Poly Book Nook: The Art of Three
An interview with Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese, the authors of the new poly romance novel, The Art of Three
Erin and I have been writing romance novels together for several years, and while we have never really framed monogamy as a virtue or an expectation in our books, we hadn’t yet written one with explicitly polyamorous main characters (we’ve had supporting poly characters in a number of books and have often written what we call monogamish couples). So we took the idea that romance is about fantasy and wrote a poly fantasy that really focuses on communication and making stuff work.
Who do you think/want to read this book?
More than anything, we want the book to find poly readers, but we also want our moms to read this one. All moms involved currently remain reluctant, alas, despite having read some of our other books that have much higher heat levels.
Why would the Poly Weekly audience want to read your book?
The Art of Three is a feel-good romance we hope anyone will enjoy, but it’s also a book by, for, and about poly people. A lot of our own experiences went into writing this, so it’s got all the things that turn our cranks. Communication? Check. Partners negotiating early and often to make sure everyone’s getting what they want and need? Check. Awkward conversations with friends and family? Check. Someone hitting their head on the ceiling beam for the eight hundredth time? Totally check. Basically, we wrote the book that we wanted to read. And while sometimes that process scraped a little too close to home — there was a week when Erin was in DC and I was in Vienna and there were a lot of self-discoveries about choices we were making in our own lives, tears, and chocolate — we hope that other people will also see something of the truth of their own experiences reflected back at them in this book.
What did you learn from writing this book?
Erin and I have a large age gap between us, which is smaller but not entirely dissimilar to that between our characters. The writing process really forced both of us to confront the different life stages we’re in individually and with our nesting partners and sort out the impact that unavoidably has on our own partnership. We have this joke that our books know what we’re about before we do, and it was particularly true of this book, which also has a recurring theme about the preservation of family legacy in the face of ugly cultural moments. When we were writing it in late 2015 and early 2016 that feeling was rooted in history (Callum speaks briefly about his life during the AIDS plague years; Nerea has a key scene where she explains that her family is converso; Jamie wrestles with family history he doesn’t know because his father was born to a Magdalene laundry girl). Now, with what’s happened politically in the U.S. and Europe… it feels like there’s something very valuable and instructive and hopeful in that part of the narrative that we didn’t know we needed when we wrote it.
What’s your favorite thing about this book?
Getting to write a smart, powerful, hot older heroine was a lot of fun. In many ways Nerea –who’s 48, by the way — is more femme than either of us, so it was really interesting to get in touch with that and to explore what it means to be a woman who doesn’t need other people, but sure does enjoy wanting them. She’s very good at asking for what she wants; if I had known how much clarity writing a character like that would bring me, I would have started writing romance heroines much younger (or at least at Erin’s age!).
Is there anything writing, or writing together, teaches you about poly?
I think books are just like people in that new relationship energy – as a writer or a reader – is totally a thing. Sometimes that’s a lot of fun, and sometime it presents challenges, like when we have a great new idea (we’re planning to do a spy series next year) but have a contract deadline sooner (our first F/F book is due to the publisher this summer). There’s always a balancing act that involves negotiation, pleasure, and responsibility.
Racheline Maltese can fly a plane, sail a boat, and ride a horse, but has no idea how to drive a car; she’s based in Brooklyn. Erin McRae has a graduate degree in international affairs for which she focused on the role of social media in the Arab Spring; she’s based in Washington DC. Together, they write romance – often queer, often poly — about fame and public life. Their work is currently available with, or forthcoming from, publishers including Cleis, Dreamspinner, Riptide, and Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press. As hybrid authors, they also independently publish. Like everyone in the 21st century, they met on the Internet. Find out more on their website.