My Own Worst Enemy is out today, 8 June
BY GEORGIA DIMDORE-MILES, IMAGE BY ALEX KROOK
My Own Worst Enemy is a gift for the butch community, offering up an unheard of dose of representation. The second of Lily Lindon’s novels, the book follows the mid-twenties, drama-filled existence of aspiring actor and butch lesbian, Emmy Clooney (no relation). Through her trials and tribulations, and there are many of both, across drama school, auditions and painful type-casting, she develops a love-hate obsession with fellow butch and rival thespian/love interest, Mae Jones. What follows is a hilariously witty read that perfectly taps into the authentic anxieties and experiences of building queer friendships, careers and relationships in 2023.
I was lucky enough to sit down with Lily to discuss all things butch representation, queer identity, being a queer writer and of course, fancying people who look like yourself.
Georgia: Reading a book which unapologetically centres butch characters is such a joy, so firstly thank you!
Lily: Thank you so much, I think you may be one of the first butches who has read and engaged in it. The butch community is not serviced by media at all, so if I can only have five people who read it I would love them all to be butches.
It feels so rare to read fiction that includes butch characters, especially a romcom, was this important to you going to writing it?
I suppose I had been looking for books to read that had butch characters in them, and was feeling sad and angry about that lack, so I responded to that. It also comes naturally as I wanted to write what I know. I was writing it last year at a time when I was taking a bit more ownership over the word butch and my claim to it, I think that felt really cool.
Originally I wanted the story to be about a character wrangling with their butch identity, because that was how I felt at the beginning of writing it. Actually through the drafting process and stuff going on in my life, Emmy changed as a character and the book wasn’t about worrying about being butch it was about loving and living in that identity. It didn’t have to be about angst in the end, it was about butch joy dare I say.
The grappling that is then going is when you have that self-acceptance but you are not always met with that same acceptance in your career or different spheres. I didn’t want to feel like I was erasing the challenges, particularly in acting there is a huge amount of type-casting. There is always the duality of a label, it can be really empowering but it also can be really difficult if you feel like you are being marketed in a certain way especially if the parameters of that aren’t set by the community.
I also feel the honour and pressure of being a queer writer of queer romcoms when that is such a small space. I think that when you are writing about something that feels so familiar to queer people, a mirror up to their friendships, mishaps, romps and fun. I suppose there is always a duality of being something who is writing something that isn’t written about so much, but that can always be hard.
I want to do right by a readership that doesn’t have much stuff written for them. I hope that I get to write more books that have loads of different queer characters in so this isn’t the only butch moment we get!
Putting these two butch characters in opposition and treading that really blurry line between love and hate is great to read, why do you think that is such an interesting dynamic to explore?
Ohhhh well enemies to lovers is one of my favourite romcom tropes, I think there’s something delicious about it. I think it is obsession maybe, when two people are so drawn to one another it is really interesting. There’s that phrase, the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. I think I am drawn to that, I love the drama! Love and hate in some contexts can be quite blurred, someone being passionate about someone else is very fun.
It also came down to the fact that I am a butch person who fancies other butch people. I enjoy that feeling of comparison but that can also be really scary. Dating people who are really similar to you can be difficult in that sense. It’s that classic gay conundrum, do I fancy someone or do I want to be them!
That is the energy that I wanted to channel through this whole book, this person who has the potential to ruin her life and could destroy her life, but she also loves them. It is a bit worryingly revealing about my own way of seeing the world. I will be very tickled if people do relate to it, because it is just me.
The urge to merge is a classic experience of when queer couples get together, you have things deeply in common, but there are also differences and unique identities.
I find it beautiful that we want to date people like ourselves, isn’t that what we should all be aspiring to. Feeling so self-actualised that we would want to date ourselves.
I did just write my own worst enemy so I could flirt with people…
Speaking of flirting, I found myself unable to stop smiling when Emmy and May were angrily flirting with each other. Did these exchanges come from personal experience?
I would like to think it is based on real experience, flirting is one of the great pleasures of my life. It is so funny to me that I get to do that and it is published. I would love to have a flirtation with someone which felt like Emmy and May’s. I think this book was wish fulfilment rather than copy and pasted plagiarism from my own life. I would love a rival who fancied me and I fancied, so if anyone wants to audition for that part, I am very much open…
Your writing is effortlessly funny, is that something that you feel comes naturally to you?
I think being funny is existentially important to me and that means it is great when it works but also means that it is very scary that someone might read it and not find it funny. When I get out of my own way I am often able to be the funniest. The bits I am most pleased with are those moments where it just feels like your mate chatting to you.
The book also explores how far the TV and film industry has to come in terms of queer representation, is this something personally important to you to highlight to readers?
Yea I think the acting setting came naturally. I used to do amateur dramatics, I fondly look back on it. I love actors and a lot of my best friends are actors. Setting the book in that world definitely gave me permission to revel in the drama that queer and thespian community embrace. The acting setting gave an excuse to put in some of this stuff I see my friends go through, auditioning for parts and having to package themselves in a way that will be best for their careers. For example with being butch it can be so exciting and cool for people to see you as the identity you intended. If you put that in an audition room, does it still feel the same?
I think we all know there is a real lack of butch characters on the TV, and when there are characters it feels like they are being forced to be ciphers for every butch person. For me the answer is not to police the characters that are out there but encourage more and more space for a diverse range of characters.
It is too much for one person to be expected to represent all butch experience.
People have had t fight to reclaim butch for so long, where it has felt antagonistic and violent and scary. It just feels like such a huge privilege, in some circles, to decide what butch means to us. It can be camp, it can be stud, we can play with it in a way that older generations never got to do. It has been a political act to reclaim that.
Having butch being able to be associated with so many more things is amazing, joy, softness, silliness tenderness. The bigger that label can hold the better, and more people for me to fancy….
Has your writing allowed you to explore your own identity?
I think it is really useful yes. When I started writing both my books I was over the hurdle of the most difficult part of accepting something. I started double booked when I had first come out, but I don’t know how much I had actually got rid of bi-phobia in as much of a way that I had when I had finished writing it. In double booked it really came from the place of me really feeling like I was leading a double life, I was gay half the time and straight the rest of the time. I never felt like I was gay or straight enough. I wanted to explore that and understand it. So the book was a real vehicle for muddling something out, I felt like I understood myself better by the end.
I hope the readers can feel in the process of reading the book, similar to how I felt writing it.
I am excited about My Own Worst Enemy entering the next phase of the book, with people reading it for the first time. It is going to open a lot of conversations about butchness that I can’t wait for.
My Own Worst Enemy is out today, and you can buy your copy here. Lily also asked me to to mention her perfect mullet and the fact she is single. Her Instagram DMs are open, and yes she would date a fan.
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