Todays guest blog is from Anne Azel, a multi-award winning Canadian author:
A while ago, I and many other writers of lesbian fiction in Canada were invited to take part in an informal discussion about our work at the Virtual Living Room. It was a real wake up call for me and an amazing weekend of good conversation. As Canadians we tend to be pretty laid back. Self promotion and even showing national pride is something that we tend to keep very low key. Something rather special happened though when we all started sharing.
First, we discovered that the freedom to be a lesbian, to marry, to adopt and to live openly in Canada has effected our work greatly. We as Canadians sometimes take the social tolerance within our country for granted but it certainly effects who we are and what we write. As Tracey Richardson (author of Last Salute and Rainbow Award winner) wrote “Living in Canada with its fairly liberal attitudes towards gays and lesbians, including of course, gay marriage since 2003, has deeply impacted how and what I write about.” The freedom to be comfortable in our skins afforded to us by Canada is a strong current in our work. We have what other societies still dream of achieving.
Secondly, we found that the appearance of publish on demand companies had resulted in an explosion of good lesbian fiction in Canada. For a long time, the need to find an agent and to be offered a contract by the few large publishing houses in Canada made it very hard for authors outside of the mainstream to get their chance. The rise of small publishing companies opened opportunities and doors for writers of lesbian fiction to get into print more readily.
The next discovery was that our land whether the wide open spaces or our unique cities moulds and even carries our story lines. Canada is the second biggest country in the world with a population of only 35 million. Here the land dominates. Lois Cloarec Hart (author of Broken Faith and Golden Crown Literary Society winner) writes, “The land figures largely in my work, whether as part of a crucial scene or in driving important plot points.” Our land has impacted greatly on what we write and is very much a part of who we are as Canadians.
Our climate too is a dominant theme in our work. “The seasons are integral to the action, even in the neighbourhoods of Toronto, contributing to the tone of the works in such a way that the city’s weather almost becomes a secondary character,” states Liz Bugg (Yellow Vengeance, Calli Barrows Series and Golden Crown Literary Society winner) Open the door in Canada and the weather immediately becomes a character within the pages of our books.
Our proximity to the USA and its influence on us was also discussed at some length. We share a three thousand mile border with the world’s super power and they out number us ten to one. Their media, movies, music, and television pervades our homes nightly and they are also our biggest readership. It is not surprising that many Canadian writers of lesbian fiction set their stories in the USA. That said, that unique Canadian style and view point still prevails in our work. Although we may to outsiders seem very similar to Americans, in fact, Canadians have very different world views and live within a very different political climate. Most of my own novels have Canadian characters and/or settings but I do admit to having one anthology, America, that is a series of positive short stories about Americans and their country.
Lastly, we were surprised to find that so many award winning authors of lesbian fiction are in fact Canadian. Recently, a site for authors of Canadian lesbian fiction has been established. As Sarah Ettritch (author of Threaded Through Time) writes, “There is a lack of awareness when it comes to Canadian authors of lesbian fiction. Readers seem to assume that an author is American unless proven otherwise.” There is a creative force that runs through the lesbian communities of Canada. Our publishing industry has set the bar high with mainstream authors such as Timothy Findley, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munroe and Michael Ondaatje. Canadian authors of lesbian fiction are rising to the challenge. We have a unique style and voice that needs to be heard.
Author of Tides