I’ve talked before about how fiction can shape the way we we think about the world and how it is important to write stories that focus on the ideas we want to share in the world. Author Lisa Brunette is doing just that with her fabulous Dreamslippers Series. In this interview Lisa talks stereotypes, worldviews, and diversity.
Interview with Lisa Brunette
Tell us a little about you.
I’m the award-winning, bestselling author of the Dreamslippers Series and other works. I’ve been writing and editing all my life, and my credits include newspapers, magazines, video games, and even an interactive exhibit. I blog at http://www.catintheflock.com.
When and why did you start writing?
I have an early childhood memory of first becoming aware that it was someone’s job to create the worlds I’d been reading on paper, and I wanted that job. I’ve been writing—or trying to arrange my life to support writing—ever since.
Why did you choose to write the Dreamslippers Series?
I’d spent a number of years trying to teach, train, and cajole an army of mostly young, mostly male software developers on how to craft game stories for an audience predominantly made up of women over 40. These two groups have polar opposite tastes, and stereotypes and sexism abounded. It was the “angry old lady” that pushed me over the edge. A very stereotyped depiction of a woman showed up in one game—she was hunched over in a rocker with a shawl over her shoulders and a scowl on her face. Knowing the propensity for developers to borrow images from their Internet searches, I suspiciously ran a search on “angry old lady,” and sure enough, there was our gal. So not only was the image a stereotype, but it wasn’t even their original content.
As I grew older and looked ahead to what lay before me, I saw that women I knew in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s just didn’t fit stereotypes like this in the media—not in terms of looks or behavior. I’d also by this point been guiding these same developers in how to create mystery plots, and it gave me the unfulfilled desire to create my own from scratch, rather than critiquing, shaping, and massaging someone else’s. So marry the two together, and you have my female-centered Dreamslippers Series. It features a woman in her 70s who mentors her granddaughter in the ability they both share, to slip into other people’s dreams. Both women are strong, even strident at times. I don’t pull any punches with their sexuality or their spirituality, and I’m interested in both in equal measure.
The writer Dorothy Allison once said, “I never read any character like my mama in a book,” and explained that’s why she decided to write. It’s similar for me. I couldn’t think of a single book that depicted a real grandmother/granddaughter apprenticeship. Grandmothers in fiction tend to wear aprons, with their hair in a bun. My Granny Grace character prefers Etienne Aigner, and she’s quite the yogi. But put more simply, I wrote the kind of story I’d want to read.
If there is one thing you’d want people to do after reading this book, what would it be?
I tackled homophobia from a religious perspective in Cat in the Flock, my first novel, with a set purpose in mind, to explore and uncover how hypocritical leaders like Ted Haggard come into and retain their popularity. I wanted to do this in a way that would honor the validity of religious life, even in its fundamentalist incarnation, but offer a warning about the damage of repressive, prejudicial beliefs. I tried to approach the subject with compassion for all.
I also realize that people read and then feel inspired to write their own stories. It’s the same as I’ve told the game developers I used to work with. If you’re going to create representations of people, look to examples in the real world. Life is fantastically non-stereotypical, and diverse! I’ve tried to reflect this in my books with a wide range of characters in terms of their ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identification. It’s a delicate balance, as I don’t want to tread into territory that’s unfamiliar and get something wrong. I’m always pushing myself to rep the world accurately, while always staying in service to the story. I don’t think these things are mutually exclusive but rather dependent on each other. Stereotypes and omissions on either side of the political spectrum usually weaken the story.
What are you working on these days?
Right now it’s book three in the Dreamslippers Series, which could end up being the most important book I’ve ever written. The first novel in the series is about sex and religion. The second book is about sex and art. The third is about sex and politics. All three dreamslippers wade into the wide-open Seattle dating scene, and in this one I tackle BDSM from a much more sex-positive point-of-view than Fifty Shades of Grey.
What is the best way to connect with you online?
Oh, so many ways!
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Lisa’s work conjures a lot of thoughts for me about my own fiction (genre being used to communicate cultural ideas and engage readers with different ways of thinking). Her work sounds really intriguing to me as a reader (I do love the fantastic – clear from my Tuesday and Friday posts)!
If the fantastic interests you too (and you want different fictional narratives) Lisa’s books are perfect!
What are some narratives or characters you’d love to see in fiction? Leave a comment below!
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