Friday 28 September 2012

Gay writes

So the lovely Louie (@louiestowell) tweeted a link to the Guardian article about the acquisition of Stranger, the book that caused a bit of a storm when the authors indicated that a literary agent had asked them to straighten a gay character (link here). Viking Penguin have picked it up without such a change.

In linking to the article Louie asked for "Moar gay YA please".

And here is my response:


I do not necessarily see all the manuscripts. Of course I don't. But I do see some - and I often see the ones that other (bigger) houses might have deemed unsuitable. So, in my unique position as Commissioning Editor for a small publishing house, you might think that I'd be seeing some of those gay manuscripts that everyone (except Viking Penguin) are so scared of publishing.

Well I don't.

I think there are two reasons. The first is short and speculative:

1) I don't think bigger houses are actually scared of publishing YA featuring gay characters at all. For instance: James Dawson's Hollow Pike. A MASSIVE title for Indigo and a hotly sought after manuscript - I don't think I'm spoiler-ing to say there's some gay characters in there. Cat Clarke's new book Undone (Quercus) - the blurb tells you that one of the main characters is gay. That's just two examples (who also happen to be two of the biggest names in UK YA at the moment).

Which leads me to my main point...

2) No one is writing them. By which I also mean, no one is writing them well. Featuring a gay character should not be a 'thing', they should just be. I don't want a writer to stand above their character with rainbow lettering and a giant arrow saying THIS ONE'S GAY! Sexuality is not a character trait any more than having brown hair, or eyes or skin is. A raging crush on your mate's sibling, a constant need to change your hair colour, wearing eyeliner to attract attention to your eyes, pride in your family's heritage - those are things that tell you about the person. Knowing someone is gay only tells me that they fancy someone of the same gender. This isn't news. Teen readers want subtly nuanced, clearly drawn, real characters whether they're L B G T or S. The requirements are the same across the board.

I don't have a diversity quota that needs filling and I'm not going to commission a badly written book because I have an agenda. I am waiting - desperately, desperately waiting - for a manuscript to drop on my desk that will help me demonstrate that publishing really doesn't need any straightening out.

All you have to do, is write it.


  1. I had a novel with a gay protagonist published about 15 years ago. It's out of print now. Called 'silent snow, secret snow.' Just saying!

  2. I did not know this... will investigate!

  3. I've just finished reading (thirteen years after it was written!) Stephen Chbosky's 'YA' wonder The Perks of Being a Wallflower:

    Epistolary, bildungsroman and gay integrated brilliance.

  4. You haven't read 'What's Up With Jody Barton? then???

  5. Thank you, Non, for this post, and Adele, for mentioning Silent Snow, Secret Snow! I am hosting a LGTBQ YA Month next year, and today my secondhand copy of SS,SS arrived today and I'll be reading it for the month! So thanks! :D