner. The traditional narrative, that a clueless woman is married to a man she believes to be monosexual, and is then "betrayed" by her husband's bisexuality, is the exact opposite of my stories.

What ultimately makes these fictional relationships work is that all three people like each other and respect each other. This kind of relationship is not for everybody; my stories show only how people who *do* want it can live together happily.

SL: What are you writing about now?

AH: I am working on something quite different, an attempt at "literary" or non-genre fiction. There will be m/m/f situations in it (if I'm writing it how could there not be!) but that will not be the focus of the story. As I imagine it, there will be three intertwined story lines: a futuristic, NYC setting; an autobiographical component; and a mythical or fairy-tale element, loosely based on the many different versions of the Cinderella story.

This is extraordinarily challenging, which is why so much time has passed since I last published. But it feels like what I have to write, so wish me luck!

SL: I loved reading your two other books, so I can’t wait for this new one!

Ann Herendeen-Writing from the Third Perspective: a woman’s POV

When: Sunday, April 6, at 3 PM
Where: BGSQD (Bureau of General Services--Queer Division)
83A Hester St, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (New York City)
Admission: Free
Beer and wine available for a donation of $5