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.



  1. Hi! You need to make sure your links open in a separate tab so we can enjoy the music and read at the same time. It's kind of Amélie-ish but has more depth with the strings. A great mood. :) Great to hear about how you're growing this premise out. I would recommend also watching 'Orlando' by Sally Potter. Read the book only if you're brave. Those issues in the zeitgeist now are just eternal ones having a moment of light. I hope your book is one of them.

    1. I'm such a fan of the book! Thank you for pointing out the movie to me, I hadn't heard of it. And thank you for the kind words as well. :)

  2. Everything posted was actually very logical. But, what about this? what if you added a little content? I mean, I don't wish to tell you how to run your blog, however what if you added a title to possibly get folk's attention? I mean %BLOG_TITLE% is a little boring. You ought to glance at Yahoo's front page and see how they create article headlines to grab viewers interested. You might try adding a video or a pic or two to grab people excited about everything've written. Just my opinion, it could make your blog a little bit more interesting. login