Stopping by today is the awesome B.R. Collins, to talk about her novel The Traitor Game and homophobia.
After I’d written The Traitor Game, it occurred to me that it might be out of date. I wrote it when I was twenty-four, remembering what life was like when I was fourteen – and because of that, there were things that may now seem quaint and outdated. One of the reviews, for example, commented on the fact that the boys create their world on paper and not on a computer. Some of the language and other things might be a bit old too. (I guess I need a teenager to tell me, really. Comments on a postcard welcome. Oh no, wait. Email. Not sure I’ll ever get the hang of this.)
Those things aren’t really important, in the big scheme of things. But also, when I was having this (slightly morbid, I s’pose) conversation with myself, I wondered whether I’d got one of the central themes of the book wrong. In my life as an adult – a pretty middle-class, liberal, arty kind of life, to be fair – I rarely seemed to encounter much homophobia. What if today’s adolescents just weren’t as insecure and prejudiced as we could be, back in the day? What if Michael’s horror and Shitley’s vicious hostility to “poofters” and “pansies” just didn’t ring true any more? What if the book was a period piece, depicting a kind of quaint pitiable world that would make people chuckle? Well, obviously that would be great. Hurrah! (Even I’m not ambitious enough to want the world to stay unenlightened just so my books don’t go out of date.)
But I think I was being smug. It’s easy to think that homophobia is a thing of the past, especially if you’re hanging out with writers and actors and people who think like you do. But then you have moments when someone asks you to make the lesbian love affair in your next book “a passionate friendship” because the marketing department is uneasy about putting people off. Or your partner’s daughter (she’s eighteen) grimaces and makes gagging sounds when you mention something about someone being gay, and you think: Oh. Still there, then.
It’s depressing. It’s tiring. For a writer, it’s immensely frustrating to have your central conflict (I’m gay! Am I gay? Oh no, I think I’m gay...) automatically chosen for you, just because your characters happen to be the same sex. In The Traitor Game, it wasn’t a problem for me, because that was the book I wanted to write. The homophobia is part of the drama, and it was something I wanted to confront. But in Love in Revolution, the book that’s coming out in August, I was determined to resist that – and so the characters’ relationship unfolds in circumstances where the fact that they’re both girls is eclipsed by everything else that happens to them. It was important to me that facing prejudice – in my fictional world – wasn’t the defining experience of being gay. Desire is about people. Not categories, not labels. I wanted, this time, just to write about love.
It’s a luxury to be able to write homophobia out of existence. It’ll be harder to do it in real life.
Thank you, B.R., for such a great post! Isn't it awesome how she fought to keep her characters' sexuality AND for her own chosen central conflict for her up-coming book? Be sure to check out B.R.'s blog, read my review of The Traitor Game, and check out Love in Revolution when it comes out