Welcome Marion Husband to the blog. Readers nominated her The Boy I Love series for a 2014 LGBT Book Gem.
When I give readings and talks about The Boy I Love trilogy of novels, I am sometimes asked why, as a heterosexual woman, I wanted to write about homosexual men. I answer that it was accidental, a way into a plot: I’d started a novel and it seemed to me that it didn’t have enough drama, there had to be more conflict, more struggle and interest. It occurred to me that if the central character was a gay man then there would be more for him to overcome and therefore more for me to write about.
Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? What to write about. I think so many books are written about murder because it’s the only thing that many writers can think of that’s interesting enough. Death and trauma are interesting – we rubber neck when we pass a car accident, we don’t watch Mr Smith parallel park his Honda Civic (although we might if he was bad at parking and in danger of smashing that Jaguar’s headlight – this would be comedy, I suppose). I knew I didn’t have it in me to write a crime novel, but I was in love with this character I had thought up, Paul Harris, and I really, really wanted to write about him and how he survived the First World War. So, here is Paul in his lieutenant’s uniform and he is very handsome and troubled and he wants only to be left in peace – but that peace has to be disrupted – disruption is drama – as Henry de Montherlant said, happiness writes white. Peace and contentment? No story. Peace and contentment might be the ending of the story, but Paul has to go on a journey to reach that happy-ever-after.
So – the journey starts in 1919. Paul is hiding in his lover’s pantry (I know, it only occurred to me quite recently that he was literally closeted). He is hiding from his father, who has come in search of him because he is so worried for his mental health – Paul was recently released from an asylum. His father loves him and knows that his son is gay (queer as they would have called it then). I am Paul’s father, of course. I am also Paul – I see everything in everyway. OK – really I am God, or a little girl playing with a very well populated dolls’ house – a whole street of dolls’ houses that also includes her brother’s fort with all its toy soldiers…Whichever way you want to look at it I stand in all the shoes, trip over the rugs or dance the quickstep. I think to myself, how can I make Paul’s hiding in the pantry interesting and not daft or boring or unbelievable? It’s the believable-ness that agitates me most and has me wandering the house or making another cup of coffee. I know I don’t write enough, that I speed in and out of scenes. I know that I can’t really write. Writing is very hard and I am an amateur: readers, if I ever have any, will think this is rubbish…
All the same, here is Paul, in the pantry…so describe stuff, what can he see, hear, smell, taste, touch; what does he remember? What is he looking forward to, what does he dread? There are all the sensations of the pantry, but he also leaves the pantry through the time machine of his memory: he is in bed with his lover the evening before he leaves for the trenches. He is five years old and walking on a beach with his father. He lifts a jar of marmalade to his nose and there is stickiness and scents, a label to be read, a memory to be had. And all of this has to be relevant to the plot – somehow it has to tell you what the story is about without being boring or too shallow. And after the pantry there is dialogue and walking down the street and all his thinking and observations; there is a scene shift and new characters to introduce, and so on and so on for eighty-thousand plus words.
I always wanted to write from being a child. Writing excites me and lifts my spirits – the ideas for stories, the falling in love with my characters. Writing has also brought more worry than almost anything else in my life – the rejections are very painful, and there is a sense of failure with every novel, published or not. Often I wonder what it would be like to stop writing altogether, or if I had never written and had thrown myself into creating a more stable career. I think that it would be a great relief. I think also that I would’ve regretted very much not pursuing my childhood ambition. There are always what ifs and regrets. I am where I am, about to self-publish my next novel, Now the Day is Over. I tell myself I can always give up, it’s a kind of comfort; but I won’t give up just yet.
Marion Husband is a prize-winning author of poetry, short stories and five novels including the best-selling trilogy The Boy I Love, All the Beauty of the Sun and Paper Moon. She has taught creative writing for many years and is hardly jaded by this at all. She blogs, haphazardly, and knows she really should try harder at being an energetic, committed marketer of her novels, but somehow there’s always a pile of washed socks to hang on the radiator. Her house was built by a friend of Captain James Cook in 1763 and she is inordinately proud of this. Said house is in the North East of England. She is married with two grown-up children and a small dog, bored by the long, sitting down hours of the writing life. Connect on Goodreads.