Thievery: Rebel Girl
Thievery is a series of blog posts about my story inspirations.
‘Rebel Girl’, published in Girl Crush (Cleis, 2010)
When I saw a call for stories on the theme of a girl crush, Bikini Kill’s song ‘Rebel Girl’ immediately came into my head because it is a kickass romantic riot grrrl love story. As a 17 year-old I spent a lot of time stomping around the suburbs with this blasting through my headphones, and I certainly had a lot of badass girl-crushes at that age.
But I still love the song: for Valentine’s Day I made my girlfriend a card that said ‘Rebel girl, you are the queen of my world’. To me, the song already tells a story, so I didn’t just want to repeat that. I wanted to take the intensity and heat of adolescent girls’ relationships with one another and put them in another context.
I grew up in a middle-class suburb, and I’ve always crushed hard on rebel girls. I’m very aware of my relative poshness and I do try to fight against it, but I fear it’s a losing battle. I live in Glasgow and I have tattoos and I know self-defence, which you might think would make me a bit hardcore, but I am amazingly wussy. I hope to get through my whole life without being in a fight. A girl did hit me once, but I was so surprised that I just walked away.
For a while I’d wanted to write a story that wasn’t about nice middle-class girls, but the ones that the nice girls fantasise about. I wanted to write about gang girls, but as that’s a culture I know nothing about I thought it would be patronising and unrealistic for me to try. Seriously, women like this make me want to write all kinds of stories:
The characters in my story, Katia and Evie, instead developed as people I’m more familiar with: posh girls trying to rebel. I imagine the story taking place in Cumbernauld, which is fairly grim town on the outskirts of Glasgow. It’s frequently cited on lists like ‘Britain’s Crappest Town’, and though the people I know who live there are all lovely, Cumbernauld is still a depressing place.There’s nothing in the story that suggests it’s Cumbernauld – it could really be any town in any Western country – but that’s how I imagine it.
The first draft of the story was okay, but something was missing and I wasn’t sure what. Then I read a friend’s story about humid summers in Toronto, and something clicked. The story needed temperature. Suddenly the whole thing had a structure, a building of tension and a conclusion. The summer heat and breaking of the storm came to represent the characters’ sexual frustration and eventual release.
I’m not sure I succeeded in getting across the heat and intensity of the girl-gang culture that so fascinates me, because Katia and Evie are not exactly hardcore. Still, they do have some good sex.
(Note: I bashed out the first 500 words of this story in a few minutes, in a mad rush of words that felt as if my fingers couldn’t type as fast as my brain was making sentences. I went to bed feeling really smug about it and then the next morning I woke to find my laptop had crashed and eaten all the words and I had to rewrite it all. Thus my Darling Wigleaf postcard is almost completely true. I still suspect that my first draft was somehow better than the rewritten version, but I’ll never know.)