So… I wrote an LGBT love story.
A YA fantasy where two girls fall in love in a kingdom where such relationships are frowned on.
I’ve written 34 full novels now as well as a bunch of short stories, and I can’t say I’ve been as excited (or as nervous) about any of them as I am about The Eldritch Heart.
Two or so years ago, I was at the day job and I overheard someone (I still don’t know who it was, merely a voice floating over cubicle walls) complaining in earnest about how “disgraceful” it was that Disney put out a movie with two girls “doing lesbian stuff.” Of course, this particular example of genius was talking about Frozen, which has nothing whatsoever to do with two girls in love. (I didn’t bother to insert myself into the discussion to point out that they are sisters in that story.) However, hearing that did get me thinking about the lack of those kinds of stories. I got the idea to write a “princess story” where the princess falls in love with another girl instead of the handsome prince everyone expects her to marry. I jotted down a couple of early ideas for a plot – arranged marriage the princess doesn’t want any part of, a servant girl she’s close friends with, running away, some magic going on, etc. I had a bunch of other projects on the table at the time (writing and editing) so I set this file aside.
Eventually, my writing schedule opened and I found myself staring at this file again. And I’m thinking to myself: How would people react to a cis man writing a princess story where two girls fall in love? I hesitated, unsure if I could do it justice.
Enter a beta reader.
At request, I’m going to be anonymous here… but there is a woman who has done a fair amount of beta reading for me. As we exchanged more and more emails and got to know each other as “internet friends” tend to do, she mentioned that her eldest daughter had recently come out to her after a long period of being terrified to tell anyone. There are still people in their circle who don’t know, and that is the reason for the vagueness here. Anyway, when I heard how the daughter had such a harrowing path to walk leading up to her decision to finally tell her mother the truth – all the fear involved… that made me decide that I needed to at least try to write this book.
So, I pulled open that little list of notes and added to it, fleshed out the characters and their motivations, the kingdom, and the storyline.
Fantasy creatures… check.
Two kingdoms at war… check.
Once I had the chapter outline done and revised a few times, I sat down and started writing.
And something happened… for a while, I stopped worrying how people would react to me trying to tell this kind of story and got engrossed in it. Eldritch Heart became a tale of two people deeply in love with each other but so afraid of losing the person they love to hatred they can’t bring themselves to speak their true feelings. When, finally, the moment comes for the characters to be in a position where they can no longer keep silent, that scene where they admit their feelings for each other got me misty-eyed. Every time I read over the draft during self-edits, publisher edits, and final proofread, that scene gets me.
Something even cooler followed. When I finished writing the story, and finished polishing it up enough to let beta readers have at it, I sent it to the woman who I mentioned before. I admit, I was a bit mischievous about it as I did not tell her what kind of story it was. She figured it out pretty quick and I could practically feel her grin over the internet. She asked if the daughter could read it too, and of course (while biting my nails) I said yes of course – she’s the whole reason I decided to write it.
A week or two later, I hear back that the girl adored it… even read it twice (a rare thing according to her mother). The best part, she said she “could totally relate” to several parts of the story.
Feeling like a million bucks… check.
Still nervous… yeah.
Why? Because some people are assholes.
But, I’ve realized… I have no right to be worried about how people might react to a book with LGBT characters written by a straight guy. There are people out there who LIVE that, and they don’t have the separation from the hate of ‘just writing a book.’ It’s their identity, who they are, and who they’ve been afraid to show the world.
So, I am no longer nervous about this book.
And if it resonates with even one person in that situation, I will be grateful for having reached them.
Eldritch Heart page (goodreads link here)
#Fantasy #Young-Adult #LGBT