Thursday, March 31, 2016

Beautiful People

Q: Is there a message you want readers to get from your books?

A: Apparently, yes. (But I swear no.) My agent spotted it first and brought it up. For some reason, in my books, I seem to be obsessed with the idea that appearances don't matter and, in fact, good looks and grooming - especially in males - are signs of moral turptitude. (In real life, I'm as vain and shallow as anyone you could hope to meet.)

If there's a potential love interest or even mere male sidekick for one of my contemporary protagonists - Gus in The Day She Died, Stig in The Child Garden, Lowell in Quiet Neighbors (out next week) he is guaranteed not to be much of a Prince Charming.

Let's see: these three between them have got long crinkly hair, brushed hard without being washed so that it sits in ridged hanks, bumpy red skin from using a blunt razor, cold purple feet, eczema, bad crowns going black along the gumline, sweat rings on a shapeless hoodie, big yellow teeth stained in stripes from coffee and red wine, a stale, frayed, fawn cardigan, and a haemorrhoid pillow.

Mr Darcy has no competition in any of my stories really. It was Lowell's grey and yellow teeth in Quiet Neighbors that made my agent finally raise her voice in protest. So I gave him a run-in with some whitening strips about halfway through. Further than that I would not - could not - go.

If I wrote erotica . . .
If it's not deliberate, what is it? Well, I don't like reading stories about aspirationally beautiful people. You know the ones: she's got a tip-tilted nose, unruly curls, coltish legs and a cute flaw; he's got dimple in his chin, a peppering of grey at his temples and can lift her up and carry her without throwing his back out. They both run five miles every morning and they never get a Starbucks cup stuck under the brake pedal.

I'm not much more keen on characters who're perfect on the inside either. Characters with goals. Characters who could finish the sentence "My core values are ...."

These are not my people. And their stories don't interest me much. I like hanging out with the ones who're bumbling around cluelessly, trying to do the right thing and beating themselves up when they get it wrong. Pitch one of these people into the worst day of their life and there's a tale I want to tell.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

hahaha. This is refreshing. I don't like reading about coltish legs either.