1. You’re an author of both adult gay romance (aka m/m romance) and young adult LGBTQ works. What, have you found, are the biggest challenges in writing a young adult LGBTQ story as compared to an adult LGBTQ story?
A lot of the emotions and worries are the same. Like how are people going to react if/when they find out a character is gay, and the characters having to deal with all the same issues. The biggest challenge, for me, is simply getting the ‘voice’ right. Teenagers/Young Adults have a different way of talking and different phrases they use. I want my YA characters to feel authentic, so I work very hard to get their voices right.
2. Your YA novel, I Call Death Dad, pitches the concept of a teen telling people about his sexuality, only to have to deal with the much scarier problem of having Death as a father. Why did you decide to use this parallel in your work?
Kyle being afraid of telling people about his sexuality, yet discovering there are far scarier things out in the world than being gay and having people know you are. I’m not belittling how terrifying coming out can be for anyone who does it, yet at times, situations can be far worse and have nothing to do with a person’s sexuality.
3. A lot of YA novels with LGBTQ characters – protagonists in particular – deal heavily with coming out stories and stories that show the character discovering their sexuality. Do you write these stories, or do you write stories about the period after coming out? Why do you write what you write, and what significance do you hope it has on your readers?
I haven’t written any ‘coming out’ stories yet, but that’s not to say I won’t in the future. The ones I’ve done so far have been more about what happens afterward. I’ve written those types of stories because I want my readers to know good things can happen, once the emotional part of coming out happens. Also, I try to write about what comes after because, like you mentioned, a lot of YA LGBTQ novels deal with the trauma of coming out and what can happen. I want to do something a little different.
4. What is it like to be a straight-identified person writing LGBTQ characters? How do you manage to understand the perspective and make the voice authentic?
I’ll admit, at times, I worry about getting the voice and perspectives right. While I’ve never gone through all the issues young LGBTQ people deal with, I have been a teenager, and those are the things I focus on. I do research and I talk to young adults (LGBTQ and straight) about what they’re going through.
I hope each story I write is authentic to readers.
5. You are published via a small press known as Featherweight Press, which chiefly deals in ebooks over print books. Does the e-format change your readership at all? Does it seem like teens are reading your book? Further more, what are the advantages of having your LGBTQ fiction published by a smaller press? Disadvantages?
The e-format probably lends itself to adults reading it more than teens at the moment, though I’m sure more and more teens are getting e-readers. So I’m hoping they’ll discover my YA books as I get more out.
For me, being published at a smaller press has more advantages than disadvantages. Yes, readers might not be able to find my books in a brick and mortar store like Barnes & Noble and there is less of a chance of someone discovering me on the shelf. But with ebooks, my books are available whenever a reader decides they want to read them. I can have a book out every month if I wish. Plus being ebook published means there is a short time between submitting a book to it actually coming out.
At traditional publishers, I could submit a book, get it contracted, and it won’t be out for another year. With ebooks, I submit, get the contract, and it could be out within four months of being submitted.
6. Are you working on any new YA projects that feature LGBTQ characters?
I have one f/f YA story, titled Pursuing Hope coming out on May 9th. It’s my first f/f, so I’m hoping it’s well received. It’s about a girl trying to find a date for prom.
I’m working on finishing a gay YA story, which will be out within the next couple of months. The Deepest Cut deals with several deep issues-school shootings, bullying, suicide, and self-mutilation. Even with looking at my adult m/m romances, The Deepest Cut is one of the most emotional of all the stories I’ve written.
7. What would you say to writers who are considering writing LGBTQ fiction? What about writers that would find writing LGBTQ characters to be out of their comfort zone?
If you’re considering writing LGBTQ fiction, make sure you do your research, and don’t write stereotypes. Read some stories, and see how other writers do it. Do it because you like doing it, not because it makes you money or is popular at the moment. That’s never a good reason to start writing anything.
In my opinion, if writing LGBTQ characters is out of an author’s comfort zone, then don’t do it. Having a mediocre effort because they want to make money or whatever, just makes the author and the entire genre look bad. But I’d also want to encourage them to try something new. I did it with Pursuing Hope. I never thought I’d write a f/f story, but my characters talked to me, and I’m happy with my story. Any writer should, at least, try a story with characters or a plot that makes them uncomfortable.
No one grows if they stay in their comfort zone.