Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 32 (previously 17c) - Book Appreciation with T.T. Thomas
(Originally aired 2017/12/16 - listen here)
This week our author guest for this month, T.T. Thomas, talks about some books and authors she particularly enjoys. We also chat about the challenges that authors of lesbian historical fiction face in enticing readers within the lesfic community and the misconceptions many readers hae about the stories that can be told.
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(Transcript commissioned from Jen Zink @Loopdilou who is available for professional podcast transcription work. I am working on adding transcripts of the existing interview shows.)
Heather Rose Jones: So, T.T. Thomas, who we interviewed last week, has returned to the Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast for our book appreciation segment, to share her love for some other stories that have been set in history.
T.T. Thomas: Hi there.
H: Hello! So what book would you like to talk about today?
T: Well, actually, if I may, I’d like to talk about a couple of them. I’m a big fan of Caren Werlinger, having read her Miserere, which I absolutely love and did review. I like that book. I also like her other book, In this Small Spot, and there was another one called, Neither Present Time. And I think she’s working on some fantasy things right now.
H: Yeah, she told us about it in the interview I did with her last month.
T: Right, right, but Miserere set the tone for me and, you know, made me realize she’s an incredibly accomplished writer.
H: Tell us what specifically you enjoyed about the book.
T: I liked the juxtaposition of historical events with current events. And I liked the religious references, and I love her characters, her settings of course, another person who completely wows me with her settings is Susan Gabriel. Her books are, you know, I laugh a lot. Temple Secrets, True Luck Summer, and… The original one I read of hers, which was The Secret Sense of Wildflowers. She writes southern fiction.
H: What sort of historic settings does she use, because I’m not familiar with her?
T: She uses a combination of the 1930s and the present. They’re generational. So, people remember things. Another one I like, nobody ever talks about, but I loved her book: Elena Graf, Occasions of Sin. It takes place in the period of time between the two world wars. Again, beautifully written. I like Victoria Avalon’s A Small Country About to Vanish, about her home country of Israel. I mean, there’s so many people. I’m a big fan of Patty G. Henderson. I’m a fan. I’m a big reader. I really run the gamut, there’s nothing, there’s no genre that I will not read, even though I write historical. I wish I could say the same for all the readers of contemporary, I wish they would read historical more.
H: Well, that’s what this part of the podcast is all about is to tell our listeners about wonderful historic books that we think they ought to try.
T: Yah, I really think that people would be amazed if they… History must have been a dreadful subject for most people in school because the thing I’ve heard the most is, “I don’t want to read about how women, because women were maltreated, poorly treated in that period of time.” But you see most of us write about women who defied all of that.
H: Well, and I think the other part of that is that every novel tends to be about exceptional people. When somebody writes a historic novel about straight people, they’re not talking about the 99% of people who had miserable lives and died young of diseases.
T: Oh, you’re absolutely correct! I don’t think anybody can quite deal with the present the way historical fiction, historical romance, historians, deal with the past. Because we lack the perspective in a contemporary setting. I do also, as I said, I love and I like the contemporary writers, but the historical has a big place in my heart.
H: And I think that there’s an importance to having books set in history that fall between, what was the phrase, “Life being short, brutish, and nasty.” That stereotype of history, versus completely fantasizing it and inventing sunlight-and-roses-and-daisies history that isn’t any more true. I think there’s a broad space between that to tell stories about people who struggled, women who struggled to find happy lives, but who succeeded as well as anybody did.
T: Well, that’s right. I think the thing is though, that separates those women from other women is their own sense of identity and their sense of self-awareness. Those are two traits that the modern-day person can surely identify with. That’s what makes those women in the historical context, whether it’s history or fiction about history, so exciting. Because they did have a sense of themselves and they were self-aware. They knew what they felt and that is, I think, the crux of living.
H: If I’m remember correctly, the idea of doing these interviews for the podcast came out of a conversation that you were involved with on a Facebook group where we were trying to convince people to give historical fiction a try. To say, you know, it isn’t what you think it is.
T: One thing that I’ve enjoyed, what made it interesting to me, is to match the lesbian historical timeline, at least as far as we know it, with the world historical timeline. When you do that, you set those in a parallel universe with one another, you begin to see the incredible amount of sense of life, courage, bravery, imagination, that these women had. Yes, to overcome the culture and society in which they lived, but also to push it forward into the next decade and the next century and that’s quite a feat, when you can do that. And that’s what the women that I write about, what I want them to do. I want them to make breakthroughs, because I know such women did exist thanks to modern scholarship. What we know about people like Anne Lister and Butler and Ponsonby.
H: Yeah, and historic fiction is a way that we can share that knowledge and that understanding with our readers. So, thank you very much for, Tara, for coming on the show and sharing your love for historic fiction and for a few books in particular.
T: Oh, you’re very welcome, thank you, thank you for having me.
In the Book Appreciation segments, our featured authors (or your host) will talk about one or more favorite books with queer female characters in a historic setting.
In this episode T. T. Thomas recommends some favorite queer historical novels:
Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online
Links to Heather Online
Links to T.T. Thomas Online