BackStory: Three Questions with Isabelle B.L

Engraved illustration of vintage corset from La Mode Illustrée, 1885, France, Paris
BackStory: Three Questions with Isabelle B.L

Author of Cords

What inspired you to write ‘Cords’?

I was born in the 1970s and when I was a child, my mother wanted me to wear a girdle. I was on the chubby side and she was one that believed appearances mattered. My pant girdles were beige or white and were incredibly uncomfortable. Now this was in the 1980s. I can only imagine what women in history had to endure wearing corsets not only approved by men but also other women. I wondered what happened to the woman who rebelled? What labels society would attach to her name? Would she be seen as mad, bad or both? Art work was also a major influence. One piece, I can’t recall the name, depicted women in a miserable state and I asked myself, what they had done to end up in there. Other paintings inspired too, especially ones where women were subject. Paintings that didn’t show her liberated from a corset but rather showing one breast or her bare shoulders and it triggers the question: who was the painter? Had it been a woman, would the woman have painted her in that way? Were there any daring male painters who could have portrayed her in another way? Many questions arose which helped me write the piece.

Who are your favourite historical fiction writers and why?

Giovanni Verga (1840-1922). He wrote in the Verismo (realism) literary form. His writing focused on the lower classes, their loves, struggles, everyday life. He wrote simply and in a way that was accessible to all readers. Like Guy Maupassant, he had the ability to understand a woman’s suffering but also her resilience in a patriarchal world. He observed the world around him and reported it in his work. Despite the context and time period in which his work was written, his characters are incredibly relatable today.

What do you like most about writing flash?

The challenge to write a complete story or moment in time in 1000 words or less. I have to pay even more attention to avoid unnecessary words and filtering in my writing.

Isabelle B.L is a teacher based in France. She has published a novel inspired by the life of a New Caledonian feminist and politician. Her work can be found in the Birth Lifespan Vol. 1 and Growing Up Lifespan Vol. 2 anthologies for Pure Slush Books, Visual Verse and elsewhere.

Engraved illustration of vintage corset from La Mode Illustrée, 1885, France, Paris via depositphoto, ID 13177899.