I read some advice by author Joanna Walsh, “define carefully what makes you uncomfortable, and dwell in that difficulty. Find ways to enjoy it.” It’s hard for me to contemplate the notion of discomfort while I sit outside with the sun on my back on this beautiful spring day, but I know it all the same.
Something I secretly fear (but act like it’s no big deal) is that my book The River and the Ravages simply doesn’t fit easily in a genre. I didn’t follow the rules of outlining my plot and forming my characters based on what is normally done in any single genre. This was pointed out to me quite early into my writing but it felt too darn important to me to keep writing the book that was inside me and not follow the rules. I may pay for that decision one day, but I may, on the other hand, reap the rewards.
Too often we fear to take bold steps and instead follow the safe path. I’m not being critical by any means. I’ve done it plenty in my own life. There are often so many competing priorities in any given decision to be made, I wonder how any decision gets made in the first place. But for the big stuff, the stuff that defines who we are, who we choose to love, how we spend our days, our weeks, our lives, it often requires gutsy decisions and dwelling in some bone-deep difficulty for a while.
What it means to me as a writer, is than I’m going to continue to write what interests me. Sex. Love. Family. Money. Death. And I’m going to continue to write about people on the brink of change and growth. People who sometimes make some great decisions, and who sometimes stuff up quite spectacularly.
And I’m going to have so much fun along the way. What a time to be alive!
I’m going to cast your mind back to 1991. If you weren’t born then, don’t you dare leave this page. You deserve to know too…no judgement here. One night, I got myself to a cinema with the few spare bits of taxpayer funded coinage I could rustle together. Thought I’d check out that “chick-flick”, Thelma and Louise.
I was in my first year of university and so I was doing things a girl normally does in her first year of university. Playing the bagpipes. Learning about hygiene. Making great strides in farrier science. I actually didn’t know much about the movie prior to seeing it. Yeah..yeah..women stuff. Whatever. It blew me out of the water.
I wasn’t prepared for a story where women get the last word in. It seemed like a milestone moment for female characters in movies. And I know I wasn’t alone thinking this. Women came out of cinemas in 1991 cheering, applauding, positively dancing in the streets after seeing this film. The story arc of two women discovering their potential had us wanting more, MORE! Everyone expected there to be more like it. But strangely, almost eerily, there weren’t more. In fact, the tale somehow slipped into folklore.
Thelma and Louise always stayed with me as a pivotal story in its own right. And inspired I was indeed. Fast forward 25 years, if I may be so bold enough (mmmm, yes…I can certainly be bold enough) I thought I’d have a crack at redressing the void since that fateful release in 1991. I too was going to tell a story. And straight away I knew it had to have two women as the lead characters. And like Thelma and Louise, I didn’t want them to be role models. I wanted them to be real women, going through real shit, and finding a way to get through it.
On an end note I want to say that I don’t believe for a second the dearth of great women’s stories in movies and TV is also happening in the world of books. There are countless books that tackle this wonderful theme. One only has to look at Goodreads lists such as “Best ‘strong female’ fantasy novels” and “YA Books with awesome female characters” to see there is strong demand for great stories with women in the driving seat. Female story tellers are kicking goals. I salute you all.