When Rachel and I set out to write Emerald Fire, our novel from Torquere Press, we wanted to create a culture where male romantic parings aren’t just plausible, but part of the fabric of the society. In order to do that, we considered the age of piracy and the founding of the colonies on Australia, and extrapolated from there. In the process, however, we created a gender-stratified society by accident.
As a feminist, this intrigues me. I used to (and still do, in my heart-of-hearts) spell women with a y – “womyn” – and argue that there is such a thing as a patriarchy. Though some of my ideas of gender relations have mellowed with maturity, not all of them have. It still makes my blood boil that the posters required by the Labor Department in my former employer’s break room stated that in the state of Illinois, women earn $0.71 for every $1.00 a man earns. The fact that this tidbit is posted on a sanitized publication of the government like Minimum Wage requirements and paid time off just makes me ill. It’s not like the gender wars are over; they’ve just gone subterranean, at least for me.
On Persis, we created a class of worker we call “Keepers,” who fulfill the general duties of homecaring traditionally associated with “women’s work”: laundry, cooking, sewing, and tidying. Over the generations, each of the Keeps specialized in certain areas such as music, a particular art, etc. Keepers are only men; women go into the Guilds.
As we developed the world, both for Emerald Keep and for subsequent novels, we continued to focus on the men – mostly because those are our main characters, since the stories are M/M romance. But one day, we woke up and realized that, in effect, we’ve created a strictly stratified society in which men fulfill certain roles that women, by cultural tradition, do not.
Horrors! I immediately found myself wanting to write a novel of a female character who sneaks into a Keep to become a Keeper, or something similar. Rachel got into it too and we developed a character who runs off to become a Hunter and hires her own Keeper, but in a Contract with no intimacy involved. One day, she falls ill and the Keeper receives a shock when he finds out his male Contract is, in fact, not. We may or may not write this story as-is, or we might change it up and vary how we handle it. But I never expected to one day have to gender-bust in my own world that I created myself!
What surprises have you found, if you’re a writer, in your own writing; or as a reader, in your favorite novels?
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Check out BURNING BRIGHT, available from Samhain Publishing.
Check out EMERALD FIRE, available from Torquere Press.
Watch for Taking a Chance, part of the Charity Sips 2012 Series from Torquere Press, benefitting NOH8.