On her way back to her childhood home of Trinidad last week from Atlanta, USA, where she now lives, author Natalie Simone was warned her book, Girls Just Don’t Do That, might ruffle some feathers, particularly in a country that is often seen as largely homophobic.
Simone’s book, her first, tells of the “other side of desire”, to quote her—and explores same-sex relationships between women. There are Delia and Jayne, Shavone and Tracy and Stacy. Their backgrounds are different, but the characters are all intervowen.
Coming from a creative family of readers and artists—her uncle is painter Makemba Kunle—Simone really cut her teeth on poetry. “Poetry was my first love, but writing is my true love.”
Compared to writing poetry, Simone said short stories are time-consuming but are much easier to write.
“When I start to write my books, they seem to take a life of their own.
“A spirit takes over me and I just go wherever the characters take me; sometimes I don’t even know how the book ends until I get there.”
Her writing process evolves in spurts. She might be sitting in a coffee shop when an idea comes to her prompting her to write, or she might have a dream; but Simone can never get into the habit of writing every day. Rather, it’s a little here and a little there.
“I might write today and not again until weeks later. I am really bad with that.”
Simone traces her ease in writing books to her girl days of making up stories to tell her friends.
The former St Francois Girls’ College pupil said she wrote Girls Just Don’t Do That some years ago, but that when she re-released it this year she just couldn’t resist launching it here locally.
The response to her book was more than Simone expected locally.
“Even straight people loved it.”
“The book is not just about women who love women, but what people go through in relationships.
“There are a lot of twists and turns and a lot of things in there that would make you go ‘wow’.”
The 39-year-old Simone is openly gay and she does not want to be known as a lesbian author, but instead simply as someone who writes great books people can relate to, whether they are gay or straight.
Simone said she felt comfortable launching her book here, despite the advice of her friend, what with the increase in gay characters on popular US network television shows.
Her family circle has also played a part in her acceptance of who she is, she told us.
“My aunt told me once, ‘I don’t care who you sleep with; I just want you to be happy and free.’
“So I am not as hard on myself as I used to be.”
Simone is also a playwright and has received a lot of good reviews for her play, Only God Can Judge Me.
According to the writer, the name of the play might give the impression it is a gospel play, but it’s not really.
“In it we focus on the vices that we all have and the fact that when it comes down to it we can’t judge another person by what they do because what we might be doing is worse.”
A born-again Christian who admits she was conflicted when she first discovered she was attracted to her own sex, the Barataria-grown Simone said the play contains profanity but the underlying message is one that is sobering to everyone who has seen it.
She is the president of Perfect Muse Productions, an Atlanta-based theatrical production company, and is now planning a multi-city tour of the US for the play.
“I want the tour to kick off in Trinidad and Tobago,” she said. “I want to use local actors and directors, even change the script a little to reflect who we are and use our T&T dialect.”
Simone admits that as a Christian woman, it is hard not to bring God into everything she does.
“I don’t do in-your-face evangelism, but in my plays you get the message. That’s where I do my part to give back to God. I feel as though He uses me in that area—in an unorthodox way.
Simone’s second book, Three Degrees of Separation, is due to be released in August while she will release Catching Feelings next year.
A television series for Girls Just Don’t Do That is also on the table and Simone is busy looking for a network to take it on-air.
“We did a trailer for it and it has been getting a lot of buzz,” she said.
Simone was happy to be home—having not come for the last three years.
“The first thing I asked for when I landed was doubles,” she said with a laugh.
“I have to come back more often. I would love to bridge the gap between T&T and Atlanta and collaborate with the local talent that we have here.”
Girls Just Don’t Do That is on Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and at nataliesimone.org.