I often grapple with this treacherous feeling that the stuff I write isn’t gay enough, isn’t teen enough, isn’t ________ enough. I don’t know why I do this to myself. I guess I’m constantly comparing my work to the other LGBTQ YA Lit out there…the stuff I endlessly consume between my own writings.
I wrote my GAY TEEN ISSUES book already (PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE). When I was done with that book, I swore that, moving forward, I would only have incidentally gay teens in my books. Why should all LGBTQ teen literature focus only on the turmoil, the suffering, the struggles? I mean, we all know LGBTQ youth are rejected at home, rejected at school, rejected at church, rejected on the street and in the buses and in the subways and at the mall and restaurants. We ALL KNOW THIS ALREADY. And yes…I love a good redemption story where the main characters manage to find a place for themselves where nary a place was available to them prior to the insurmountable mountains they had to climb to carve that place out for themselves. Like, yeah…give me that story where LGBTQ teens conquer the impassible monumental odds against them. I’ll read it. Yes! That story is still needed.
But I’ll not write it again. I already have, in writing PRIDE. My struggle story is done. It’s exhausting to start your characters out in that place. I won’t do it again. Fuck the narrative that says an LGBTQ story should be fraught with identity struggle and finding a place to be welcome in a world that doesn’t want to welcome you. I’ll leave those books for others to write. And write it, they should.
I totally had that mindset when I set out to write The Camino Club. Even with that goal in mind, though, I did slip a bit into the LGBTQ teen struggle. Alas, it’s a bit inevitable. But I assure you I did not dwell there.
The Camino Club is an ensemble novel. It has probably no fewer than 8 main characters, if I’m being honest. At the very beginning I started to tell the story from 3 points of view and it just expanded from there the way un-planned novels tend to do.
So here’s a little re-cap of some of the main relationships in The Camino Club, for those who haven’t yet read it.
Diego and Shania – two of my three narrators. They hate each other a bit, but forge ahead knowing they’re in this together. They have to walk across Spain together, so they might as well find a way to tolerate each other. CIS/HET relationship.
Diego and Bastien – an old man comes along on the path and helps one of the teen lead characters out of a precarious predicament and then continues on with the group. Patriarch-Mentor/Child-Student relationship.
Troy and Kei – Troy is one of the three narrators. He’s a gay teen and his particular backstory is where I drag the GAY STRUGGLE into this story. Each of the teens have committed offenses that have landed them in the rehabilitation program they’re on the Camino to participate in. Troy’s crime was that he just couldn’t take the homophobia any more. Troy has a meet-cute moment while the group is stopped at a water fountain during a particularly grueling mountainous day on the Camino. Kei strikes his eye and his fancy. Gay Romance Relationship.
Claire and Zoe – The other gay representation in this book is Claire, one of the other 6 main teen characters walking the Camino in the program designed to push them to their limits and send them onto a path of redemption. Off the Page Lesbian Relationship.
Often, after writing a novel, I get this dread that I didn’t include enough LGBTQ content for it to be considered an LGBTQ book. But then I consider the source of my sliding scale content policing…it’s essentially the industry itself. Expectation is widely interpret-able. Some books just scream gay because of the nature of the content. My first LGBTQ book (referenced and linked above) was one of them. The original cover had a bright rainbow colored cover and there was no question that it was LGBTQ. In fact, if the reader was in the closet…it would be one of those covers that they would potentially feel awkward bandying about.
As I mentioned, though, I feel as though I have moved on from issue books. We deserve better…more. We deserve our stories to be focused on something other than JUST sexuality and the issues and luggage that come with that. After all, surely we are more than our sexuality.
I sometimes feel like I’m skating on a razor’s edge…attempting to incorporate just enough content to appease non-LGBTQ readers while intentionally making the story about LGBTQ life. It’s a struggle. It’s a nuisance.
The Camino Club has a gay sex scene. It is, after all, about teens falling in love. But it also explores multiple different kinds of relationships. I wrote it to reflect life…and more specifically, life on the Camino. The way characters walk in and out of your life and become SO IMPORTANT for days or hours at a time…and then move on or stay with you and form a lifelong bond. That’s what the Camino is about. And there’s room on the Camino for every single sexuality, every single gender, every single race…every single everything. I wanted to capture it all, but still have enough LGBTQ content for the novel to be considered as such.
Forgive me for leaving out the heavy issues, or for merely skating past them. We read to escape the tyranny we face…not always to explore it under a microscope. We need ALL KINDS OF LGBTQ STORIES. ALL KINDS. We live everyday lives and we live extraordinary lives. We were not put here merely for struggle. I for one have moved past the struggle stories. I’m not saying the struggle is over…FAR FROM IT. I’m saying a meet-cute romance doesn’t hurt. Feel Good is also a thing that LGBTQ folx can appreciate.
Do you want to read a novel about 6 teens who are pushed to their limits and set on a path of redemption? Pick up THE CAMINO CLUB today! It’s an LGBTQ book. It also isn’t. I believe so much in this story. I wrote it from a place of appreciation for one of my favourite places in the world. The Camino de Santiago is a transformative wonderland and it was something I was desperate to share with others. So…I wrote a book!
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