I am so excited! Today I have YA paranormal romance/urban fantasy author of The Elemental Series, Brigid Kemmerer stopping by my blog today! She's here to discuss why she chose to write a book where of her characters is gay.
If you’re not familiar with The Elemental Series, let me start with a little background. The series follows a family of four orphaned brothers who control the elements of Earth, Air, Fire, and Water. Michael, the oldest at twenty-three, has been raising his younger brothers since his parents died five years ago. Nicholas and Gabriel are seventeen-year-old twins, and the youngest is sixteen-year-old Chris. I’ve written the series with a contemporary feel: while the guys have supernatural powers, their stories are more about dealing with adolescence in all its forms, not just paranormal complications.
Each book and short story follows a different brother and their individual struggles. Michael fell in love with the daughter of a family who was leading the crusade to put the Merricks to death. Chris fell in love with a girl who saved him from getting beaten by some bullies—making herself a target in the process. Gabriel was accused of arson while falling in love with a girl who has her own special relationship with fire.
Nick Merrick pretends to be in love with a girl named Quinn, all while hiding the fact that he’s actually falling for her dance partner, an older boy named Adam.
When I first started writing the series, I knew Nick was gay—but, honestly, I didn’t want him to be. I wasn’t sure how to write a gay character. I wasn’t sure I could pull it off. I didn’t want to be disrespectful, and I definitely didn’t want to write to stereotypes. So I faked it. I wrote Nick as a friendly, flirtatious boy who always knew the right thing to say to girls. And you know what? Nick always read very flat to me. I just couldn’t connect with his character that way. But I was writing a paranormal romance series full of alpha males! I couldn’t write a gay character into that mix, right? I didn’t think there was any way I could make it work.
Around the time Spark came out, a friend (who is gay) asked me to make one of the characters gay. I admitted my thoughts about Nick, and explained my reservations. He kept asking me to give it a try. So I thought about it. I discussed writing a gay
character with my husband, who, for the first time in my writing career, didn’t want me to write something. He was worried I would damage my career and lose readers. He was worried about backlash.
But the more we talked about it, the more I wanted to try it. I was contracted for a third novella, so I decided to sit down and put a guy in front of Nick Merrick, just to see what he’d do. That guy was Adam. That novella was Breathless.
The instant Adam appeared, I knew I was going in the right direction. And Nick Merrick sure wasn’t complaining. I didn’t want to write to stereotypes, so I read as much GLBTQ YA fiction as I could get my hands on. (Most notably Don’t Let Me Go by J. H. Trumble, Kamikaze Boys by Jay Bell, Hushed by Kelley York, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.) I talked to as many gay men and young adults as I could, listening to their personal stories of adolescence. One man said something that really sat with me: “I didn’t grow up in a Glee-inspired musical, and no one else I know did either.”
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that all I really needed to do was get out of my character’s way. Nick had told me he was gay from the first day, I just refused to listen to him. (It’s funny to me now to get emails from people saying, I KNEW IT!!) I worried it would be a challenge for me to write a boy feeling an attraction to another boy, but really, that was the easiest part. I’m a straight woman, I can understand feeling an attraction to a man. It was more challenging to figure out how Nick would feel about keeping such a secret from his brothers.
But when I dug down deep, I discovered that writing about a gay teenager was no different from writing about a straight teenager, really. Feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and isolation are common emotions. So are love, affection, and the need to belong. Nick’s struggles are unique to his character, just as anyone’s personal journey is unique to them as a person. But powerful emotions belong to everyone.
I mean, aren’t we all human, when you get right down to it?
Brigid Kemmerer is the author of Storm, Spark, and Spirit, the first three books of The Elemental Series, available now wherever books are sold. Nick Merrick’s novella, Breathless, is available now, and his full length novel, Secret, will be released in January 2014. Visit Brigid at her website, or follow her on Twitter at @brigidkemmerer.
Thank you, Brigid, for such an amazing guest post! Be sure to check out her novels (which are awesome!), and my review of Breathless.