The starting point for a novel, the spark that ignites an idea, varies. It can be a location that sets my imagination alight or an item in the news, it might be a particular image, or a question that is troubling me. The Girl in the Green Dress sprang from something very close to home, my experience as a parent of a transgender child. In the novel, teenager Allie Kennaway heads off for Prom night, cheered on by dad Steve and her little sister Teagan. But Allie never comes home, beaten to death in an apparent hate crime because of her transgender identity. I’ve written about hate crimes before, crimes rooted in racism, in Stone Cold Red Hot and Split Second. But never about a transphobic crime. When I shared early chapters of the book with my writing group, people found it illuminating – no one had friends or family who were transgender. And I realised there weren’t many transgender characters in the fiction I’d read (with some notable exceptions like Breakfast on Pluto and Tales of the City read years ago and more recently the wonderful The Sunlight Pilgrims). I had a lot to learn myself, from my child and from reading information on transgender advice and support sites. Crime fiction is renowned for being a very effective genre for exploring social issues and contemporary hot topics and with this novel, at a time when increasing numbers of young people are questioning their gender identity and turning to gender identity clinics for support and health care, I wanted to shed some light on what it is like to have a transgender child, and hopefully to increase understanding of transgender issues.
The big question I ask in the book is how far you would go to protect your child – what if you suspected them of involvement in a terrible crime? Is your duty to keep them safe and shield them? Or to respect the law and make them take responsibility for what they’ve done? The parents involved have very different responses to the dilemma. Responses that put the search for truth and justice, for Allie and her family, in jeopardy.
And as is only right, the book is dedicated to my wonderful daughter Kit, the inspiration behind the story.