I began writing Lunatic Fringe in December of 2008. It started with a silly conversation my partner (whom I often refer to as my Lesbian Lover or LL on the blog) and I were having in the kitchen of my LA apartment. We were talking about mythological creatures and I went on a tirade about the lack of female werewolves in pop culture. I explained how obvious it was- women’s bodies are so tied to the cycles of the moon, lending us a more tangible connection to the primal and the shadowed side of nature. LL suggested that my philosophy on female werewolves sounded like a book and within about 30 seconds I believed him.
I started outlining and sketching in December and began writing in earnest in April of 2009. I finished the first draft of Lunatic Fringe in October of 2009, and just finished various rewrites of it this past May. Now, I’m looking for an agent and publisher while I explore alternative models of promotion and publishing.
I’ve always loved writing and had dreamt of being a writer from a very young age. I had a knack for it, but outside of a couple of summer school classes, I never studied it after high school. I went to Oberlin College, graduating in 2003 with a degree in Neuroscience. Though I was planning on becoming a doctor, in my heart, I always wanted to be an artist. My parents are realists who encouraged me to pursue a tangible and achievable career while tending to the arts as hobbies (I also studied viola and acting). Throughout school, I retained a lot of cultural programming that told me being an artist was impossible or pathetic, and that I should tend only the logical, smarty-pants side of my brain to achieve and strive in the hierarchy of career. Looking back, I feel like I wasted a lot of time in science classes, barely passing yet holding fast to the left-brained identity I wished for myself. I would have been so much more excited by and engaged in gender studies or art classes, but I was too much of a coward to admit my love for art and theory.
While I got a kick-ass education in the classroom, most of my schooling came from the people I met on campus. I was raised in sub/urban Ohio where the ethnic and racial background of my peers was nearly invariably white judeo-christian. Oberlin was a terrific place to get my ass handed to me repeatedly by the wiser, worldlier friends and enemies I made. It was the first time I had significant, close friendships with people of color, trans and genderqueer people, and out queer folks. I made plenty of bone-head mistakes (one of which I retell in Lunatic Fringe), and learned a hell of a lot about white privilege. I do think I had an advantage in that my family started out very much working class, and only through the hard work of my folks did we get to surpass the middle-class mark. While it sounds ridiculous to consider that an advantage, I do believe it gave me perspective around class issues if nothing else.
In writing Lunatic Fringe, a lot of my issues around not being “properly” educated came up. For instance, I’ve just started reading bell hooks this past year. I didn’t know who Judith Butler was until recently, nor could I have told you why there is some resistance among black women to abortion rights (until I finally got around to reading Angela Davis last year). I know I’m opinionated and articulate around queer identity politics and feminism, but not in the way I was taught to consider authority. All my opinions have been formed based on extensive, often heated conversations with peers and by spending a lot of time in my progressive bubble that I love so much. Despite how much time I’ve clocked and super smart women have given me the intellectual smack-down, my culture taught me to value the authority of expertise, which came with advanced degrees and a lot of philosophical jargon, or at least a hard-knock past that makes one street-wise. In other words, experts were anyone other than me.
This authority complex, combined with a healthy heaping of white guilt basically paralyzed me for a long time around my writing. I was convinced that I had nothing to offer anyone else, that I had no clue what I was talking about, and that my experience wasn’t valid. My queer identity was always so intrinsic to me, that I didn’t even consider that to be a valid ticket to the Cultural Theory Party.
I probably would have stayed mute and allowed other more “capable” people to speak for me if it wasn’t for one simple thing I remembered growing up- how shitty books were for girls like me. All the girls in the popular YA books were like Nancy Drew or the Boxcar Children or <shudder> the Babysitter’s Club. There were no stories of girls who liked getting dirty and running around in the woods like me. The butchest girl I ever read was Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, and thank god for her, or else all I would ever know was girls fretting over fashion or boys or straight people’s kids for pages on end. When you add fantasy to the mix, the supernatural element is almost always bestowed upon the male character, while the female either sits around helpless or uses mundane and comparatively lame skills to get through to the end. Just remembering it is getting me all agitated.
I never fantasized about my dream wedding. I never wanted to be a Disney princess*. I’d run in the woods while the other girls read Seventeen magazine. I always wanted to play the Dad when we played house.
I know that there are other women who are sick and tired of the lame-ass protagonists who are always playing second-fiddle to whatever man is in the book. Because I never saw my future bound to the success of any man, and in my supernatural fantasies it was me that could fly, dammit. And that’s why I wrote my book. Because I realized that I do have something valuable to contribute, even if it’s a simple book about lesbian werewolves killing and frolicking and canoodling in the woods. Because it’s a book I would have loved to have read when I was growing up, and I want other people to have that opportunity.
The women in Lunatic Fringe talk like my friends do, and except for all the werewolf slaughter, they behave like we do, too. I’m proud to have created a book that reflects my experience and that of women like me.
* Ok, except Ariel, because she was a rad-ass mermaid with a gorgeous voice and cool friends. Then she had to go give up her goddamn voice because princes don’t care if you got an opinion, as long as you got pretty eyes. Ugh.