If you’ve read the description of my first published novel, Human X, it probably hasn’t escaped your notice that the protagonist begins the story dealing with the end of a committed relationship with a man named Ted. If you still need someone to connect the dots for you, the hero of the book is gay.
So what possessed you to write a book with a gay hero?
The story for Human X began life about seventeen years ago, and the original concept was just “a guy discovers he was the product of genetic engineering and now people are trying to kill him.” That’s still the same “elevator speech” I use today to describe the book. The second thought was that the main character would be the son of someone important, so the senator father was born.
Then my muse leaped up from where it lay in ambush, and piped in with, “Why don’t you make him gay?”
Okay, it wasn’t quite that random. When I first began tinkering with the story, the possible genetic origin of sexuality had just begun to gain traction in the mass media. The idea began to take shape. A genetically engineered person is designed to be as close to physically perfect as possible. He’s also the book’s hero, so he’s noble, brave, self-sacrificing. To add in the post-script, “Oh, yeah, he’s also gay,” as just another shade to his personality, rather than as a flaw in a heroic character or his defining characteristic, just appealed to me. Gay characters have spent enough time as sidekicks and comic foils. Time to let one be the leading man.
Can I show this book to my grandmother? Does it have graphic scenes of guys, you know, doing stuff?
I haven’t written erotica here, but I also didn’t blink when it comes to Collin Jeffries’ personal life. It doesn’t shy away from the basic fact that he prefers the company of other men at sack time. Beyond that, however, it’s about as sexy as a Matlock rerun. If you can handle two men acting like Rob and Laurie Petrie on the old Dick van Dyke Show, you’ll survive.
Come on, fess up. This book is really your oblique, wishy-washy way of coming out, right?
Sorry, but when I look at a man, all my lizard-brain sees is a rival for potential mates, not the actual mates. My first instinct is to hit him with a stick and howl at the moon.
Okay, what does a straight dude know about writing gay characters?
A writer’s job, when he or she is doing it right, is to empathize with his or her characters, to look past the superficial and see what matters to the individual. I think, gay or straight, we want the same things from our significant other. There is as much difference in the relationships between two random straight couples as there might be between a random straight couple and a random gay couple.
So I cheated. The central relationship in this book is not written as a gay relationship, but simply as a relationship. I used the same building blocks that I’m using to write a male-female relationship in my new book, but with slightly different pronouns.
If I did my job, and I’ve created full-blooded, sympathetic persons, my reader will hopefully like them, and root for them to find happiness. If they can’t look past the minor differences to the basic humanity underneath, I haven’t done my job, at least not for that those readers.
Will this book turn me gay?
If you’re gay when you finish reading it, you were gay when you started. I’m not that good. Not yet.