I have a treat for you today! Shira Glassman is the author of The Second Mango, due out this Wednesday the 21st from Prizm Books, the Young Adult imprint of Torquere Press. I am excited to bring you Shira’s post on developing her characters for her novel. Take it away, Shira!
Developing the characters and central relationship in The Second Mango, due out from Prizm Books on August 21
by Shira Glassman
Mainstream fantasy and historical fiction is full of the trope of the straight woman dressing in men’s clothing for reasons completely separate from orientation or gender identity. She’s usually aiming for being taken seriously in a traditionally male pursuit, like Tolkien’s Eowyn, Disney’s Mulan, or even the one closest to my character ethnically, Singer’s Yentl. But she’s always straight, because mainstream fiction, until recently, has always been mainly straight, especially when we’re talking about the good guys and the main characters.
So often in their stories, the straight-but-crossdressing woman winds up with a woman in love with her male identity, but the inherent lesbianism of this is never addressed openly. “She found a way to deflower the bride [Hadass],” says Singer. Marzelline in Beethoven’s Fidelio wants to marry Leonore. As a bisexual child, I was fascinated. But neither Hadass nor Marzelline are ever written as lesbians. They are always supposed to be straight women who were taken in by the male clothing. I was tired of being erased by this homophobic silencing. I wanted to see what would happen if one of these straight-but-crossdressing women came face to face with a real lesbian.
Hence the creation of Rivka, my crossdressing warrior woman, and Queen Shulamit, who hires her for protection.
And then, for kicks, I decided the lesbian would be very feminine (not to mention nerdy) because it amuses me when people hear the “gay woman, straight woman, and dragon” tag line and assume the gay woman is the one with the armor, biceps, and sword.
As far as the plot–well, once you’ve established that your two main characters are a lesbian and another woman who isn’t going to be a romantic partner, if you want to write romance, you have to go in search of other lesbians! And so they did. Of course, when you’ve got a warrior and a dragon with you, you’ve also got to have way more exciting adventures than just a Quest for the Royal Girlfriend, and luckily, those adventures came pretty easily and took over the story.
Check out Shira’s book, The Second Mango, available Wednesday August 21st from Prizm Books.