Lesfic author Laina Villeneuve explores the scientific elements of her new novel Cure for Insomnia in part one of this two-part series.
I’ve mentioned before how much my wife helps me when I write. She encouraged me chapter by chapter when I tackled my first lesfic story, Take Only Pictures and since then has helped me develop character backstory (remember how distraught she was when Hope sprung on us that she was Mormon when we were writing The Right Thing Easy?) and answer the what happens next? (especially in Such Happiness as This) Our first six books are set in places dear to my heart, my college towns and the High Sierras where I spent many summers, and even my childhood home.
Cure for Insomnia is different. This lesfic novel we decided to build around the culture of science which is my wife’s domain. I could not have told you a single thing about how a research lab worked until I met Louisa.
I met Louisa the day after Christmas in 2003. I had only very recently ended a long-term relationship when a colleague of mine said she was having a dinner party the day after Christmas. Her sister-in-law, Louisa, was in town from Tennessee. Louisa was single and lesbian and almost thirty. I was single, lesbian and in my early thirties. In other words, we were a perfect match, despite the fact that I lived in California and Louisa in Tennessee.
My colleague had told me Louisa was getting a PhD in biology, and she must have told me that she worked with fruit flies because a lightbulb went off in my head. My cousin was about to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in science and had done her senior project on the very same Drosophila! I immediately called her and asked her to come give me a quick lesson about her project, so I would be sure to have something to talk to Louisa about.
My cousin tutored me for several hours on the subject of viral warts in fruit flies the weekend before the dinner date. I wish I could tell you that what I had learned about warts and Drosophila was key to the courtship that began with our first handshake. It wasn’t. Apparently, Drosophila are inexpensive, easy to propagate, and complex enough…what? creatures? on which to perform experiments, so while Louisa’s lab used Drosophila, it was for wildly different reasons. In brainstorming for this blog, I asked Louisa if she remembered talking science with me that night. She did not. She said that the world of virology had nothing to do with the genetics and meiosis in sperm that she was researching.
The important part of the night came from mentioning that my cousin was working at a research hospital in Southern California that had recently started a graduate program. Louisa shared that she was not very happy living in Tennessee and had been thinking about relocating to live closer to her brothers; three had settled out here on the west coast. She wanted to work in a lab whose research contributed directly to advancing medicine, and the research hospital ended up being a much better fit than the University of Tennessee.
Louisa changed grad-programs and spent the next several years in a lab that researched metabolic memory. I did my best to understand her experiments and the papers she read. Even though I didn’t always understand the details, I was constantly impressed with what she knew and what she was learning. I loved listening to her talk about her work. I found it incredibly sexy to listen to the language of science that was completely foreign to me.
Cure for Insomnia is set completely in her world save for one chapter. While you won’t recognize any characters from former lesfic stories of ours, you’ll know the one scene I didn’t have to ask her for help with. I hope these characters stick with you much longer than my cousin’s lesson on warts stuck with me, and I can’t wait to hear what you think of Karla and Remi’s story.