I can't tell you how many time I've had to say those words over the years. There was a time I kept my lips sealed tight about my writing, back when I was afraid people would ask me the now infamous "What do you write about?" question. I even skirted around the truth the first couple of times I pitched to agents because I worried the truth would scare them off.
Over the last three years, though, I've stopped giving a flying flip. I flip my hair, smile and say "Oh, I write about tyrannical post-apocalyptic societies where the world's frozen over and desensitized teenage boys come to terms with their homosexuality." I say it clearly and proudly (or slur it out loudly in a martini glass depending on the day). There's always that blank processing stare at first. It's one heavy mouthful of a description so I give them a second to roll it around in their heads. Finally they process the word 'boys' half an instant before 'homosexuality'.
From there the conversation can go either way. Sometimes it's given a "Wow, that sounds pretty epic," with a small, genuine laugh. Sometimes, though, it's given raised eyebrows and a "You write about gay guys?" It happens. People get so hung up on that they don't even acknowledge the rest of what I've told them. It doesn't matter that I built an underground world, wired it with life and unleashed chaos into the streets--not when there's a controversial main character we can talk about instead.
I know it's unusual what I do, but sometimes I feel like people would be less surprised if I were to tell them that I wrote a book from the perspective of water cooler. My friend Quinne once suggested using a male pen name for my work. She's lucky I love her. I'm too proud of my work to not put my name on it. Still, though, the redundant line of questions gets a little frustrating.
The gay YA genre is a small, but growing. If you go into the Young Adult section at Barnes & Noble it's virtually impossible to find books featuring a homosexual main character. If you go into the Gay & Lesbian section it's virtually impossible to find anything that isn't porn. My genre is lost somewhere between the porn and the sparkly vampires. Well, maybe not lost. Just really good at hide-and-seek.
|Self-portrait on back of an envelope. "#gayYAproblems".|
I'm incredibly proud to be a part of that in-between genre. It has so much untapped potential just waiting for open minds and eager readers. It doesn't matter if I'm gay, straight or water cooler. I have a story to tell and it's a damn good one.