By Matt Cain
Matt Cain is a British writer and broadcaster, with a background in documentary making – profiling iconic queer figures like Freddy Mercury, Ian McKellen and ABBA – and formerly working as Channel 4 News culture editor and editor-in-chief of Attitude Magazine.
He has since penned a number of fan-favourite novels, including The Madonna of Bolton, The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle, and his latest title Becoming Ted.
How do you write a book about queer people, for queer people, but also make it appeal to mainstream, straight readers?
It’s a question I often ask myself and one that was on my mind while writing my new book, Becoming Ted.
The novel is about a 43 year-old gay man who’s dumped by his domineering husband and decides it’s time to finally put himself first. So he breaks free of his parents’ expectation that he’ll take over the family business and decides to pursue his own dream… of being a drag queen.
I came up with the story because I wanted to explore how low self-esteem can hold us back as gay men, how we may carry through life the feeling of being a disappointment to our parents, or how our gratitude for their acceptance can prevent us from becoming our authentic selves.
I also wanted to explore the transformative power of drag, how it can allow us to access an inner strength we may not have realised is there, or inspire us to break free from expectations to conform, to shake up the status quo and create something new, daring and unconventional.
I was also keen to give my character a close female friend in the shape of the defiantly single (and ironically named) Denise Love. She’s my own little tribute to the female friends who’ve been there throughout my life, the kind of girls who stuck up for me when I was being bullied in the school playground.
In some ways, Denise can be seen as the hook for straight female readers, drawing them into my fictional, very gay, world. But at the same time, I don’t think straight women read queer stories to see themselves.
I think women read books like mine because they want to have fun. They like our bawdy, edgy humour – which is why Becoming Ted contains jokes about gay sex, bottoming, and dick size. They like to feel that, when they’re in the company of fictional gay characters – just like their real-life gay friends – they don’t have to behave themselves or be ‘good girls’. And they’ll never be judged.
Prince Harry isn’t the only one with a new book out – and mine is also bursting with family drama, dark secrets and sibling rivalry! And look at all the lovely things these fab people have said about it!
— Matt Cain (@MattCainWriter) January 18, 2023
And I think they want to be inspired by characters who feel restricted by the boxes society tries to force them into, characters who reject these to create their own, unique way of life.
Because being forced to restrict your individuality is terrible for anyone, whatever their sexuality or gender identity. But as queer people, we’re given more freedom to lead alternative lifestyles, to dodge the default, to escape the expected.
I believe this is our greatest privilege, our greatest gift. And it’s a gift I want to share with all my readers.
So I don’t need to worry about appealing to straight female readers – because if I write a story that’s true to who I am as a gay man, they’ll want to read it.
That’s why for me, queer readers will always come first!
Becoming Ted, published by Headline on January 19, is available NOW. Click here to get your copy.
‘A big warm hug of a novel’ – Heat
‘The story of an ordinary man’s journey to fulfil his extraordinary dream … full of warmth, humour and courage’ – Ruth Hogan
‘The most joyful, heart-warming, and beautiful book ever… everyone will relate to Ted’ – La Voix
With THREE MONTHS TO GO till #BecomingTed is published, here’s what to expect! You’ll be doing me a big favour if you pre-order the book as this helps build buzz and get retailers excited. Thanks again for your support! ❤️https://t.co/lDCgAITm0D@headlinepg @HeadlineFiction pic.twitter.com/ayaQf1FCh3
— Matt Cain (@MattCainWriter) October 19, 2022