Greetings one and all! My name is Mary D. Brooks (aka MaryD) and I’m the wearer of many hats: webmaster/designer/artist/publisher/author/occasional sleeper. I’m the owner of AUSXIP.com which has been around for twenty years and started off its life as a Xena fan site and housed some extraordinary fiction by new and established writers. Many of today’s lesbian fiction writers started their journey writing fan fiction (Xena and other shows). I could write thousands of words related to that side of my life but I’m not here for that today. That’s an article for another day.
When I’m not being webmaster MaryD, I’m Mary D. Brooks, the author of six novels, two novellas and two plays. I write historical lesbian fiction set during the 1940s and beyond. I love history and have brought my two loves –history and storytelling– together to create the Intertwined Souls Series with my girls Eva Muller and Zoe Lambros. You can guess by the names that one is German and the other a fiery Greek.
These two have lived rent free in my head for nearly twenty years. If only one could collect rent from fictional characters… Oh, wait…we do…it’s called being a published author! HA! Okay, enough of trying to be funny.
Actually, let’s not stop trying to be funny. As we are all aware, the news is rather grim lately all over the place and we, authors, need to entertain our readers in dark times. People read to escape, so writing something that isn’t too dark is a way to relieve a stress or two. That leads me to my current project, but before I tell you about that, I need to go back to last year.
My friend Sherri, who conducts this awesome radio show called Chatting with Sherri, managed to talk me into writing a radio play for her actors in Sherri’s Playhouse. I had a novella called A Widgie Knight which was all about misogyny and harassment in the 1940s workplace. Not a topic one would find funny or empowering. It’s also quite relevant in the world today where nothing seems to have changed. Has it?
Empowering. I love that word and the action, so did my characters. Out of this scenario, a light, funny and somewhat thought-provoking tale was written. That novella was turned into a radio play. The experience ignited a desire for me to write more of these light pieces. No, truly, A Widgie Knight was light in a world of dark and sinister misogyny / sexual harassment. Instead of being the beaten soul, my lead character turned the tables. Isn’t that what we all dream about when we are faced with an impossible situation?
The term ‘Widgie’ is an Australian slang word to describe women who wore leather jackets and hung out with bad boys who were called Bodgies. They were the Australian equivalent of the American Greasers.
Eva, who would never be described as a bad girl or one who would wear leather to stand out from the crowd. She’s the opposite. Desperate times calls for people to do things out of their comfort zone and Eva has reached that point. Eva decides to take matters into her own hands when her lover, Zoe, is sexually harassed at work. Zoe is not a woman who takes a backward step in anything. She’s the take no prisoners kind of lass. In 1949, Zoe is a young artist just out of college and doing the job she has dreamed about her whole life. She’s been pulled into a situation where she can’t fight the danger as she usually does. Zoe is faced with the option of either confronting a legendary Australian artist who doesn’t think twice about being a sexual predator or resigning the job she loves without bringing the abuse to light or changing the toxic environment. The late 1940s was not a time where the word of a young woman against an icon would be taken seriously. That too hasn’t changed much in the 21st century either.
Quite a conundrum. A fancy dance party gives Eva the idea of dressing up as a Widgie to intimidate the intimidator.
I normally write novels that have a little bit of grit, a whole lot of love, and events related to the time period (1940-1950). There are times when I must walk away from my own computer because I’ve gotten to the point where it is too emotional. Those are the times when I do something that makes me laugh, like watch funny cat videos on YouTube OR open a new word document and write something funny.
A Widgie Knight was my way of fighting back and empowering my characters in a world that was dark and gritty. As one of my readers once said…sometimes you just must dress up and come in riding to the rescue!
That leads me to this year’s contribution to Sherri’s Playhouse. The radio play is called An Egyptian Treasure. I wanted it to be a light-hearted, playful, relaxing little play that doesn’t try too hard to cure the world of its problems but still be relevant to this day. Its main objective is to make you feel good, to be that little circuit breaker in your day.
Eva and Zoe’s week leading up to the Christmas of 1948 is one filled with crazy Australian Christmas traditions, like Santa Claus in full regalia in the hot Australian summer. It does happen, and seeing the poor guys in their outfits on a hot December day is EXCRUCIATING. Along with Santa in full suit, the fake snow in store windows, Rudolph the red nosed reindeer and the sound of Christmas carols in the air remind people of the Christmas from the old country (especially in 1948, when refugees from war-torn Europe migrated to Australia seeking a better life).
Zoe has an idea which involves a huge surprise for Eva, and it leads back to their time in Egypt, where they fled to find refuge from war ravaged Greece. Refugees streamed into Egypt and Syria and into UNRRA (The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) Displaced People camps. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
In 1944, Greeks who were trying to escape the German occupation of their country, fled to the Middle East hoping for safe passage to a country that would have them. Syria and Egypt were two countries that housed displaced people, as refugees were then known. In fact, one of the refugee camps was situated in a city called Aleppo. The same Aleppo that has been bombed out of existence and images seared into our minds of heartbreaking tragedy.
Greeks have long memories. When it was time for Syrians to flee their war-ravaged country, their path took them to the Greek islands – Kos, Lesbos and others. Greeks welcomed the Syrians with open arms. The Greeks never forgot the hospitality shown to them during their hour of need. Many of those 1944 refugees were reminded of their plight when the Syrians crossed into Greece.
Now back to my characters in 1944 in the middle of the Egyptian desert at a camp called EL Nuseirat, in Gaza. A promise was made to Eva at Camp Nuseirat, and it’s a promise Zoe intends to keep because it’s about making the one you love feel special. She intends to fulfill that promise even if it’s years later.
I love writing plays and hearing my characters come alive (and hearing their voices outside of my head). There’s something quite special about hearing your words come back to you. A few years ago, I had the chance to film parts of my novels for a promo, and it’s astonishing what it can do to you. I realized why creative people in the film industry are so addicted to it. As a writer, you are alone with your creations, and eventually hope that people will pick up your book and share the wonder of the world you created. As a screenwriter, you see those characters come to life, and it’s astonishing. As a playwright, you hear your characters come alive. You sit back and hope the audience enjoys it as much as you do.
An Egyptian Treasure won’t cure the world’s problems. It won’t make you rich. It won’t cure cancer (don’t we wish laughter cured cancer and everything else?). What it will do is make you laugh, or I hope you laugh as Zoe roars down the street on her motorcycle (a 1940 Indian with a sidecar called Mabel) and carries you along in her zany, madcap ways.
Come with me on a journey back to 1948 and discover Eva and Zoe’s world. I can almost guarantee that Zoe will become an addiction. She’s unpredictable, intense, crazy in love with Eva, and she’s a woman you want on your side and not against you. You just never know what she will do. You can follow her zany escapades on a new site I created to coincide with a new series called Zoe’s Journal that I’m currently writing.
Humor is one of the most important elements we should inject into our work. It can make people forget for a moment and lose themselves. An Egyptian Treasure will be streaming live on Sherri’s Playhouse in December. Come over and listen.
A geek with too many imaginary friends who speak different languages (knew those language classes would come in handy). Historical romance and urban fantasy storyteller and addicted to stories and song about strength and courage. I play well with others (for an introvert) but then retreat to talk and write about my imaginary friends. Passionate about lots of things that inspire the mind (art/design, psychology, science and tech) that sets my muse on fire (she’s a busy lady!).
Social media links:
- Website: http://www.nextchapter.net and http://zoejournal.nextchapter.net
- Blog: http://marydblog.ausxip.com
- Facebook: http://facebook.com/marydbrooksfiction
- Twitter: http://twitter.com/ausxipmaryd
- Amazon profile: http://amazon.com/author/marydbrooks
- Publisher: AUSXIP Publishing www.ausxippublishing.com