In October of this year, Harlequin released a book that set a milestone in its 70-year publishing history. For the first time, a gay love story was the focus of a novel in one of its category romance lines. The Lights on Knockbridge Lane is about a single dad who wants to make this holiday extra special for his daughter, and if that means enlisting the help of his handsome and reclusive neighbor, so be it.
We sat down with author Roan Parrish to discuss writing this charming small-town Christmas story and how it came to be a ground-breaking first in the romance genre.
Big Gay Fiction Podcast (BGFP): The Lights on Knockbridge Lane is a major milestone for gay romance because it’s being published as part of the Harlequin Special Edition line. Congratulations on that.
Roan: One thing that I’m incredibly honored for is it’s the first queer romance for a Harlequin series book. I didn’t grow up reading Harlequin. So, I didn’t actually know that when I first signed the contract.
BGFP: How did that come about?
Roan: The way it happened was very random. It’s not as if I was tapped to do this at all. My lovely editor, Kerri, sent the manuscript of Better Than People to the editor of Special Editions, because she thought she would like it. And the editor of Special Editions thought she was forwarding the manuscript for publication and was like, “Oh yeah, I love it. I want to buy it.” And Kerri was like, “Oh, no, sorry. We already bought it. But I’ll check with Roan and see if she wants to extend the series.”
The editor of Special Editions reached out to me and asked if I would like to write the next book in the series and have it come out through Special Editions. And I said, “Yes, sure.”
As a queer person, I am really honored to be participating in this milestone. And my biggest investment is that this book does well so that all the Harlequin lines open up to other queer authors, writing queer stories of all stripes. That’s my number one goal. I want all my books to do well. But it’s bigger than me.
BGFP: The Lights on Knockbridge Lane is a feel-good holiday romance. What can people look forward to when they pick up Wes and Adam’s love story?
Roan: It is a single dad romance. It’s the first time I’ve ever written a kid into a romance. Adam is from Garnet Run and he and his daughter Gus (short for August) move onto Knockbridge Lane.
He thinks that she’s the greatest thing and his real desire is to give her a great Christmas because she’s just been uprooted and he asks Gus, “what would make you feel good for Christmas?” And Gus says, “I want the most lights in the whole world on our house.”
It seems great at first. And then Adam realizes how many lights it will take to cover their house, how expensive they are, how difficult it is to hang lights when you’re maybe, kind of, just a little bit afraid of heights.
Wes, the neighbor, is always there and him coming out of his shell to make contact with Adam is the first in what will be a kind of neighbor-to-neighbor romance, where they bounce back and forth between their two houses and slowly fall in love, with Gus leading the charge. It’s really about both of them overcoming fear.
Adam is scared that he can’t be a good single dad. He’s scared that he can’t make Gus happy. And Wes is scared of going outside of his house. He’s scared of public attention, and he’s scared of getting hurt. And Gus is really the one who’s fearless and can express herself, can express what she wants. And she kind of drags both of them into confronting their love for each other.
BGFP: Garnet Run is such a special place. What went into creating this fictional town?
Roan: Maybe four years ago, I went on a trip with some dear friends to Wyoming and we stayed in this cabin. It was beautiful, protected land, forests, and these crystal clear lakes… just absolutely beautiful. Animals like moose coming out of the forest in the morning, that we could see from the window. It was amazing.
I was totally captivated by the landscape of Wyoming. I’d never been there before. I fell in love with it. At first I was like, “Oh my God, I want to move here.” And then I was like, “Okay, maybe I just want to fictionally move here and write a series set here.”
It’s not based on a real town per se, but it is based on a real space, the vastness of nature and wildlife, that was really my inspiration. When it came time to create a small town, I love small towns as settings. I was thinking I want it to feel like Stars Hollow or something from the Gilmore Girls where it’s like, there’s the person who owns this store and the person who owns that store. And then maybe they’re a little weird, but you just have to roll with their weirdness. That’s kind of how I went about creating Garnet Run, and I loved the idea of this little gay Stars Hollow in Wyoming.
You can listen to our complete conversation with Roan Parrish in episode 338 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast. In addition, The Lights on Knockbridge Lane is the Big Gay Fiction Book Club selection for November. You can listen to our deep-dive discussion of the book in episode 348, which will be available starting Thursday, November 25.
About the Authors:
Jeff Adams & Will Knauss are husbands, authors of m/m romance and podcasters. Big Gay Fiction Podcast, their weekly show, is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. You can learn more about them at BigGayFictionPodcast.com, jeffadamswrites.com and willknauss.com