Benny Lawrence is one of those authors who you either love or hate. Very rarely will someone read her work and say “It’s Okay, I guess.” I fall into the former camp and fell in love with her writing style from the moment I read the opening lines of Shell Game (the first book of hers that I read).
From there I consumed the other two books as if I were in a fever. I couldn’t sleep or eat. I just had to read. Do I sound like a fan yet?
Lawrence has a unique voice and she handles really difficult issues with a brilliant wit that I am left mulling over an idea or something that happened in her book for days. She is one of those authors who will make you question the very reality that we find ourselves in because while her stories are entertaining they are also thought provoking. But, don’t take my word for it. Read her bio then try her work.
This is what she said about her writing:
A brief description of your writing:
I write about women who boink each other while playing chess and/or solving mysteries and/or being pirates and/or outwitting paramilitary organizations in post apocalyptic Ontario.
I am medically unable to write dialogue unless it involves lots and lots and lots and lots of weapons-grade sarcasm.
I swear I had a sense of shame once. It has now been missing long enough to be declared legally dead. Whenever I get concerned about that, I take my mind off of it by writing about bondage pirates some more.
I am not a fan of predictable books. My very most favourite thing to do is to surprise readers. My second most favourite thing is to make them laugh.
One word to describe your books:
Who/What inspired you to start writing?
Every lesbian story starts the same way: “See, there was this girl…” And every story that begins that way has a short version, and a director’s cut the length of In the Realms of the Unreal.
Short version: See, there was this girl, and she was perfect and magnificent and beloved by all, but I could write things that made her laugh. And once I found that out, I never wanted to stop.
Why lesbian fiction?
I take it we are looking for an answer more profound than, “Why not lesbian fiction?”
Like everyone, I write what I would want to read- and there simply aren’t enough relationships between women in fiction for me to be bored with writing and reading about them. I’ll let someone else write about straight people. Straight authors seem to have that covered pretty well.
People tend to start with Shell Game. Apparently lesbian bondage pirates are more accessible than Austrian chess players or postapocalyptic cults?
What inspired you to write The Ghost and the Machine?
For some reason, I know not why, I listened to Bill O’Reilly of Fox News when he said a thing. Yes, I know, bad idea. As a technique for gaining knowledge and understanding the world, listening to Bill O’Reilly say a thing ranks about three steps below submerging yourself in a vat of lime gelatin and screaming “Blibberty wobberty flibbet!” over and over.
But I did. I listened to Bill O’Reilly say a thing about a kidnapped boy who had just been rescued. He didn’t understand why the boy hadn’t managed to escape- and he blithered on and on about how he didn’t believe in Stockholm Syndrome and thought that the abducted child had been having too much “fun” with his kidnapper to run away.
Well, I ask you. When you hear something like that, you really do wonder whether there’s anything to be said for the human race, or whether we should have let lemurs dominate the planet. Is it really that difficult to understand why an abducted, abused, terrorized child might not be able to turn the tables on an abuser? Do people really pay that little attention? Invest so little energy in trying to empathize?
So I blew up and went stalking about the apartment yelling at things and kicking over things and generally being unable to cope. After an hour or so of this, I realized that I would have to do something drastic to channel the rage, or I’d destroy my entire apartment in a giant rage embolism. And I quite liked my apartment, so I wrote a book instead.
Everything that happens in Ghost leads up to a question that is asked near the end of the book. The goal is that by the time the question is asked, the reader doesn’t need the answer spelled out.
See our review of The Ghost And The Machine
What inspired you to write Shell Game?
When I started Shell Game, there were a few things going on. It was grey and wet and miserable. I’d been working too hard and had a powerful case of brain fever. I’d been writing a swords-and-sorcery novel that was not going at all well- I’d just killed off my favourite character, for reasons that still confuse me. And then, a girl I’d been flirting with tried to recruit me for an anti-BDSM campaign, burbling all kinds of inane well-meant things like, “Handcuffs always demean women!” and “Abuse survivors who have kinks are just reliving their abuse!”
So I thought, oh hell, enough of this. So I stopped talking with McEagerpants Handcuffhater and I extracted my favourite character from the failed swords-and-sorcery book, and I got myself some chocolate and a simply enormous cup of tea, and sat down to write a book about lesbian bondage pirates. Because I damn well felt like it.
See our review of Shell Game
What inspired you to write Rabbits of the Apocalypse?
If The Ghost and the Machine is about paying attention and Shell Game is about freedom, Rabbits of the Apocalypse is about depression. It is, or tries to be, a funny book about depression, set after the apocalypse. Yes, sometimes I don’t understand myself either.
Just about my entire family struggles with depression, and to state the obvious, that shit ain’t fun. When you’re down at the bottom of the black spiral, it is damn near impossible to imagine a way up. That’s what Rabbits is about: the climb, and the reason for climbing.
See our review of Rabbits Of The Apocalypse
Other Works In The Lesbian Genre
Your favourite lesbian book (not written by you):
The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, by Her Holiness Alison Bechdel, on whom be all praise and glory. May her crowquill never run dry, and flights of angels sing her to her drafting table.
Your favourite lesbian movie:
I still have a very soft spot for But I’m a Cheerleader. Hard for me to think of a more romantic moment in all of film than the goodnight kiss between Graham and Megan, after they visit the bar. It so perfectly encapsulates the feeling of lying in bed tingling with excitement- not wanting to waste a single second in sleep.
See Benny Lawrence books on our Amazon.com store here
See all things Benny Lawrence on The Lesbian Review
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