09 April 2008

Perfect Girl: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some questions and answers about this blog and the novel it discusses, for first-time visitors.

What is this blog about?
It discusses my novel-in-progress, Perfect Girl, which will be in the form of the memoir of a fictional transgender woman named Sarah Radcliffe. In the meantime, I also try to discuss issues relevant to the novel's topics, including the transgender community, Unitarian Universalism, the aviation industry, and so forth.

Who is Sarah Radcliffe?
She will be the protagonist of the novel. She's a completely fictional character, not based on anyone in particular. Born in 1977, and having lived as a woman since 1995, she comes in contact with the world, as a flight attendant working for United Airlines.

Originally, the story was to be about Kirsten, Sarah's best friend and my alter ego. Sarah was a mere supporting character. But Sarah's story proved to be more compelling for me to tell, and she took over.

Why did you make Sarah a flight attendant, and send her to United?
I've known for a long time that most major US airlines welcome transgender workers, and given my own knowledge of the aviation industry, I thought it wouldn't hurt to write about a flight attendant. Besides, I've actually seen a few transgender flight attendants working for United Airlines.

Another reason for choosing United over other airlines was my own familiarity with the company, as a longtime, frequent customer. Primarily due to my frequent flier account, I do about 90% of my flying with United.

A fictional airline would've worked well too, but I didn't feel up to the task. Moreover, United's financial woes and bankruptcy of early 2000's weave into the storyline pretty well.

Any significance to Sarah's name?
I needed a common name preferred by many transwomen. Sarah fit the bill well enough.

Her middle name, Allyson, is a reference to one of my favorite TV shows, Ally McBeal, especially since the original timeline had called for Sarah to start living as a woman in 1998, the first year of Ally.

The family name, Radcliffe, has no significance, beyond it being the name of Harvard University's female undergraduate division. And no, neither Sarah nor I have links to Harvard in any way.

Now, tell me about Sarah's love flame, Kirsten.
She was the originally intended protagonist. She is my alter ego and shares many traits with me, and I wanted to re-tell the story of my stint in San Francisco in a slightly different way. But Sarah took over - and after having Kirsten languish with little purpose, I re-promoted her to Sarah's love interest.

Why is Sarah a lesbian? Aren't lesbian transwomen rare?
It is believed that over half of white transwomen are lesbians, while they are rarer in heteronormative nonwhite communities. Sarah was supposed to be completely boycrazy at first, but it didn't work out, as I had nothing to write authentically about. After all, in the trans community, I am notorious for my lesbianism, and for putting it before my trans identity.

When will the novel be published?
I haven't even completed the novel, much less looked for publishers and agents. In fact, I threw out most of what I've written over the past 3 years, to focus the story more on Sarah's adulthood and work. But I feel that I have a moral obligation to get this story published eventually. I should have all major pieces by the end of 2008, at least.

What do you want to get out of this project?
I won't make money off of this novel, for sure. I've spent too much on my flashback trips to San Francisco as well as novel classes. For me, what's important is that I am able to re-connect with the trans community, and contribute something to it - objectives that have been very difficult for me to achieve, living in a reactionary suburb. And for the trans community, this novel will hopefully be of benefit, as it tells the story of the lesbian transwoman experience, and hopefully enlighten people enough to prevent a hate crime or a suicide. If I can improve or save even one life with this novel, then I will be happy.

Feel free to leave comments if you have any other questions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, Rachel. Your book sounds interesting. I've just published a novel of my own which you may find informative: SHAIKH-DOWN by David Gee. An American flight attendant joins the plot to assassinate the Ruler of an imaginary emirate in the Persian Gulf in a spicy bedroom romp.

There's straight, gay and even some lesbian sex in this book which takes the veil off what really goes on in those Arab states we're supposed to be in awe of.

You can read more about the book (and some Extracts) on my website:


Good luck with finishing your book and finding a publisher!

David Gee (UK)