Serious people don't write about sex. And other lies.

Long before I realized it, I was writing about power. My novels are concerned with sex. With the complex, troubling, joyous experience of sex. With the mess. With the fuck ups of fucking. With the vulnerability.

Too often sex is portrayed in books as this unlikely experience — a kind of pyrotechnics to make flat characters seem more lifelike. Or it’s truncated as though we must not speak of it. Like some teaser from a black-and-white movie where the door closes as the couple looks at the bed.

You can tell a lot about a character by the kind of sex she has. And it would be odd if she didn’t have sex. It would tell the reader things about her — hopefully things you’ve considered as the writer. One of the most curious things about Tipping the Velvet, for instance, is that Nan doesn’t know what “tipping the velvet” means when she overhears prostitutes using the expression. We’ve spent hundreds of pages watching her have explicit sex, but Flo has to explain what it means. And that’s a huge character moment for both of them. Flo is not some sexless unimaginative socialist, she’s aware and she’s not haughty about sharing her awareness. And Nan, for all her experience, is initiated into the frank sexuality of the lower class.

In my second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, I write about sex in a more forthright way than I was able to in Red Audrey and the Roping. I suspect that part of that is because I was moving away from lyricism and also because so much happens between these characters with little overt action. My second novel is subtle. And, I think, better, than my first.

In exactly one month, I’m going to premiere my video series set in Spokane. Half of the videos will introduce you to curiosities about this town, and the other half with highlight spots from my second novel — places that I lifted and fictionalized. Sometimes just lifted. If you haven’t bought a copy of my book, please do. That way you’ll be able to request spots you’d like to see. Or argue with me about my assertion that I write about sex. Or some other third thing.

Field Guide to Deception cover

1 thought on “Serious people don't write about sex. And other lies.”

  1. I loved both your books. Loved them. Thought about them for a long time after I finished them. It did bother me a bit that as mature as Field Guide was, you seemed to avoid writing about sex. I wasn’t expecting graphic, gratuitous scenes. But there was a stark absence of those scenes.mi wondered why, and it’s interesting that you wrote a post about it.

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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