Yesterday I shared the awesome cover for my YA novel, Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks (which is listed on Indiebound for pre-order!). I shared the blurb, described the book, chatted about it on Twitter and Facebook, and…
And got nervous.
Like, super nervous.
It took me a day to figure out what was bothering me, and once it clicked, it took me a bit longer to figure out how to feel about it. But, here it is, as simplified as I can put it:
I wrote a spec-fic YA novel. It’s a dash of coming-of-age, with a dose of adventure. It’s a bit funny, I hope, too. It’s about a kid who’s got a plan for the rest of his life, even though he’s seventeen, facing up against something completely unexpected: teleportation.
Oh, and the main character is gay.
And that was the thing. That was when the nerves started. It’s not about being gay. It’s not about him coming out (though, to be clear, his queerness impacts the story—of course it does—and there’s a character who is earlier on in their progression of coming to terms with their own queerness and that’s a sub-plot). Cole is out. He’s proud. He hangs with his rainbow club. He’s dated. He’s had his first few kisses (none of them were wow-moments, alas).
But this teleporting thing? That’s a real problem.
I realized I’m nervous because I’ve written a book where the gay isn’t The Big Thing ™, and I do that in my adult books all the time, but this is a YA, and…
Well. Cue the nervous spiral of doom.
Followed by the spiral of frustration. Because we’re allowed this. Queer people are allowed characters in all the genres. Be it spec-fic, or romance, or mystery, or—yes—YA, the stories should include us.
So that’s what I wrote.
In a couple of days, I’ll be good. It’s not like I don’t have minor meltdowns every time I finish a book (this is a thing I think I have in common with pretty much every author I’ve ever met and spoken with). Just this time took me by surprise with the why of it.
I suppose it’s a little like when I wrote Light—a science fiction novel—and no small number of reviews proclaimed upset at the fade-to-black. Unpacking how many people assumed anything gay meant on-page sex—regardless of genre categorization—wasn’t pleasant.
I often answer the question “Why do you write?” with “I’m trying to write back in time.” I want to write the stories I didn’t get to read growing up. Light was exactly that: my ode to my love of superhero stories. Triad Blood and Triad Soul go back to my love of urban fantasy, and the constant frustration of zero queer characters ever seeming to exist (unless they were a gay werewolf doomed to die protecting the heroine).
Exit Plans for Teenage Freaks is the same thing. It’s the kind of book I wish I could have read: a YA spec-fic adventure/coming of age story.
And also queer.