The award-winning novelist on her brand new lez/bi bonkbuster and how she’s staying creative during Covid-19

WORDS BY ROXY BOURDILLON

Dripping with sex, scandal and lesbian drama, Jacquie Lawrence’s Same But Different is the juicy summer read you need in your life right now. Set in leafy West London, this deliciously escapist novel explores the interwoven romantic adventures of a gay lady squad. It’s the follow-up to Jacquie’s debut, Different For Girls, which has since been turned into a must-see drama starring L Word legend Rachel Shelley, Bad Girls icon Alicya Eyo and TV royalty Denise Welch (watch it on DIVA Box Office here). There’s even a spin-off in the works with Denise and Ackley Bridge’s Charlie Hardwick, but don’t worry if you’re not all caught up yet. Same But Different is just as entertaining as a standalone.

Much like her unputdownable novels, the woman behind the words is hilarious and whipsmart. A BAFTA award-winning TV producer, director and former commissioning editor for C4 and Sky One, Jacquie has been a driving force creating irreverent queer content for years, including ingeniously named documentaries, Lesbians Behaving Badly and Lesbians Go Mad On Lesbos.

For this interview, we chatted over the phone from our respective lesbian lockdowns. Read on to find out Jacquie’s secrets to a scintillating sex scene, what she really thinks about snobbery in women’s writing and why she’s had to fight her whole life to be accepted as a lipstick lesbian.

Jacquie Lawrence, author of Same But Different

DIVA: You’re a creative powerhouse who writes both scripts and novels. Which do you prefer?

JACQUIE LAWRENCE: They’re so different that it’s impossible to have a favourite. That said, my chapters are really short and episodic with a cliffhanger. I like to think of myself as the lesbian Jackie Collins, sitting by a pool in LA, tapping away on a pink typewriter with my kitten heel mules on.

I love that for you! The short chapters work really well. They make the book a proper page-turner and so much fun to read.

Thank you. Someone did say it was like crack cocaine, because it was so addictive, but they were absolutely exhausted by the end of it as they hadn’t had any sleep for 48 hours! I’ll go with that – “the crack cocaine of lesbian fiction”.

What an epic review! Are you planning on making more episodes of the TV show based on this novel?

Yes, I do want to turn it into a drama. The actors are all really keen to see this onscreen, so we’re going to start raising finance for that soon.

Let’s talk about the steamy nature of Same But Different. What’s the secret to writing a corker of a sex scene?

Someone asked me, “Are these characters based on someone you know?” I said, “There’s a little bit of me in all of these women”… and then I realised just how awful that sounded! But you know, each character has different sexual proclivities and so, as the writer, you have to be that character in order to write the sex scene around them. I try to write the sex scenes at night. The worst time was writing a sex scene while I was waiting outside my daughter’s classroom for the parent-teacher interview. It was an oral sex scene so to have to get that out of your head before you go in and talk about SATs… I’m never going to do that again. I’m always going to write sex scenes on my own in the dark – so I can’t see myself blushing!

There are so many brilliant characters in Same But Different. Is there one in particular that you most enjoy writing?

I honestly can’t choose, but what I can say is I fucking love Verity Sanderson! I think I fancied Verity Sanderson more than any of them.

She was definitely my favourite. It felt so fresh and exciting that she’s this powerful politician, the leader of the opposition, and we get to read about her love life. What was the inspiration for Verity?

I love women in political drama. That’s my genre: women in skirts in power. They don’t have to have the skirts actually. And also, when are we going to see a lesbian prime minister? When’s that ever going to happen? And what kind of sex life are they going to have?

Well, that’s the important question! 

(Laughing) Exactly. Not their policies or their politics, just what kind of sex they like!

Who would be your fantasy casting for the role of Verity?

Maybe Amelia Bullmore from Scott & Bailey. Or Kristin Scott Thomas.

Oh, I can get on board with that. She’d be fabulous.

I think we’d probably have to go with her.

What advice can you offer for aspiring novelists?

The first thing is to get it out there. I’m a huge believer in self-publishing. If there’s one thing that Covid-19 has shown us, it’s that everyone is creating content. If you have a story, then write it. Get someone to edit it, even if it is a friend, and then, self-publish it, because we are craving stories. We’re especially craving LGBTQI stories. Also get somebody to design the book cover, because that is the thing that sells online.

On the subject of marketing, how do you feel about descriptors like “chick lit” and “lesfic”?

I tend not to be too snobby about it. I can read Jackie Collins, but I can also read a classic. I can watch a very earnest documentary, but then I also bloody love Coronation Street. We’ve all got a mixture of high and low art in us. I really don’t have a problem with the terms. I have a problem with people using them as an insult.

100% agreed. So I’ve already devoured Same But Different. What can I look forward to next from you?

I’m writing a novel based on my life. I was born in a place called Scotswood, raised on an estate full of single mothers. I’ve had a really interesting journey. It’s going to be called Confessions Of A Lesbian Lipstick. I’ve had to fight to be a lipstick lesbian. I came out during a time where I was thrown off Greenham [Common] because I was wearing lipstick. I’ve been planning this book for ages. I’ve been making notes, getting old diaries out, talking to family member, all of that. But Covid-19 has made me go, “Actually I’m going to really get to grips with this”. I hope it’s going to be out next year.

I can’t wait to read it. You’ve certainly got a fascinating story to tell.

I think we’ve all got incredible stories, to be honest. Everyone’s got a book in them.

Same But Different is out now. Get your copy now at tinyurl.com/SameButDifferentBook.

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