by Renee James
To Renee James, writing a book is a lot like parenting—it’s never over, you just run out of time. The Chicago native doesn’t have any kids of her own, but as a first-time novelist, the trans female writer is nonetheless navigating uncharted waters. Her upcoming novel, Coming Out Can Be Murder, follows Bobbi, a trans female hairdresser, as she looks for her friend’s killer and comes to terms with herself in the process.
"The book is very humanizing. It makes people feel what it’s like to be a transgender person. When I finally decided it was ready to show publishers, I felt a sort of parental love for it—like I had created something that would go into the world to do wonderful things for humanity," states James.
Renee continues, "In the middle of the last decade, I started writing a fictional journal during business trips. It started out as an exploration of what my life would have been like if, at age 38, I had decided to transition and live as a woman full time. Most of us trans people have a lot of fantasies about what it would be like to live in the "other" gender. The journal forced me to go beyond the fantasy and consider the hard realities of transitioning.
What emerged was a unique and fascinating character—not me, but much more honest and textured and very complex. Bobbi is cursed with some of my characteristics. I made her a hairdresser because I love doing hair and I wanted her to be artistic. I made her a very masculine, oversized transwoman because that’s what I am and because I wanted her to have to deal with that
My publisher asked me once what I wanted to accomplish with this book. I found myself telling her about how reading John Grisham’s Street Lawyer affected me. It changed how I regarded homeless people. Now as a result, I don’t avoid eye contact with homeless people. I have conversations with them and my world is better for it. That’s my ambition for the book—that it will
change people’s perceptions of transgender men and women."
List: $12.99, 272 pages, Windy City Publishers
As seen in Connextions Magazine, Issue 6. Click here to view the digital edition.