Florence Given: “I hate the idea of self-censorship”

·2-min read
 (Dave Benett)
(Dave Benett)

Activist and debut novelist Florence Given says she doesn’t think young authors have to self-censor when creating fiction, despite the fears of literary grandees such as Anthony Horowitz.

Alex Rider creator Horowitz said this week that “writers are running scared” of creating characters who are a different gender or race than themselves for fear of criticism online, calling the trend “worrying and saddening”. Nobel prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro has raised similar concerns.

Speaking at the launch of her novel Girl Crush in Kings Cross, Given said she felt able to write anything. “I like to be as expressive as I am in my work as possible. I hate the idea of self-censorship” she said.

Given did qualify that writing based on her own lived experience was likely to have more depth than lives she knows less about. “If I was to write a protagonist who was a black disabled woman, I don’t think that would be very interesting” she said. But she said that “the whole point of fiction is to escape reality and to feel empathy”, and people should be able to both write and read outside of their personal experiences.

The writer, who rose to fame after sharing feminist illustrations on Instagram, did admit she is has been sharing less with her 600,000 followers recently. “I am definitely leaning more into privacy and I really like it that way” she said.

However, she was adamant that this move towards privacy is not motivated by fear of being cancelled. “It’s a strange thing to have lots of people witnessing your evolution, but it’s not going to stop me from doing it”. “[My image] is changing every day, even in terms of how I express myself, my fashions, my gender,” she said, adding “I’ve never been comfortable being something that I’m not online”.

The writer was recently labelled ‘the voice of a generation’, but she told us that she resented being put on such a pedestal. “I don’t want to do that and in fact, it’s embarrassing. It also just makes you look a bit silly because it makes you look like you think that about yourself.” She continued, “I feel like we can’t let women make art that is popular without calling her the ‘voice of a generation’ she’s never going to live up to that title.”