Finished edits, gay YA fiction, and who are you writing for?

That noise you heard this past weekend was the lady in the hat with the horns singing. I turned in the final proofreading edits to Detours. Next stop: printing. (Actually, when Detours started as a short story in a fiction writing class I was taking, the title of the story was Next Stop.)

It felt kind of like turning in a final exam, where you want to grab the blue book back from the teacher’s hand and read it over one last time just to make sure you didn’t forget anything, screw anything up, or leave anything out. Eventually, though, you’ve just got to let it go.

You’ve also got to figure out what’s next. I’m working on my next book, which (as I’ve mentioned ad nauseam) is a young adult novel. Wait, have I mentioned that? Have I told you what the next book is about? I wonder how much I should spill. Well, anyway, suffice it to say it’s YA, and the narrator is a gay sixteen-year-old. (To further complicate matters, his estranged mother, for the record, is an Amazon. Poor kid.) So, you can imagine my unease when I read this account from two writers whose agent wanted them to change the sexual orientation of their gay characters as a condition of representation. You’d think we were beyond that sort of thing in this day and age, but apparently not.

I can’t imagine I would ever be persuaded to do such a thing, nor can I imagine I would want to be represented by someone who would ask that. On some level, I can understand why they might—in terms of dollars and cents, there are more straight kids than gay ones, and straight kids might look at a gay main character and say to themselves I guess that’s not written for me. But the thing is, when I was a gay kid, everyone I read about was a straight character. I really wasn’t specifically represented in print, as far as I read. So were those straight characters not written for me too?