Lesbian Writer Nairne Holtz on the Revelations of Fiction
People often want to know what parts of my books are drawn from life. During interviews, I’ve been asked such personal questions as—and keep in mind, I write fiction—was I sexually abused, have I used x type of drug, and am I into S/M. No one—unless they have a personality disorder and lack boundaries—wants to answer those kinds of questions.
I know my new novel, Femme Confidential (Insomniac Press, 2017), will invite personal questions. It is an intimate (and queer and funny) novel that addresses the question Sigmund Freud famously wasn’t able to answer: what do women want? What turns them on, what doesn’t, what are their secrets, and what are they looking for in a partner anyway?
There is an archival impulse to my work. In addition to being a writer, I’m a librarian who likes to bring readers into particular time periods. I achieve this through research and stories—my own and other people’s. My wife has referred to me as a magpie, stealing tiny, shiny bits of reality for my fiction. But that reality is mitigated. The traits of a friend might become a character with a different gender or sexual orientation, which in turn changes the story—sometimes in ways I don’t anticipate.
Sometimes the process can get weird. I once had someone argue with me that a scene I invented had happened. My invention had become more real than life.
Once I read a story about two women having sex in a lingerie store and a woman came up to me afterwards and asked if it had happened. “Uh, no.” She said, “Oh c’mon, it did happen. You’re just embarrassed and don’t want to admit it.”
“I swear it didn’t happen.”
“But it seemed so real,” she said, almost to herself.
She didn’t realize it but she’d given me the biggest compliment I could ever receive.
About Nairne Holtz
Nairne Holtz began her writing career in the 90s with a pansexual queer porn zine, Pornorama. Today she manages a library and is the author of The Skin Beneath (Insomniac, 2007), which was shortlisted for Quebec’s McAuslan Prize and won the Alice B. Prize for Debut Lesbian Fiction and This One’s Going to Last Forever (Insomniac, 2009), a Lambda Literary Award finalist. Her new novel, Femme Confidential, has just been released – see www.femmeconfidential.com