Monthly Archives: May 2015

‘Does it Still Count as Lesbian Fiction?’ Introducing Ann McCoy by Barbara Winkes (plus TWO FREE BOOKS!)

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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.

Women and Words

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.

Good luck!

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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Pierre Bouspeut: Coiffure, Dressmaker, Pirate, Thief

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pirate flag

Next in my Leading Ladies and Gents series is the multi-talented pirate, Pierre Bouspeut, or Bosket or Delvin, depending on which sources you read.  Pierre had fingers in as many pies as he had names: he owned a hairdressing salon, dressmaker’s shop and coffee house, and of course he was a celebrated gay villain, who lived in the pirate haven New Providence where vagabonds sold their wares at market and where all social ‘norms’ went to the wind.

It was here that Pierre met the notorious Anne Bonny.  Legend has it that Anne tempted him into a life of piracy with tales of gold and bolts of fine cloth up for the taking on the high seas.  In their most audacious escapade, Anne dressed Bouspeut’s tailors’ dummy as a corpse, smeared it with dog’s blood and sat it at the helm of her ship.  She stood over the dummy holding aloft an axe and ordered the rest of her crew to play dead.  Upon seeing the ‘ghost ship’, the crew of a French merchantman were so terrified that they immediately handed over all their cargo.

When Anne joined forces with the pirate John Rackham she took Pierre with her.  Some sources suggest that the two men had a sexual relationship.  This would not have been uncommon on the sloop where women, out of superstition, were not permitted, (apart from Anne that is, and later her lover, Mary Read).  What seems more certain is that Bouspeut probably would have designed and made Rackham’s infamous calico suits and the black velvet pants which were Anne’s signature garment.

There is little information about Pierre Bouspeut apart from his connection with Anne Bonny and John Rackham.  Similarly, his fate is not known.  Perhaps he was shot by the King’s men on board Revenge or he may have been sentenced to death and later executed.  I would like to think however that he escaped from Jamaica and carried on his glamorous existence elsewhere, living to a ripe old age, surrounded by a dozen handsome sailors.

Anne Bonny: Queen of the Sea

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Ahead of the release of Five Guns Blazing I’ll be writing about some of the leading ladies and gents who have brought my novel to life and made it such a pleasure to write.

I’d like to kick off with probably the most notorious female pirate, the flame haired Irish beauty, Queen of the Seas, Anne Bonny.

Anne is the archetypal anti-heroine: ruthless, double-crossing and fiercely independent.  She was born in Cork c1700, the illegitimate child of maidservant Mary Brennan and married lawyer William Cormac.  When Cormac’s wife made the affair public, William and Mary left Ireland in shame, taking Anne with them to America. William’s legal business prospered there and he had soon made enough money to buy a plantation.

But Anne’s fiery temper and dare-devilish nature did not sit well in polite society.  Planters in the Cormac’s circle did not wish  their daughter’s to associate with Anne, who had gained a reputation for drunkenness and for riotous behaviour in local taverns with fishermen.  Supposedly, she killed a serving maid in her father’s household for crossing her, and seriously injured a young man who tried to sexually assault her, (but we can forgive her for that at least!)

When Anne was sixteen years old she fell in love with Captain James Bonny, who was either a penniless sailor or small time pirate. Anne’s father disapproved of the match, wanting Anne instead to marry a plantation owner. But in typical Anne style, she went ahead and married James anyway, moving with him to the den of iniquity which was New Providence.

Anne soon tired of her marriage to James and cast her eye around for a means of escape.  Fate threw her in the path of pirate John Rackham, more widely known as Calico Jack, a rake, devilishly handsome, the Casanova of the seas.  It did not take much for Rackham to prise Anne away from James and the pair ran off to sea.

Anne was a ruthless pirate, proficient in the use of pistols and knives.  Sources suggest that Rackham was captain in name only and that it was Anne who ran the ship, terrorising all that sailed close to her.  Anne was not the only woman on board; there was another woman, the female pirate, Mary Read.  Some sources suggest that Anne and Mary were lovers, that Anne was besotted with Mary and that Rackham was both jealous of and fascinated by their relationship.

In 1720 Anne’s pirate adventure came to an abrupt end when she was arrested for piracy and sentenced to death.  But that was not quite the end of the story.  There is no record of Anne’s execution or of her release or escape from jail.  What became of Anne is still a mystery and remains constant source of conjecture.  All that we can be sure of is that Anne was one of the most colourful figures of the Caribbean 18th century whose legend will live-on forever.