Last Friday Anne Azel’s blog entry resulted in some interesting dialogue on the subject of “lesbian” novels, and whether their writers should continue to work within the narrow parameters of what has come to be classified as lesfic; or, whether more writers of fiction with lesbian characters should attempt to cross over into mainstream literature in order to draw a larger readership, thereby helping to normalize the existence of queer lives within society at large. This is not a new debate, but this chapter in its evolution couldn’t have happened at a better time in my writing life.
Based on some of last week’s comments, I could in my past work be accused of towing the lesfic party line by including a romantic relationship in the life of Calli Barnow, the main character in all three of my novels. Although Calli’s significant other does not appear in person until the end of the first novel, her presence in and influence on Calli’s life are felt periodically but consistently. Books two and three move the relationship forward, as they examine contemporary LGBTQ issues such as marriage and adoption. All of that having been said, I in no way consider my books to be romance novels. I do sometimes wonder if I made a mistake years ago, when I agreed to let my publisher market the series under the LGBTQ umbrella.
The books are more correctly categorized as mysteries, the first three installments in the Calli Barnow series. The main character is a P.I., and I purposely chose to follow many of the structural traditions of the genre. The mystery plots deal with serious issues involving crimes, but more importantly are vehicles to help explore my true focus: the flaws, strengths, and development of the main character; her humanity and how that relates to all readers gay or straight.
Five years after entering the world of publishing, I am taking another look at the questions involved when producing books with queer content. It is important that I gain some clarity soon, because I am stepping outside my comfort zone on many levels as I write my new novel. It is not part of my series, and it does not use Toronto as its main setting. There are two story lines: one contemporary; the other historical. There are two main characters: one straight; the other . . .
And here’s where Anne’s blog entry hits home. My second main character could be either straight, or queer, and I know that a lot rides on my decision. I do of course find some characters easier to write than others, but that’s not my main consideration. Do I opt to move completely away from what I’ve done in the past, paying no attention to the expectations of a large portion of my readers? Or do I try to find a balance, attempt to walk that invisible and ever-moving line that somehow defines a book as being interesting to or acceptable by the heteronormative reading public? A writer could second-guess herself into paralysis, just trying to pander to whoever might have cause or opportunity to read her creation. I have a feeling that in the end, I will take Anne’s advice, and do what I have always done; I will write what’s in my heart.
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