Many, many moons ago, I wrote this post entitled “If you want to write LGBT fiction.” I wrote it because one of the first questions that people tend to ask me in interviews and things like that is “Wasn’t it hard to get a novel published with a gay main character?”

Yes, it was.  And no, it wasn’t. Publishing a book is hard, it doesn’t matter if the characters are straight or gay.

When I read this article about authors who were asked to “straightwash” characters in their novel, I sympathized.  I’ve been there. I don’t like to talk about it, because I still feel like someone’s going to come and rap my knuckles with a ruler, but WITCH EYES had it’s moments.  I had agents who said there wasn’t a market for a paranormal with a gay character who had a romance.  I had editors suggest they would reconsider the book if Braden and Trey became Brenda and Trey.  Or if I removed the romance and made it a straight girl/gay guy buddy comedy.

Now, at the end of the day, my book wound up exactly where it was meant to: at a publishing house that loved the story, and an editor who was super supportive right from the beginning.

So…it happens.  And sometimes it works out.  But I hate when people say it doesn’t happen.  I don’t like to throw the baby out with the bath water.  It’s not a black and white issue.  Publishing is not completely homophobic, or completely supportive.  It varies, and it changes, and there’s no one standard for how things work.  It’s a business, and it’s a business run by MANY different people with MANY different beliefs.

If you want more books with LGBT content, buy the ones that are already out there. Show publishers that there’s profit to be made by investing in these books.

Now, one of the initial outcries to the article was people coming forward saying they invited LGBT books, or were open to them.

That’s not exactly the same thing as putting out that content. 

There is also a difference between books with gay supporting characters, and books with gay MAIN characters.  Yes, there is a LOT of LGBT supporting characters in YA.  But there are significantly less MAIN characters who are LGBT.  In the former, the gay characters may have storylines, but the main story is about a hetereosexual character who is going through his/her own issues.  In the latter, the gay storyline is more present, and of much more concern.

When I wrote WITCH EYES, I did it because there weren’t a lot of options to read a fairly traditional urban fantasy novel with a gay romance…so I wrote one.  And now we’re starting to see more and more of these stories, and there’s more INTEREST in these stories.

Now, we are three years away from when I was on sub with WITCH EYES, and those experiences.  So maybe things have changed.  All I know is that in my experience, it happened.  And it happens.  But that doesn’t mean it’s the rule, or there’s NO content or support out there.  Because it changes every day, and beliefs that people had three years ago, or five, or even ten, might not apply anymore.

There is a FANTASTIC conversation going on about this on Twitter under the hashtag you see in the title: #YesGayYA.  You should check it out.


29 thoughts on “#YesGayYA

  1. Pingback: It’s More Complicated Than #YesGayYA « Robin Talley, YA writer

  2. I don’t like absolutes in writing or in life. Both have too many variables to wash the walls white and draw thick black squares within, keeping the boundaries of both crisp and clean. Life is messy. Writing is messy. Growing up is messy. Publishing is messy.

    Nobody has the magic formula for what works and what doesn’t. And nobody has all the right answers. But all we can and should do is stay true to the purpose behind our writing–whether we include gay MCs or homosexual supporting characters or all straight characters.

    I think it goes without saying that all kids have the right to feel represented. Part of that comes from the writer, while the rest comes from agents, editors, parents, librarians and bookstore owners. We simply have to mix and match until we find the right combination.

    Thanks for weighing in on such an important topic.

    • Exactly. I think it’s just a good conversation to have. It’s not EVERYONE’S experience, but it’s important to talk about it because it IS some people’s experience.

      As long as we all remain respectful, of course. 🙂

    • I don’t think I WOULD have if you hadn’t blazed the way with your experiences. Yours was the example I followed when I was writing this. Thank you, again, for everything you went through and for standing your ground! 🙂

  3. It occurs to me that I’ve read a few gay romances, but very little (if any) sci-fi, fantasy, or detective fiction in which gay characters are prominent (or, even appear at all). I really must fix that. Perhaps I’ll look up your novel and a few of the others mentioned in the #YesGayYA thing.


    • There’s definitely some good stuff to choose from. Some of my favorite UF where there are gay supporting characters are the Mortal Instruments series by Cassie Clare, the Demon’s Lexicon series by Sarah Rees Brennan, and the Hex Hall series by Rachel Hawkins.

  4. agreed completely… lost this post and the one after it AND the discussion over at twitter… but really? there’s nothing more to say than what you narrowed it down to… and I seriously am dying to read FINALLY your book T-T this wait is torture…-hint, your book doesn’t publish or even dream of coming here so I’ll have to move oceans to get it but I WILL –

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  15. Nice article. This was really helpful to read, while I’m sorting through the varied reactions to Monday’s Genreville post, and as an author working on getting a YA fantasy with a gay hero published. At times, it feels like an impossible challenge. Many folks concur with you — the solution to increasing LGBT YA titles is to get more people to buy them. But many of us authors are already doing that (I certainly am). And we know there’s a readership for the books despite the research that the publishing industry references — LGBT books don’t sell as well as non-LGBT books.

    Many LGBT teens are looking for fiction they can relate to, but they tend to lack the buying power of adults, and/or do not feel like they can safely access these books since that could entail outing themselves. So it’s a complex problem. I’m a social worker for LGBT teens in my non-writers life. I wrote the kind of book I would have liked to have read when I was a gay teen, also “writing what I know,” but beyond that, I believe that media portrayals are powerful. And I believe we should work toward creating a world where people feel included, where they can see their own experiences represented in our culture. Ideally, LGBT teens — and all other disenfranchised teens — should be able to see their experiences represented in the stacks of bookstores, libraries, and on-line booksellers. But I’m not sure how we get there. Putting the onus entirely on young readers seems unfair, given the power dynamics at play.

  16. I’m a bit new to all this drama going on…I never seem to realize what’s happening in the blog world for awhile. lol At any rate, I agree with you that people need to buy LGBT YA fiction to really make a difference. We have to prove we want it, or how does anyone else know? I write mainly lgbt work as well…with the main characters being anything but heterosexual…It’s not easy, but like you said, publishing in general isn’t easy. So I hope to be where you are one day as well.

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