This has really given me food for thought. Barbara Winkes introduces a straight main character and asks, ‘Does it still count as lesbian fiction?’ Is it acceptable to have straight characters in lesbian fiction and do we need to put labels on our work? Lesbian fiction crosses many genres, crime, historical, fantasy, science fiction etc. so already it can be difficult to pigeon-hole.
Like Barbara, my work includes lesbian characters and lesbian storylines. With historical fiction an author has to explore sexuality within a bygone era, with all the secrecy and social stigma that went with it. It can be nearly impossible to create strong lesbian characters. In Strains from an Aeolian Harp, the two main characters, Rose and Jess have a brief lesbian relationship. Jess is in love with Rose, there is no doubt, but Rose’s feelings are more ambiguous. It has to be remembered that the story is set in a Midlands mining town during the 1920s. Admittedly this was the jazz age; men and women had more sexual freedom, but it was also a time when next door neighbours called each other Mr or Mrs so-and-so, where the social classes did not mix, where women were not financially independent, divorce was virtually out of the question and where the sight of two men or two women publicly holding hands even would have been a terrible scandal. One of the prime reasons that Rose and Jess eventually get together is that they are both trapped in undesirable marriages and people have said that this might alienate lesbian readers. Even when Jess suggests that the two of them can run off together she tells Rose, ‘We could pretend to be sisters.’ However, as a historical author, you have to be true to the period you are writing about, and this would have been the reality for many women. The most famous lesbian novel of the time, The Well of Loneliness is still the subject of debate in terms of the messages it sends out.
With Five Guns Blazing, there was more scope, because it is set in the bawdy riotous 18th century. Many sources suggested that Anne Bonny and Mary Read had an openly sexual relationship, but both of them were married and this threw a spanner in the works. John Rackham was besotted with Anne, but Anne loved Mary. Mary was in love with her husband and there were rumours about John Rackham and the male pirate Pierre Bouspet. It was all a very tangled web. In my fictional pirate Laetitia Beedham, I had to create a young woman who was unsure about her sexuality. She is torn between John and Anne; she has to be otherwise the whole plot would fall apart.
‘Does it still still count as lesbian fiction?’ I don’t know. All I know is that I like to read – and write about a diverse range of characters. Barbara’s book looks amazing. See the original post below for further details.
Happy Sunday morning! Today we welcome back a frequent guest here at Women and Words, Barbara Winkes. She’s got a new release coming out (she’s just not sure when exactly) called Amber Alert, and she couldn’t wait to tell us all about it.
Since she doesn’t have a release date for Amber Alert yet, she’s generously giving away two books to two winners. If you are chosen, you get to pick between Familiar Places and Indiscretions. Leave a comment below to be entered into the drawing. As always, I’ll draw the winners next Friday, June 5.
Introducing Ann McCoy
by Barbara Winkes
My next release with my publisher Eternal Press, Amber Alert, features a straight main character. After asking questions and listening to conversations within our genre, I decided it couldn’t harm to elaborate on this fact a bit more. I think Women and Words is…
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