Blind Curves, the first in the Blind Eye mystery novel series by husband-and-wife writing team Diane and Jacob Anderson-Minshall, opens with investigative reporter and lesbian Velvet Erickson flipping off passing motorists as she cruises down San Francisco's 101 North freeway. Velvet is soon the prime suspect in the murder of a prominent lesbian publisher and turns to Yoshi Yakamota, her blind lesbian, private investigator friend, and Yoshi's assistant, Tucker Shade, an ex-Idaho lesbian, for help.
Yes, there's a pattern here. The publisher of Blind Curves is Bold Strokes Books, a company that publishes lesbian-themed fiction by lesbian authors that appeals to not only a lesbian audience, but also a larger lesbian-gay-bi-transgender (LGBT) audience. And, before 2005, Diane and Jacob would have been called lesbian authors because until 2005, Jacob was Susannah prior to undergoing female-to-male sex reassignment surgery. Now the couple, who are both from Idaho and met at a Pride rally, are husband and wife.
A year ago, Boise Weekly spoke with Diane who was the keynote speaker at the Boise Pride rally (BW, June 6, 2006, Citizen). This year, we spoke with the couple about their new book and what the future holds for them.
How are things going with the book?
Diane: Whirlwind. Amazing. We got the book out so quickly, and our publisher ended up signing it as a series. We'd already written the first book and then given them the idea for the second book. They bought it as a series. The response has been so phenomenal, they've continued to add on to the series and also sign us for solo projects and other works we're doing together.
Sounds like you have your work cut out for you.
Diane: We just recently signed book contracts that take us through 2010. I think we have eight books in the works right now. We have a book in the Blind Eye series coming out in October. That's Blind Leap. Then Blind Faith comes out early next year. Then the fourth book is a relationship memoir tentatively titled Queerly Beloved. It takes on what happens to a lesbian couple with 15 years when one of them comes out as a man. It explores that experience and our discovery along with the larger lesbian and gay community how complex and challenging and hilarious it can be on a marriage.
And you're willing to share all of that?
Diane: We definitely go back and forth about how much to tell and what we can say about other people. It's kind of the first of its kind of a memoir-relationship guide; it's the first to explore the impact of a transgender emergence in the scope of the broader queer culture. We try to be frank and cavalier about our own experiences as a couple within this community. We want to tell people how we got here. A lot of the narratives that trans-men [women who've transitioned into men] in particular use to describe how they knew they were men are always how they always knew they were boys, always played with boys and boys' toys. Those are a lot of the same things lesbians felt as children, too. We want to be able to address how some our experiences paralleled each other and how some of them diverged. And how we can come from some similar situations and become such different people. Any transgender experience is such an unknown in the broader culture, so in order to tell anybody's story, you have to take people back to the beginning. The book should be out in 2008.
In any relationship, working together is going to be tough, but in a creative, artistic endeavor like this, are you guys able to set your egos aside?
Jake: There are definitely points we feel strongly about, but we understand that we are each closer to particular characters. Diane has more insight into Velvet, so if there's something about that, even if I disagree with her and after I've said why, if she still feels strongly about it, I'll go with what she says.
Diane: He's the bottom line on Tucker. Plus, we're pretty symbiotic, co-dependent people, and that helps [laughs]. We have a lot of check-ins, we take turns writing, not generally writing at the same time. I'll just pick up where he left off and vice versa.
Jake, what is it about Tucker that makes her yours?
Jake: She's very much like who I thought I was. It's funny, because in the first draft, she was an unlikable character. When the publisher got the first draft, they made us rewrite and resubmit it. One of the problems was we had two different story lines going on and there wasn't enough given to either one. They've actually become two different books. And, we ended up adding a few characters and changing a few things, particularly the Tucker character. They loved it when we resubmitted it and signed us for the whole series at that point.
Diane: We're also big television junkies and we tend to treat the manuscript as a television show, like two story lines going on at the same time.
Tucker, Velvet and Yoshi are interesting names. Jake, when you were choosing a new name, did you choose Jacob because it's such a strong male name?
Diane: It's got a great story, actually! Do you want to tell it, Jake?
Jake: If I can remember it correctly ... it isn't a name I had ever thought of. When I was getting ready to transition, Diane said, "Well, we've got this list of names we were going to use if we'd ever had a child."
Diane: We had these names for five years. And, let's preface this by saying Jake's family is Catholic. He was named [as Susannah] after a Catholic saint. We wanted to have something biblical to respect his parents.
Jake: My middle name, Christopher, is what my parents would have named me if I'd been a boy. I would have kept it as my first name, but my father is a professor and he has a graduate student who is like a son to him whose name is Chris. I felt like it would take away from that relationship. Jacob was actually born as a twin and, here's the part I mess up, whether he was first or second, but I believe he was in line to be the first born. Then his twin snatched him back by the ankle and came out first and was granted all these rights under Jewish law for being the firstborn. Later in his life, Jacob usurped his brother and became the more powerful brother. I like the idea that the person who was supposed to be out first was yanked back at the last minute.
Diane: Like Jacob was the one meant to emerge. We just know Jacob was the one who was supposed to be first.
Jake: That felt like home. That idea just hit me as, "This is my story."
Blind Curves is available through Bold Strokes Books at www.boldstrokesbooks.com.