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When it comes to the business of writing Romance novels, The Romance Writers of America was the premier trade organization. With over 9,000 members and 150 chapters across the country, it is the biggest organization in the industry. From New York Times Best Sellers such as Nora Roberts to the aspiring author who dreams of seeing their books on shelves the RWA is a powerhouse in the romance genre.

It makes sense why someone like Damon Suede would want to scrap and crawl their way to the top of this organization. Yet, in an organization created by Vivian Stephens a black woman and it is  today in large part ran by cishet women it is a big deal when a queer man takes over leadership of the RWA. A man who only had 4 romance novels under his name and eight years as a romance writer, and with no previous experience running an organization as large or as influential as the RWA ran for President and won.

To me, it sounds all too familiar to the current political climate. Fortunately, I’m not here to talk about that type of politics. I’m here to talk about the politics that runs a genre I have loved for over 20 years.

The reason I started writing ‘The Monthly Tea’ posts was  because I firmly believe that the sins of people (especially authors) like Damon Suede should not be forgotten. Damon thinks that if he waits long enough that his sins will be fade away. People like Damon count on the short attention span of our high-paced society. Unlucky for him, I’m just angry and petty enough to not let it go.

Romance Novels on a shelf of a bookstore in the romance section.

I will be upfront with you, this article will be a mix of fact and rumor. I will always link the facts as I have found in my research. I WILL BE NOT DOXXING DAMON SUEDE OR REVEALING ANY INFORMATION THAT HAS NOT BE REVEALED PUBLICLY BY DAMON HIMSELF. This means all information will come what he has revealed himself interviews and on social media. I will mark a lot of the stuff that I had verified by an anonymous source with an asterisk [*].

Now, you can take that info with a grain of salt and I won’t be angry if you do. This week, Damon decided to peek his head out of his hide-y hole to gaslight and manipulate Romancelandia by posting revisionist history on his Facebook page. This my effort to not only vehemently rebuttal the bullshit he’s trying to peddle but to make sure that his crimes (and yes, what I do believe what he did was a crime) are out there so won’t able to cover it up in his efforts to repair his damaged reputation.

The Origin of Damon Suede

Damon Suede was born and raised in Houston, Texas. His parents were entertainment attorneys and often worked for Disney. As a result, he spent 3 months out of the year hanging out in both Disney World and Disneyland.  Damon loves to brag that he always dreamed of being a writer. As a kid, he would not only read 1200 words a minute but would read deep books such as ‘Les Misérables’

And yes, I am rolling my eyes, why do you ask?

With his family having connections in the entertainment world, Damon also spent grew up as a child actor but quit acting when he realized that it was a “blue-collar job’. Basically, he was too good for acting.

After High School (thanks to spending his formative years in theme parks) Damon wanted to be a Theme Park Designer and had planned to go to college to study it as a profession. Unfortunately for him, the two best schools for theme park design was in Houston and at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Damon Suede talks about his past in an interview with Bill Kenower,

Damon was not enthusiastic to spend any more time in Houston or in upstate New York which he described as an “A Scandinavian war novel.” During an interview with Bill Kenower, he happily states that Cornell has a high suicide rate because of the isolated campus and called it, “Suicide U”.

After that, Damon was a jack of all trades. According to his bio on his website:

He has lived all over and along the way, he’s earned his crust as a model, a messenger, a promoter, a programmer, a sculptor, a singer, a stripper, a bookkeeper, a bartender, a techie, a teacher, a director… but writing has ever been his bread and butter.

Damon’s most successful profession other than writing romance novels and non-fiction writing manuals was screenwriting. He was a playwright for close to 30 years and worked with some big names in Hollywood. Yet, yesterday I was shocked to find out  that not only can his IMDB can be edited and sometimes it can be faked entirely. According to romance author Melissa Blue, she knows Damon’s real name and that she went through his IMDB page and tried to verify several of his credits.

In an interview with Self-Publishing Podcast in 2018, Damon states that he started writing his 2011 debut M/M Romance novel ‘Hot Head’ on a dare. After that, Damon said he caught the writing bug and never turned back.

Hot Head

In 2011, Damon published his debut novel ‘Hot Head’ with queer publisher DreamSpinner Press’ The one thing I can say for both Damon and the people at DreamSpinner is that they know how to a market a book. Because there was buzz about this it months before it was even officially published.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire…

 

Since 9/11, Brooklyn firefighter Griff Muir has wrestled with impossible feelings for his best friend and partner at Ladder 181, Dante Anastagio. Unfortunately, Dante is strictly a ladies’ man, and the FDNY isn’t exactly gay-friendly. For ten years, Griff has hidden his heart in a half-life of public heroics and private anguish.

 

Griff’s caution and Dante’s cockiness make them an unbeatable team. To protect his buddy, there’s nothing Griff wouldn’t do… until a nearly bankrupt Dante proposes the worst possible solution: HotHead.com, a gay porn website where uniformed hunks get down and dirty. And Dante wants them to appear there—together. Griff may have to guard his heart and live out his darkest fantasies on camera. Can he rescue the man he loves without wrecking their careers, their families, or their friendship?

The romance novel about two hot (no pun intended) firemen was an instant hit. In the first three months, it accumulated  a 4.3-star rating and had 71 pages of reviews. It was a big success and even back then when I was on the fringes of the M/M Romance community I noticed that Damon Suede’s book was constantly the book of the month in the M/M Romance Group on Goodreads.

Goodreads named ‘Hot Head’ the “Top 100 Romance Novels of All Time” among a laundry list of awards and honors that Damon’s book earned during 2011 and 2012. It was official, Damon Suede was a mover in the Romance genre.

It’s plausible that a book from a new author can take the book community by storm. However, I find it somewhat less plausible that someone with zero experience in writing prose was able to produce an award-winning book.

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Yes, Damon had screenwriting experience but I have some experience with screenwriting myself. I spent most of my twenties hanging and out and lurking on Monster Zero Productions (now MZPtv) which back then produced scripted virtual series. Essentially, they made spec scripts that could be read like a book. They wrote a lot of fanfic scripts but MZPtv also produced a lot of well written and often professional-level original screenplays.

Writing a screenplay and writing in prose are two different skill sets. One writer can’t easily go from one medium to another. J.K. Rowling learned that the hard way and so did E.L. James with her own movie adaptations. Yet, this man who zero experience with writing prose, on his very first attempt just immediately got published and suddenly became a hit?

Damon Suede Standing in the middle of a book conference

My anon source gave me a good theory. Around the time Damon’s book dropped, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ became a worldwide phenomenon. What it did for a lot of people was it give them permission to dive into sexually explicit material and as a result, the romance and erotica genres got a huge boost.

Now, my theory (and it’s has no way been substantiated) but I feel that ‘Hot Head’ had some help getting propelled to the top of the best seller’s lists. Personally, I haven’t read this book but I talked to quite a few people who have and what the consensus is that ‘Hot Head’ is nowhere near as good as it’s accolades would make it seem.

However, all this might be sour grapes on many people’s parts and you should, of course, take it with a grain of salt. For me, even with the anon’s theory about ‘Hot Head’s’ popularity, this all still feels shady as fuck to me. Unfortunately you are going to have to read it and decide yourselves.

The Darling of Romancelandia

Damon Suede continues to write after that. The one thing I will say for him the man doesn’t sit on his laurels. He wrote 4 fiction novels, several short stories, and novellas during the next eight years. However, he used his in with ‘Hot Head’ to become a staple on many prominent blogs and news sites: such as USA Today, Kobo Writing Life, Jami Gold, Self-publishing Authors Podcast, and The Creative Penn. The man was everywhere, and since he joined the RWA sometime around 2011-2012, it’s only logical to conclude that Damon used his contacts from his first National Conference as a platform to become a paid public speaker.

Before the RWA implosion, both Damon Suede and his husband Geoff Symon a Federal Agent and Forensic Specialist made a good living (rumored to be around $3,000 per speaking gig). Damon also decided to write not one but \ two non-fiction books ‘Verbalize’ and ‘Activate’.

And as his non-fiction pursuits and speaking engagements increased his actual romance books began to dwindle in both quality and quantity. His last fiction book was in 2017 was ‘Lickety Split’ and had 3.71 stars on Goodreads. This is diffidently a significant drop from the rating he got for ‘Hot Head’.

Damon Suede's Workshop at the CPRW - Damon Suede In Front a Projector Teaching A Workshop

And more important than all of that, was for the first time ever, Damon Suede had fans. Fans, that he loved to brag about, fans that at this very moment are crying on his Facebook page about how devastated they are about his absence at Romance events and about how he was done dirty. According to Jenny Trout’s write up of Damon Suede’s Interview with Bill Kenower:

Suede claims that his readers are so unhinged in their worship of him that he’s been chased Beatles-style through hotels, ripped out of taxi cabs, had fans camped outside of his home, and thirty-nine people have tattooed his name or book covers on their bodies.

In the end, in the eight years since ‘Hot Head’ was published, Damon climbed the ladder of the RWA and was steadily gaining power. Ostensibly, with the push for a more diverse organization by Courtney Milan who served on the Board of Directors and now with Damon Suede who was an openly gay man writing queer romance joining the upper echelons of the RWA as President-elect; it seemed the organization was finally becoming a better place for all minorities.

It wasn’t until December 23, 2019, that the book community had the veil of diversity violently ripped from their eyes.

 

To Be Continued in Part 2

Note 1/31/2020 11:31PM CST: This post has been re-edited due to the massive amount of grammar fails. I’m dyslexic and I do the best I can. I try to re-read it a dozen times, and to put it through grammarly.  Unfortunately, even with that, a lot of grammar issues fell through the cracks and the quality of the post suffered for it.  Thank god, a volunteer stepped up to help me in my time of need and now this post is much more readable! Thank you so much E.B for the last minute help! I really appreciate it! 

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