Yesterday I logged into ‘Gay Fiction, Gay Lives,’ a forum hosted by Jerry L. Wheeler for Bold Stroke Books.
It’s an interesting time for publishers. I applaud this initiative by Bold Stroke Books as there is a large audience sitting at home looking for distractions, and a whole weekend of discussions and book readings is a great way to connect.
And it was nice seeing Jerry L. Wheeler, an experienced editor who has worked on two of my books. He’s also re-released his own collection of short stories (which I recommend), Strawberries and Other Erotic Fruits. It’s an excellent collection.
The questions focussed on how much of the author’s own lives make it into their story telling. One author I’d never heard of but was pleased to get to know was fellow Australian, St John Karp.
When asked about the danger of stereotyping characters that don’t represent yourself, his response was to take dialogue of his black or trans friends (who, in his own words, he has no right to represent) and weave them into his works.
I liked this answer.
Yes, I know we have sensitivity readers but when you’re first putting these characters down on the page, you are careful with your words.
I’ve written a short story about a gay Muslim trying to navigate love and his family. A friend of mine dated a Muslim guy. The romance ended ubruptly when his uncle kept him from seeing my friend. So, I imagined a happier ending to their story while adding what I observed of the relationship. The struggle this poor guy had to endure. The stress his family inflicted on both partners.
In an unpublished work I’ve added an Aboriginal man.
Well, okay, my Actors and Angels series (the books with the words ‘Drama Queens’ in the title) include an aboginal lead as the two main characters are based on me and my husband. Back then it felt akward to point it out in my novel in a way no one does in real life.
His background was not relevant to the story but I wanted the representation because, not only did I want a truthful interpretation of us, not every character in what we read is white. Yet, if you don’t point it out, readers make that assumption.
In the unpublished work, it’s in the response.
Something is said to which the character, Henry, replies “I’m a blackfella. We’re all political.” And this way I get to show, not tell, as this line is said late in the chapter in which we meet him.
While I champion ‘own voices’ in literature, not all my characters are white as I live in a major capital city, so it’s not my reality. Fortunately, I can include many queer characters as that is the reality of big cities.
But I digress on what I really wanted to say.
Seriously, this is not the tangent I thought I’d end up on. All I really wanted to share is for authors, we have readers who want to get to know us. And this online conversation was a way for me to get to know new authors on a more personal level.
Use this time to talk to those you want to reach out to. Goodness knows, they’re not going anywhere!