Sorry – the name of the reviewer to whom this piece should be credited has become lost in the fog of time 🙁
Readers and reviewers have called you the Thinking Woman’s Lesbian Romance Novelist. What do you make of that?
It’s such a mouthful that I sometimes have problems saying it but what I immediately liked when I first came across it were these two words: Thinking Woman. I’m flattered to have it confirmed that my writing appeals primarily to readers who enjoy having their minds challenged, even as they read ‘romance.’ The word Woman is all encompassing – pansexual.
I also like the suggestion that whether she is heterosexual, bi or exploring, a Thinking Reader would probably ‘get’ my characters’ emotional struggles.
And the word Lesbian is unequivocal, so there’s no doubt as to the kind of romance they’re in for.
Lastly, I do prefer the word Novelist to Writer – it’s got more … zing!
What is Social Realism in a Saint-Clair novel??
Social Realism is another label readers have especially attached to my most recent novels and I have warmed to it. These days, when I have to explain the genre of my last 4 novels to magazine editors who may have read none, the best shortcut is to say Social Realism Embedded in Lesbian Romance.
Why are your characters’ approach to life often so serious?
I believe that many women’s lives are unnaturally complicated by ‘loads’ dumped on them by ‘others’. I believe that being a woman most often requires a serious approach to life.
Emilie expresses this view when, in Silent Goodbyes, she says wryly, “Life’s but a game of pinball. We are the ball. Once ejected into the world, we bounce from pillar to post, sometimes cushioned, sometimes not. Sometimes hitting the jackpot with all bells ringing, sometimes not. The sure thing is that sooner or later, we end up in a hole.” Then she adds, “Pretty negative, huh?”
Novel-length writing is a medium which allows me to paint moments of real life: sexual, sensual, meaningful, against backdrops that one can find confronting, to varying degrees, depending on one’s sexual register and emotional baggage.
Why do you highlight issues such as loneliness, and emotional and physical abuse of one sort or another?
I like to imagine that, for example, the reader who comes across Risking-me will end up with a new understanding of woman-to-woman violence, and that her involvement with the characters’ highs and lows might motivate her to reconsider that woman-to-woman violence does indeed exist. It is true that some aspects of my plots contain bleak moments of urban reality but what’s also true is that they, hopefully, construct a compassionate and moving portrayal of women, and celebrate our resilience.
In North & Left From Here, my debut novel, the backdrop against which Alex’s lust storms are cast in the form of sensual or poignant flashbacks may, by comparison, appear deceptively simple as it deals only with the loneliness she feels in her current circumstances. However, the thoughts she entertains are neither simple nor uncommon. They are the thoughts of a woman who wants to get it right … the next time.
Similarly, in Far From Maddy I weave two young lovers, Maddy and Jo, against a backdrop of emotional abuse at the hand of a chronically depressed mother who finally suicides during her daughter’s teen years. I like to imagine that the reader who might not have thought much about the topic of homelessness by ‘choice’ – the only way in which 22-year-old Jo feels she can self-medicate her emotional pain – might consider the issue from a fresh angle.
In Benchmarks, the backdrop to Alex’s and Adrienne’s unparalleled longing for each other is the issue of allegiance to one’s long term partner for one, and loyalty to an old friend for the other. It is about how much denial of one’s desire a woman is to endure before she either retreats or capitulates. True: the issues of rape and [older brother-sister] incest swirl around these two would-be lovers but this man-made violence only serves to enhance the fragile nature of the desire they feel for each other.
In Jagged Dreams, 18-year-old Marielle and Tamara try, in different ways, to come to terms with a sexually abusive father but their story is one of fresh, clean, sensual desire for each other, as is that of all my lesbian protagonists.
Why do you publish your own books?
Producing my own books, in collaboration with BookMakers Ink in the United States, allows me to tackle any topic I wish and to tackle it in my own way, taking my own risks.
Producing my own books frees me from the usual constraints and frustrations that too many of us have to contend with while awaiting, month after month, sometimes years, anointment from a traditional publisher.
Besides the fact that I don’t have what it takes to afford an agent, let’s just say that I’m a Leo and that I lack the stand-still-and-chill patience required on the traditional path to being published. I also believe in synchronicity.
You spent your teenage years in the States. You got a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from a major American university. Why write all your novels in British-Australian English?
It’s true that I have lived in many countries but Australia is where my heart and my home are now. I became an Australian citizen some 8 years ago and, out of deference to the readers of my country of adoption, I chose not to Americanise the British-based spelling of the Australian language. Particularly in Far from Maddy and Morgan in the Mirror, I opted to have the protagonists use Aussie idioms whenever appropriate. I have also set the starting point of all of my plots in the south-east of the state of Queensland where I live. Having said that, through the magic of flashbacks, and reveries, my characters move in and out of … elsewhere.
Is there a common thread running through your plots?
I am as passionate about the sensuality of my writing as I am about exposing readers to my brand of romance novel and I find that sensuality, desire, lust and sometimes even eroticism blend well with plots that are realistic and, at times, gritty. I enjoy writing strong scenes based on realistic moments in a character’s rich life, in plots that usually only span a few weeks. I like to cast my female characters against one confronting societal issue or another but I also delight in layering sexual and sensual tension between two women.
I always weave a loose connection between each novel [though each is a stand-alone] by bringing back, in a supporting role, one of the characters from an earlier novel.
I like to imagine that the reader who becomes involved with private moments in the lives of Alex, Emilie, Tamara, Jo, and Maddy, might feel, when she connects with each in later plots, as if she had bumped into an old friend.
You have written screenplay adaptations for Morgan in the Mirror and Far From Maddy. Why do you think these plots lend themselves to the big screen?
I believe both novels contain a very strong sense of the visual, as well as having emotionally strong scenes.
Confronting moments translate well to the big screen, scenes such as Morgan’s workmates unintentionally ‘exposing’ him [as an FTM] on the construction site where he has been presenting as a male; or when he climbs a 600 metre volcanic plug, unroped, just to pay a final farewell to his father during a makeshift, very poignant, memorial service at dawn; or when he exuberantly stands naked in front of Christen, his would-be love interest, challenging her to look, to really look at him – all these moments could be memorable silver screen moments.
Besides, though there is a myriad of wonderful transgender plot ideas out there – I’m thinking of The Crying Game, Boys Don’t Cry and Soldier Girl – I don’t know of any centred on a female-to-male’s journey, let alone that of a healthy and sexy transman who is anything but a tragic figure.
Jo’s story in Far From Maddy also contains its share of “Oh, my goodness!” moments, and moments of heart-connectivity, and I truly believe that, in time, the gritty social realism that is integral to Morgan and Jo’s circumstances will bring about a convergence of creative talents that will see this project through.
What’s the synopsis for the Morgan script?
Morgan was never ambivalent about her gender orientation: at the age of four she announced that she intended to grow up to become a man, just like her brother.
As a twenty-three-year-old female-to male transsexual looking for a meaningful relationship, Morgan hits the wall and realizes that there is more to becoming a man than injecting testosterone, getting himself a manly chest and packing a prosthetic.
The death of his father and a love entanglement with Christen, a detective sergeant in the Queensland Police Force, a heterosexual who is twelve years his senior, propel Morgan on a journey of self-discovery as he, and Christen, redefine what it means to be a man.
What’s the next project for C.C. Saint-Clair?
I’ve got a few ideas on the drawing board but, at the moment, I’m concentrating on broadening my readership platform. After that, a trip back to Paris and to my family in Nice, as well as a trekking adventure through Cambodia with Myahr, my partner, bank balance permitting, of course. After all of that, I know I’ll be itching to get back to the keyboard for novel number eight.