June is Pride Month, so Writescape celebrates this week with local LGBTQ YA author Kevin T Craig. We ask him about his experience as an author and around publishing as a gay author. But first, let’s meet him:
Kevin T. Craig
1. When David Leviathan wrote Boy Meets Boy in 2003, many school libraries refused to carry it. Have things changed?
Kevin: Things have definitely changed. Librarians across North America are actively seeking to populate their libraries with LGBTQ sections. On Twitter in the YA community, there are often book-drives for LGBTQ library sections. Librarians feel that need to have the books in stock for those who are seeking them. Nothing is more powerful to a high school student than recognizing themselves in the fiction they read. This is true for all marginalized people, not just the LGBTQ community.
2. Of his book The Five Stages of Andrew Brawley, author Shaun David Hutchinson says, “Drew was just gay. None of his many problems revolved around his sexuality. And I wasn’t exactly sure how readers would respond.” Comments?
Kevin: I’m familiar with Shaun and his book. It’s true that he was one of the forerunners with this trend. But I promise you, this is something that agents and publishers are now actively seeking. For a couple of years now, agents have been asking for YA stories where the sexuality of the LGBTQ characters is NOT the story focus. They want books where the LGBTQ characters’ sexuality is simply a part of who they are…not what the story focuses on.
3. What’s something you’ve seen in LGBTQ lit that’s really stuck with you, for better or for worse?
Kevin: For better- People are now able to see themselves represented. I looked for a long time for the book that would have saved me. It simply wasn’t there. Today’s LGBTQ teens have a wide variety of young adult books to choose from in which “their” stories are being told. The mainstreaming of LGBTQ literature is most assuredly saving lives.
For worse- It’s still a little difficult to write an LGBTQ story and not have the expectation that it will include one or all of the following: Romance, Sex, Erotica. But, our stories do not need to have a tunnel-vision focus on sexuality and love life. I came face to face with this frustration recently during a #PitMad event on Twitter. I wrote a literary novel with LGBTQ characters. I had a few likes, but they were all from publishers who only publish gay romance with degrees of sex. I even tagged the novel as literary. They are not yet looking for gay novels that don’t include these things.
4. What are your challenges and triumphs as a gay author?
Kevin: Just to be adding my voice, and to be finding a level of success. I know how barren the field of gay literature used to be. I know how badly the representation was needed. The young adult community went mad this past spring when Love, Simon was released in theatres. A gay teen who just happens to be gay having a sweet romance on the big screen? Not in my day. If I can add my voice to that kind of inclusion, I’m happy to do so.
5. Anything else you’d like to say to the reading/writing world?
Kevin: Just that there is a place for everyone. If you are looking for a book and you can’t find it…it may be time to write it. Chances are, there’s someone else out there looking for it. Literature is an ideal place in which to find ourselves and tackle our differences. To read is to gain understanding.
To mark Pride Month, why not add a Canadian LGBTQ novel to your reading list. Read a book by Kevin Craig or choose one from 49th Shelf’s list of LGBTQ authors and/or LGBTQ issues. Their list “includes fiction, poetry, memoir, nonfiction, and books for young readers—not to mention books by award-winning authors and some of the most buzzed-about titles of the season.”