Pride Blog Series Day 12 – Justine Saracen

Saracen PortraitThe Gay Agenda – Retroactive

Put your minds at rest, Bachman and Robertson, et al. Queers are not out to get your momma and your sister and your girlfriend. What we are going to do, if I have anything to say about it, is get into your history. And it’s bloody well time we did.

O tempora o mores. Thank the gods it has come to this, for I am old enough to remember when gay people didn’t exist. Except for perverts in prison, and patients in mental hospitals, and me. So it was incredibly empowering to learn that, though we had no name, we were always there. “There” being everywhere.

This empowerment, along with a love of costume drama in general, drove me to write LGBT historical fiction – to affirm our absolute place in the human story.

We know now, and are allowed to say, that many of the great names of western civilization were gay: Alexander the Great, Socrates, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Friedrich the Great, Queen Christina of Denmark and, more recently, Alan Turing, Sally Ride. But that doesn’t cut it for me any more. I also want the world to acknowledge the millions of nameless ones, the gay soldier, wine bearer, carpenter, milkmaid, typist.

I live in Europe (where, as Eddie Izzard quips “the history is.”) Across the boulevard from my house is an 18th century château, down the street is a Norman church, and in a hundred places in this one small country one can see great architectural markers of our civilization. My civilization. And my people must get credit for them, too.

This has been my gay agenda, to scatter us everywhere, to put queer lovers in medieval Jerusalem, lesbian artists with Michelangelo in the Vatican, Sapphic cross dressers facing down the Venetian Inquisition, tragic male lovers in Stalingrad, lesbian and gay anti-fascists in Hitler’s Germany, impassioned women in the Résistance and in concentration camps and on the Eastern Front.

Sadly, in America, the task must be done in both directions, for if those who study the past often overlook the LGBT, many LGBT also overlook the past. It may be too much to expect a Yankee appetite for antiquity or, say, the Italian Renaissance, but fortunately, Americans seem to have a certain fascination for World War Two.  Fortunately, so do I. Three of my novels have dealt with it.

Over here the war has left its mark. Some seventy to eighty million people perished, and no European family was untouched. It is humbling to hear the second generation stories from friends and neighbors, and the elderly, when you can get them to talk, remember it all first hand.

Waiting for the Violins, a story of the WWII Résistance, arose from all those urges, to populate the past with us, to reveal the historical complexity of the event to the uninformed, and to honor the suffering of those eighty million.

The Résistance/partisan movement existed all over Europe, and we know that women were active in it, simply because the young men were on the battlefield or in forced labor. The other primary players were British SOE agents, many of them women, dropped in at night by parachute. That some of these were lesbian is historically likely, and in my novel they are for sure. Whatever that percentage of gays that nature puts into a population, that’s how many of us were in that war, as heroes and cowards, fighters and victims.

I don’t know how many more novels I’ve got in me, but I will always have these two purposes, to bring history to my LGBT readers and to bring the reality of LGBT people in history to the likes of Bachman and Robertson, even if they cover their eyes and sing their loudest hymns. O tempora o mores. We didn’t get your momma or your sister, but your girlfriends have shown some interest.

Waiting for the Violins


Contact Justine: Website, Twitter, and Facebook.

Would you like to see her in person? Justine will be at the Portland GCLS Conference giving a master class with Shelley Thrasher. The class is called “Writing the Kick-Ass novel.”

Leave a comment on this blog to for a chance to win the eBook version of Sarah, Son of God.

13 thoughts on “Pride Blog Series Day 12 – Justine Saracen

  1. Love this Justine! Your writing and you personally have always seemed so very intelligent and interesting to me! I still think it’s amazing that you packed up and moved over to Europe! I remember reading your blogs during that time! They were, as is all writing, fascinating! Happy Pride and thanks so much Liz for all you do!

      • Thanks for your comment, Kara. Surely you know that it is for the likes of you that I write (and that all authors write). We all want to be thought of as “intelligent and interesting.” (And, if possible, adorable!) Happy Pride to you as well.

    • Thanks, Karen. Yes, that was a revelation to me, that we are NOT oddities, deviants, or ‘broken’ but that we belong, absolutely to the history of civilization.

  2. Great blog. Loved the two WWII Books. You make historical fiction very enjoyable and it’s great to read about our place in it.

    • Thanks, Kathy. I’m happy to know you liked the WWII books. I’ve got another one about to come out: The Witch of Stalingrad. This time about the war on the Eastern Front, and about real female Soviet pilots. (Talk about butch!)

  3. Brilliant blog, Justine, and Waiting for the Violins is your best book yet, although they’re all good. In the Violins book, seemingly ordinary people do extraordinarily brave things. Hopefully our own generation has sufficient quiet heroes to quell the neo Fascists on the rise in our modern world. Not forgetting that Violins is a wonderful love story too. A perfect combination!

    • Hi, Georgi,

      “Best book yet” eh? Well, it’s nice to hear that! So much better than “you’re losing your touch, old girl.” Yes, one would hope that a better understanding of WWII would help us recognize fascism arising in our own world. If you keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

      • I will ALWAYS keep reading as long as you’re continuing to write!! I wish you would squeeze in the odd short story in between novels as a year is a long time to wait for the next one!! LOL :)

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  5. I completely agree, we need to get into their history. Especially since some groups are trying to rewrite in a 1984 doublespeak kind of way. Then if we could find a way to fix the American education system so people not only learn to read but learn to think and question what the loudest voices are spewing there might be a chance for things to get better for everyone.

    For some unknown reason I haven’t read any of your work. Intend to fix that oversight immediately.


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