Last year saw the publication of a rather extraordinary and unique YA novel, f2m: the boy within. As far as I’m aware, it’s the first YA novel to deal with female-to-male gender transitioning from the perspective of a young person (18 year old Finn) going through the process. The subject is handled with sensitivity, understanding and honesty… and it’s a great read.
Commentary on this book, understandably, tends to focus on the primary topic of transitioning gender. But there is more to the book than that. It is also deeply immersed in the punk music scene, an aspect that adds to the storytelling and to the novel’s uniqueness. I thought it was about time someone shed a little light on the punk aspects of this novel, and so I have invited the book’s co-authors, Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy, to blog about it. First up, here’s Hazel…
How We Co-Wrote Punk — Hazel’s View
Participant-observation is the fancy name for doing new things so I can write realistically later. This has been my excuse for hot air ballooning, lazing with a glass of wine on a French canal barge and even checking municipal water channels (with an engineer) for returning platypus. All called work, especially for the tax man.
In my other YA novels, I go to great lengths (even Antarctica) to experience and then write accurately about a setting.
Punk music was different.
I’m aware that many authors use mood music when writing. I don’t. The only time was co-writing the satire Operatic Duck with Christine Anketell. In the community arts scene, where there’s no elephant for the Grand March from Aida, we used the duck. And played the march music to fit the chapter action while we wrote. Fun!
I’m digressing because I haven’t got much to say about punk music and the writing of f2m: the boy within.
This is where I relied heavily on my co-author Ryan, who has been a punk musician and still is.
The naming of ‘The Chronic Cramps’ (the band featured in the novel) was all Ryan. ‘Mosh’ was a new word for me.
There were three new languages I had to learn for this novel — transitioning gender, genetics and punk. The vocabulary had to be right. Especially the pronouns.
My first ‘punk’ mistake was in writing the draft synopsis. I stated that our character Finn found more difficulty transitioning gender than making it in the punk scene. Ryan told me that punk is NOT competitive. I rewrote the synopsis.
In the scenes where punk music was performed, I had an overseer role in the ‘crafting’ to make sure the scene worked, writing-wise. The detail was Ryan’s. If he had been living in Melbourne, I probably would have gone to a few punk performances, with him interpreting, but because he was in New Zealand, while we co-wrote electronically, I deferred to his expert knowledge.
This is a genuine advantage in having a co-author who is expert in a field. Of course, Ryan had the participant observation experience of transitioning gender too. I didn’t.
My role was the naïve observer-listener, who asked the pertinent questions that the ‘average’ person might wonder about.
So I asked about the sound, smell, customs, language and status (who did and didn’t do, what) in the punk world. I was interpreting across cultures. Age was also a factor. I was a generation away in age, but often that is irrelevant for an author. Creators need to be androgynous and write from any gender viewpoint. They also need to be no age, just the age of their central character in that book. So I was emotionally aged 18 for f2m: the boy within. So was my co-author Ryan.
So I don’t have any punk favourites, but I do find the names intriguing.
Make sure to tune in next time for Ryan’s view.
From writing about an operatic duck to exploring the world of punk, Hazel has had quite a varied writing career, which, of course, includes one of Australia’s all-time favourite children’s picture books, There’s a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake. To find out more about Hazel Edwards and her writing, check out her website. And follow her on Twitter.
Catch ya later, George
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