Why Do You Write Gay Characters?
by S.M. James
A question I’m asked a lot is: “Why do you write gay characters?”
My answer: “Because everyone deserves to see themselves in a book.”
Young adult books have always been my jam and when I began writing them around ten years ago, I was real unsettled by the lack of diversity in the books I was picking up to read.
I didn’t know what my issue was at first. The plots were great, the characters were engaging, but there was just something … missing.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened but the ‘We Need Diverse Books’ movement took hold and it was like this massive haze had been lifted. I started to actively seek out diverse books and consume them by the truck load. I couldn’t get enough. And with the reader demand, publishers stepped up. At one point I thought I’d read close to every diverse book I could find, now my TBR pile is overflowing.
It was at this point I really fell in love with LGBT+ literature. While it was a big part of my real life, I’d failed to see it represented well (or at all, in YA) and it was very clear the ‘bury your gays’ trope was alive and running rampant.
Why the hell couldn’t a non-hetero, non-cis person have a happily ever after? And why couldn’t they – GASP – be the main character?
I started to go beyond traditional publishing to buy up just about every happy-ending queer book I could find, no matter whether I planned to read it or not. And there were a lot more options than I thought.
Up until that point I’d only ever written in the fantasy genre, but as I read more and more contemporary, I was itching to try and write one. I still had far too many ideas to get to my agent but in between those projects, I quietly worked on bringing Archie and Landon to life.
It wasn’t until I was scrolling through Twitter one day, that I saw an announcement I remember making me stop. A book had sold—a GAY book had sold. Traditionally. For a lot. The author had sent out a random query to a well-known agent, who offered her representation the next day. A week later, the book went to auction, and Becky Albertalli’s career was launched. I picked up Simon vs on release day and fell in love.
It gave me hope that Archie and Landon could have the happily ever after I planned for them.
I finished That Feeling When late last year, assuming it would join the line of titles waiting on my agent to read. While I waited, I started work on a high fantasy with a FF romance.
TFW just … sat there.
And sat there.
That’s when I decided this one would be my indie debut. I had a heap more planned for the series, with characters I couldn’t wait to get out there, and indie authors had been leading the way in LGBT+ romance for years before the traditional publishing houses caught up. It just made sense.
I knew it would be expensive. I knew there’d be people who wouldn’t read it because it wasn’t from one of the Big 4. I knew it would be a hell of a lot of work.
And I was totally cool with all that.
Because everyone deserves to see themselves in a book.
About That Feeling When
Dance Academy reject, Archie Corrigan, resents the stereotype guy ballet dancers are gay. Because he isn’t. At all. Forced to reassess his life goal at Camp Crystal Cove, it’s by sheer dumb luck he meets Landon Summers, who turns everything Archie was sure of into chaos.
Poor boy turned teen heartthrob, Landon Summers, is the name on everyone’s lips. With his unexpected leap to fame, his agent advises him to keep his bi status on the down low. Not a problem! Until Landon meets Archie.
Their unexpected friendship leads to an inevitable kiss, but their moment is caught in high definition and used as fuel for blackmail. If the truth gets out, Landon’s career could be over, and Archie will be forced to acknowledge the one thing he’s fought to deny.
But how do you go back to your average life once you’ve experienced That Feeling When … you’re finally happy?
Available at: Amazon
An Exclusive Excerpt from That Feeling When
The woman we meet in the first aid room does not look happy. One glance at the front of me and she shakes her head, stepping back from the door and pointing to the bed. She gives us a quick, “I’ll back in a minute”, before heading out, leaving the door wide open. Archie helps me to the bad and settles next to me; I don’t know what I would have done if he left me by myself. With the shock wearing off, the pain is really getting unbearable. The last thing I want to do is complain, I have an image and I need to remember that. But stray tears sting my eyes before sliding onto my cheeks. I ignore them.
My jaw is tight, braced against the pain, and when I finally turn my attention back to Archie, he’s watching me. The look on his face has me feeling all kinds of strange inside, all kinds of strange that has nothing to do with the pain.
“You know,” he says. “That really was an impressive fall. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone take it like that without making a scene. Are you made of metal, man, or what?”
I try to laugh but the pain makes it come out as these bizarre kind of sobs. I choke back any embarrassment I might feel, because let’s face it, the boat has sailed on that one. I shrug my good shoulder, the only part of me that doesn’t feel like it’s being run through the mill, and that brings a smile to his face. Damn, he’s cute.
“I guess I just like to show off,” I say.
Archie snickers and it’s the kind of sound I want to keep going forever. He’s so close, his leg is only a few centimeters from my own. All it would take is a slight shift for our thighs to be pressed up against each other. It wouldn’t do a thing for the pain, but it would do things for, ahh, well, other things.
And this close, I can make out a few freckles just under the edges of Archie’s eyes. I had no possible way to notice them before, because they almost blend with his tanned skin, but they’re there, and knowing they’re there makes me feel like I’m in on some kind of secret. I bet there aren’t many who get close enough to notice.
Before I look away, Archie catches me staring again.
I will my eyes to move, to play it off and just be cool, but they won’t obey. He’s so interesting to look at.
And that’s when it hits me—he isn’t looking away either.
I swallow, cursing my dry mouth, and his eyes fall to take in the movement. He copies me, and the way his throat bobs down and back up again is almost like a sign.
I know I shouldn’t do it, I know it’s ridiculous.
My body is in so much pain it’s screaming at me to stop, but I can’t. Even as I lean forward I feel like I’m possessed.
Our lips crash together in my eagerness and it almost doesn’t feel real. Whatever he’s wearing smells fresh and outdoorsy, and as his lips push back against my own, my pain is sucked somewhere into the back of my mind. All I can process is the fact I’m actually kissing him.
And he’s kissing me back.
About S.M. James
SM James in an Australian author who writes books for teens about squishy sweet characters. While not writing, SM is a readaholic and Netflix addict who regularly lives on a sustainable diet of chocolate and coffee. Member of SCBWI. Unapologetically dishing out HEAs for LGBT+ characters.
As part of this blog tour, S.M. is giving away 1 x Paperback copy of That Feeling When (US only), 2 x $15 Amazon gift card (international) & 3 x eBook copy of That Feeling When (international)!! To enter, just click the link below!
Please be aware that the only way to enter the giveaway is to click the Rafflecopter link above. Any comments on this post will not count towards entering the giveaway unless otherwise stated but are still welcome anyway.