Ep:041 R.E. Bradshaw is a Four-time Lambda Literary Award Finalist in Mystery—Rainey Nights (2012), Molly: House on Fire (2013), The Rainey Season (2014), and Relatively Rainey (2016)—and 2013 Rainbow Awards First Runner-up for Best Lesbian Novel, Out on the Panhandle, author R. E. Bradshaw began publishing in August of 2010. Before beginning a full-time writing career, she worked in professional theatre and also taught at both university and high school levels. A native of North Carolina, the setting for the majority of her novels, Bradshaw now makes her home in Oklahoma. Writing in many genres, from the fun southern romantic romps of the Adventures of Decky and Charlie series to the intensely bone-chilling Rainey Bell Thrillers, R. E. Bradshaw’s books offer something for everyone.

Link to Emendare

Brad’s Website: https://bradshreve.com/

requeeredtales.com

Instagram: @gaymysterypodcast
Facebook: Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group

Questions or comments can be emailed to info@gaymysterypodcast.com

Transcript:

Brad Shreve
Welcome to Gay Mystery Podcast featuring interviews with renowned LGBTQ authors, and up and coming talent of mystery, suspense and thriller novels. I’m your host Brad Shreve, and Justene is here with her weekly recommendation. Welcome to the Gay Mystery Podcast and before we get started let’s hear from Justine.

Justene
Hey Brad was that in different intro I heard?

Brad Shreve
it was a different intro. And it was subtle, but it’s important.

Justene
Okay. Tell me more. Tell me more.

Brad Shreve
Okay, a woman who obviously likes Grease. The intro was changed from writers of LGBTQ mystery, suspense and thrillers to LGBTQ writers of mystery, suspense and thrillers. That is what makes it significant. Important,

Justene
moving your modifier around Brad.

Brad Shreve
Absolutely.

Justene
But what does that signify?

Brad Shreve
It means from this point on, we will only be interviewing queer writers of crime. And we’re not going to get into the argument of whether straight people can write good queer novels, because they can. Some have been on this show. This changes the focus and promote a segment of our society that has traditionally been marginalized. Plus, it’s my promise to our listeners that they will see our guests will be more diverse in many ways.

Justene
Yeah, I think we’re going to span the LGBTQ spectrum, more than a lot of other places.

Brad Shreve
We’ve already started and we’ll continue moving forward with that.

Justene
I think that’s terrific.

Brad Shreve
Well, good. I’m glad you feel that way. Because felt was it was an important change. So our listeners may notice the website is changed those of you that have been with us for awhile we’ll see that change back to the original website, which gives a little more detail on each guest, and that’s where the best place to find our show notes is. And then I have an interesting announcement or I don’t know if it’s interesting, but an important announcement regarding social media. I’m dumping Twitter.

Justene
Yeah, I can see that in this day and age.

Brad Shreve
I’m not closing the account, but you’re not gonna see us in there very often. And the reason is, Twitter is, first of all, it’s a major battleground. And I found that to get noticed, just requires a lot of work. Same thing with Instagram requires a lot of work and I can’t do both. I feel like we get more traction from Instagram. So we’re going to no longer be on Twitter, but you can find us and our promotions on Facebook, in the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction group. And then on Instagram, it’s gaymysterypodcast.

Justene
Sounds great.

Brad Shreve
So bye Twitter for now.

Justene
And the Patreon count went away, correct?

Brad Shreve
The Patreon account went away because our host gave me a screaming deal because I did some special things for them and because I’m not here to make money. I was i was doing it just to defray the cost. That cost has been defrayed already. So Patreon has been closed.

Justene
Great. Then they get to have all the material in this free version.

Brad Shreve
That is correct.

Justene
Excellent. Well, since we’re shifting, kind of summarizing where we then and looking forward, I thought I would make sure that people knew about few new novels by people that we’ve already given reviews about or recommendations of. Olivier Bosman has a new novel out and his vs. Billings mysteries. They’re Victorian stories. That’s called A Glimpse of Heaven. Dieter Moitzi, we reviewed his The Stuffed Coffin and he has another book out called Til Death Do Us Part. Gregory Ashe has finally finished his latest Hazzard and Somerset series with The Keeper of Bees. If you’re a fan of him, this is well worth waiting for. David S. Peterson has a new book in his Heath Barrington series called Death Overdue.

Brad Shreve
I think everyone you listed has been on the show or is going to be on the show.

Justene
And they we’ve also recommended, at least in the best of 2019 series, but I think most of these have gotten a full book recommendation from us.

Brad Shreve
It’s a good chance to see them in our 2020 recommendations?

Justene
yes.

Brad Shreve
Looking forward to that. So but I have Olivier Bosman and Dieter both scheduled to be on the show. I even have Gregory Ashe already scheduled to come back next year in 2021 because he’ll have a book coming out. I won’t give the date. I’ll let him do that. So anything else?

Justene
That’s all we have for this week?

Brad Shreve
That’s all I’ve got. Let’s get rolling with our new format. Interact with other crime fiction fans and authors in our Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction group on Facebook. Link is on our website, gaymysterypodcast.com.

Brad Shreve
My guest is my friend RE Bradshaw. She’s a four time Lambda Literary Award finalist in mystery. And, 2013 Rainbow Awards first runner up for best lesbian novel. A native of North Carolina, the setting for the majority of her novels, Bradshaw now makes your home in Oklahoma. Welcome back.

R.E. Bradshaw
Thank you for having me, Brad. Glad to be back.

Brad Shreve
The reason I brought you back is we’re going to talk about the same book, Emendare. And it’s I don’t get to read a lot of books that we have on the show because I that’s all I would do. But I did read Emendare, and is right there at the top of my favorite books last year. But I wanted to bring you back not for that reason, but because even though it’s a mystery novel, it delves deeper and much deeper than that. And it’s one give you a little time we’ll talk about the mystery, but then I want to give you some time to to really talk about what the story behind the story or what the story really is.

R.E. Bradshaw
I’m glad to be able to do this kind of you know, usually when you do an interview it quickly about the book real quick and you hit the high spots and about what you like to do and how you write but but this is the first time of an interview, where we’re going to do a really deep dive into the book and I really appreciate that.

Brad Shreve
Let’s start by doing the usual and just give a brief synopsis. Excuse me a synopsis of what the book is about.

R.E. Bradshaw
Well, it’s It’s a southern reckoning, that’s what I call it. And it’s because it has such a southern flair, it does take place in an imaginary county on the coast of North Carolina, with all the history that comes with it. So I have been calling it a southern reckoning for the death of a young black man, which in this story, the death takes place in April 29 of 1979. But the book is one of those. I know people are like no flashbacks, but it’s not really flashing back, you’re actually living it, you’re going back with her into the, into the 70s when she was a child. The person that comes back her name is Jane Smith Doe. Her father’s name was John Doe. Doe is a family name that goes back to Colonial Virginia, and actually did the research to make sure that was absolutely true. And they live in a place called Does Ferry. And her father thought it would be funny to name her Jane Smith Doe because she would be anonymous for the remainder of her life. So that was a kind of an inside joke with me. I really like that name. And then I found out somebody else was writing books with a character named Jane Doe. So sorry about that, very sorry. This is the desegregated south with its prejudices and its privileges still very much intact. Emendare, the name is a Latin verb, it means to make amends to correct and restore. Jane Smith Doe is summoned back to the land of her childhood bonds, and the origins of the demons that haunt her still. One of the characters asks her about her history, and she says, which past? the part where we were cradle to grave friends, all of us? Or, the part where one of us died, three of us lied, and one of us went to prison. And I’ll leave the rest of it for you to figure out when you read it, but that’s, it’s a it is one of those books it flashes back to the 70s. But I had I had to do that in order to answer a question that was repeatedly asked the year that I wrote this book. And all my friends and all over social media, people ask where all of these haters been for the last 20-30 years. And I just smiled and said, We grew up with them. We grew up with them. They are us, and we know them. And you find out about that book.

Brad Shreve
And you said you want to read a passage from the book.

R.E. Bradshaw
And this is this will pretty much set the table for you. The main character this is where you’re introduced to her and her friends, her gang of friends. And this is chapter two. The beginning of chapter two of Emendare. Sin is Always Attractive. “Jane Doe, you know, I can’t kiss a black boy, it’s in the Bible. It’s 1972 Cindy, no one cares about what it says in that old book about black boys kissing white girls. Don’t y’all study civil rights in sixth grade. William Malicot Blount Jr. the black boy in question, was my friend and my third half cousin. It’s complicated. Maliki, and my dad shared a great great grandfather, but not a great great grandmother. Skin colors and races meant a lot more to other folks than it did to kids grown from birth together. I was barely a month older than Mally. We hadn’t known there was a difference between us until we started school. Now at age 11, it had been made clear to us that people didn’t see the world like Mally and me.” And that’s, that’s kind of the flavor of the book. It’s a young white girl and a young black boy that grew up together. And some bad things happened to a lot of people in the book.

Brad Shreve
So why why did you choose that particular passage?

R.E. Bradshaw
Um, because it speaks to the south that I know. It speaks very, very loudly to south that I know. Have you ever watched that show Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates jr?

Brad Shreve
I’ve heard about but I haven’t watched it.

R.E. Bradshaw
All right. It’s a genealogy and he basically, he focuses a lot on children whose ancestors were slaves. And what they have found in the DNA is that it there is such a mix of bloods in the south. And there are so many. It’s the mix races in the south. That is a people want to deny it, and it is the ugly stain of slavery. That’s what it is. It’s guilt. It’s Southern guilt. It’s a curse, Faulkner refered to it as a southern curse. Slavery will always be there’s always going to be in our faces, and we have to start acknowledging the damage done and the damage that is still being done. It can’t be you can’t say I always have my favorite thing to say to people who say well My folks didn’t own slaves. You don’t you probably don’t really know for sure until you look it up. I looked it up my folks own slaves. Part of my family owned slaves. Part of them were Quakers didn’t own slaves. It’s just in the south if your family had property, they probably owned a slave. Just go ahead and get right with that. But they’ll say, Well, my family didn’t own any slaves. And when I say to them as even if your family didn’t own the slaves for 200 years, the United States imported or people in the, in North America, imported people from Africa for 200 years. And what were your white ancestors doing during that 200 year period? whatever they were doing, they were doing it and they were freely allowed to do it.

Brad Shreve
You had mentioned to me before you said, I’m Southern and proud and yet embarrassed by my family history. I found that very interesting.

R.E. Bradshaw
And you know what, we have to admit that we have a family history that can be scarred. And Maya Angelou used to say, when we know better, we do better. And my goal with my child was to do better than was done to me and was done to my parents and their parents and their parents. We come from a long line of things that are distasteful and disgusting. I know I told you. I told you this. The story of finding out that one of my ancestors had six children, and he had five slaves and one of the slaves was pregnant, and in His will, he gave away the baby that wasn’t even born yet to so each child got a separate slave. I mean, how disgusting is that, that that? It makes you want to throw up? It really does. I just sat there and stared at that paper. Like, I didn’t know quite how to process that.

Brad Shreve
It’s disgusting. Yet, it’s amazing to think that that was normal for them. That somebody would find that okay.

R.E. Bradshaw
Right. I it’s it’s really hard to fathom, it’s completely. I don’t know how to I don’t know how to explain it. But what I do know is that I will spend the rest of my lifetime trying to make sure that I honor the memory of the people that were enslaved and that I do what I can to make sure that I recognize the privilege that I was given just being born white. People say like I didn’t ask to be born white. Well, you were. So, you have to live with it. You can’t say that you don’t have a privilege. It wasn’t that long ago that was against the law to teach a slave how to read. And at that same period of time when it was against the law to have to teach a slave how to read in North Carolina. I had doctors and lawyers in my family that means that people went to college. There are so many layers of privilege, you have to just keep on peeling back the onion and looking at all the reasons. From the moment I was born, it was expected that I was going to college. There was never any question about whether I was going to college or not. And people that don’t. One of the things about this book that I’ve gotten several emails on, so it must have hit home with a lot of people is that the, the America that they grew up in was not necessarily the America that the rest of us grew up in, and that your middle class perspective on things is not the same perspective people had down at the trailer park. And it’s not the same perspective of a white child in the backseat of a station wagon, riding through a county that I lived in, and knowing that we were going through Well, this is where the black children went to school. They didn’t go to school with us. And it wasn’t until the late 60s that we desegregated and went to school. We were the first generation to desegregate and go to school together. And I don’t think that’s the experience some people had. I don’t think that learning, finding out that we were so different. That was the weird part.

Brad Shreve
So my question is, how does this apply to writers of this genre? crime fiction?

R.E. Bradshaw
Well, we spend a lot of time in crime fiction for sure in the neighborhoods of marginalized people, and are we doing marginalized people a disservice by continuing dangerous tropes of say, the black trans sex worker who is either the smart mouth clue giver or the victim and we don’t give them three dimensional lives. We take the easy trope and we should try to at least put some trans people into police uniforms or, you know, the owner of the business or the you know, we don’t have to all what trans people don’t always have to be sex workers. They don’t always have to be victims and they don’t always have to be the perpetrators. Another thing is black client crime writing started in the early 1900’s and they you’ll find those crime novels in their periodicals that were basically for the black community. Newspapers – because white publishers wouldn’t publish black journalists, they wouldn’t publish black writers very often that you know, we have one of those Thank you very much. We don’t mean anymore. We have one. That kind of stuff was going on. So they published themselves, the black community publish themselves. And those books were the first time that people were able to see themselves in the books as the solvers of the crimes, not the committers of the crimes. These books, these, these beginning detective stories set the groundwork for most of what we see in detective and crime novels today in the black community, then it’s been expanded on. But the culture is deeply embedded the movement, the language, the music, it’s, it’s all something that we tend to as white, I say, I’m just gonna say me, because I don’t want to make assumptions about other people. I have tended to write about the black America that I’ve read about my whole life that was written about by white Americans. Does that make sense that maybe it shouldn’t. But it shouldn’t make sense. I shouldn’t be writing about black America that I read on, you know, Harper, Lee, Tennessee Williams, Mark Twain, Faulkner, even Dorothy Allison. They’ve all written about the South in from a white perspective. And we tend to continue to write those same stories. And I think it’s a it would behoove us to do the work. It would behoove us to, if we’re, we, most writers use beta readers or readers who read their work before they publish it. give them feedback. If you’re writing about black people, and you’re not asking black people to give you feedback on your book, you’re already not not. I just wouldn’t do that. I wouldn’t do that. I, I wrote a book about Native Americans. I went to the Native Americans here in Oklahoma that I was writing about, I went to them and spent time with them at their museums in in there, just just with different members of the tribes, talking about what I was writing about, and then gave the book to members of the tribes to read before I published it. And I spoke with somebody who wrote a book about the Souix, a Souix in Native Americans and she had not presented it to anyone in any tribe to look at. And I was just dumbfounded by that. So I think I think we really need to do the work.

Brad Shreve
Okay. And so I said we were going to get deeper into the book. And we kind of have it is a mystery novel, there is a mystery. But what, specifically in the book is there that is in relationship to what we’re talking about?

R.E. Bradshaw
This book grew out of a very sad memory, an actual event that happened to someone that I cared about when I was growing up. I was 12 years old. A younger friend. He was 11 went down to the ferry dock, and they found his body later that evening. I have my ideas about what happened. And they haunted me. My dad was one of the people who stripped off his clothes and jumped in his boxer shorts and dove down in the very dark until they found that boy, and I’ll never I never forgot it. And it stuck with all these years, and I’ve always said if he’d have been a white boy, we probably would know more about what happened. But he was just a black boy. And it just got swept away. And that’s heartbreaking for 12 year old, and it’s very difficult to understand how that can happen. Racism is a human problem, and it’s everywhere and that so I started writing the story. And I knew I couldn’t write the real story because his mom is still alive. And God bless her. I love that woman to death and I don’t want to bring her any pain. So I’m not gonna do that. So I wrote a different story. But I I hit on probably everything that ever happened when I was a kid that I didn’t understand. Like why the pedophile down at the marina got away with being a pedophile, and the only thing that ever happened to him was that every now and then a couple of men would go speak to him. Quotation marks – about his predilections, you know, lock him up. Nobody ever did stuff like that. Then people were like, well, now we find more predators. No, they were everywhere. They just either the community took care of it themselves, and ran them out of town, or they made excuses for them. So that character is in this book. The corrupt judge down at the county courthouse, who had like prisoners, doing his work at his house, you know, mow his grass, doing his hedges, and stuff like that. He was a tyrant. And he’s this book. You know, there are a lot of tropes in this book. And you know why they’re tropes because they’re true stereotypes because they exist, and that corrupt judge and that and that Sheriff, that Andy Griffith type Sheriff that tries to do the right thing, but is forced by circumstances to do the wrong things. He’s in this book, and then there’s the kid who in the 60s and 70s decided that racism wasn’t going to be they weren’t going to follow the family histories that they, you know, they found the Klu Klux Klan outfit up in the attic at grandma’s house, you know, and shut the box and never spoke about it and vowed that they would never let that kind of hatred exist in their lifetimes. And yet here we are in 2020, with people wanting to turn around a confederate flag, not understanding exactly what that means.

Brad Shreve
So my question to you is the, the huge number of probably the majority of our listeners who are readers, not writers, what can they do to see more of the diversity in fiction. Do you have an idea what they could do, or in crime fiction?

R.E. Bradshaw
Sit down and Google, you know, because the same thing And most of our readers are gay or lesbian. And we’ve talked about this, I use gay to mean everybody. It’s just one of those things. We know what to expect when we pick up a book in our niche. But we are less likely to pick up a book outside of our niche that we don’t know what’s in it. The same thing goes for the heterosexual reader who doesn’t want to pick up a gay novel because they think they know what it says. Well, there’s a lot of not picking up a black main character, detective story, because you think you know what it is.

Brad Shreve
Do you see it as getting any better?

R.E. Bradshaw
I think it will. I don’t think it is. I think it will. If that makes any sense at all. I think we have such a long way to go. We just recently in the little niche that I’m in, had a big blow up because the authors of color feel under representative, and they are underrepresented. And the answer came back, well, we’ll just make a special category for authors of color. And that’s that’s not what they’re asking for. They’re asking for a seat at the table. They’re not asking for a seat down at the end. They’re asking for a seat in the middle of the table. And we need to, we need to pull the chairs back and get out of the way. The stereotype is true in lesbian fiction about who’s running the show. And I think it’s time that some of those reins be handed off to people of color, to people from different cultures, to people who are not American. And also because we’re everywhere, we’re worldwide and this is a worldwide niche readers from I have readers from all over the world and sometimes I, my beta readers have been from all over the world so that I could find out what people in Germany thought about a book that was written about the South. You know, they have a totally different perspective on fascism than we do. And it was very interesting getting that feedback. So we need to open up our minds. We need to open up our bookstores, our publishers and and when you’re dealing with being self published, you’re dealing there’s another layer of oppression. There’s there’s a total nother layer of oppression. I got into this year with an award deal because when I sent in my my stuff, I put the name of my publisher on there and they put self published beside me instead of my publishing company. And that’s the way it went out to the judges. And I was like, you know, you just stuck me at the bottom of the list. And and that is that isn’t you know, that there are layers of privilege. There’s also layers of oppression, women are oppressed by some things men are oppressed by some things you know, there’s just a there’s, but in that case, a black, or an author of any color other than white is going to be already having doors slammed in their faces and then having to be forced to be self published when you’ve got a book that should be published by a major house. And I mean, we all feel that way about our work. I understand that but there there are a lot of really good authors of color. They’re being overlooked. A lot of good stories.

Brad Shreve
I agree.

R.E. Bradshaw
One of the things was I read a bunch in preparation for this interview, there’s a Haywood… Gar Anthony Haywood. He writes gay fiction, as well. And he he was saying that there’s misguided perception that the market will bear only a small number of books featuring non white characters because the reading audience is white. Majority of the reading audience is white. And what we have to do is re educate the audience that they can read outside of their culture to to expand their culture and to not assume that you already know what this book is going to be about. If you if you like cozy romances, or cozy detective stories, and the main character is black, it still going to be a cozy detective story but it’s gonna be from her point of view and from her culture. So you might learn something.

Brad Shreve
Well, do you think it’s always because they assume they know what a black writer –

R.E. Bradshaw
I think it’s the same thing I was saying about myself that you know, you get comfortable reading what you like, was it Stephen Sondheim said, all they really like is what they know. So that is I think,

Brad Shreve
I think we were we reach out for that which is more like us. For example, I’m very close to and individual. A white man straight Though. And he enjoyed my book. But he said, I would never picked it up if it wasn’t written by, you know, I would pick up something more mainstream. It wasn’t prejudicial, he or it was, but it’s because his comfort zone is probably about novels that feature detectives or whatever, as a straight white male, or white female, maybe.

R.E. Bradshaw
It’s like look at when you look back at your reading past. And you look at all the books you’ve read in your lifetime, how many of them are written by black authors? I could actually name most of them. And that is shocking. Morrison, Walker, Angelou. You know, I Know Why the Caged Bird seeds, you know, you can name all of those books that you were supposed to read it read Langston Hughes books, James Baldwin, all the stuff you were supposed to read because I was an English major. But I don’t I know that I would have picked up I picked up everything else Walker wrote, Tony Morrison Beckett, but the first book had to be handed to me by an English teacher. I wasn’t, I wasn’t looking for The Color Purple.

Brad Shreve
Okay, so we’re gonna have to wrap up here, I want you to give just a real quick final message based on the message that you’re trying to get across to what our readers and our writers can do for this change.

R.E. Bradshaw
Well, um, some of the things I really like to see is I really like to see publishers make the effort to push the chairs back at the top of the table for writers of color, and also for the gay community, and in the major houses. It’s time for us to not be the sidekick or the secondary character. It’s time for our stories to be told at big publishing houses. And not just the white gay stories, but the black gay stores, the Asian gay stories, all the gay stories, all the beautiful rainbow of gay stories need to be told. And we need to do a better job of making sure that happens as as readers, we need to ask for those books. As authors, we need to open doors and make sure they stay open. As writers, we need to make sure that we’re doing the homework and that we’re not perpetuating myths, and that we are not continuing dangerous tropes that are not healthy for people. And I’d really like for more people to read Emandare. (laughter) I really I believe in this book, and it’s not it’s it’s more than a mystery. It’s a social commentary. And one of the main things I want to make sure I make this point clear. I wanted to make sure that I did not write the book where the white person came in and saves the day for the black people. That is not what happens in this book. People help themselves. And I think out of all the messages that come out of this book, it’s that we need to set the things right. We need to go back and set things right and do the right thing, even when it’s painful, even when it hurts.

Brad Shreve
Well, R.E., I gotta thank you. You certainly have me thinking.

R.E. Bradshaw
Thank you for having me. I really appreciate the time you spent with me talking about this. It’s, um, we are all works in progress.

Brad Shreve
That we are.

Brad Shreve
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