A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Writing Wednesday - Guest Blogger K.D. Sarge

So here I am on Annikka's blog and she's not around. I'd love to TP the trees and short-sheet the bed, but there's that katana to worry about. Especially since I've misplaced my axe.

So instead I have some questions. I'm going to go ahead and answer them, but I'd love to hear other opinions too.

What's wrong with escapism?

People look down on speculative fiction as "escapist" but I think when those critics read, they probably also prefer books that take them away, whether it's to a dark and moody New England town or Siberia or what have you. To me, that's what a book is for--to take the reader out of her life and show her someone else's. We may be glad to come back (The Scarlet Letter) or sorry (The Lord of the Rings) but we're grateful we got to go.

Escapism isn't running away. It's taking a break. Who doesn't need that sometimes? Especially if you come back from that break revitalized, stronger, maybe even with new ideas to try on whatever in your life you needed to get away from.

What exactly is a Gay Theme?

I remember an article about gay marriage in which the writer asked why we had to have the line between "regular" marriage and gay marriage. If he, a gay man, were to walk his dog, would it be called gay-walking? I think of that when my stories are said to have "gay themes."

Maybe the problem here is that "theme" is a technical term to writers. To me, a theme is what the book is about. Taro's book (Knight Errant) follows his attempts to balance his own desires against those of the people he loves and honors. In another book, Joss Ravid fights to keep a young girl alive after she becomes the focus of a feud among ruling families.

Taro and Joss are both gay. It's one of about two things they have in common. Both deal with romantic relationships in their stories, but it's one more struggle, not the main conflict of the book.

Gay characters do not a "gay book" make. And saying a novel doesn't have a gay theme should not imply that there's anything wrong with books that do.

Who are those adults you write for?

I don't like that the "adult" label is increasingly applied to anything and everything regarding sex. I understand why it's "adult" and not "racy" but I still think we could find a better way. (I also firmly believe that a portrayal of unexamined violence is far more harmful to a child than a gratuitous sex scene, but that is a whole other rant.)

On occasion, I write some seriously sexy stuff. But I have a story that's about a fourteen-year-old boy who has been a sex slave since about seven. Suddenly he's thrust into high school and expected to be a normal teen. I doubt there will be any sex in it at all--but I would assert that story is as adult as anything I've ever written.

Also, just for the record--having a gay character does not make the story adult. Some people just need to grow up.

How difficult did you find it to write a gay couple?

I didn't think of it that way at all--or it probably would have been horribly hard. Instead I wrote two young men and let them find their own way into a relationship. That was hard enough.

I have the advantage of setting on my side in this. It's sci-fi. I did work to avoid stereotypes, but it helped that I didn't have to justify using or ignoring what's perceived as gay culture in twenty-first century America. Therefore Taro is about as manly as they come--brash, confident, competent, strong in body and in person--he even wears military fatigues most of the time. He's also as gay as they come. If orientation is on a spectrum, Taro is alllll the way at the end.

Rafe may be closer to what people think of when they think "gay man," but it's also a bit of a trap, because Rafe is not gay. He's pansexual. His more "gay" behaviors--interior decorating, for instance--are taught skills to make him more valuable.

Which rather amuses the hell out of me.

Did it make it difficult to find an agent?

I really think it did. Not because of any prejudice against gay characters, but because people didn't know what to do with it. Things are changing (Thank God) but there has long been a belief that gay fiction is a genre, and science fiction is a genre, and mixing genres is Not a Wise Move. Sure, the more well-known writers can do it, but beginners need to toe the line.

I'm afraid I don't like lines.

These beliefs on genre-bending may be borne out by sales; I don't know. It may be like the belief that white people won't buy books with people of color on the cover--a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What I do know is that if we writers don't put other stuff out there, the system will only become more hidebound. Turtleduck Press is one answer to that--we'll edit each other and we'll insist on quality, but quality what doesn't matter. Poetry, novellas, choose-your-own-adventure...we'll try whatever we like.

We're kind of betting that we're not the only ones tired of being told what people will read.

And that's why I self-published.

K.D. Sarge is the author of Knight Errant, published through Turtleduck Press.  You can find her on Twitter @KDSarge and on her website http://www.kdsarge.com/.

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