Why Writing YA is Important to Me
by Devon McCormack
Demons appear to us as black smoke. That’s what you see before they possess you.
The pandemic of demons was contained many years ago, but continual outbreaks are reminders that at any moment they will return and wipe out humanity. Those who were attacked by demons during the pandemic are known as curseds. They’re more likely to become possessed than most, so they are segregated from society and forced to work as slaves for the government.
Luke Retter is sixteen years old. When he was eight, his demon-possessed father killed his mother and sister, gouged out one of his eyes, and severed off one of his hands. Today, Luke works as a janitor for an all-boys Catholic academy. Every day, he watches the other kids his age live normal lives—hanging out, laughing and joking in the halls, and going to school dances. They remind him of what he can never have, of what was so cruelly ripped from him. When he befriends Tom and Zack, two cursed hiding from the system in their own ways, he sees a shimmer of hope—the possibility of happiness in his future. But one night, he wakes to the black smoke and realizes that his troubles are just beginning…
Hideous is my first Young Adult novel, and more importantly, my first gay Young Adult novel. When I was writing the book, it was really important to me to create something that could have appealed to the high school version of myself. I felt a lot of insecurity during those formative years. Aside from the usual cultural stigmas against gays, the absence of representations of gay characters in the books I read and the movies I saw sent a clear message: “This is abnormal and you are not like everyone else.”
My senior year of high school, there was this guy I really liked. His name was Steven, and whenever I thought about him, I got butterflies in my belly and felt prickles in my cheeks. You know, that innocent sort of crush that makes you want to go back in a time machine and stab yourself in the gut. Steven and I were in the drama department. I was a main character in the plays, and he was the lighting guy. He was a goofball. Rail-thin and white as a vampire, he wore these XL button-ups and polos that had the most visually offensive patterns I’ve ever seen in my life. It was incredibly frustrating to find time to talk to him, because when we were working on the play, I was on stage and he was in the lighting booth, which I was forbidden to go into during rehearsals and performances. He was also a junior, and juniors had their own wing in the building, so I rarely ever saw him. There was only one place where we would run into each other in the hall after the last bell, and I made sure to take that route every day, and slow down or speed up accordingly so that I could say “hey” to him as we passed each other. Eventually, I mustered the courage to pull him aside and make small talk.
We had this routine for a while, and during our small talk sessions, we would occasionally just pause and look into each other’s eyes. He would stand there, his green eyes sparkling under the school’s fluorescent lights. It was as if he was waiting for me to make a move. Of course, that could have just been in my head, and at the time, I convinced myself that’s what it was. When prom came around, I fantasized about asking him to go with me. Of course, I couldn’t just ask him. What if he wasn’t gay? What if he told all his friends (some of whom were my friends) and they made fun of me? What if my mom and dad found out?! No, no, no. That wasn’t an option. But I did want to go with him. Everyone else got to take someone that was special to them, so why shouldn’t I?
One afternoon, I pulled him aside. I wanted to say something just to see if he might be interested the way I was, but I really couldn’t figure out a way of going about it that couldn’t result in me being totally outed and humiliated to my friends. I’d planned various approaches, but in the moment, none seemed like they’d work, so I just stuttered through our usual small talk. I didn’t go to prom. That night, I lay in bed, doing homework. Everyone told me that I should go, because I didn’t want to look back and regret missing my senior prom. But I never look back with regret. I look back with disappointment—disappointment that I lived in a world that made me feel so worried and fearful about something that should have been fun and playful, disappointment that I couldn’t enjoy those feelings the way my straight peers were able to.
After senior year ended, my feelings for Steven dissipated, as those early crushes tend to do, and I held on to my secret for several years before grappling with my feelings in my mid-twenties. It’s such a silly story to tell now, because there are more serious issues in life than not asking that one crush to prom. But looking back, I do wish I’d been exposed to more gay stories, to more gay role models—if only so that they could be the representation to let me know that it was okay for me to feel the way that I did, and even if no one around me understood the way I felt…someone…somewhere did. And more than that, to indicate to the straight people around me that we were there and we mattered just as much as they did.
Fortunately, things are getting better. More and more, we’re seeing gay characters appear in mainstream books and movies. This is a wonderful thing, and I hope that this continues until it’s not a big deal or anything noteworthy to see a gay main character in media. I like to believe that one day some kid will pick up my little Young Adult book and see that they aren’t alone, and that it isn’t wrong for them to feel the way they do. Maybe they’ll feel a little more confident in acting on those feelings that they have. Maybe they’ll feel more confident to be who they really are. Even if they aren’t confident enough to act, I hope it gives them relief just knowing they aren’t alone.
If you get a chance, I hope you’ll check out Hideous. It’s available on Amazon and through Dreamspinner’s website. Thanks for having me on the blog today, Blogger Girls!
Eight years ago, Luke Retter witnessed the brutal murder of his mother and sister at the hands of his demon-possessed father. He survived but lost a hand and an eye. The demon also burned its emblem into his skin, marking him as a cursed. Those who bear this mark are at risk of becoming possessed themselves, so they are monitored and enslaved by the state-run UCIS. Working as a slave is hard, but Luke prefers it to the possibility of being controlled by a demon.
One night, Luke wakes to find his worst nightmare coming true. His father’s demon has returned. In a panic, he runs to the only person who might be able to help: Zack, a cursed who ran away from the state and created an underground community to protect other fugitive curseds. Zack helps him suppress the demon. But the city’s become a time bomb, and Luke’s demon itches to escape.
With the UCIS closing in on Zack’s underground operation and Luke’s demon crafting its own, nefarious plot, Luke realizes that he must take a stand.
Available at: Dreamspinner Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks and Kobo
About Devon McCormack
Devon McCormack spent his childhood climbing trees and hopping over gullies in the woods of the Georgian suburbs. Growing up, he found few gay role models in books and movies. This inadequate representation of gay heroes led him to creating his own. He likes dark, action-packed stories in which characters overcome terrible odds and sinister forces. Though his books take place in worlds where paranormal is the norm, his characters triumph over very real problems by using their strength, will, and determination. A huge fan of love stories, he can’t resist throwing in a couple of charming love interests to make the adventures all the more entertaining. He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia, and spends his time writing and consuming large quantities of frozen yogurt.
You can reach Devon on his Blog, Twitter or Facebook.
Devon has kindly offered up an eBook copy of Hideous to one lucky winner!! The giveaway starts now and ends August 1, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. 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, except to verify your Rafflecopter entry.
Don’t forget to check out Nikyta’s review of Hideous to see what she thought of it!