Susie Dumond’s LGBTQ+ romance novel “Queerly Beloved”

Get to know more about The University of Tulsa’s alumna Susie Dumond and her romance novel “Queerly Beloved.”

Walking through Barnes & Noble or Magic City Books, coming across a table of novels by local authors, you may notice a cheeky LGBTQ+ romance called “Queerly Beloved.” The story of a semi-closeted baker named Amy who becomes a bridesmaid-for-hire and assists with countless wedding disasters while discovering all sorts of love along the way. This novel is set in Tulsa, OK with some very familiar locations. This is because Susie Dumond, the author of “Queerly Beloved” is a 2012 alumna from The University of Tulsa, where she got her degree in Organizational Studies.

When “Queerly Beloved” debuted earlier this year, I was lucky enough to attend the book launch party at the Dennis R. Equality Center in downtown Tulsa. I loved getting to meet Dumond, who told delightful and hilarious stories while also sharing really eye-opening advice. Much of what she shared was related to her move from Arkansas to Oklahoma for school, where she met her now-wife, Mary Jessup, who used to write for The Collegian along with Dumond’s other friends.

Earlier this month, Dumond came back to Tulsa for a few local book events, and I knew I had to reach out to her again to ask an assortment of questions, from learning more about how she feels regarding “Queerly Beloved” since its release to her writing process in general.

Why was it important to you that you write “Queerly Beloved”?
When I set out to write “Queerly Beloved,” there weren’t a lot of traditionally published queer romances on bookstore shelves. Luckily, that’s been changing more recently! I’ve always been a fan of romance and rom-coms, and I’d never encountered one that told a love story that looked anything like mine. I wrote “Queerly Beloved” primarily for myself — to read about queer love in a conservative state like Oklahoma. It was important to me that it also be more than just a romantic love story between two women. I also wanted to write a love story about Tulsa’s queer community.

One of my favorite parts of “Queerly Beloved” is how you tied in so many Tulsa staples. When I was reading it over the summer at my internship out of state, it pulled me back to the city, and I think that’s really special. What Tulsa staple did you know without question would have to be featured in the book?

I grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, but Tulsa feels more like home to me now than Little Rock ever did. I fell in love with the city the first time I visited. In writing “Queerly Beloved,” I especially wanted to show the wonderful queer parts of the city, like the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center and the gay bars I remember so fondly. Since the love interest in the book is new in town, I also saw that as a great opportunity to showcase the quirky landmarks that make Tulsa so unique, like the Center of the Universe and the Golden Driller.

What do you wish people knew while reading “Queerly Beloved”?
Something I really hope readers take away from “Queerly Beloved” is that being queer in a red state isn’t always tragic. When I first moved to DC and told people I’d lived in Tulsa, they’d say things like, “Oh, wow, that must have sucked.” But it didn’t! I found my people there, I met my wife there, and in a lot of ways, I found myself there. I love how diverse and full of life Tulsa’s queer community is, and I wanted to bring it to life in my book.

Much like how some actors cannot rewatch their performances, are you able to reread your books once they’ve been published or do you try to avoid that?
This is a great question, and no one has asked it to me before! I haven’t reread “Queerly Beloved” since it was published in May. I read it at least a dozen times all the way through during the editing process, three times after it was pretty much finalized for final copy edits and layout. I think I’ll be able to read it again eventually, but I’m still pretty tired of it right now!

What do you think are the elements of a novel that can take it from a good work to a great work?
This is also a great question! I think a good novel tells a unique story about interesting characters. But a truly great novel can take something mundane and make you look at it in an entirely new light. It can make any reader, no matter how far their personal experience is from the text, look at themselves and their own behavior differently. If you find something new every time you read the book that opens your eyes to the world in a different way, even better.

For those aspiring authors out there, what advice do you have for when you start to lose momentum?
Sometimes I find myself losing momentum when my confidence is low and I don’t feel like I’m capable of telling a story like it deserves to be told. So I’ll offer this: You’re the only person alive with exactly your experiences, your perspective, and your voice. What can you bring to this story that no one else can bring? Your book certainly doesn’t have to be 100% based on your own experiences, but your experiences shape the way you write it. Think about how you can use your unique perspective to bring what you’re creating to life.

I know personally that when I write, I really struggle with writing natural dialogue. What advice do you have for when writing a conversation between characters?
I totally love writing dialogue, mostly because I grew up doing theater, where pretty much everything you know about a character is conveyed through their lines. Reading plays can be a great way to explore how much you can learn about someone simply through what they say. Another way to make dialogue more natural is eavesdropping. Sit at a coffee shop or a bar or a popular park and catch snippets of conversations as strangers walk by.

If you could collaborate with any author, who would it be and why?
As authors, we’re not always great at collaboration. We do most of our work alone with our computer after all! So I’d probably choose to collaborate with someone I already know and trust to an extent. I’ve had the great fortune of getting to know comedian and actor Cameron Esposito, whose memoir “Save Yourself” is brilliant and hilarious. Cameron hosted my virtual book launch and was so generous and kind. I think together we could create a very funny, very gay story.

What book do you wish you could read for the first time again?
Although I write rom-coms, I read across all genres, and I really love the “Broken Earth” sci-fi trilogy by N.K. Jemisin. The first book in the series, “The Fifth Season,” uses some really fascinating storytelling elements that completely shift the reader’s perspective at a certain point. I’d love to experience that mind-bending moment again!

Where do you feel the most inspired? Who are your greatest inspirations?
This may sound cliché, but I absolutely love writing and dreaming up new plots while traveling. There’s something about being on a plane or a train or bus that sends my creativity running wild. I think it’s something about the anticipation of where you’re going, the unfamiliar sights, and wondering where all the strangers around me are headed.

“Queerly Beloved” can be purchased from any bookstore or online, and keep an eye out for Dumond’s upcoming projects.

Post Author: Myranda New