Sept. 12, 2022

Queer Characters in the mainstream by Lilja Sigurðardóttir

Queer Characters in the mainstream by Lilja Sigurðardóttir

I don´t consider myself a queer writer although I am however a writer who is queer. I consider myself first and foremost as a mainstream crime writer and a novelist. I write, as most writers who are considered belonging to the Nordic Noir genre, about societies and their dark underbelly, about crime in Iceland, a Nordic welfare state that many consider perfect but is of course not. I have written about drug smuggling, financial crime, political corruption, sexual violence, conspiracies and of course: murder.

So the main themes of my thrillers are crimes but for me a novel always begins with a character. And many of my characters are queer. The main characters in my trilogy Snare, Trap and Cage are a lesbian couple. Or should I say two lesbians that are trying – maybe – to be a couple. In my political thriller Betrayal, one of the main characters is a lesbian witch and in my new series that begins with a book called Cold as Hell a mysterious drag queen called Lady Gúgúlú is the friend and neighbor of my policeman, albeit a small character. And in my new book Red as Blood, a very prominent lesbian queer policewoman has her say in solving a kidnapping case.

For me making a character queer is not exactly a decision, it is much more organic and natural than that. The characters come to me, and I build them up in my head, in somewhat a semi-conscious way, before I start writing and their life and personality must serve the story. I guess that some of them being queer is just a reflection of my own life, where some of the people around me are queer.

That said, I think that having queer characters in fiction is very important. Representation is necessary for us queer people, as we are building our self-image and modeling our life with very few role models to follow. I remember my younger self being unproportionally grateful for lesbian characters in fiction and film, some of whom were very insignificant or quite banal in the way they were written. Things are better now although I always crave more characters that resonate with me and my life.

I have been asked if I feel like I am obligated to write queer characters and the answer to that is no. I don´t feel obliged to write anything but a good story. That is the only thing I owe my readers. However, I do like to have queer characters in my work, for the reasons explained above, and will without doubt continue to do so.

Because seeing lesbian, gay, trans, bi, non-binary, intersex, asexual and other queer characters in fiction and on screen is very important for queer people but also for others. For society as a whole. Because our stories and our lives have been hidden for too long and it´s important for everyone to see us as part of the mainstream world.