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.