Wednesday 28 December 2011

"Is he ever going to write a book for people like me?"

Recently (a few weeks back, okay, make it months), my colleague and friend Chris Hawkins told me of a conversation she's had with one of my readers (I still struggle typing the word "fan" and will likely forever be stuck in that default...).

Chris explained that my reader is a paraplegic who loves my work and she asked Chris: "Do you know whether he's ever going to write a book for people like me?" Adding that she felt I could write a main character with a disability and do him (and her, by proxy) justice.

Now I don't know who she is (Chris kept this in strict confidence, just relaying the story). I responded that I have a lot of characters dealing with a disability. Vadim Krasnorada suffers from a a bad case of PTSD. Other characters have survivor's guilt, shell shock. Sergei Stolkov, in many ways Vadim's younger mirror-image, loses an arm and a leg and has issues with his prosthetics (which are stupidly advanced and those issues seem to be largely psychological). Kendras, like Richard, has a permanent limp after a foot/knee injury.

Of course, those characters who are permanently disabled get what I'd call "magical replacements". Stupidly advanced tech that makes the physical limitation pretty much only cosmetic. In short, if it doesn't seriously impact a character, it's basically a cop-out, and in many ways, I'm pretty aware of it.

After my experiences with Race!Fail (and my immediate, passionate denial of being a racist just because I had white main characters only), I've become ultra-wary of my own instinctive "but of course I'm not X!" responses.

In this case, we're not talking racism, we're talking ableism. The assumption, in short, that main characters can only be physically perfect, with all limbs basically intact. Now, of course, in erotic fiction, the perfect six-pack, the wise-cracking charm and the physical beauty are, in some ways, givens. It's the default.

It's also a pretty rotten message, which some people can understand as "only perfect/white/healthy/X/Y people deserve love and passion" - and are understandably upset about. While we as readers (and I'm one, too), slip into the skin of these perfect people (who are prettier, wittier, sexier, more confident ... than us), that skin doesn't always fit. The "default" excludes a lot of people.

I've written Kendras a black man, and it wasn't hard at all, once I really understood what was going on inside him, his skin colour didn't matter to "me the writer". I've written Silvio as a genderfluid person (Dark Lady II definitely crosses the line from crossdressing into real gender issues - and wow, was I expecting to be hanged and quartered for that, but it didn't happen), I've tackled various mental and physical injuries and damages.

Today, I think I've seen a character happen to me who is for my reader, whoever she is, and everybody out there who wants a character like that. He's pretty kick-ass, and I can't promise more, because all I've seen so far is a tiny glimpse, but something's germinating.


On a side note, I've written more than 5k in the last two days. I can hope that I've overcome the agonizing writer's block that November has given me. I'm not quite sure if anything that I've written yesterday and today is any good, but attempting to write doesn't feel anymore like tearing out my eye balls. I've even hit the occasional patch of "flow". It's no longer like pulling teeth - and how much I missed that.


  1. Just when I think you couldn't amaze me more...your sensitivity leaves me awe-struck-- not just about having the differently-abled in your purview, but how you have approached so many various issues and perspectives. You are absolutely a treasure and I'm glad to hear that you're getting back in the flow. *sigh*

  2. You know, I think that's why I wanted to (and did) write a story with an MC with herpes when I wrote my freebie for the GR M/M Romance group. Because it's something you almost never see, and there are so many people it affects. I received several comments over it from people who do live with herpes and were so glad to see it in a story.

    Glad to hear that your muse seems to be popping out of the burrow again, even if it's still scared of its shadow some. (Or is the Groundhog Day reference lost on non-Americans?)

  3. So the muse found his voice again? Glad to hear it! As much as us every day individuals love delving into the lives of seemingly perfect( at least on the outside) characters, I think we have all wondered what it would be like to see a character more like us get to kick ass or get the HEA with the studmuffin *eyeroll*. Keep writing luv!!

  4. Yay! So glad to hear this Aleks! Sounds like your mojo's comin back!
    I personally love reading about characters that have imperfections - physically or personality wise. Makes them less fake and boring.