At last year’s GCLS Conference I attended a number of panels and readings. From the sessions I attended this one line from Dorothy Allison stands out. She was talking about writing and said that writers need to have “the willingness to be naked on the page.”
Dorothy demonstrated through all her talks, including the emotive reading she did from Bastard Out of Carolina, and in her keynote speech, that she is willing to be naked in public as well (not literally, of course – maybe only for private readings).
I thought of this “nakedness” again over the past few weeks. I’ve been reading my way through J M Redmann’s Micky Knight series.
I read the first in the series, Death by the Riverside, probably about twenty-five years ago, so it’s been fascinating to rediscover the books and see the stories from the perspective of my older self. (Also, the books are set in New Orleans and I can feel another level of connection from my brief time in the city last summer.)
The author doesn’t hold back when describing the awfulness of Micky’s early years. And her character’s way of dealing with the past isn’t particularly healthy as Micky loses herself in drink and random sex with just about any woman who crosses her path.
In the first book, Micky is well on the road to self-destruction. Her journey through the eight books is a massive roller coaster ride. Just when you think she’s moving towards a happy ever after, Hurricane Katrina arrives and knocks everything sideways.
As a writer of romance novels, I’m always hoping for the perfect HEA. This, however, is dangerous territory for Micky, especially in the beginning, when she doesn’t think she deserves to be loved.
Reaching the end of this series, I know I’m going to have withdrawal symptoms. For all her faults, Micky is a thoroughly believable character. I’d love to spend an evening sitting on a bar stool next to her, sipping Scotch and listening to her stories.
Other characters that come close to engendering the feelings I’ve experienced reading these books are Katherine V Forrest’s Kate Delafield and Jaye Maiman’s Robin Miller. Flawed and edgy; great at making the big decisions in order to catch criminals, but not so good at relationship choices.
With any genre, writers are putting themselves on the line. My romantic stories are softer in tone than the ones featuring toughened detectives. How hard is it to be completely “naked on the page” when writing a love story? However, I do at times wonder if I’m subconsciously censoring my own writing with the subliminal thought hovering in the background – “I can’t write that, my mother’s going to read this.”
I doubt that I will ever be able to create characters with as much depth as those created by the authors I’ve mentioned here. But I hope I have, so far, created characters and situations readers can recognise as real people. I may not be completely naked yet – maybe just down to my bra and panties.
I’ll leave you with that image (but no photo!).
And don’t forget to take a look at The Starling Hill Trilogy – still available on Kindle Unlimited:
Ebook links for The Starling Hill Trilogy: