Friday, September 23, 2011

The Inevitable #YesgayYA Post - but its not what you think, honest

No, your eyes do not deceive you, for lo!  I have returned from blogging hiatus!  (We're gonna pretend that was an official 'thing' and not like, me utterly FAILING on the regular updating thing.  Okay?  Sound good?  Thanks for playing along, guys.  You're all aces in my book.)

So, speaking of books - yeah, you know you liked that segue - how about that whole yesgayya hoopla from last week?  Oh YA.  We do love our drama.  Course, you know me being me, I have A Very Important Opinion on it, so despite being a day late and a dollar short, I'm going to drop my two cents down right here.

BUT instead of talking about this instance in particular, let's talk about the greater issue.  And about diversity in YA in general.  I'm sure most of you following this have seen all the relevant posts like Malinda Lo's charts demonstrating that less than 1% of YA books have gay characters at all.  I know!  Crazy, right?  And I think we all remember the whole white-washing thing with the cover of Justine Larbalestier's novel 'Liar'.  We've come a long way in the publishing industry, where today books like Scott Tracey's 'Witch Eyes' can wind up on shelves next to every other YA paranormal, not caring that the MC's Romeo and Juliet style romance with a witch from another family is with another boy.  But the way we got to this point, and the only way to get to MORE such books on the shelves, is not by writing blog posts or arguing for better minority representation via twitter.  It's simply by WRITING MORE MINORITY CHARACTERS.

Eureka.  Pretty self-explanatory, right?  Except it's not so simple.  Because no single author can make up for under representation of any given minority.  When an author tries, the effort tends to stick out amidst all the other books featuring a cast of straight white teens across the board.  And I can't speak for everyone, but I know when I examined my own works and my own motivations in writing this character this way and that character as a member of that demographic, I discovered a personal fear of mine.  A fear of being labeled - as That Author.  The One With the Agenda. 

I'm ashamed to admit - I have in the past made the conscious decision to straighten or whitewash my OWN characters - because I was afraid of being perceived as the author who always had gay or minority characters in his novels.  That readers would perceive it as filling a quota, or pushing an agenda.

But you know what?  That's just silly, boys and girls.  That's hogwash.  And there's a lot worse things to be known for.

The thing is, all writers are readers, first and foremost.  And reading a book is a HELL of a lot easier than writing one.  So when we writers write, we usually do it to fill a lack.  We write the stories we want to read, but can't - because they're in our heads, and nobody can put them to paper but us.  We write the characters we want to see in other books but don't.  Doing the things we wish the hero of this book would have done, or making the choice we wish the heroine of that one had made.  For me, a lot of the time that means the characters I want to write are minority characters, a bi-racial heroine, a predominantly Hispanic main cast, a gay hero having fantastical, non romantic adventures.  Because these are the stories and characters I can't read elsewhere.  Because they don't exist elsewhere.  Because there's a lack.

Writing to fill a void is not the same thing as writing to fill a quota.

Intent matters.  Your reasons for making this character black and that one gay matter - but the only one they have to matter to is YOU, the author.  Everyone else will think what they want to think regardless.  If you have a formula, and after writing a book full of straight white teens sit down and make one of them multiracial, one of them LGBT, etc...yeah, that could probably be construed as agenda.  But if you're simply writing the characters as they pop into your head, who cares if every single one of them happens to be black and transgendered? 

I'm bisexual.  My older sister's Jewish.  My younger sister's Vietnamese, my little brother's Mexican.  We're a weird family.  It's a long story.  But if a family lineup like that can come about naturally in real life, then surely you can make any assemblage of characters work in a fictional world of your own making.  I grew up used to being around people who are different from me.  That's my normal.  So yeah, the books I write are pretty much always going to have more minority characters than most - because that's what's normal to me, and that's a part of my life and my world I don't see adequately reflected in fiction.  It's silly for me to be self-conscious about it, just because it sets me apart from books with no minority characters and risks me being labeled as an author with an agenda.

Yeah, I'm a minority writer and I have an agenda.  My agenda?  To write what's inside of me.  To write and let it out.

More people should try it, honestly.  Saves truckloads on therapy bills.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

An Abundance of Katherines

No, I'm not talking about the John Green novel, though that is most definitely worth checking out.  I'm talking about last week's birthday of the many incarnations of my good friend Katey....better known in these here blog parts as horror/dark fic writer KV Taylor and her shiny alter ego Katey Hawthorne, romance writer extraordinaire.

Not only was last week her birthday, it was a book birthday for her as well.  Her very first book, Equilibrium debuted from Loose Id, and is available for digital purchase right now!  It's a m/m romance, with punches pulled, so since many of my blog readers are YA readers and writers I advise you to go into that with your eyes wide open, but I know superpowered boys in love should appeal to more than a few of you, hmmmMMMM?  *Eyes a few of you in particular YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE*

And it's SO good, Loose Id has already announced they will be publishing her second book in the Equilibrium universe....this one to be tentatively titled 'Riot Boy', I believe?

But maybe superboys in love aren't your cup of tea.  That's okay, she has 'Scripped' dropping from Belfire Press any day now under her KV Taylor nom de plume....a dark, twisted tale of Appalachian fae and the old adage you can't go home again....

And get this!  Belfire Press likes her so much, they've already announced plans to publish the next KV Taylor book....a dark and bloody vampire romance/horror, where the monsters are actually monsters....and still disturbingly hot, just the way we like them.  Now, if the woman managed to sell a vampire book in THIS market, you KNOW it's gotta be good, right?

And to top of Ms. Taylor's all around awesome sauce year last year, it also saw her debut as an editor at Morrigan Books AND as the creator and editor of the Red Penny Papers, a quarterly online lit magazine of things that go bump in the night, a compilation of amazing fiction, stunning art, and the revival of the serial novella with weekly installments of a new novella in between each regular issue.  Get the scoop on that here at the Red Penny Papers site - it's fully legit and FANCY yo....I think more than a couple of you might have some things you might want to float her way, and it's ALWAYS a good read and worth a perusal.

So in conclusion, Katey is awesome.  If awesome people want to read the implication that they should totally go wish her a happy birthday with a quick peek at some of her goodies (I MEANT HER FICTION NOT THOSE GOODIES YOU BUNCHA PERVERTS) and possibly snag one or two for a read, well.....that is totally your call.

*Is hella subtle, yo*

Happy birthday Katey!