This weekend I had the opporunity to chat with and answer questions virtually from a group of readers and authors. There were MANY interesting, insightful, and even entertaining questions. Two of them, however, I felt were important to share. I feel passionately about the role creators play in shaping our perceptions as consumers. There IS a place and a time for EVERYTHING. Still, in 2016, a balance in the models we are presented is lacking. I hope I never lose sight of that when I am creating, no matter WHAT I am creating. These answers will tell you a bit about me.
How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
This is a question that I think most writers and creators ponder. There are many ways that my upbringing and environment inform or color my writing. Let’s start with the deeper answer:
For me, I recall growing up and searching desperately for models of me. Why were there never tales of a princess who fell in love with a queen or a lady in waiting? Why were there never heroines (Except maybe Wonder Woman)? Why was it BatMAN, and SpiderMAN, and SuperMAN? And why? Why when there started to be just a handful of women who kissed women on TV or fell in love in a book… WHY did it always have to be tragic? Always a death. Always total rejection for someone. Always bitterness. Where was the hope?
I’m not sure what was worse, not seeing myself at all—which meant no one like me existed or constantly seeing that who I was could only bring sadness. Did I need a MAN to rescue me? And, what about family? Why couldn’t I have that house and two kids, and why couldn’t I just fall in love with someone? THAT informs what I write. There is a place for loss, for rejection, for drama, for unhappy endings, BUT there is a NEED for something else too….HOPE. Many of us fail to realize how many people still live in shadows and closets, young and old. THIS is a media age…PEOPLE need hope and they need to see themselves to understand that they matter and are not alone. We need to represent stereotypes and we need to BREAK them deliberately as well.
I grew up in an Irish-Catholic household. Trust me, I am the PINK sheep of the family. In fact, my family largely will not bother with me. My father did not speak to me for over a year when I came out. I get rejection. I also feel compelled to give HOPE. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
I think all of our experiences inform what we create. It can be place, it can be dialect, and it can be time… BUT, more than anything where we have been colors what we wish to create. For me, that is the possibility to create strong women who happen to be lesbians and make them VISIBLE to a broad audience…to both those who deliberately seek those models and to those who have yet to seriously consider them…
Change is slow. Changing hearts and opening minds matters and media plays a role in that…always has. Art is reciprocal. It reflects life, but it also informs culture. And, that is how I see it.
What has been the most memorable feedback you have ever received and do you save your feedback/emails from readers?
Most memorable? That was an email I got from a man when I was on my way home from California two summers ago. He had seen Betrayal in Political Thrillers and read it. His daughter had become involved with a woman and he had a young grandson. I remember reading it to Melissa on the plane. He told me that Alex and Cassidy made him look at things differently. He struggled, thinking his grandson needed a father present and how would it be for him to be around two women in a relationship. His words were, “They are like everyone else.” That is the MOST memorable, but there are many memorable pieces of feedback. A few in which women accused me of not being a lesbian and eviscerated me over Cassidy not being a lesbian struggling with her sexuality. So, it memorable comes both ways.