This is a post that has been decades in the making. In my lifetime equality issues have made huge strides to the extent that gay and lesbian friends are very much out and part of everyday life. I am less sure about how those friends who are transsexual feel and to be honest the extent of biphobia and bi-erasure from those who should know better never ceases to amaze me. I decided quite early in my writing career to follow the principle that “love just is” and I have never excluded relationships that I felt were germane to the characters in a story. For this reason, I believe I am struggling to find any sort of audience. There are those who would say to me something along these lines:

1. “I can’t buy / read / share your WW2 novel because it has women like that in it.”

2. “Why does everything have to contain lesbians or gays these days?”

3. “There never used to be so many of them. The world is becoming so wicked.”

On the other hand, I also get:

1. “Why did Midge have to marry a man before she discovered herself?”

2. “I wish there were no straight sex scenes in your novel, you know. Without those is would be really good.”

3. “Why did your story have so many men in it? Was that really necessary?”

To me, neither of these attitudes addresses the real problem of bi-erasure, straight-erasure or the LGBT-erasure we (wrongly) assume is over and done with. People who buy books want to look through rose tinted spectacles at a world where any of the following apply:

1. LGBTQIA people do not exist; or only exist on the periphery as sad or comic characters.

2. Men in lesfic – or women in M/M romance – do not play any role in the story, other than a minor part if absolutely necessary.

3. Characters are exclusively gay, lesbian or straight, nobody is ever confused and bisexuality is a wicked perversion that endangers everyone who is actually honest with themselves.

Sadly, my books do not conform to these straitjacketing norms and for that reason I now know that they will probably not be enjoyed by many readers, LGBTQIA or straight, within my lifetime. I have worked so hard over the last five years or so and yet I am still very much on the fringe and at this point in time I am seriously thinking of giving up creative writing altogether and going back to the less frustrating business of composing music.

You know, in my stories, I try my best to make the love scenes open, honest and tasteful; please note I said love. I am not in the business of writing erotica; too many people already do it far better than I ever could. I would just like to find a few more tolerant and open-minded readers who don’t fall into either of the above two categories though. I would like to find some readers who can accept that LGBT characters existed and had (albeit closeted) normal lives before 1970 and others who can accept that their own liberation includes recognising that we are not stereotypes. Real people are not all the same – black or white, hetero-exclusive or homo-exclusive, recognisable genre tropes in day to day existence – nor should we be. My relationships are not second class relationships, either in real life or between the pages of my novels.

Rant over.

Love just is.

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Well the easy answer is because that is her nature. Life as a writer would be infinitely more easy if our characters were less complex. If Midge were heterosexual that would throw open a much larger readership for me for a start. Schools and Christian readers would not be taken aback by her love for another woman for example. Yet she would blend unseen into the infinitely large pile of boy meets girl romances. If she were to be a lesbian on the other hand that would make her life much less complicated for her and for my novel too. There would be a ready made niche audience of lesfic fans who I suspect would be somehow much more comfortable with her sexuality. There would be fewer triggers in the story although, for me, it would be less true to life and less interesting. Midge is neither gay nor straight and that shapes her life in unexpected ways. Although she is obviously drawn to women emotionally she enjoys the company of men as likeable human beings and has a strong sex drive which is modified by the era in which she was born. There will be those readers who say she always was a lesbian and just had to discover her true self; there will be some who castigate her for marrying a man just as there will be those who condemn her for being unfaithful to Richard. So why did I write her this way? Was I trying to be trendy?

In answer to the first, my writing tends to be character driven. I believe that our characters exist in some hidden dimension of space or time waiting to speak to those who will be most attentive to their needs. Maybe some will see that as paranormal; I think it more likely that it is a product of our own psyche, our conscious beliefs and our unconscious dreams. When a character like Midge is “born” she takes over the writing of the story and leads it down paths a little different possibly from those we had planned. I could no more force Midge to be gay or straight than I could force myself to eat melted blue cheese on cornflakes! She has a voice of her own and her scenes were almost dictated to me, as distinct from scenes I wrote for other characters after in depth historical research.

Was I trying to be trendy? Absolutely not. The concept of “bisexual being trendy” is really limited in my experience to the young and famous. For most honestly bisexual individuals it is not an easy label to take on or live with. The ideas many people have about bisexuals derive from sources that have a strong agenda. I won’t go into that now, but I will reference a superb book that addresses many of the misconceptions about bisexuals. This comes from my review of Purple Prose on Goodreads:

“Bisexual is not a “one size fits all” label. Being bisexual is not about being confused, trendy, greedy or dishonest. Bi-phobia and bi-erasure are institutionalised everywhere. Bisexuals are often, but not always, monogamous. They might identify as straight or gay/lesbian their entire lives but they know they have romantic feelings towards both genders and indeed sometimes to people whose gender falls outside the binary norm. A bisexual friend once said to me “I love a person, not a gender.” For those individuals who fall into the “monosexual” category gender assumes an overwhelming significance in partner choice. For bisexuals it does not – a person is loved for more than their intimate parts, their masculinity or femininity. This should be liberating. Often it is not.”

So I was not trying to be trendy and by being honest rather than reductionist in my writing I was probably always going to limit my book’s audience but if one person reads The Wings to Fly and says “I know that girl, she is like me” or “she is like my friend” then it will have been worthwhile. Sometimes life does not fit into convenient pigeonholes and neither do heroines in fiction.

This is something writers are often asked and I find I am no exception to that. The answer will vary from author to author and also varies within genres. For example, in my short stories I often find the idea for a story arrives well before any of the characters. In my novels it is a completely different kettle of fish. In the case of The Cougar , Berenice actually appeared to me in a dream and said “Tell my story.” She had such a commanding presence that I had little choice in the matter and the following day I sat down and began to write The Cougar from scratch. This novel was my first and I was not writing to any standard genre or pattern. The Cougar is a love it or hate it novel for that reason. It doesn’t conform and is not written with anyone’s sensitivities or preferences in mind. I could have bent the story or characters to a particular style or genre but I wouldn’t really want to. Berenice wanted the story told and it was Berenice who dictated the telling of it. The Cougar was an easy book to write and seemed quite effortless at the time; its setting was a familiar one – a place I love in reality – research was serious because I like to get things right historically but it presented no problems. The hard part was the editing but the hardest of course was learning to live with all sorts of criticism, some of it harsh, much of it probably justified based on what is expected of writers when it comes to “how to write commercially”. Were there things I could have done differently? Very likely, but it is a question of weighing up what could be gained against what would be lost.

When I wrote my second novel (which at the time probably looked like being my third) it was again character driven. I had a few thoughts which gave birth to an initial storyline but, once begun, I found that the character of Midge took over as narrator for much of the time and her feelings took front seat throughout. The Wings to Fly is an historical novel and certainly required a lot of reading and research, taking nearly a whole year to write the first draft as opposed to The Cougar’s six weeks, in both cases this was followed by careful editing. The Cougar was therefore an easier project than The Wings to Fly but I am happy overall with the result. It is a longer and more complex tale and I took on board many examples of the historical fiction genre that I have enjoyed over the years. It is a more intimate telling, there are fewer factual asides, where reality creeps in it is made part of the action. Characters are, I hope, well developed and believable. There are aspects of the main character in both of these novels that I would like to elaborate on further because I am sure some readers are going to have questions about their complex personalities and lives but those are questions that will have to wait for another day.

Both The Cougar and The Wings to Fly are available in paperback and ebook format and may be read for free on Kindle Unlimited.