My book was based on the 2010 parade and revolves around the theme of making and maintaining connections within the gay community. This theme is hidden inside a May-December romance as men from two different generations connect. To get the feeling of this right, I also scoured Star Online, Australia’s premium gay paper Star Online Opinion pieces there and comments on them, gave me an insight into how real gay men think (as compared to ones found in romances). Mind you these may be atypical, but what it did prove was that there was no “one” way. Ten people had ten different opinions, proving how wrong it is to shove them all into one stereotypical box.
When it came time to research my Dreamspinner novel, “Red+Blue”, I needed different research, because this deals with people being infected by HIV. Not only the clinical implications but also attitudes in the community to those affected. I used the insurance industry as my vehicle to display that. My heroes work for a company called Sydney Sutherland Family Insurance which is (in the book) one of the few companies offering any type of life insurance to people who are HIV positive.
Life insurance is boring, I hear you say. Who needs it? People taking out loans on property for starters.
When I started researching this topic, I discovered that despite advances in the treatment of HIV, there are no life insurers that currently underwrite whole or term life insurance for applicants with HIV. A few firms offer impaired risk insurance (capped) as they do all people who fall into the high risk category. This article on how to get life insurance when your are HIV positive was very helpful as was this source. I also discovered that a small family firm did offer full cover a few years ago but stopped.
Toward the end of “Red+Blue” Adrian, the son of the firm’s President makes this statement to Damian (the blogger out of “Mardi Gras”): “(People with HIV) need to be reassured that their life still matters. That they matter. Society is too quick to shun them once they’ve been diagnosed, but the more encouragement we can give them to keep fit and healthy and keep their illness from progressing, the more likely they are to survive. With the new treatment regimes, many are living asymptomatic for years. Their life expectancy is almost an unknown. The longer they live, the more proof they’re giving the bean counters that they are an acceptable risk.”
Mind you insurance companies don’t just discriminate against people with HIV, but unless the community is prepared to stand up and fight for people infected by HIV just as they would any other disease, then infected people will feel like second class citizens.
Obviously, I have strong feelings on these topics, but I try not to let these messages overpower the rest of the story. Many readers may not even pick up on the issues I’m covering, but I do love it when I get responses like this from a Goodreads reviewer, Lisa: “ Mardi Gras, by A.B. Gayle, is a blend of political history and personal exploration. It delivers a multilayered story with intriguing characters, a complex message, and an interesting background that kept me turning pages and had me surfing the internet for information. ”
My style is to use humor to lighten the tone. “Caught” was a good example of that.
To celebrate YAM magazines support for LGBT issues, I'm giving away a copy of one of my ebooks to the first person to comment on this article. The choice of which one it is, is up to you.....