Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The great YA gay characters debate

There's a lot of discussion around at the moment on the issue of gay characters in YA and children's books.

See, for example, James Dawson's brilliant post on Tracy Baines' website Tall Tales and Short Stories, Lucy Coats' excellent post on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure and the many Twitter posts at #YesGayYA.

I'm very much in favour of having gay protagonists in children's and YA books and it's good to see this issue being aired. But as an author who happens to be straight, I came across one or two comments when I brought out my Charity's Child, suggesting that perhaps straight authors should steer clear of writing gay characters or, at least, ones that occupy central roles in the story.

I can sort of understand the reasoning behind this. Maybe there's a 'you can't possibly understand what it's like to be gay' feeling. And I suppose they're right - up to a point. But writing is all about imagining yourself to be someone else. That's why we do it, some of us. That's the fun of it - casting yourself in unfamiliar roles and trying out new personalities. I have a theory that quite a few writers are failed actors - failed in the sense of never having got properly started, in my case!

And I do know what it's like to feel different and excluded - I spent most of my school years feeling that way, for reasons other than sexual orientation.

Anyway, I'd love to know what readers - gay, straight and bi - think of Charity's Child, which is coming out as an e-book very soon. It was originally aimed at the adult market but my publisher, Circaidy Gregory Press, felt it had YA/adult crossover potential, so we are aiming it this time at older teens (14+)/adults. Watch this space!


Alica McKenna Johnson said...

I think with some research and imagination you can write a character of any sexual orientation, race, religion, or lifestyle.

joanne fox said...

Interesting thought, that we are failed actors! The idea of going on stage would terrify me. But although I always say I hate any kind of role play activity, I find myself getting into it to a surprising degree on the rare occasions I have to do it.

Rosalie Warren said...

I agree, Alica. I sometimes think that the further away a character is from me, the more interesting and fun s/he is to write. Whether I'm successful is a different matter, but that doesn't mean I/we shouldn't try.

Rosalie Warren said...

Joanne, I once read a book on acting by Harriet Walter, which made me think, Gosh, this is exactly what I do when I write a character.

I'd be terrified to go on stage nowadays, though I did enjoy it as a (very shy) child. Role play can be fun, but only if you are allowed to use your imagination. I hate it when they tell you exactly how to behave.