Blonde Boy, Red Lipstick by Geoff Bunn Genre: LGBTQ Romance
Boy meets... another boy. The first boy is straight. The second is a stunning blond(e) wearing red lipstick.
Touching on issues such as homophobia, gender, human relationships and insecurity, 'blonde BOY, red LIPSTICK' tells the story of a brief affair between two young people living in big cities more than 100 miles apart. But can their meetings, filled with love, music and laughter - not to mention dancing and shoplifting - overcome the inevitable barriers of naivety, doubt... and distance.
'blonde BOY, red LIPSTICK' is an old-fashioned love story. But it's also a love story with a difference.
A marriage finally breaks up because of a photograph. A photograph taken years earlier...
- "A real page turner... it made me cry and laugh, often at the same time". Susan, Reader
- ”There is something singularly urgent about the appeal of a breakup story... like taking a photograph of a wave before it rushes back to sea.” Leslie Jamison. The GUARDIAN
- "The portrayal of gender, straight, gay and transgender issues in this book is hugely important". Clare Conville, one of the UK’s foremost literary agents.
- “The character of Alley is wonderful... I adore her. More please!” LGBTQ Review. "Wonderful!" The TIMES
We first met in 1981, on a cool day in mid-August. I had just turned 18. I was good looking, with dark eyes and thick dark hair. At the time I was seeing a girl, but we were going nowhere. I knew that was largely down to me. I had a public face, a persona, which girls found very attractive. Outgoing, talkative, with an almost arrogant charm. That was how I appeared. I dated any girl, every girl, as and when I chose. But in private, once we were alone together, I was much less sure of myself. Quieter. More reserved. Shy really. And that, I knew – but couldn’t easily change – was less attractive. We were teenagers, and life was supposed to be fun. Back then, I was still living in Birmingham, my home city. But on that day, a day I would never forget, I was in London, on a dreary work-related visit to the south east, travelling on a local train slowly making its way back into the city centre. Then at some anonymous suburban station, voices caught my attention and I looked up from my book to see a group of punks or something on the platform. They were just talking, laughing. Fooling around a little. Doing nothing in particular. I watched them for a few seconds, focusing mainly on a slender girl with strikingly blonde hair and a short pink mohair jumper. She did a little dance and seemed to be making all the others laugh. For some reason I found it impossible to even look at her without smiling. Then I went back to my reading:‘There are moments in life that are given to us. Moments where we can make a choice. There is much more to the world than we realise, and those moments should be treated with special care when they do arrive. They are often crossroads or junctions. A clear choice between action and inaction. Sometimes mundane. Sometimes – and often, and we do not see it – one of them will be very precious. A chance to change a whole life. To act or not to act. If only we make the right decision, we might be able to change a whole story.’ Suddenly, just as the train was about to leave, someone jumped on board, opening the door right next to me and then dropping into the seat directly opposite. That felt a little odd. It was one of those open carriages with lots of woodwork and as many doors as there were windows. Strong smells of dust and warm moquette. But the train was almost empty too, so there was no need for them to sit so close. And as we moved off, I half looked up. It was that same girl. Other than the pink jumper, she was mostly wearing black. She had also scattered a half dozen glossy magazines on the seat next to her. Then, once again, I returned to my book. What happened next? A misunderstanding. That was all. The train slowed down for the next station and I felt a strange sensation. I didn’t look up, because I could tell what it was. And I was embarrassed by it. I even felt myself blushing. It was the girl opposite. She appeared to be periodically rubbing her shoe against mine, against my boot. The train stopped. And then she did it again. Very lightly, but – to me at least it was quite definite – she pressed her shoe against mine. I tried to ignore it. Sure, it wasn’t much, but it wasn’t the kind of thing most strangers did on a train. Then it happened once more. Still I didn’t look up. At least, not fully. But I did glance over the top of my book, past the words I was no longer able to read or think about, and notice that she was wearing a longish, black, tight fitting skirt and leather high heels. I guess because it was daytime and August, albeit a cool day, those clothes surprised me. And maybe that was why I looked at her legs for longer than I ought to have done, as she later assured me I had. In any case, from her, I went back to staring at the pages of my book, turning them slowly to make it look as if I was reading. Not sure what to think. I hoped that staying quiet would make her stop. The train moved off. And then it happened again. I didn’t know what to do now. Should I say something? I’d never had anyone sit opposite me and do that before, and it felt strange. Why would she keep doing that? As we approached the more urban parts of London, I glanced out of the window, first to my side and then across her to the other window, as people do, by way of an excuse so I could look at her without being too obvious. Not obvious? Well, that’s what we tell ourselves. Oh. Fuck. I don’t know why, but I hadn’t expected her to be so attractive. There was not only the startling bleached blonde hair, which I’d always loved, but above night-club-red lipstick, she had high, fine cheekbones which gave her an almost sculpted appearance, and narrow almond-shaped eyes, outlined heavily with eyeliner, the lashes darkened to black with mascara. There was a coldness in that face too, yet at the same time, a vibrancy, a liveliness that bordered on the insolent. I could see all that immediately. But there was also something else there that I couldn’t place. Not then. Nor could I study her for too long, because those almond eyes flashed a sudden glance at me and a bright smile passed across her face. I couldn’t tell what colour those narrowed eyes were, but I could see that they sparkled, that they shone. I turned back to my book. The train stopped again. And we were stuck at another nondescript station for quite a long while. I knew the girl was now watching me now. I could feel her gaze on me. Then she lit a cigarette, took a few drags on it and seemed to blow the smoke straight at me. “Ooo, sorry, is that bothering you?”, she said immediately. The accent was a little strange, but where from exactly? I couldn’t place it at first. It was also, somehow, not an ordinary girl’s voice.
“Nah”, I said, making myself smile at her. “It’s fine. Really. I smoke myself sometimes.”
“Mmm”, she said quietly. “I thought it might be bothering you. Sorry.” I didn’t reply. And she picked up one of her magazines and, very quietly, began humming to herself as she flicked through it. Maybe even singing a little. Then she tossed the magazine back down onto her seat.
“People can be rude like that, though, can’t they? With smoke.” She spoke quickly. The voice was nervous and I found myself watching her mouth, and those very red lips. “Sorry”, she said again. With a shy but wide smile. “I am. I’m sorry.” That was it! There, in that final apology. That was when I realised. Those few extra words. They had given it away. The something about her. The something about her face. About her body language. About her movement. Everything. We made proper eye contact for the first time and I froze as we did so. The girl opposite me wasn’t a girl.She was a boy!
"Humour, romance, society, gender, those are the sort of things I write about. I like true stories."
An established author, Geoff Bunn was born in Birmingham, England. He left school at the age of 16, without any qualifications, and began working in a factory. After four years of that... he left the factory and went back to college. And today, as both a writer and artist, he divides his time between homes and studios in rural France, the UK and southern Sweden.
Geoff is always happy to hear from readers and can be contacted in person via his website or on social media.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself... where were you born/grew up at?
Born in the big city, to a big family, where we had to choose between buying a can opener or buying the can. We were very poor.
I played sports at school. Left with no qualifications. And then I went to work in a factory.
Which, really, was pretty awful. But which also taught me a lot about myself and about growing up.
(That factory, life in the factory, comes up in more than one of my books).
I left the factory after 4 years or so... and from there, I went back to college to study.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I have always written. Ever since the age of 5 or 6. At Infant school I loved writing stories more than anything else.
And I have spent a lifetime writing and telling stories, one way or another.
But it wasn’t really until I had completed maybe my 4th or 5th book, quite recently, that I realised, “Hey I am an writer, an author”. It was always there. But I guess I just hadn’t seen it for what it was.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
This one. For sure. ‘Blonde BOY, Red LIPSTICK’. I have been told by several readers that it should be made into a film. And I think they are right.
My new book, ‘Skinhead Girl’, another romance, would also make a great film. Real people, living real lives. Great music too.
I also have a series of Fantasy books which would make great films.. but those are very different from this book.
What is this book about?
It’s a romance. Primarily just a romance. An old fashioned love story. And that is how it should be read. But beyond that, there are also a lot of other layers...
So, for instance, this is a gay romance, and yet it is not a gay romance. And that all becomes clear when you read the story. So it really is a book for anyone who enjoys reading romance, a mainstream audience, it is not just an LGBTQ book. It is actually both.
At another level the story is also one about identity. About who we are, who we think we are, and who society thinks we are.
Of course, it’s also about things like prejudice and gender... and more besides.
Oh, and change too. As the character, the narrator, looks back at how the world has changed for better and worse since the 1980s. So yes, there are lots of levels or layers in this book and it can read from all sorts of angles.
What inspired you to write this book?
I saw a film and it kind of took me back to something which had happened in my own life, a long time ago. Quite by chance really. The following day, I think it was, I sat down and wrote a short story. Just to kind of clear my head. But that short story grew... and grew... and ended up about 95,000 words long!
How did you come up with the concept and characters for the book?
Well.. they are all based on real life people and real life experiences. In many ways it is true story. Though some characters and situations are more ‘real’ than others. I’d say pretty much all my writing is kind of like that... based on real experiences, real people.
Is there a message in the book?
Yes. Absolutely! Just let people be who they are and what they are. Stop pigeon holing one another, stop pigeon holing ourselves. In terms of love, for instance, if you find someone attractive.. just go with that. Whether they are male, female, black, straight, gay, tall, short.. whatever.. it doesn’t matter. If you find someone attractive, and they feel the same towards you.. that’s beautiful. Nothing else matters.
Also... regrets. Don’t let things slip through your fingers. If you have a chance to do something, do it. So long as you aren’t hurting anyone else.. do it. Don’t find yourself, years later, looking back with regrets. Someone once said “It is better to regret something you have done, rather than something you haven’t done”! And they were right.
If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Oh... no idea. Not really. Is Johnny Depp still making films?
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
I don’t really have a favourite part, but I do love the mix of humour and romance. There are scenes which are heart-rending, sad, painful. But also scenes, like where the main characters go shoplifting, which are funny and very... human. The book has a very good balance, a good mix.
If you could spend time with a character from your book whom would it be? And what would you do during that day?
Ha ha! That’s all pretty clear in the book..... I don’t want to spoil it!
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Yes, real. Very much so. Almost entirely.
If your book had a candle, what scent would it be?
What can we expect from you in the future?
Lots more writing. In all genres. I have already written about 10 or 12 complete books.
I like to write whatever comes into my head. Whatever feels... needs to be written. I don’t care about limiting myself to one genre. Pigeon holes are for pigeons!
What book do you think everyone should read?
I couldn’t imagine telling people what they should read. People should read whatever they feel like reading. Anything. Whatever. Each to their own.
For me, if I had to pick one book, above all others, though I’m sure it might sound pretentious, I would pick the ‘Collected Works of Shakespeare’. I’m not saying all of his plays are the same standard, some of them are kind of ropey, I feel. But some of them, the writing, it really is superb. Not bettered anywhere.
How long have you been writing?
Always. I have always written.
As a young boy, I wrote letters, I kept diaries. Then school, college, you name it. University. At University we had to write 33 essays.. each of them 3,000 words long. Then a dissertation. Then a thesis. And so it goes on.
I’ve been using computers since the mid 1990s... and, again, all the time, writing to people. Staying in touch with emails... hundreds of them. Facebook, the same. You name it.
I work as a translator. And that is all about writing too. And I’ve been doing that for 10 years now.
So... yes. I have always written. My first attempts at writing books were in the mid 90s. I wrote one, started a few others. Then I wrote a couple of plays. But most of that stuff, I have never gone back to.
Finally, around 2017, I began writing books. And they’ve just kind of kept on coming.
I’ve written... er... around... 10 or maybe 12 books in the last 4 years.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
They come to me as I write. More or less. But they are always, almost always, based on real people or a kind of mixture of real people I have known or met or dated or whatever.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I don’t mind. I can write in noise or in total silence.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?
Generally I write two or three at once. Gradually focusing on getting one of them completed before the others. Then I go back to the others.
It’s kind of easier, I feel, to have a few books on the go at once... as, if you get a bit stuck, you can switch to one of the other stories. Also, once one book is done, it’s nice to have another one already under way.
Pen or type writer or computer?
Computer. Always. I am not sure I know one end of a pen from another any more.
Do you have any advice to offer for new authors?
And keep on writing.
Even if you come to a block, write a few emails to your friends or family. Write a lot of other stuff. Anything. Just keep on writing.
If it was meant to come... it will come.
What are you currently reading?
‘Ulysses’ by James Joyce. But also a book about witches and wizards aimed at teenagers. I forget the title. Before those... I re-read the Narnia books. And... before those... some Agatha Christie. So I read all sorts really.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first?
In all honesty I just sit down and write. And the words arrive all by themselves. I don’t worry about chapters or structure or anything like that. Not for a while anyway.
Eventually, maybe half way through a book or so, I start to look at the size of the book, where the story is going. Stuff like that. Then I revise things and change things around to fit.
But, really.. all my books sort of write themselves. There isn’t much of a conscious process.
Once I have begun a book, I can write up to 4,000 words a day. And I just kind of keep going until the book is done. If I hit a block, I turn my attention to another book. That seems to work.
Finally, there is the editing. The revision. That usually takes a lot longer than the actual writing. But I have a very good editor, and that helps a lot.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Less than one month. But editing and revision might take six months.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes and no. If you get stuck - and I think everyone does sooner or later even if only on one piece of dialogue or a description or whatever - focus on some other writing for a while. Take a week out. If you are still stuck... maybe the story just isn’t worth it. Maybe scratch it and start all over again? Try a wholly different angle?
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