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The big question: Why did I write Love You However?


Well hello there!


It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me on Katherine's Corner! You’ve heard from lots of other people – particularly the fabulous Sapphic Fiction February line-up, as well as various guest posters – but not from me since July last year, not counting my mental-health book list from October!


Since July, a lot has changed. Back in July, I was in the early stages of constructing Love You However, and mired deep in a paralysing case of writer’s block. But I got out of it, pressed on, and now it’s here. Love You However, the not-quite sequel to The Summer We’ve Had, and my third book if you include The Silent Chapter, which I still do. By ‘not-quite sequel’, I mean that it’s set in the same village as The Summer We’ve Had, and checks back in with Cass and Felicia, but it focuses on someone else. Or two someone-elses. This story is about Jean and Petra Taylor, leaders of the village choir, and general community pillars. Their seven-year marriage finds itself in trouble when Petra takes on too much at work, and Jean starts doubting their identity as a woman.


Interesting topics to pick, you may say, given that I am both single and cisgender. Why did I pick them? Well, it’s no secret that I like to jump into unfamiliar topics with both feet (like Dissociative Identity Disorder in The Summer We’ve Had), and I did the same with this one. What can I say? I like a challenge, and I also like to shed light on topics of which you don’t see very much in the media.


So, the first reason, and the primary one. I specifically wanted to write a book with a main character undergoing a gender crisis in later life to demonstrate that gender diversity is not just a ‘young person’s fad’. I often hear the topic scoffed at by older people as something new-fangled, a trend on which young people hop because it’s ‘cool’, or to get attention. This completely minimises the true turmoil and pain of gender dysphoria, and of finding one’s true self. I wanted to show that being gender diverse is not just restricted to those who look ‘stereotypically LGBTQ+’, if you know what I mean. Jean, to outsiders, appears a happy, balanced, ‘ordinary’ (if such a thing exists) human being. Exactly the kind of person who’d serve you in your local shop. And yet they carry – in their words – a ‘maelstrom of uncertainty’ around with them, that nobody ever sees. It just shows: you have no idea what someone is going through underneath.


Building on that, I also wrote it to emphasise the importance of gender neutrality, and of not assuming a person’s gender. The heteronormative – and the gender equivalent… ‘cisnormative’? – part of society rears its head now and again at various points in the book, reminding Jean of their biological sex and assigned gender. Each reminder is a metaphorical punch in their gut as they doubt their gender more and more. And again – Jean, on the surface, appears like the least likely person in the world to doubt their gender. Who else out there could be suffering mental distress at the hands of a ‘cisnormative’ society? It could very well be someone you know, someone you interact with on a daily basis even. This is why I wanted to quietly draw attention to the unconsciously gendered language we use in day-to-day life. Like addressing a group of female-presenting people as ‘ladies’. Automatically assuming a female-presenting person uses ‘she/her’ pronouns. The list goes on: all things that, let’s face it, we all do without realising it. It’s something I’m working on in myself, and thus I wanted to raise it in Love You However.


On an entirely different topic, I wanted to write a book with an already-established couple, because they are quite few and far between in Sapphic fiction. There are countless books out there – my own included – that are a case of ‘two people fall in love… and that’s it’. As far as those books are concerned, the characters live happily ever after. But all relationships have their peaks and troughs over time. Most books just don’t show them because they focus around the initial falling-in-love. The reality is that some people do fall out of love. They get ‘the ick’. Relationships take time and effort to maintain. That bit isn’t shown, so I wanted to show it. I already had Jean and Petra established in The Summer We’ve Had, and it was a ready-made setting with ready-made side characters (hello, Cass and Felicia…), so it all clicked into place.


Plus, it was an absolute treat to check back in with my old characters. To see where they’d been and what they’d done in the four years between the books – four years which contained a global pandemic, which was no walk in the park for most of us. And I love writing Cass and Felicia anyway. Felicia – particularly Heather – is such a ray of sunshine, and her bubbliness was really needed in her scenes. If you haven’t read Love You However already, but loved The Summer We’ve Had, you really need to pick it up, if only to read Cass and Felicia’s parts!!


But also to read the rest of it. The music-loving, the mental health discourse, the falling out and in of love, and the happily ever after. This may not be a romance book per se, but there is certainly love in it. The Sapphic Books Kitchen even called it ‘a plea for love’. And thus, I hope you love it.

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