Romance and culture through a lens

Last week, I finished reading Love Through a Lens by Lucy Felthouse. Despite not often getting the feels from books like this, I rather enjoyed it. The characters, the setting and the sheer Britishness of it charmed me. It was the sort of story I pictured as a Bridget Jonesy rom com with Colin Firth. And who doesn’t love a bit of ol’ Colin?

I’m sure I’ve read British romances before, but being mindful of cultural diversity at the moment, it’s got me thinking about how to write a story with Australian characters without making it tragically Australian. You know, the “I’m going to beat you over the head with how Aussie I am” thing versus the off-the-cuff, by-the-way, aw yeah nah, it is what it is kind of thing.

I liked that about Evie Bliss’s The S’expert. Aside from the writing style and humour drawing me in, maybe it’s because I hear Aussie turns of phrases every day that I could gel with this. No hurdles, no extra translator switch to flick. Not that it’s a problem normally, as I’m surrounded by American and British English on a daily basis. But removing that extra language layer must certainly make a difference at the cognitive level.

Though I never detail it in the book, You and I is set in Australia. Sydney, to be precise. Leah and Craig live in Redfern. The Airbnb in Part 4 is in Bondi, though I pictured the surrounding area looking more like Manly. In my head, the characters have Aussie accents (Perth middle-class accents, oddly) and use Aussie vernacular — I wonder if that’s why the words just flowed while I was writing.

Some readers and reviewers asked for a more fleshed-out story after reading You and I. At the time, I had just recovered from writing Chasing Sisyphus and facing my fear of too many words. I wanted to play with a minimalist style, so I left out anything that didn’t have to do with sex or Leah’s emotional journey. That included auxiliary Aussie things.

But now I look back and wonder if I should have gone into detail, especially after reading Delane’s review of it on Coffee Time Romance. I wonder, what changes about the way we relate to characters when we understand their cultural context? What assumptions do we make about people from just hearing their accents? And what factors about someone or a situation are simply impossible to pick up yourself without having to be told?

I don’t know if I would have liked Love Through a Lens as much if it had been set in Australia or America or Canada. I wonder, if Lucy Felthouse had omitted the details about the British countryside and culture, would I have been able to fill in the blanks on my own? Should stories in the romance and erotica genres even ask that much of a reader?

These thoughts, on a Thursday afternoon.

 


Img via StockSnap (CC0)

Styling for Satine

With my short story, The Induction of Satine, releasing next month, I thought I’d share some character work for the eponymous heroine, Satine Luna.

One of my favourite thinking games is the casting game, where you imagine a beloved book as a movie or tv show, or a beloved movie remade or rebooted, and set up your own cast of actors. I play this game a lot when imagining characters for my stories. Even a very short story like Birdwatchers gets the brain treatment, though to a lesser extent than a novella like Chasing Sisyphus.

I’m currently loving Emma Stone as my model for Satine. She has those sly facial features that would easily typecast her as a thief. I quite like the look of Rhianna, Vivian Hsu and Olivia Wilde as well, for different variations of this character.

Since putting pen to paper, I’ve had a very strong image of her in my head. Red hair, green eyes, smooth skin, lips that taper off in sharp corners on the edges of her mouth. But note, you won’t find a description in this book. I left it out on purpose, because it’s inconsequential to the story. If there are more stories in future, maybe it’ll come up then, but for now, dear reader, Satine is yours to style (assuming I haven’t ruined it for you already).

Entirely through fault of her own, our brainy yet misguided vixen finds herself running with the infamous thieves’ guild, the Night Foxes, stealing trinkets and secrets from rich people. Until one day — no spoilers — she gets caught. That’s where our fun begins.

The Induction of Satine comes out 7th Nov.

 

 

Introducing Adria

Adria Yuan is the heroine of my debut novel1Chasing Sisyphus. She’s a bounty hunter among the Basilica City Police Department’s most wanted. She’s agile, capable, a fast learner, a skilled fighter and, most notably, reluctant. She doesn’t take pleasure in killing her targets, it’s just part of the job.

She’d like to put this life behind her, leave the planet altogether and get a fresh start somewhere else. But with Basilica City home to the most advanced medical care, and her brother in failing health, it looks like she’ll be on the ground a while longer.

Adria was 12 when the gang wars broke out across the city. Her parents were killed in the crossfire, leaving her to fend for herself and her sick brother. Blessed with physical fitness, she found her start in the bounty circuit, running pickups, dropoffs, interference and robberies. The killing came later.

She picked up her martial skills on the job and wouldn’t be able to tell you any proper names. But if you watch her fight, you’ll spot hints of Aikido, Jujitsu and Shotokan Karate. Her marksmanship could use a little work, but I’d still watch myself if she had a gun pointed my way.

Chasing Sisyphus launches September 12 on Bookstrand.com.

 


1 Technically, it’s a novella.