Sunday, January 24, 2016

Currently Listening: The Danish Girl

Sometimes you hear a piece of music and you know that things are falling into place. As soon as I listened to the soundtrack of The Danish Girl, a movie based on a fictionalized account of Lili Elbe’s life, I realized it suited the story I’m writing perfectly— in more ways than one.

Lili Elbe was born Einar Wegener, a danish painter who did well enough, but whose life changed completely when she realized she was actually a transgender woman. The willing participant in a controversial surgery to reassign gender, the first known of its kind, she is a sort of hallmark, and really, an important idol in history.

The twinkling piano, jaunty harp, emotional strings, haunting and sometimes spooky wind section of Alexandre Desplat’s soundtrack also accompanies my story well— with the help of some talking cats, a thirteen-year-old boy follows his parents’ path to the end of a fairytale. He’s gone through some hard times since then, he’s trying to unravel an old story, be friends with some troublesome kids, and isn’t sure what the cats want in return from him.

photo by Annie Spratt
But when I started writing over two years ago all I asked myself was “What would it have been like for a transgender child in Hitler’s Germany?” August immediately appeared in his mother’s garden, replanting tulip bulbs, with a cat lying in the sun nearby. He had a different name then, his cat did not talk yet, and his mother soon took over her own garden again. He became a boy of action instead of the passive victim the Third Reich had made him, and his story linked to that of some very old mysteries his father and mother had fallen in love with.

I’ve learned a lot since then. About the war, about Hitler, about cats and transgender children and adults, about the artists and progressive community whom Lili Elbe and her wife belonged to. Without people like them, August’s parents wouldn’t have known what to do with a transgender child. Without the the Institute for Sexual Understanding, the site of the first book burning in Nazi Germany, they would not have known to call him Transsexual, the only word used at that time. Without the war and horrible deaths before, during and after, they might have been able to go on August’s quest with him. But all these good and bad things created an adventure that I think is worth telling. Lili’s story didn’t end well, but I hope August’s will.

August has become a part of me, and I’ve long passed the point of walking away from this story. I spend every day thinking about what will happen in his life, if not working on the book directly. If you’d like to follow along, I do blog occasionally about how things are going in my writing life, and post some other things on my patreon page— the equivalent of an online tip jar— but you don’t have to pay to see what I’m putting up to read online. I’ve shared a few pieces from the perspective of other characters in the book. With this post however, an official announcement of sorts, I’ll also start sharing things more personal to August. What his life was like before it was reinvented, during the war while his father was serving in the army, and maybe something from his future life? But I’m getting ahead of myself. I’d just really like to let you know that August exists and I hope his story will be widely available sooner rather than later. I’d love to have your support while I start work on readying the book for submission.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Hello, Friends #1

I suspect I'll be doing more of these in the future, so here's to trying to establish a precedent!

I scribbled on the last page of my manuscript yesterday, after several months of laboring and many new pages drafted, splicing and asking research questions I have yet to answer. That's 150 pages gone through. And while I knew that Part II of this novel was sketchy, not as settled as Part I (which I finished the rough for a little more than 2 years ago) I didn't realize how much is missing.

So I'm going to do an intense edit of Part II which will include a lot of new scenes, a lot revision of what exists, and will start with creating an outline to plot down the beats and arc I want there to be.

I got a little money for Christmas and bought myself that tablet I mentioned on my patreon, so as I sketch out places and people I'll be sure to share them with you.

My shoulder has been hurting on and off for several months, and is mostly due to the bad desk set up at my job, but I am also partly to blame: curling up on my desk with my pen clutched tightly, my nose inches away from the paper. Perhaps it isn't surprising, but my typing posture is way better than my longhand posture. I'll go back to the chiropractor and see what else I can do for it.

I read a great article (and now can't find it, gosh darn) about only using the social media I like, so I've been ambivalent about using tumblr. I like twitter, instagram and blogspot best. But I still think about it. Because the type of posts I am most tempted to share on patreon would probably be best on tumblr.

I have a fairly personal blog post in the pipes which I look forward to sharing with you soon.  It's going to allow me to post about other topics related to the novel. Also look forward to an update on my patreon, despite the slow build of it, I have learned from the months after my novella went out, and I hope the changes will be for the better.