Living with the Fear

February 27, 2011 at 2:21 pm (Uncategorized)

I’ve got a wonderful whole day to myself – a rare treat – and just for a change I’m not procrastinating. Well… not really.

Spent this morning holed up in Caffe Nero, my favourite Sunday Morning Emergency Writing Venue (you know I’ve procrastinated too much when I’m in there at 0830 on a Sunday), considering name changes for one of my main characters in The Revenge of the Tide.  Managed to unravel some plot issues there, too. Wrote lots of notes, along the lines of “Why?” (underscored three times) and “Where did he get the money FROM?” (underscored twice), and “What was he DOING there?” (crossed out altogether). Don’t worry folks, I’ll get there.

After that I wandered up the road to Sussex Stationers British Bookshops (which in my youth was called Bredon’s Bookshops, I’m sure I haven’t imagined that – one of my favouritest and bestest shops, and now it’s on the way out. Grrr to the economy) and bought lots of greetings cards and a couple of books.

Then I came home to a lovely quiet empty house, and I find myself contemplating things to talk about on Wednesday with Lesley Thomson. Lesley and I are speaking at the Wisewords Bookgroup at the Luxe, Spitalfields, as part of Women’s History Month on Wednesday 2 March – as well as giving readings, answering questions and generally chatting, we are going to try to keep to the subject of ‘Women in Crime’: the changing role of women in crime fiction.

I found a very interesting article from the Guardian concerning Ian Rankin’s suggestion that women writers (and, oddly, lesbians in particular) write the goriest crime fiction – I’d forgotten all about this, but it was interesting to read all about it again. In particular, I was drawn to this paragraph:

Women are simply more used to living with fear than men. Whether we allow it substantially to limit our lives or not – and the majority of us do not – being born female means that, no matter how empowered we are, we will usually be less physically powerful than the men around us. We know we are more likely to be harassed at work, on the street, or even in our own homes, than a male of similar profile to us. That remains how it is, despite all the advances that feminism has brought. And because of this, I believe that women have a different relationship to fear, especially fear of physical assault.

It struck a note with me in particular because of a long talk I had with a friend at work last week. He’s been reading Into the Darkest Corner and said that although he’d been enjoying it, he’d found it hard to relate to the main character because it’s written in the first person and she’s female. I’m summarising what was an interesting discussion with some big generalisations here, but what he was saying that, as a man, he’s never really concerned about walking (or staggering) home from the pub late at night on his own; he’s never really looked over his shoulder or worried about who might be walking behind him. He’s never really felt vulnerable.

Maybe that’s why women relate to crime fiction. We are at various stages in our lives just that – vulnerable. Facing up to the fear of what might be, what might happen to us if we make unwise choices or disregard our own personal safety just to experience what it’s like to be free of fear, is empowering in many ways. I’m starting to see a theme in my own writing, even though my two main characters so far have been very different – that of fighting back. Catherine in Into the Darkest Corner and Genevieve in The Revenge of the Tide are both vulnerable but they both have the choice of giving in to it, or fighting back…

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1 Comment

  1. Heather in Lapland said,

    I’ve never thought about that before, but it rings very true. We women *are* used to all that stuff. That feeling of undefined fear in dark places, that fear of being over-powered and powerless. What a great quote. I shall have to run off and read the whole article now.

    It was lovely to meet you at the Festival of Writing at the weekend, by the way. I’m really enjoying the book. My head is still spinning at a million miles an hour with all the things learnt and discovered. Heather

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