In this post we will have a unique chat on Women in Transgressive Fiction with, Francis Booth. Francis is an author known for his diverse works, including books on the British experimental novel, translations, and original poetry and fiction. He is passionate about experimental literature and its importance in the literary world. Booth has expressed his desire for the freedom to write and publish as he pleases while still gaining recognition in mainstream literary circles. He advocates for the balance between independent publishing and mainstream success, hoping for a future where experimental and independent works are more readily embraced by the broader literary community. Let's get to know him more.
Hello Francis. It’s a pleasure to have a chance to chat with you. To start, could you tell a bit about yourself.
Hi Neda, it’s a pleasure to talk to you – I love your work; it’s inspired me to get more transgressive again – I’ve been getting soft. I’m a writer, translator and music producer living on the south coast of England. I alternate writing my own fiction with writing about other people’s fiction.
Thank you for your kind words. Well, I enjoyed your project “Killing the Angel” and I find it quite impressive work. May I know more about it?
I originally intended to write a much bigger work about transgressive women’s writing, coming up to the present day and including American, French, German and Japanese women. But I ran out of steam so I separated out the sections about early British writers to make it a standalone book. Many of these early women were very transgressive for their time, when women were not supposed to be educated and were not supposed to have views of their own. Some of them wrote very freely about sex: Aphra Behn wrote about male impotence, the Welsh poet Gwerful Mechain wrote The Poem of Vagina in the 1400s. Fanny Burney wrote about her own mastectomy, done without anesthetic – possibly the hardest to read piece ever written.
This is very interesting to see how you evaluate women transgressive writers. I agree with you specially on the matter that women write more detailed sex scenes than men. May I know Why transgressive fiction? What about this genre attracts you?
For my first novel, I wanted to write without limits. I felt that the first page of Ryu Murakami’s Coin Locker Babies – the most astonishing page I have ever read – gave me permission. At first I thought, ‘you can’t write that.’ Then I thought, ‘okay, perhaps you can.’ So I did, or tried to.
What is your latest book about? What did you edit out of it?
I’m currently writing a book about the fantastic American author Vera Caspary, who turned the detective story upside down in the 1940s and made it all about the central female character. The Caspary woman is a heroine for our times; I’m trying to revive her. She was pretty transgressive for a time, but not in the sense that you mean it.
What was your hardest scene to write and in which book?
The first novel I wrote, Nevermore, was deliberately transgressive. I don’t know anyone who’s ever finished it. People get halfway through and tell me they can’t read it any more, it’s too upsetting; one friend was upset for a fortnight and she only got halfway through, she didn’t even get to the toughest bit. There’s one scene in it which relates to my own son’s suicide note. That was hard to write, but I needed to do it. Since then, I’ve been dialling back the transgressiveness further with every book.
I thought, ‘you can’t write that.’ Then I thought, ‘okay, perhaps you can.’ So I did, or tried to.
I'm so sorry to hear about the suicide note. I haven't read that book and now I would love to. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
It was never deliberate, but all the heroines in my fiction are young, female and gay, all written in the first person. (I’m male.) I didn’t even realise I was doing it for a long time. But, for some reason, when I start writing, that’s the voice comes out, so I let her speak. I now have trouble writing male characters.
That's understandable. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
The non-fiction books, which is every other book for me, are all research. For the fiction, I just try to let it flow, without too much thought. And I never go back and rewrite.
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Just two. I’m a natural finisher. I like to get things done, get them on Amazon, and move on.
Do you market your books? Why or why not?
No, not seriously. I’m more interested in writing them than selling them. I write for myself, not for anyone else, though I do love it when people read the books and comment nicely. The Code 17 series gets good reviews, people seem to like it. It’s transgressive only in the sense that Killing Eve is transgressive: the heroine kills people but you can’t help liking her.
That's writer's typical life. We hate marketing, don't we? Last question, do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find? Can you reveal one if yes?
In the first book of The Watchers, there are two references to Gertrude Stein in the first fifty pages. I thought, if anybody wants to publish it, I will set them a test: if you can find both of them, you can have the rights to the book. No one’s ever taken me up on it.
Haha. That's amazing. Thanks for sharing and this amazing chat.
Thanks for having me
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