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Bringing LGBT Characters into the Mainstream By Caddy Rowland

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As a writer of novels embracing the drama of humanity, it’s only reasonable that I include LGTB characters in all of my work.

Sometimes they might be side characters, and other times they set forward and take center stage as the main character. After all, how can one write about humanity and not include LGBT people?

I remember being told by some writers back in 2011 that if I insisted on including gay or lesbian characters in every book I would turn some readers off. My response? That’s fine. Those people aren’t my readers, anyway. If something as simple as including a gay or lesbian in a novel offends them, they would be offended in many other ways by my stories.

I understand the need for a LGBT genre because, historically, being gay (I will use gay to include all LGBT for the sake of simplicity here) has been a struggle. To me, this genre should be about that struggle and coming to terms with being “different” in a world where being different has never been easy. I also appreciate m/m romance.

But what’s always bothered me is when someone writes mystery or thriller or historical and feels they have to brand it “gay mystery”, etc. After all, we don’t brand books “straight mystery”. Yes, people who are LGBT want to be able to find books about people they relate to. But, truly, the genre you select doesn’t do that so much as correct key-wording does. After all, when searching for a book people don’t start on your book page and look at the genre! They type in keywords.

So using gay fiction, lesbian protagonist, etc gets the job done as far as helping people find your book. But putting it in LGBT when it’s not about LGBT issues limits the book. There are a ton of mystery and thriller readers out there. Fantasy and science fiction also have huge followings. Why do authors who happen to have LGBT main or side characters limit themselves instead of using as many of the relevant categories they can? As authors we don’t get many categories. Pick the ones where you have a chance at the most readers, making sure the category truly fits your book.

Repeat: I’m not saying to put your books in categories that don’t fit the book. I’m saying if you’ve written a mystery which is also a crime novel with a gay lead, use the mystery and crime thriller categories. Then use key-wording to help those looking for gay characters to also find them.

Until we as authors start doing this, LGBT books will always stand apart as a genre only some people read. That’s unfortunate. Many straight people see “LGBT” and think the book is all about being gay. They pass right over it because it doesn’t interest them.

The author has lost a good number of readers simply because they haven’t been informed about what the book is really about by using strong categories that are actually more fitting. So what if your character is gay?

Trust me; readers won’t care if your story is strong. I’ve proven it.

With my There Was a House saga, a four book story about victims of sex-trafficking, I didn’t use the LGBT category even though a gay boy shares main character status with a straight female. He plays up his “gayness” and there are some graphic scenes. Even so, this series has done very well, especially this past spring. It went from 17 reviews to over 150. Not one person has complained about “the gay boy”. Some have complained about the cliff-hangers, but that’s another story. Their told in the blurb it’s a continuing saga. If they choose not to read the blurb, so be it.

I also didn’t list my newest release “Solace” as LGBT. Why? Because it’s psychological thriller, crime thriller, mystery, and drama. The story isn’t about their gayness. It’s about a murder and revenge.

The additional benefit of allowing gay characters to go completely mainstream is readers who haven’t previously empathized with gay characters now have a chance to. Again, if your story and characters are strong and well-written, they’ll fall in love with them and start to understand even more how people are really just people. Who they love doesn’t matter. And isn’t that what we as authors with gay characters should strive for? Understanding. Empathy. Seeing a gay character as a real person with feelings and a full life expands minds that otherwise stay smaller.

Could you get some blowback? Sure. I imagine I will at some point. I don’t really care, and neither should you. Whenever you expand your readership, some people aren’t going to like you. If it isn’t the gay character, it’s your writing style, your use of foul language, too much description, too much dialog, a myriad of things people find to give a bad review. Part of selling more books is getting some bad reviews—if you’re writing books that take chances and evoke strong emotions. I’ll let you in on a secret. Bad reviews don’t hurt sales nearly as much as many authors moan and worry about. Sure, if all you have bad reviews it isn’t a good thing. But if you have lots of good reviews to go with the bad ones, all it does is make your reviews look more honest. Plus, one person’s dislike is another’s hot button. Lots of description? I pass—but my good friend Julie jumps on it. Too much sex? Yeah. A review saying “too much sex” usually gets you some good sales.

The only time you have to worry about bad reviews is when you repeatedly hear about grammar, editing, and writing style. Note: I said repeatedly. I write omniscient point of view sometimes, and let me tell you, some people have no clue what that means. So what if you get a few one stars because you have a gay main character? There won’t be many of those. Those that appear only make the reviewer look like a bigot.

Also, sometimes you will be letting people know in the blurb the main character is gay. For instance, in Solace, my main character’s husband is murdered in the beginning. Pretty obvious he is gay, right? Why else would a man have a husband? Other times the fact he or she is gay doesn’t matter and won’t come into play in the blurb.

It doesn’t matter. Give people some credit. They’re ready to embrace all kinds of main characters.

Are you ready to allow those readers to embrace yours?

***

Caddy Rowland writes for readers who like to think and feel; who like their stories to be raw, graphic, unpredictable, “real” and sometimes brutal. For readers who like their boundaries challenged; to be shown how rarely life decisions are truly black and white, but instead shades of grey. Caddy Rowland: Novels showcasing the sublime joy and bitter tragedy of being human. www.caddyrowlandblog/blogspot.com

The Avengement Series: Sometimes a person gets pushed too far.

Book Two: Solace (A Caddy Rowland Psychological Thriller & Drama) 

Where the hell is Brady? 

It should have taken about a half hour for him to walk to town and back. As Tory heads out to walk the beach searching for him, a soft smile plays on his face. He can just imagine the ribbing Brady will give him when they meet coming toward each other. 

Instead, he comes face to face with his worst nightmare. There is his husband, lying in the water, bleeding and gasping for breath. Brady, petrified and struggling to stay alive, tries to tell Tory something about a boat. Then his frightened eyes stare into Tory’s as he manages to say “I love you” one last time. He’s gone before Tory can even tell him the same. 

The police believe it’s a robbery gone wrong. Tory wonders if it isn’t a hate crime. He swears he’ll find the killer, even if the police give up trying. No one is going to get away with gutting the man he loved, leaving him like trash to die alone. Nothing will stop him from getting justice for Brady. 

Not even murder. 

Karma really can be a bitch—especially when it scores a willing partner.

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