Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Gay

I almost didn't do this post. It sounded great but the topic should be a little too obvious coming from me. Those who haven't looked, that image in my profile is a picture with Pride flags. That is for a reason. I posted last month about the different between gay characters and gay stories (here) and on my other blog I know I've posted at least one or twice some of the reasons I write glbtq (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and other letters of the alphabet) characters and stories.  So, this post is going to ramble on a few different topics related to gay characters/books.

When I started writing, I heard from a few different people that I should write straight characters if I wanted to get published. I didn't know much about publishing and at the time, I was more focused on writing the stories I wanted to write than anything else. Luckily this has kept me from submitting too early but it has caused me to worry a little about what would happen if I ever did submit to publishers/agents. The thought of being asked to change the characters gender and/or orientation made me a little nervous because I didn't want to be hard to work with but at the same time changing that would ruin any romance story because I knew the characters were gay and to change it just to get published would make me feel like I was selling out. I'm not as worried now.

I went to a conference in Colorado where a common question asked was: "what do you write?" and it was difficult at first for me to answer because I write so many different things. Eventually, I started answering with the same answer: "I write glbtq fiction, mostly in fantasy but occasionally other genres." Not as short as saying "I write fantasy" but it worked minus the few times I had to explain what I meant by glbtq. And it's true, over 90 percent of my novels have gay, bi, trans, intersex, questioning and even asexual main characters. The response is what surprise me. Several times, I was told how there is a great market for that. Shocked me, that is for sure.

Part of the reason I write these books is for me, and part is for readers. Having volunteered with gay teens, I know they would love to have books with characters they can relate to and straight character books don't quite work. Sure, they can read and enjoy them, but their experiences aren't always the same. The gay boy teen wants to read about how two boys fall for each other not yet another story about how a boy and girl build a relationship. Even I have a hard time relating with certain characters and have mentioned it recently. When the female character talks about how yummy a boy is or stares, almost drooling, at some guy's six pack and the chatter about how attractive they are I get bored. I don't relate to that at all even though I sometimes date males. I'm not really a physical person so I'd be thinking "keep the shirt on" but I'm weird like that. I'm female, for those that don't know.

Thankfully, more books are being published with glbtq characters. I didn't know that at first. But lately I've even seen them in bookstores. Where I shop, there are no glbtq sections, so it's hard to find any but lately I've seen 6 of them in the young adult section. That is more than the two or three I'd noticed before. Authors like David Leviathan and Malinda Lo have books available and those are just two of many. The books may still require research in order to find and/or be aware of their existence but they are out there.

But there is still room to grow: to improve. I would like to see more on the shelves in bookstores. To not have to do as much research to know about the books that are available. Would also like to see an industry where the books and movies don't have their ratings increased just because the characters are gay. There has been progress and I hope it continues. For now, I'll keep writing stories with glbtq characters and proudly admit to being a gay writer.


Laura said...

Fascinating post. I know it sounds naive, but this isn't something that I had even questioned in my writing, but that said, I've never 'stumbled' upon a book that happens to have a gay lead - which means there needs to be a lot more of them. Great post!

Áine Tierney said...

I think there is definately a place for gay and lesbian protagonists in novels and a dire need for them for the many teenagers that are struggling with their identity. Well done on not being afraid to follow your heart.

Jules said...

You GO GIRL! Our identities are all we have and we need to be true to our selves, which in turn teaches those who you wish to reach.

I never looked close at your Favicon, cool pic. :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Loralie Hall said...

Great post. If there's one thing you choose to stick to your decision on, I think this is an amazing and impressive one. ^_^

Sylvia Ney said...

Always write for yourself, no one else. I'm stopping by from the "A to Z" challenge and I look forward to reading more from you.

Patricia Lynne said...

Great post and I too have had same concerns about a story I've written with a gay character. It offends and terrifies me to think of submitting it and having someone tell me I have to make it a hetero story. That's not what I wrote, I wouldn't have a story. I didn't decide to make my character gay, that's how he came to me.

I also can not think of ever seeing a GLBT section in either a small bookstore or a large one. I wonder if they are hidden (and Dawn, as you know mentioned this over on my blog for my G post today.)

Juliet Boyd said...

What an interesting post. I think everyone should read a wide variety of stories with all different kinds of relationships. Maybe then people would understand each other better.

Angeline said...

'Bleh!' to people who tell you to be more 'commercial'. Can I point out Sarah Waters and Jeanette Winterson as just two writers off the top of my head who write lesbian characters.
I often write lesbian characters, well, in truth, I write characters who suddenly decide to kiss a woman and surprise me!

Dawn Embers said...

Thanks everyone for commenting on my blog.

Laura - That's okay. It's nice that you didn't worry but too bad it's hard to stumble upon a book like this.

Aine Tierney - Thanks. I definitely agree.

Jules - :-) Glad you like the picture.

Loralie - Hi you! Thanks bunches, I appreciate that.

Sylvia Ney - Good point. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

Patricia Lynne - I remember you blog, thanks for coming over to comment on my post. I know exactly how you feel with the story being nothing if the character had to change.

Juliet Boyd - Thanks. Variety is a good recommendation. It makes sense.

Angeline - :-D Thanks. I'll have to check out those authors since I don't know many yet and need to read more books. Surprises from characters are fun.

Misha said...

Well done to sticking with what you want. I think a lot of people are choosing to bend to market whim rather than to try redefining it or to carve out a niche.

I find that sad.

Dawn Embers said...

Misha - Thanks for commenting on my post. It is too bad that some people are bending to the market instead of writing what they really want.

Erin Kane Spock said...

I write historical romance, where an openly gay man could be imprisoned and killed for the crime of sodomy. I have included gay peripheral characters and am inspired to let one of them have his own story, but I don't know how to give him the happily ever after in a society where it has to be secret. I also don't have the practical experience necessary to write a m/m scene. :)
Write what inspires you - there is definitely an audience out there for your work.

Dawn Embers said...

Erin Kane - :-) That's great you even had peripheral during a time where it was dangerous. Things vary over history so I'd imagine there are some periods where they would be more common as characters. Trust me, if I can write m/m erotica then anyone can. And friends can help.

Shelley Batt said...

Great post. I believe that you should be true to yourself and your writing. Every child/people should have someone that represents them in books, especially young readers. Maybe if they could have someone to relate to it might make them feel less alone in this cruel world.