Friday, August 5, 2016

Connected Underneath - GLBT psychological thriller by Linda Legters

Today I am honored to feature Linda Legters, a fellow Connecticut novelist and writing instructor, author of a psychological thriller Connected Underneath.

Madena, upstate New York. Like any other small town, everybody keeps an eye on everybody else's business without recognizing the secrets that connect them. The wheelchair-bound Celeste conjures up lives from what she sees and thinks she sees while peering through binoculars from her kitchen fan vent. Fifteen-year old Persephone trades sex for tattoo sessions that get her high and help her forget her girlfriend doesn't love her. Theo was the high-school bad boy who couldn't have the respectable girl he adored from afar, but now, sitting behind the counter of the last video store in town, worries wretchedly about the restless daughter he never understood. Natalie, trying to grasp the last shreds of respectability, would do anything to forget the baby she gave up long ago, including betray her husband and son. Celeste, longing to connect, combines truth with fantasy, intervenes and interferes, finally understanding that things have gone terribly wrong and that she stands at the heart of disaster.

Connected Underneath is a lyrical, scalpel-keen dissection of the ties that bind and of those that dissolve.

MJN: You and I are both CT authors. The Fairfield County is often associated with the NYC scene, and authors are often pressured (at least in my experience) to embrace that New Yorker mentality and esthetics. As a workshop facilitator, how do you ensure that all voices are heard, regardless of the political affiliations of each author? 

LL: I haven’t felt that pressure, but it’s possible this is because it is engrained in me, making me part of it. I do feel a distinct difference between urban sensibilities and Midwest (I’ll leave Southern to others) but there must be room for both, since there is an audience for both. Urban seems to be defined as edgy, radical, harsh, but there are soft stories in NY and other cities, just as there is edge in, say, Iowa. Besides, so many New Yorkers were born elsewhere. We don’t lose our Midwest or Southern or foreign sensibilities just because we move to New York, or our New York sensibilities when we leave. I believe our experiences shape the way we see New York, and that New York shapes the way we look back.

As far as workshops, I tell my students that a good story reveals instead of yelling, ‘you have to believe this,’ and that literature sheds light into corners of motivation and behavior. A reader should be allowed to reach his or her own conclusions, and evaluate where a writer has taken them. Essays are the place for exploring political positions, and the place for outright persuasion. Fiction ought to allow us to see the very many ways there are to be human.  

MJN: Your novel Connected Underneath is published by Lethe Press, which appears to be a boutique thematic publisher of gay and lesbian speculative fiction. What is the requirement for a novel to fall into the GLBT category? As our society is becoming more accepting of all sexual expressions, do you see GLBT literature going away as a separate genre and becoming incorporated into the mainstream? 

LL: It’s been an interesting journey having a novel published by an LGBT press while not being a member of the community. It has also prompted all sorts of conversations about the true depth of societal acceptance and tolerance. After all, Orlando is fresh, and anti-LGBT hate crimes top the charts, and several states are still trying to pass discrimination laws. Television and movies still haven’t come to terms with how to handle LGBT characters, not completely. Gay, lesbian and trans are still often seen as part joke, often stereotyped, often seen as aberrations which implies something unnatural, instead of part of the fabric of our daily lives.

One issue that has come to light for me is that while the LGBT community wants full acceptance, they don’t want to lose their identity. I see this as no different from, say, someone from Italy wanting to be fully accepted into American life but not having their Italian heritage denied. In other words, see me as a whole person, with many facets, regardless. This seems no different from us women wanting to be fully accepted, and not segregated in any way, but still seen as women. I assume it’s the same for Blacks and Hispanics. There are fewer gay presses and gay lit outlets, but hopefully the LGBT voice won’t be obliterated in the name of assimilation.

MJN: The names of the characters in your novel are very symbolic. We have Celeste, Persephone and Theo. They evoke cosmic, mythical themes. 

LL: True. Hopefully not over the top. I discovered that each of these characters were influenced by things that can’t be seen, and sought names that reflect this.

MJN: That brings me to my next question. Your cover is very chilling in its simplicity. The frozen landscape, the indigo sky and the moon as an indifferent onlooker. Did you have any input in designing the cover? 

LL: I did! Steve Berman at Lethe Press was very generous with this. I hear it’s uncommon for an author to have input. I absolutely didn’t want any imagery that defined the book or segregated it as ‘women’s lit,’ and I didn’t want to use the obvious imagery of wheel chairs or tattoos. I asked that water be a dominate theme, that it be largely monochromatic, and either Steve or the designer saw how the moon figured in to the story. Three or four options were suggested, but as soon as I saw this, I knew it was the one.  “Moon as indifferent onlooker.” I love that.

MJN: You have traveled across Europe as well as New Zealand and Australia. Your novel is set in upstate New York. Do you feel that the experiences you've gathered in other parts of the world affected your worldview? Do you consider yourself an American writer, or just a writer whose novel happens to be set in America?

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