S R Silcox - Author

Blog updated 2-3 times a month.

Tag: YA fiction (page 2 of 2)

On bad things happening to lesbian characters because they’re lesbians

An interesting thing happened to me last week. I’d finished the first draft of a novella I’d been working on in a new series I’m developing and, as I often do with my finished stories, read it to my wife to see what she thought.

She’s not a big reader, but I love seeing her reactions when I read the stories out loud to her. If I can make her laugh and cry and react in all the right places, I know I’ve done my job.

So, there I was, reading my story out loud, and she was crying and laughing out loud and reacting fantastically – even in places I didn’t realise were emotional. It was great. I also found a LOT of things I need to change in the story (which is why all great writing advice blogs say you should read our stories out loud).

Afterwards though, when we were discussing the story, my wife said to me, “I was waiting for the main character or someone else to die.” I asked why and she said because that’s “what always seems to happen in stories with lesbian characters”.

Now, I’ve read those types of stories so I know that for a long time, those stories were in fact the norm. And we accepted them, because hey, they had main characters we lesbians could relate to. I’ve also read some more recently published stories (not nearly enough, but that’s another blog), where the characters do end up with a happy ending.

But it made me really think about our expectations when we start reading a story, and that maybe my stories can go a little of the way to changing those perceptions and expectations.

Apart from the “lesbians don’t end up happy” stereotype, the other thing she said was that she loved how the main character’s sexual orientation didn’t matter at all to those who know her.

And that’s the thing. To those of us other than heterosexual, we don’t think about our sexuality every day. I can only speak for myself, but my sexuality only comes up whenever anyone else has a problem with it, or is curious about it. It’s one part of who I am that doesn’t (and shouldn’t) affect my day-to-day life.

Which is exactly how I want to portray the characters in my stories. I write the characters as they see themselves, not as others see them. It’s important to me that the characters in this series have bigger problems than their sexuality. I want readers to know that reading about a character they can identify with (with regards to their sexuality) doesn’t mean they have to read an angsty, coming of age story, where the main character is bullied for their sexuality, or bad things happen to them because of their sexuality.

Yes, those things happen in real life, and yes that’s a tragedy.

But reading a book with a lesbian main character and expecting an unhappy ending – that’s also a tragedy.

I’ll go into the series in greater detail in a future post, but the one major thing I want to achieve with the stories in this series is for teen readers to have a light, enjoyable read, where the main character gets the girl in the end. Yes, they’ll have to work for it, but no, it’s not going to be a tragic ending.

The other thing my wife said to me, and the comment that affected me most I think, was that if she’d read a story like mine when she was in high school when she was struggling immensely with her sexuality, it may have gone some way to helping her realise that girls like her can have happy endings.

That one comment was a light bulb moment for me, because one of the other most often-quoted pieces of writing advice is to pick a person, real or imagined, who is your ideal reader, and write for them. Up until this point, I had a vague notion of who I was writing my stories for.

Now I know exactly who I’m writing for – my wife’s 16 year old self. And I would love to think that if that 16 year old redheaded teenager got to read stories like the ones I want to write, then I may have turned her into a reader. But what I hope the most is that 16 year old teenage version of my wife who reads my sweet contemporary romance novellas feels even just a little more comfortable in her own skin.

Pre-order the “First Time for Everything” Anthology here!

FirstTimeForEverythingHARMONYLGThe “First Time for Everything” anthology, which features my short story “Summer Crush”, is being released in just under a month. You can pre-order your ebook here or the paperback here.

From the Dreamspinner website:

“There’s nothing like the first time. Whether it’s a first crush, first date, first kiss, or finding tolerance and approval for the first time, for gay, lesbian, bi, and trans teens—or those still exploring and discovering their sexuality and identity—these important firsts can shape the rests of their lives. Gathering the courage to come out to their families, admit their feelings to a friend, or go to school presenting as the people they really are can be a struggle. But with the support of their allies and their own inner strength, the brave young people in these stories take the first steps toward happiness and living on their own terms. From sweet stories of newly discovered love, humorous accounts of awkward dinners and dances, to fights for acceptance and even survival, the teens in this anthology must face new challenges and rise to meet them. These are the first times they’ll never forget.”

Midnight in the Maze by J. Leigh Bailey
A Warrior from a Different Tribe by S.A. Garcia
His World by Eric Gober
Just Right by John Goode
It’s In Their Kiss by Kevay Gray
It’s Not Our Fault by Charli Green
Courting Billy Roth by Nick Hasse
Dressed to Swim by Renee Hirsch
Beautiful by Ella Lyons
First Date by Nicole McCormick
Step by Step by Emily Moreton
Kissing Scars by Jo Ramsey
Dear Cody by Eric Renner
Dating My Best Friend by Caitlin Ricci
Summer Crush by SR Silcox (That’s me!)
When Wolverine Met Taylor by Andrea Speed
Me and My Friend by Emery C. Walters
Kiss and Makeup by Allison Wonderland

The blurb for my short story, Summer Crush:

“The onset of the Australian summer means the last days of high school for Jess and her best friend Ben. It’s also Jess’s last chance to have her first kiss before school ends. Though Jess is a proud lesbian, she’s afraid to confess her longtime crush to her childhood friend, Ellie Preston, especially now that Ellie’s dating Zac. At the last class bonfire on the beach, Jess must tell Ellie how she feels or lose the opportunity forever.”

The anthology is out on September 4th 2014.

 

 

Why you should review your writing plans regularly

Accountants everywhere are celebrating the new tax year, and since I still have accounting in my blood, I used the new year as an excuse to review and revise my business and writing plans. Business plans (and writing plans) should be organic documents. They should change and grow as your business does, so a six-monthly revision is a good way to see how you’re travelling with regards to the business side of things, as well as the writing side.

The business part of my plan didn’t need too much tinkering, since the main goal for the next few years is to write as much as I can and publish as much as I can. I changed a few minor things, such as pricing strategies and marketing schedules, but apart from that, everything business is the same as it was at the start of the year.

The big changes to the plan were made on the writing side. I started off this year wanting to get an adult near-future crime series started (Division 10), re-focus my urban fantasy story (Eli Crane), and look into other genres that I’m interested in.

What I actually did was re-purposed two stories and got them published or gave them away for free through the newsletter (The Break Up and the still untitled Division 10 short story). I also had a short story selected for inclusion into a YA anthology by an emerging publisher that specialises in publishing LGBT YA stories. I’ll post about that when it gets closer to release time, because it’s an exciting story that warrants a post of its own.

I also published a short story, Sunday -fish, that I had earmarked for a competition, but just couldn’t bring myself to enter.

I didn’t track my words, which was something I wanted to do, and until I reviewed my achievements for the first half of the year, I was a little disappointed with what I had managed to accomplish.

That’s another reason to review your business/writing plans regularly – to help you realise that you’ve achieved a lot more than you first thought. I’ve dragged my feet on a lot of projects, partly because of struggling with a few personal issues, but also because I’ve been riddled with self-doubt. The absolute best thing that came from the publication of Sunday – fish and the acceptance of my YA short story (and the process that has followed with the publisher) has really given me a shot in the arm.

The biggest change to the writing plan is that I’ve changed my focus for the next half-year. I blogged about it here, but briefly, I wanted to see if I could take advantage of the publication of the anthology, and to do that, I needed to have some stories out in the YA genre.

After reading a series of posts and tweets about the lack of diversity in YA fiction, it made me realise that my decision was timely. Knowing that readers are asking for fiction that includes characters that represent them (diverse characters including disability, sexuality and culture) makes me extremely happy that I’ve made the decision to change direction, at least for now.

Moving forward, I now have a To Do List for the next two months to keep me on track, that will get updated at the end of August for the following two months.

I feel great having a firm direction to travel in, after feeling a little disorientated for the last few months. And in another six months, I’ll be doing it all over again.

 

Diversity in YA and what I’m doing to change it

In sport, particularly when playing finals, we have a saying:

“Leave nothing in the tank”

In other words, play your absolute best today. Leave nothing for tomorrow. Today, it counts. In writing terms, it would be “Do your best work now.” Don’t wait for tomorrow or next week or next year to work on projects that are close to your heart.

I think it’s entirely appropriate for the way I’m feeling about my writing at this point in time. Why? Because I’ve just completed my half-yearly review of my business plan and writing goals and, among other things, I’ve decided to ditch some projects I’ve been working on (for now), and bring forward some other projects I was going to get to “at some point in the future.”

I’ll write more about my business and writing plan update in another post, but today I wanted to explain why I’ve changed direction so dramatically.

A few months ago, I had a short story accepted for inclusion in an LGBT+ YA anthology from Harmony Ink Press that’s slated for release in September. (Again, more on this next month).

Since then, I’ve read posts and tweets and articles on various blogs around the place about the lack of diversity in YA fiction. Not just with regards to sexuality, but with regards to other cultures, disabilities and other “differences” people have to deal with that are under-represented in the YA fiction currently being published.

This one in particular really made me question my priorities.

It made me revisit the reasons I started writing in the first place, back when I was at uni and was writing as a way to clear my mind from marketing and accounting and law. The reason I started writing was because there was a serious lack of stories with characters I could relate to. And being before the internet, there was no real way of finding any books that may have existed.

Hell, I didn’t even realise I was gay at that point. I just knew I was different – I knew that what my friends said they felt about their boyfriends, I didn’t feel about mine. I also didn’t know anyone who was gay or lesbian, and those words (gay and lesbian) were words that were whispered by adults, out of earshot of children and teenagers.

Back to my short story for a moment – before I submitted it, I did a bit of googling to see what I could find out about the publisher. That was more a business decision at the time, because I wanted to make sure it lined up with my long-term goals as a writer.

What I discovered is that Harmony Ink’s philosophy lined up with my own initial reasons for writing – to write the stories I wish were around when I was a teenager.

It’s a pretty simple concept really, and in my haste to get stories out, I’d actually forgotten why I write in the first place.

So what do I wish I’d read way back then, when I was struggling to put a name to how I was feeling?

I wish I’d read stories where the girl got the girl in the end. I wanted stories that when I’d turned the last page and read the last word, made me feel good about myself. Stories that gave me a sense of hope that I could fall for someone who would fall for me too.

Here’s the thing though – I used to write those stories. I used to write about girls like me, whose friends didn’t think she was strange for liking other girls.

When I started to take my writing seriously though, I stopped writing those stories. Why? Because I knew, deep down, that if I wanted to get published, I wouldn’t get there by writing about girls who like other girls.

Books like that are getting published now, yes, but not  often enough. And they’re certainly not being publicised enough or given a chance to reach their audience. An audience which is obviously hungry for those books.

Publishing is changing though, and publishers like Harmony Ink Press, who specialise in LGBT+ YA fiction are leading the charge. But a big influence on my decision to go back to writing those YA stories is the advent of self-publishing, and the ability to reach readers more directly.

There are a lot of new ways for authors to write and publish more diverse books, and for readers to find them.

It’s an exciting time.

And from now on, I’m leaving nothing in the tank. I’m not letting these stories languish in the back of my mind to get to “some time in the future.”

Because the stories I want to write aren’t needed tomorrow, or next week or next year – they’re needed now, yesterday, today.

The girls I’ve been waiting so long to write about are shy, strong, tough, sensitive, flawed, and lesbian. And finally, after waiting all these years, they’re coming out to play.

 

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