Saturday, March 14, 2015


There is a movement in publishing which has gathered a great deal of momentum just in the past six months, and which is gratifying to see - and which I have DECIDEDLY failed (with The Ax and the Vase, that is) to participate in. Ax is not only about a royal white dude, but it's self-absorbedly told in first person POV, *and* includes a long and inextricable subplot about, essentially, hating and punishing homosexual behavior.

I've talked about it before, and don't defend these things in their essence. Ax is the story that made me tell it, and (failings and all) it still captivates me, and it's a great novel. I didn't think, when falling into the story, about its demographics, and have wrestled with my own culpability as an author since.

The WIP happens once again to be about a royal princess, but (a) this novel will be told, at least, from the point of view of a woman, and (b) takes place in world by far more cosmopolitan than an ancient Frankish stockade. At least two major characters are people of color, and the issue of how one of these must die is one I am dealing with at great mental length these days, because it echoes, for me, the insensitivity of a White Dude King killing off the gay man in his ranks, and there is concern not only for my ethical expectations, but also the genuineness of the world. I shy away from political correctness in dealing with any story, and yet there is a definite need to "redeem" myself from some of the constraints my original first-person novel brings with it, no matter how good it is.

There is also the concern of my being a white person of undoubted privilege and freedom, and the extent to which I exoticize diversity, as opposed to presenting it properly. I couldn't even bring myself to add to the community response at Janet Reid's recent post about diversity; they do too good a job there for me to improve on it. I just know I want to participate in #WeNeedDiverseBooks - in the right way for who I am and what we all want to accomplish.

How to do that ...

  • Avoid exoticization - turning someone's entire culture into a Hallowe'en costume (or, even worse, a sexy Hallowe'en costume) to dress up my book.
  • Avoid appropriation - imitation is not always the sincerest form of flattery; sometimes, it's just a reductive presumption, and can lead to a loss of perspective. Not good for writing about something.
  • Don't impose myself on a character or a culture - researching a world to build it, without demolition in order to reface it. Storytelling is not a wasteful home design show out to impose a fresh new face on an old house, it's an exploration of structure and style which should be true to intent. I don't jam 21st-century feminists into my works, and I don't fetishize the worlds into which I want to bring my readers.
  • Follow the story. If the characters are allowed "their own truth" so to speak, everything will work better. I love to be led, as an author.
  • Keep #WeNeedDiverseBooks and the great diversity and voices *in tune* all the time. I find inspiration in Twitter all the time for this, connections and perspectives not only keeping me honest about my privilege, but affecting the way I live and write, and how I think about approaching everything.
  • FIND THE HISTORY. There are more and more people every day seeking to illuminate sources beyond the powerful white men. Researchers are amazing people, and they share - it would be madness not to take advantage of that, as a writer.

The WIP is bringing with it, every day, more exciting opportunities in its story, its research - its *characters*.

Wish me luck ...

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