I longed to see GLBTQ heroes in young adult fantasy, my favorite genre. I wanted to read the stories of queer protagonists living in worlds where their sexuality didn’t matter, or where the central conflict of their stories wasn’t dictated by the homophobia of the society in which they lived. Ash began to answer the question that haunted me every time I entered a bookstore—where was the book that would indulge me with the literary convergence of everything I loved?
The fact was that it didn’t exist.
…you and I read books containing straight characters and don’t think we can’t read them because we love ladies—but I think the word “lesbian” has a lot of connotations for people. I know that the books of mine that don’t contain the word “lesbian” in the description sell a heck of a lot better than the books that do have that word. We’re in this strange new world where queer people are getting gay marriage and everyone, I really think, wants to be PC and accepting, but when faced with a decision on what kind of main character they’d like to read, they still reach for books with people like them.
The *good* news is that I think this is slowly going to start changing. The *bad* news is that I have no idea how fast it’s going to change. I’d really like to hope that it’ll be during our lifetimes.
Malinda Lo: Geography Club came out ten years ago in 2003. It was among the first of a wave of LGBT YA novels by authors including yourself, Julie Anne Peters, Alex Sanchez, and David Levithan. How do you feel LGBT YA has changed over the past decade?
Brent Hartinger: Oh, the diversity and the quality is fantastic! Of course, I have my wishlist of things I want to see more of—more bisexuals, less middle class white boys, more genre stuff.
And I do worry that we’ve gone from being “controversial” in YA publishing to being “niche,” which is a different problem, but still a problem. It’s all so new that I think publishers put these books in certain boxes—they have certain expectations. But of course those boxes become self-fulfilling prophecies.
[For more of Brent’s interview, in which he talks about the challenges of self-publishing and the upcoming Geography Club movie, continue reading at malindalo.com]