DIVA spoke to the author of I Am Dust about bringing her lesbian characters to Hull
BY CHLOE DEYES
I don’t know about you but when you find a book which completely captivates all your attention to the point you don’t check if that special someone has watched your Insta story, you know you’re onto a winner.
This is what happened when I read Louise Beech’s sixth novel, I Am Dust. Louise, a Northern writer who lives on the outskirts of Hull, is taking the North and the country by storm, as well as Europe. A very close friend, Louise not only inspires future writers but is a strong ally within the LGBTQIA community.
When I found out that I Am Dust was going to be a psychological thriller filled with magic, betrayal and murder, I was sceptical as to whether I’d enjoy it as I normally read very lighthearted comedies. (Sorry Lou). However, when Louise mentioned that the main character would be based on a lesbian she knows, I wanted to know more. That main character was me. I was blown away.
I Am Dust follows three youngsters who bond over an Ouija board. Fast forward to the present, and they meet again after many years. Set in a Hull theatre, Louise takes the reader on a journey between past and present, old and new, then and now. Combining heartache and humour, you don’t know if you want to stay in the past with the naive characters or join them in a mesmerising yet painful present day.
It’s been a while since I read I Am Dust, now it’s time to dig deeper with Louise and ask her some questions.
What was the inspiration to have a lesbian character as the protagonist?
I really liked to write about characters who live a different life to the one I do. It teaches me. At this time my friendship with you (Chloe) was flourishing and I wanted to portray in fiction your life as a young gay woman in Hull.
Why did you feel it was necessary to portray such a heartbreaking tale set in a theatre?
In truth, I just love a bit of heartbreak. I love to test my characters. The stage in a theatre is where the drama happens but not for ushers. Backstage is where it all goes on. I knew this would be the perfect setting for such a feisty relationship.
What research did you do to ensure these characters were authentic?
I spoke to you (Chloe) about your experiences growing up being gay. I also remember watching and loving Portrait Of A Lady On Fire and knowing that I wanted to write a love story as beautiful and as painful as that one.
Did you face any obstacles creating lesbian characters?
Right. My biggest concern was taking the platform from a gay woman who wanted to tell her own story. Own Voices is a movement that recognises that minority groups should be heard. But then I thought, I’m not stealing, I’m supporting, I’m an ally.
Have you read sapphic fiction for inspiration?
As an author, I receive hundreds of books a year. Only a significantly small number of those feature gay relationships and they are always the ones I read.
After reading some of your reviews for I Am Dust we can clearly see it has been a success across the LGBTQIA community and those outside it. Would you consider writing another book with queer characters?
Yes, I would. Although I was nervous when I approached the queer theme, the favourable reviews have given me the confidence to explore this again.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
The sex scenes. Writing them I learned that love is love. And I found it quite erotic.
How did you feel when after writing I Am Dust, we went into lockdown where we can’t go to the theatre?
Devastated. Theatre is everything to me, not only in this fiction but my real life.
I Am Dust is your second book to have queer characters as protagonists. How was this different to writing The Lion Tamer Who Lost?
As a woman who supports all women’s voices, I really wanted to get the lesbian narrative right and so I felt the pressure.
What tips would you give to those who are starting their careers as writers?
I got there by the skin of my teeth, being cheeky, doing everything you shouldn’t do. But in all seriousness: read lots, read out of your comfort zone. I write for love and if you do too, you’ll be compelled to write.
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