Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Tale of Two Women: genre and purpose

You: So your book is about lesbians?

Me: No. There are two lesbians in it.

You: So it’s a lesbian book?

Me: What does that mean?

You: That it’s for lesbians.

Me: What about all the other characters in it?

You: Like who?

Me: Robin, Julian, Andreas, Jon, Hal.

You: Are they gay?

Me: No. They’re all straight guys.

You: So why is it about lesbians?

Me: There are lesbians in it. Along with all the other people. A bit like the real world?...

I think I shall be having this conversation for a long time.

There are two questions that I am asked time and again about my novel: what genre is it and why did you write it? Neither has a neat answer. I didn’t write it with one target audience in mind. And yes, the plot centres around two women who are going to fall in love. But chapter by chapter we meet the other people in their lives, friends, family, colleagues and get to look at a whole range of attitudes and responses to a same sex relationship. Which is my purpose.

My purpose is an exploration of sexual identity, prejudice and relationships in this diversely fabulous 21st century. My hope is that readers will see themselves in the characters, and maybe even challenge their own views a little. And yes, I was a little worried that lesbian readers would take me to task.

I am no longer worried.

I had some feedback from a lesbian reader who compared her experience of reading …but I love you to that of reading Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ many years ago, as it resonates with how she feels and thinks. Well, that’s a reward. My real purpose behind writing is to touch people, one way or another. I’m thrilled to have touched this woman.  

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