Monday 13 April 2020

Georg[i]e for #IndieApril

Continuing the Indie April book tour, this was the third novel I wrote and either the second or third to be published. It came out the same year as Lucid, around the same time. I think maybe just before. Valentine's Day rings a bell. 

It was the second published with Green Sunset Books, who originally took me up with Angorichina. It's not what they usually publish, but they liked it so decided to go ahead. 

At the time, I was still pretty new to writing and therefore I was exploring genres. Someone once described this as 'chick lit with balls.' It's a romance between a straight girl and a trans FtM guy called George. Originally Georgiana. 

The inspiration for this one was sudden. I was walking across Gloucester Park one day from my dad's house to town, to do some shopping. Suddenly, Georgie was walking beside me. It was just an out-of-the-blue moment, where a character arrives so clearly you can't ignore it. Like the four characters in Angorichina that night in Kigali. 

The logo for Georgie (up top) was designed by my lovely friend Daniel Matthews, who did the children's story about the cloud and the mountain. We were at performing arts school together a long time back, along with Mathew of Baron Magazine.

Perhaps it's not so surprising I went for a sharp-dressed lead character. I've always had a fairly strong hat and tie fetish and regularly wear them on a night out. I have a collection of hats sitting on top of my piano and a collection of ties hanging over my closet door. Though I only tend to go with red, black or that humbug tie on the right.

In contrast, I very rarely wear dresses and don't feel particularly comfortable when I do. 

My friend got me drunk and suggested I
try on her dress.

I love the way that clothes can change how you behave, and the clothes you're most comfortable in give you confidence. I remember at drama school doing that exercise where you try on different shoes to help get into character, and how it changes your posture, the way you walk and even the way you talk. If I'm going out somewhere I don't know or feel not so confident about, I'll often put on a tie. Here, it gets some funny looks, but it also throws people off a bit. Strangers aren't always sure how to react, and that gives you a certain advantage, because now you're both a little uncertain of the situation, rather than just one of you. Sometimes women laugh, sometimes men frown, but I feel more confident than I would in a dress or a skirt. 

I think Georgie ended up dressed like he was simply because he's a confident character, and those clothes make me feel confident. So, perhaps a little projection there in wardrobe choice if nothing else. 

The book also took a lot of inspiration from the Cardiff LGBT scene, even though it was set in Reading. I did my undergrad in Reading and a master's in Cardiff, so they were both cities I knew well. I was with someone from the last year of my first degree until a few years after moving to Cardiff. When that relationship ended I became a regular on Charles Street, which used to be (I'm not sure how active it still is?) an entire street that was wall-to-wall gay bars. It was a happy place. But it was quite a collection of politics and personalities, some of which made it into the book. Whereas there's a lot of love, light and 80s music on the scene, there's also a slightly sharp side to it - a little underlying snydeness, which I personified in Sebastian. As well as some real vulnerability, which came across strongest in Eddie, and later in George himself, who, like many people, appeared far more confident and self-assured than he was beneath the surface.

It also covered the issue I encountered trying to juggle two groups of friends. I wrote my main character, Phoebe, as very straight, but as the story unfolds she faces a few of the challenges bi people like myself face. It wasn't always that easy to integrate friends, so you found yourself going out to different places with different friends on different nights. For me, there was never any homophobia involved and I've always refused to hang around anything that remotely whiffs of that, but it was more that my straight friends had no problem going out for a night on the scene - because the music is always fantastic - but that my gay friends didn't usually feel particularly comfortable, or look quite at home, sitting in a very heterosexual public house drinking a pint, where there was absolutely no music and definitely no glitter. It still makes me smile thinking about it. 

Anyway. By the time I was writing Georg[i]e, I don't think I was really going out much anymore, but I thought it was quite interesting to look at the scene from both sides, or at least somewhere in the middle. It can feel like bridging two cultures, not dissimilar to going overseas - there's a language to learn, things you do and don't do, and do and don't ask, ways to behave, both in the LGBT community and the heterosexual world. I was interested to explore where those boundaries lie, but also, I just wanted to write a love story. It's not a complicated book. There's no social message.  

When I look back on it now, I feel the same twinge I do with Angorichina. The grammar is pretty bad. If I could tear it apart and put some of those sentences back together without semi-colons, exclamations or ellipses, I certainly would.

The launch coincided with bookQfest, the first book festival I'd ever appeared at. It was held in November back in 2012 and was the country's first dedicated LGBTQ book festival. Even Alan Moore turned up and blew everyone away with a poetry reading from The Mirror of Love. I made some lovely friends there who I have stayed in contact with ever since, such as Jane Lovering, who is an award-winning romance writer, Paul Magrs, who is heavily involved in Doctor Who, crime writer Adrian Magson and former Betty Trask Award-winner and celebrated aerialist Will Davis. It was a real experience for me, though my reading didn't go so well. I was reading a funny part and one of the audience members laughed, which made me laugh, and I completely lost my place. Mortifying.

Photograph by Suzanna Raymond

I was a bit disappointed when the cover first came through. I wanted it to be very simplistic - just a black title against a white background, which it was, but there was a miscommunication and the title was left-justified, when it would have looked a lot better centred. I'm hoping to revamp it one day. Obviously, the font is Georgia.

The dedication is to my good friend Harri. She and I grew up in the same small country village, but not together. I'm a bit older and we were introduced when my mum's partner started giving her driving lessons. 'There's someone you'd really get on with,' he told me. We met down the pub and the rest is history. She's written a lot for Women's Views on News.

In recent years I've been questioning a bit again. I've always said 'bi' because that's what I am, but it's a lot more complicated nowadays. It seems to have become quite technical. So, I'm cisgender female bisexual (she/her/ze), I guess, despite the tie fetish.

But I've also stepped out with a trans guy after he blew me away at a conference on human rights by demolishing the speaker at the podium with an argument over sexual health services. Nothing sexier than intellect. So, sapiosexuality is definitely an element there.

The argument goes 'bisexual is basic because there's more than two genders,' yeah... but, it's easy. It takes a lot less explaining at parties, which gets you to the bar quicker. Plus, even if pansexual is the correct definition, whenever I hear that word all I think of is a goat playing the pipes. I think that's my Pagan heritage. Terminology is so personal.

And that, dear readers, segues nicely into a wonderful little ditty I'll leave you with by the magical being that is Clare Summerskill.

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