Kamensky: We had wanted from the beginning something that made the most of our twoness. When social sciences collaborate on a work, it's a very homogenizing kind of dynamic. It often sounds like nobody wrote it, instead of like two people wrote it. In contemporary fiction, multi-vocality is something that a lot of single authors strive for, and we felt well, we can do multi-vocality, we have two voices. So we wanted something that made the most of our process of lobbing stuff back and forth and of our distinctive sensibilities and that allowed us to grow into the characters. Blindspot - nobody in the novel knows the full architecture of the novel because its first person, and although we have two first persons, they don't know what each of them doesn't know and they don't know what the other one knows, and there were parts of that that replicated our writing of it, so while we were constantly editing our writing of it, we were each a character for the first draft except for when Fanny's letters quote Jamie, obviously, the writer of Fanny quotes Jamie.. By the time we we had done revisions, we were each all over every sentence, I really liked writing – I was Fanny and Jill was Jamie – I came to really love writing in Jaimie's voice, that part was really fun, the double ventriloquy.
Lepore: The book is about blindspots, the characters have these terrible blind spots and the age has a blindspot and we have a blindspot about the age, there are lots of plays on the ocularity, on the double vision. Our characters cant see each other and they're constantly misunderstanding each other. And there's impostor on every page, there's the swagger of Jamie, so to interpolate each other's characters was really fun, because you could imagine how your character saw the other character and how that was both keener than that character saw herself and also less keen.
So you've got two women writing, one writing as a man, one writing a woman masquerading as a man. Was this really a book about identity politics hidden as a novel?
Lepore: It's a rejection of identity politics hidden as a novel. There's a lot of stuff about identity, but it's all about the slipperiness of it.
Kamensky: It s one of the things that historians of the 18th century write about and in contemporary gender studies too, the notion of identity as performance. My first book was on gender history, Jill's done stuff on race and slavery. To do a piece of work where the performativity of gender and status in the 18th century was in the work, but it wasn't what the work was about. The masquerading in various ways, fronting the voice of a character who didn't share a body or a sensibility with us, inhabiting a different kind of genre, all that was really fun. I don't know that the book does a specific piece of work around identity politics except to show that things in he different past were a lot more fluid and a lot more fully embodied than we tend to realize.