07 Apr '13

LGBT Event Day 7 : Cathy Pegau on Writing Sexuality

Posted in Uncategorized / 10 Comments

Early in the writing of Deep Deception, I was asked about Gennie’s—one one of the main characters—sexual history. She had been in a serious relationship with a man years before, but is attracted to Natalia, the other MC. Was she always into women as well as men? Would I work that in somehow?


Colonial Mining Authority agent Natalia Hallowell doesn’t always play by the rules, but she wouldn’t  compromise a case either. Put on administrative leave under a cloud of accusation, with no support from her boss, Natalia seeks a little anonymous companionship at her favorite bar. But she’s surprised when the woman who catches her fancy starts buying her drinks.

 



Desperate, Genevieve “Gennie” Caine had no choice but to seduce, drug and tie Natalia to the bed to get her attention. With the Reyes Corporation after something she has, Gennie needs Natalia to open an investigation and distract them long enough for her to get off Nevarro.

 



Natalia doesn’t trust Gennie—despite the growing attraction between them—but the corporation’s suspiciously high profits convince her that they must be hiding something. But she has no idea just how deep the deceptions run….

After a bit of consideration, I decided no, I wouldn’t. The people of my future world are accepting of whatever orientation or inclinations folks have as long as all parties are of age and consensual. Any manner of mixes and matches are a go. From her thoughts and actions, it’s shown that Natalia prefers women, though she’s slept with men as part of her undercover work and for fun. Gennie is open to whomever catches her fancy. Explaining why their mutual attraction existed wasn’t the issue I wanted or needed to deal with, even in a minor way. The gist of the story was the establishment of trust and understanding between them. That’s what eventually leads to love.


That being said, there was more of an exploration of the heroine’s desire for another woman in my first novel set on Nevarro, Rulebreaker. Liv had been attracted to women in the past, but never acted on it or found anyone as enticing as Zia. Liv questions this not in an “OMG! I like a girl!” way, but in an “OMG! I’m supposed to be stealing from her!” way. When they do get physical, Liv is nervous about it, it being her first time with a woman and all, but soon finds her bliss with Zia (Chapter 16, folks. Check it out ;D ).


Liv Braxton’s Felon Rule #1: Don’t get emotionally involved.

 



Smash-and-grab thieving doesn’t lend itself to getting chummy with the victims, and Liv hasn’t met anyone on the mining colony of Nevarro worth knowing, anyway. So it’s easy to follow her Rules.

 


Until her ex, Tonio, shows up with an invitation to join him on the job of a lifetime.

 



Until Zia Talbot, the woman she’s supposed to deceive, turns Liv’s expectations upside down in a way no woman ever has.

 



Until corporate secrets turn deadly.

 


But to make things work with Zia, Liv has to do more than break her Rules, and the stakes are higher than just a broken heart…

 

So what is all this leading up to? While the sexual activities of my lesbian or bi characters has prompted discussion of why they are who they are, no one has EVER questioned the sexual activities or histories of my heterosexual couple in Caught in Amber. Was Sasha ever attracted to or intimate with her roommate, Jules? Did Sterling ever have a relationship with another man?


No one asked because the hetero-normative mindset of today assumes that since the couple is M/F in this story, no exploration or explanation is necessary. And admittedly, I didn’t think much about it either until I was re-reading parts of Deep Deception and the questions I mentioned above came back to me.


An explanation of a character’s orientation is unnecessary unless, perhaps, said story is an exploration of the character’s sexual preferences or changes therein. I don’t want to have to delve into backstory on a character if it isn’t germane to the plot or character development. I can understand readers wanting to know how or why a character is homosexual in certain contexts (historical settings where taboos exist, instances where the character may have “changed teams”), but in many cases, it doesn’t matter.


It doesn’t matter.


The characters are who they are and love who they love, and they mostly tell me so from the get-go. Having Liv in Rulebreaker fall for another woman was just one of those things that popped up when I was considering a love interest for her. There was surprise on my part at first (I’d never written a lesbian or bi character before), and I tried to convey a bit of that “Oh!” on Liv’s part on the page. 

Nathan Sterling, the hero in Caught in Amber, has always been hetero in my mind, but it’s very possible Sasha is bi (and I’m not telling either way ; ). Even before CiA was finished, I knew Natalia was a lesbian, and would have her own story that Gennie would very much be a part of.


I don’t sit down and say, “This character is gay, this one isn’t.” It doesn’t work like that. I seriously can’t “make” a character gay if she isn’t any more than I can force heterosexuality on one that is. They are who they are and I let their stories out into the world.


It would be nice if life imitated art, wouldn’t it?

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Author Bio

I had stories revolving in my head as a kid, but made little effort to get them down on paper. Home computers were rare way back then, and using my Brother Correct-O-Typewriter was a pain. Funny, then, I thought it too time consuming to use a pen and paper. Now, I will most likely write my stuff out by hand before sitting at the computer to input/edit.

Writing was not the career path I chose when the time came. I thought the arts, while enjoyable, was not the way to make a living. So I went into science. Wildlife biology, to be exact. Yep, plenty of prosperous biologists wandering about in the woods, you know. Obviously money was not high on my list of job perks. But I enjoyed the course work (how many college students can say THAT?) and managed to get short-term positions for a few years. It was fun, hard and sweaty work, and gave me the chance to see and do things I wouldn’t have if I had chosen accounting or even writing. Like get lost in the woods overnight. But that’s another story.

I got engaged, then married–to a scientist, assuring perpetual financial uncertainty. We lived in Oregon for a while, and when he was offered a job in Alaska we jumped at it. So, now we live here with our kids and critters and the occasional moose strolling through the yard. I can’t afford therapy, so I write. I want to do what I want to do, so I write. I want my kids to know that pursuing dreams is important, so I write.

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10 Responses to “LGBT Event Day 7 : Cathy Pegau on Writing Sexuality”

  1. I've never thought about asking for an explanation about why a character is gay, bi, or straight. I just figure they are the way they are and if there's a reason behind it then it will be in the story. I usually have other questions about whats going on with them.
    suz2(at)cox(dot)net

  2. I find the questions come more often if your characters are bi, or have "switched orientation" in any way. Is this their "true" sexuality? Were they living a lie before? Or are they faking it now, longing for a lover of the other gender?

    Aside from that, yeah. Sexuality's much more fluid than folks seem to think. There's no law that says "You're

  3. It is interesting how some things are rarely questioned, like the orientation of a character that 'appears' to be heterosexual. In a lot of minds it is the 'default' sexuality. (I see it in comments I hear about 'why do gays need a pride parade? straights don't.', for example.)

    Sometimes I wonder if bisexuals confound people more, because being straight or

  4. Wow, what an interesting turnabout — what's the sexual history of a hetero couple? Definitely, like any characterization, it's good to know the history, but as you mention — it doesn't always go in the story.

  5. I like your vision of the far future, and the fact that you have such strong characters living there! I usually take characters – and people in every day life – at face value, no need for questions, so I think your approach is excellent. Best wishes (and write more books!)

  6. I agree with Veronica on your vision for the future. It would be nice to live in a world where sexual orientation is just accepted without question. All the best with your book.

  7. Susan W: I feel the same way. They are who they are 🙂

    Scarlett: I can sort of see the question if there's a history of one leaning or the other. But maybe it's easier to "ignore" it in spec fic than in contemporary? And yes, MUCH more sexual fluidity than we may realize. Or some may admit 😉

    Alyssa: I've heard similar comments about bisexuals not being

  8. Great post! I liked it both ways. The lack of questioning worked really well in Deep Deception and so did Liv's more overt questioning in Rulebreaker. Interesting to hear your take on those character choices and to compare them to the never-questioned sexuality of mf!

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