AE: AfterEllen.com has an international audience, so I’m interested in finding
out if you’ve noticed any strong differences in reaction to your books outside
the U.S. compared to inside the U.S. How would you characterize those
AVR: Outside the U.S., I get to be an “American writer,” whereas here in
America, my home nation, where I write in my native tongue about Americans, I
am still set apart by booksellers, the media, average readers and academics
alike, all of whom seem to think I’m super foreign and, in the case of a
bookstore in Arizona, seem amazed that I can speak English.
Ah, but we’re back to labels, aren’t we.
Funny how in the USA we allow cities and states to have Spanish names and be
American (Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Colorado, Florida, etc.), but we do not often
extend this same courtesy to our denizens.
AE: You have a reputation for being outspoken because in the past you’ve
been open about the sexism and racism you experienced while working as a
journalist. Looking back from your current vantage point, do you have any
advice, encouragement or words of caution to give our readers about speaking
AVR: No. It’s really a personal decision to be a pain in the ass, and I
would never advise anyone to be like me. Don’t dress like me, don’t act
like me, don’t write like me, don’t dance like me, and, for the
love of God, don’t eat like me.
But in all seriousness, let me say this: I don’t like the word “outspoken”
any more than I like the phrase “she’s got a mind of her own.” (Whose mind
would you prefer I used?) The word “outspoken” tends in contemporary American
society to simply mean “lots of conservative idiots wish you’d shut up.” Rush
Limbaugh is not “outspoken.”
Sean Hannity is not “outspoken.” Lou Dobbs is not “outspoken.” Right? They
are … what? What are they? Defenders of the American way or some garbage.
Why is it that a smart, progressive woman who also happens to be honest and
unafraid is “outspoken” for simply speaking her (own) mind? Hmm.
AE: Do you have any plans to explore lesbian or bisexual themes or
characters in your future work? Or is that not something you can plan
AVR: Well, I want to point out that my second novel, Playing with Boys,
has a bisexual character, Marcela, who is still in the closet but lusting
mightily for Alexis. In case people missed that.
And in my third novel, Make Him Look Good, I have an evil lesbian
newspaper columnist, Lilia, because, you know, we come in all shapes and sizes.
She’s not evil because she’s a lesbian, but in spite of being a lesbian, and
her evilness revolves mostly around her thinking everyone is in love with her
even though she looks like Kathy Bates in too-tight men’s khaki shorts ― a high
crime in my book.
But in answer to your actual question pertaining to the future, yes. I’m
writing a book called The Husband Habit, to be released in the summer of
’09, which has a straight lead character (woman) whose closest friend at work
is a lesbian waitress named Hazel, who, in spite of her name, is quite hot. The
lead character, a chef named Vanessa, caters Hazel’s bachelorette party, and
Hazel, for her part, surprises Vanessa with a gift she’ll never forget. (Get
your mind out of the gutter, ladies; it’s not like THAT.)