I am pleased to introduce to you all Renee James, an author I met at aWisconsin Writer’s Association writing retreat I was speaking at last year. Renee and I exchanged books. I read Transition to Murder and I would recommend it, but I’ll let Renee talk about the book and a bit about herself.
You write in the voice of a transgender woman—what’s your connection to the trans world?
I’m transgender, but not transsexual. I identify as a woman but live in both genders for many, many reasons. Lots of us in the transgender spectrum don’t transition for fear of alienating loved ones, losing careers, or, in the case of male-to-female trans people, losing male privilege.
How are you connected to the heroine, Bobbi Logan?
I developed the Bobbi Logan character after I decided not to transition. As a kind of therapy, I began writing a fictional journal about a trans person who transitioned in her late thirties as I might have done. I did the journal to see what her life would have been like. She had many of my physical and emotional characteristics at the start, but she evolved from there. I got about 50,000 words into the project and realized I had a really interesting character, so I decided to put her in a novel.
Transition to Murder is set in 2003 and Bobbi faced enormous difficulties in her transition. Have things changed since then?
It depends on where you live. In the big cities, especially in the north, it’s like night and day. In 2003, when a transwoman like me walked into a restaurant, conversations would stop, people would gawk, and even the people who accepted me would regard me with knowing smiles. Today, in those same places, no one gives me a second glance, the wait staff treats me like anyone else, and genetic women don’t even blink when we share the Ladies Room. It’s as close to a miracle as I’ve seen in my life.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as positive when you travel into rural areas or the poor sections of big cities or the states of the old Confederacy, where things remain very touchy for trans people.
What about the bathroom issue?
It’s a non-issue in places like Chicago and New York. I think I’ll wait awhile before I go to North Carolina or Texas, though.
Bobbi encounters conflicts and tensions within the transgender community too. Don’t you tend to support each other?Support was always the mantra when I came out, and in the bad old days, we did band together to have functions where it was safe to be “out.” Support isn’t the same as friendship, though, and it wasn’t especially easy to make friends with other trans people. Most of us didn’t have much in common other than being trans, so conversation didn’t necessarily come easily.
Today, more of us are out on our own because it’s safe and fairly accepted in many places, so our cohesiveness is declining. The other factor is age: young transgender people have a radically different experience than trans people my age had in their formative years. They are more out, more accepted, and better able to transition before they become fully formed in wrong gender. So they tend to be much more passable than many of us older trans people, and maybe a little embarrassed at being compared to us. Add to that the usual tension between generations, and you can see the basis for internal friction.
The other thing is, we’re a lot like any other group in America. The same mix of personalities, politics, religious beliefs, education—everything. And you’ve probably noticed that we American’s have a lot of conflicts and tensions these days.
Why do you write in first person?
The people who mentored me when I came out constantly emphasized how important it was for each one of us to make a contribution to the acceptance of transgender people by the rest of society.
I wanted my Bobbi Logan novels to be my contribution. My idea was to put non-trans readers in in the mind and body of a transsexual woman for a few hours so they could get a sense of who we are and how we experience the world. I thought first-person was the best way to go about it and I think it works.
Transition to Murder is based on an earlier book, Coming Out Can Be Murder, which you self-published. What’s the difference between the two books, and why did you re-publish?
I re-published because I wanted to see what I could learn from a professional publisher and to hopefully sell more books than I did as a self-publisher. I got to work with a good editor, and he convinced me to change the ending of the story. That was the biggest difference between the two versions, and the sequels are based on the Transition to Murder version. (Anyone who read Coming Out Can Be Murder and wants to know the change can contact me through my web site (reneejames.author.com).
Tell me about the sequels to Transition to Murder.
First of all, I don’t like multi-book series based on the same hero or heroine because there’s no character development, just plot. So I’ve spaced my sequels years apart, picking up Bobbi’s life at different stages of her development as a woman and a human being.
Transition to Murder is about her first year of gender transition. A Kind of Justice which came out last October, starts five years later. Bobbi is wildly successful and starting to explore all the possibilities of life, including romance, when the Great Recession knocks her flat and a brilliant police detective starts building a powerful case against her for the ritual murder of a sexual predator.
Seven Suspects will release next October. We pick up Bobbi’s life five years after A Kind of Justice when she’s a little world-weary and maybe a trifle arrogant and suddenly finds out she has a stalker who is getting closer and more violent every day.
What are you working on now?
I’m researching ideas for another Bobbi Logan novel, which gives me a great excuse to visit LGBT strongholds and friends. While that’s going on, I’m also working on a thriller with a completely different cast of characters set in Ontario’s famous canoe wilderness, Quetico Provincial Park.
Thanks for visiting my blog, Renee and I wish you the best in your writing career!
You can get to Renee’s website from Here.
She is on twitter: @ReneeJAuthor
She is on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reneejamesauthor
You can purchase Transition to Murder on Amazon.