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Discussion Starter #1
I'm writing a series that is going to feature a lesbian MC. She has a love interest (obviously female) and the other day I counted through my characters with my wife and figured out that out of all the characters I could name off the top of my head (including side characters, background characters, etc.):
  • Only one is solidly gay (The Lesbian MC).
  • About a dozen of them are straight. (The majority)
  • The rest are bisexual or undefined except for
  • One who is asexual.

And I'm writing this thread to kinda generally pick you guys' brain about this. I don't want to be an "LGBT" author writing books that will only land in the "LGBT" category.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a lesbian myself, huge ally, and I know I'm an LGBT author. But what I mean is... I don't want the obscurity of writing stuff that people will end up labeling as "Well that's just an LGBT story so it's not a REAL Urban Fantasy" < Something I have heard verbatim.

I don't want to be disregarded because my MC is gay and my cast of characters includes some other open-minded people.
Out of all my friends in real life, very few are actually 100% straight. I know a LOT of bisexual, pansexual, or otherwise not just "Straight" people, and that's without me going to any particular trouble to make friends with straight or gay people. So I don't really feel that my book represents an unrealistic number of not-straight people. It won't be obvious in all cases what everyone's sexuality is. Some are obviously with a hetero partner. I think there will be a total of five characters in book one who show at least some hint of their bisexuality, and I think most of those will end up clarifying it as as such (as opposed to being taken as hetero or homo because of the first mention of them flirting with another character or something).

But ultimately, what I'm getting at is this. I want this to be an Urban Fantasy series with a lesbian MC and a realistic set of diverse supporting characters.
I want people to read it regardless of their interest in LGBT matters.
I'd love for straight people to read it and be comfortable with it. I'd love for straight people to not shy away from it because it's got a lesbian MC.

But I'm trying to figure out if this has ever really been accomplished, and whether or not I can accomplish it, and maybe even some thoughts on how to accomplish it?

I realize it's hard to judge these things from the inside, but I honestly feel my story is really good. I feel it's more original than a lot of UF I've read and I feel the characters are really solid.
I completely honestly believe in my ability to tell a story that other people are going to love. I believe my MC is likeable and funny and people are going to relate to her because she's real.

I just don't want the fact that she's a lesbian to dump the whole thing off onto the LGBT list where it will languish in the obscurity of never really being in the same league as Mercy Thompson and Harry Dresden.
I really don't mean to sound arrogant with that. The Dresden Files and Mercy Thompspon series are my favorite Urban Fantasy, so of course it's my dream to write something that could one day sit right up there with them. And I think it's okay to dream big.

I'd love for my book series to be a game-changer in that sense. We're living in a very different time than we were ten years ago. LGBT is a lot more accepted now than it was before.
I'd love my series to be an UF that *makes it* and that maybe is even seen as an interesting/quirky offering because of the lesbian MC and the realistically portrayed others in the series.

So I guess if any of you have any thoughts that may help, or any thoughts at all you'd like to share, please go ahead.

If you're not someone who reads LGBT, maybe you could give me a little insight into what would make you read a story with a lesbian MC anyway. And what would turn you off to it.
If it's something about how I could write it, or any particular things I could avoid or any ways of presenting things that would make the difference, I'm open to considering it.

Thanks everyone!
 

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Is the sexuality an important part of the plot or does she just happen to be a lesbian?
Let me rephrase does the plot only happen because she is a lesbian or could it happen to any woman?
I would just put it in urban fantasy if the plot could happen regardless of sexuality.
 

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I was just talking about this sort of thing with another writer today. Unless the fact that she's a lesbian is a major focus of the story-unless the blurb requires mention of it-why mention it? No one says, "This is a heterosexual thriller," they just call it a thriller. You can-and probably should-submit it to blogs that review LGBT stories, because why not? You'd definitely have an interested market there. But in general you don't have to market it as LGBT unless that's how you want to present it.

I'm fond of the idea of "regular" books being treated like regular books, regardless of the characters' sexuality, unless there's a specific reason to treat it differently (the theme involves LGBT-specific issues, it's LGBT romance, etc).
 

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One of the MCs of my first book is a bisexual dude, for starters (there are more non-straight people elsewhere in the series). Overall the story is not A Book About Being LGBT; it's half women's fiction/half fantasy/half literary?... The book is not "about" his orientation, and it is not an "issue book" (ugh, scare quotes).

It's a soapbox for me, and your mileage may vary, but I feel strongly that not every story that includes a person in Category X should be defined by Category X. Every story featuring a lesbian MC does not have to be about her orientation/identity, but I do think it's important that such stories exist. I will talk about representation FOREVER, so I won't even get started. Representation. Yes.

However, as for how the market will react? I don't know. I don't know whether there will be blowback, or whether it will be pigeonholed, or whatever. Maybe, maybe not. I am not deeply familiar with urban fantasy as a genre; I've only read a handful of urban fantasy books outside the Dresden Files. But my totally unscientific hunch is that it will not be a big deal.

As for mentioning it: I am pro-mentioning it in a non-obtrusive way. I gender-drop in passing in my blurb (heyyyy, the MC just broke up with a guy FYI) to heads-up any readers who would want to avoid a book with a same-sex-attracted narrator. There aren't giant warnings or anything, here be dragons! I am not catering to readers for whom this would be a problem - they are not my tribe, as indies say - but I don't want to bait-and-switch them, either. I want to be fair in indicating what's in the book so that readers can decide for themselves.

So.

I think it can be done. Is it going to stop a few people? Probably. Is it a giant barrier? I don't think so. I think it's going to be OK.
 

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But I'm trying to figure out if this has ever really been accomplished, and whether or not I can accomplish it, and maybe even some thoughts on how to accomplish it?
1. I don't know
2. YES YOU CAN.
3. You treating it as normal (because it obviously is, despite what the number of straight people in fiction would suggest) is going to be one step in the direction of other authors being able to treat it as normal. I think categorizing your book as urban fantasy instead of LGBT is going to help you accomplish this, and so is just not making a big deal over the character's orientation. The unfortunate truth is that some people are probably going to have issues with that... but you're also going to find readers (like me) who are so beyond ready for LGBT characters to be present in fiction with a frequency that mirrors the real world.
 

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Speaking from experience here-- My series is a high fantasy series FIRST and foremost. The main character happens to be gay. It's not the main plot point, but it's there, and unavoidable (my protagonist actually realizes he's gay half way through the book). I didn't think it was important to mention his sexuality in the blurb, because, like you, my series is a fantasy series that just happens to feature a couple people who are gay.

However, my first review was a 2-star ding basically complaining because there was no mention of the book featuring a gay protagonist in the blurb. And so I added the note at the bottom of my blurb ("LGBT literature") so it doesn't surprise anyone else (because, you know, people get offended sometimes when two teenage boys kiss -sigh-). I came to the Kboards asking a similar question to yours, and pretty much everyone told me it was a good idea to add the warning to avoid further 1 and 2 star dings.

Personally, I embraced the whole "LGBT fantasy" tag. My book is different than many of the others out there. Mine is for a young adult audience, and sometimes it sucks to be lumped in with all the m/m werewolf erotic romance stuff... but my sales haven't suffered either. ;)

 

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As a straight guy with wonderful LGBT people in my family (and some not so wonderful, like anyone) I believe I'm tolerant as any average straight reader, as long as the issues aren't pushed in my face (don't try to send me a message) and there aren't any sex scenes.

At all.

Sexuality is such a gut-level thing thing that those of different orientations simply can't, on a biological level, enjoy reading about something that might cause involuntary revulsion. I equate this with those who can't tolerate blood and gore, even reading about them; you can't blame a straight guy for not wanting to read about (especially) M/M sex any more than you can blame a gay person for not wanting to read about straight sex in any detail. The reader must be able to identify with the protagonist, which means not placing a big speed bump of non-identification in his or her way.

I've stopped reading otherwise good books for this reason - not because they treated LGBT issues with evenhandedness and tolerance, but because they seemed to be trying to ram them down my throat in a book that was not labeled an LGBT book, trying to make me experience something from the perspective of a character that I have no capacity to identify with. Nobody likes a bait and switch.

Because one of the general rules of commercial success is "try not to turn off your readers," I'd say that if you want your book to remain mainstream, where 90%-ish of the population is straight, tread lightly, keep her orientation incidental instead of central, eschew detail, and perhaps don't even mention this aspect of her situation until some point after the look-inside sample - not to fool the reader per se, but because it's not relevant and you need to give the reader time to invest before bringing up something that might bother them.

On the other hand, doing that carries a risk, but you did say you wanted to avoid getting it categorized as LGBT...I guess it's analogous to the same question asked about race. Do you mention that the protag is [whatever] or do you let people find out organically?

Just my 0.02.
 

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There's actually something to be said for filing a niche, honestly. Just look at the top 100 selling fantasy books under the LGBT subcategory. My guess is, you need a much different rank to chart in that category than in straight up urban fantasy (although I haven't looked, so I'm not sure). A lot of authors are kicking butt by doing well in a smaller niche.
 

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On a side note, I have a theory that it's actually quite beneficial to use the LGBT fantasy label. A lot of people purposely seek out such novels (I'm one of them), and your book will stand out to them against the millions of other urban fantasy books they could read.

Also, Amazon recently (I think?) added a sub category to the LGBT main category (Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy) and it's really easy to get onto the top 100. My book is currently sitting at #7 and has been as high as #3 within the past week.

EDIT: Claire beat me to it. My thoughts exactly. ;)
 

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I'm a bi writer, I write urban fantasy and...the majority of my cast is queer (main cast, including MC, as well as the secondary and tertiary cast) - it's really more like "spot the straight dude". Even with that said, I don't classify my work as QUILTBAG+ as the plots rarely centre around queer issues, it's urban fantasy, just with a cast that happens not to be straight.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thank you guys for the responses. I am so happy that there is some generally positive vibe about this. I really debated posting about this but I honestly feel very strongly about exactly what Ember Forest said here:
Ember Forest said:
3. You treating it as normal (because it obviously is, despite what the number of straight people in fiction would suggest) is going to be one step in the direction of other authors being able to treat it as normal. I think categorizing your book as urban fantasy instead of LGBT is going to help you accomplish this, and so is just not making a big deal over the character's orientation. The unfortunate truth is that some people are probably going to have issues with that... but you're also going to find readers (like me) who are so beyond ready for LGBT characters to be present in fiction with a frequency that mirrors the real world.
I am personally SO ready to see as many LGBTQIA+ people in my media as I see in my real life. I'm serious. I have about 100 Facebook friends, and very few of them are "completely and only straight".
I feel our world is finally accepting that sexuality, like gender identity, is a huge spectrum, and not a binary. And I think that's opening more people's minds and allowing more people to accept that this is swiftly becoming a non-issue.

So I think, I can do this.

And thanks for your opinions. I welcome any thoughts anyone has. Thanks all.

Ooh, more responses while I typed.

David:
Thanks for the feedback! I really appreciate a view from a straight person who is tolerant, but wouldn't want that much detail on an LGBT novel.
As a person who is ultimately VERY open about all such matters, I honestly find it difficult to get my head into the perspective of people who are possibly not as comfortable with any possible sexuality and thus, the perspective you offer is invaluable.

My book so far has a scene where the MC has a date with the girl she is into. They make out. It's important because of plot stuff that results due to what the love interest is (it's urban fantasy. She's not human.) and things that happen as a result of them being intimate. I fade to black before anything above PG-13 would happen.
So with "sex scenes" do you include making out?
Would something that includes kissing, being turned on and obviously excited, and then fading to black before anything above PG-13 happened bother you?
Or by "no sex scenes at all" do you include even making out and kissing and being intimate in a PG-13 or less manner?

This is a very important distinction and I'd really love to know the answer for you.

I don't think the *sex* is important to my novel. But there are intimate moments that definitely are. I can handle fading to black before anyone describes what they put where. But I can't cut the intimacy entirely.
If I did, parts of the story would be lost that I don't really want to lose. Maybe not the main plot, but a lot of character development and reasoning behind other actions would be.

Dare I dream? I'd love to be that author. I'd love to be THAT author with THAT series. The one that changed the game for their genre. The one that made LGBT people in their series perfectly "normal" just like it is in real life.

As for her sexuality and its importance to the plot: It is important in that she dates a female in the book and there's a bit of conflict around her relationship because of the mistrust of her friends toward the kind of creature that her love interest is. It's not the MAIN conflict, nor even the secondary conflict in my opinion, but it happens.

She takes her relationship with her female love interest seriously, like any straight girl with a boyfriend might, and I don't think I've made it more of a focus than that.
For example, my lesbian MC doesn't say things like "Well, he was handsome, I guess, for a guy. If you liked guys." She instead, would simply comment, "He was a handsome guy." Because she's a real person who can notice that a guy is handsome even though she is not physically attracted to guys. She doesn't rub it in the reader's face except when she's currently drooling over the girl she's interested in, which hopefully comes off the same as if she were drooling over a guy. <Something I'll keep in mind when I'm editing later.

But in general, the female love interest is an important element. Because of being a love interest, and because of the conflict of what she is. Not because she's female. And I hope that would be okay as such.

Claire: Another important point to this debate: I'm not just talking about terms of making money/sales. I want that of course, but this is honestly more of a point of my personal desire to make a difference in a sense. I won't write a fiction book that couches my beliefs in a story to use as a vehicle for my political/social leanings, but I would LOVE to write a book that is good enough that it could carry a LGBT MC into the main stream with all the other UF heroes like Mercy and Harry. I'd love to one day see Dakota mentioned with Mercy and Harry like it wasn't a matter of concern that she's gay. She's just one of the great UF characters everybody loves. That's one of my enormous, major dreams.
 

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Yes, great point about the smaller pool in which to stand out.

[Damn, no matter what I do, I can't seem to avoid ending that sentence with a preposition.]

On the other hand, once you're in that pool, it's hard to leave.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Rin: Well that earned a click. ;_; I'm always looking for more LGBT UF!
So is my wife.

And I should clarify on that point that it's not like I don't want to cater to the LGBT crowd! I think we deserve good writers catering to us. I mean, straight people have plenty of greats giving them what they want. ;)

I think there is an "ideal" in what I'm talking about that I'm not sure if I'm able to convey.
Maybe it's silly. Maybe I'm just a dreamer. But I'm not the only one~

And maybe it'd be better for me to go all out for the LGBT crowd than it would be to try to make my lesbian MC fit into the main UF lineup.
At this point, I honestly don't know what'd be best.
But I'm willing to try to put her on par with Mercy and Harry. And I'd love to be giving my LGBT homies what they want at the same time.
And now I know I'm reaching, but maybe I can do both somehow?

I don't know.
 

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I think once you add in a relationship, you're going to have people whinging. The fact is that haters gonna hate. You're going to have people who freak at the fact that someone gay exists. Beyond that, if the MC doesn't act completely asexual (which would be a different identity anyway) and keep their identity in the back of the bus, you're going to get the "throwing it in our faces" thing. That's going to cost you a certain audience. You might want to embrace the GLBT tag to make up for that.

The good thing is that as noted, with the addition of new categories, it's a bit easier to be in both the lesbian and still list in the mainstream for the genre.

(Lesbian romance writer here.)
 

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I agree with what others have said-- if story does its own thing and the main character's sexuality isn't the central focus, then classify it as UF or whatever mainstream category you think fits.

I struggled with this same issue with Kill Me-- I have a main character sitting on the fence after a failed (straight) marriage, and it contains both m/f and f/f sex. I classified it as regular UF/ Para, but oddly enough it's showing up in the top 100 of a sub cat with LGBT designations in it (prob the one mentioned below). So I guess these things tend to find their place organically as well. Don't know if it's related to the new slot or the upcoming release of #2, but the book is doing better than ever.

I haven't had anyone complain yet about the LGBT side of things AND my blurb doesn't mention it. I left that out hoping to win over readers that wouldn't automatically seek out books with a L/Bi main character. So far the strategy has worked.

Of course, while wrapping up the second book I'm waffling again on how far to push it. I've got one scene that's pretty graphic (f/f) and the first book wasn't that in your face, at least not with the non-straight sex. Second guessing myself now, but I'm pretty sure I'll end up saying scr*w it and leaving it in ;D
 

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Just be prepared to get dinged with 1 stars if you decide not to put a disclaimer on your blurb. Heck, even with a disclaimer, you'll probably still get dings. It's disheartening (especially when the reviewer says what a great read the book was until they found out the protagonist was gay and they promptly returned the book--it's happened. Check out my Amazon UK reviews. lol) but that's life.
 

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Nice comments in this thread!

Ultimately, I don't think you can control how audiences categorize your book. Some readers, no matter what, will classify your book as LGBT. Others will be turned off.

That said, you should treat the subject matter however you like to. It sounds like you want to make an UF where the main character happens to be gay - that's great and I think you should go ahead with that. I think it sounds like a very authentic treatment and that will probably come through the pages. It sounds like that's all you're asking for.
 

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Arshness said:
David:
Thanks for the feedback! I really appreciate a view from a straight person who is tolerant, but wouldn't want that much detail on an LGBT novel.
As a person who is ultimately VERY open about all such matters, I honestly find it difficult to get my head into the perspective of people who are possibly not as comfortable with any possible sexuality and thus, the perspective you offer is invaluable.

My book so far has a scene where the MC has a date with the girl she is into. They make out. It's important because of plot stuff that results due to what the love interest is (it's urban fantasy. She's not human.) and things that happen as a result of them being intimate. I fade to black before anything above PG-13 would happen.
So with "sex scenes" do you include making out?
Would something that includes kissing, being turned on and obviously excited, and then fading to black before anything above PG-13 happened bother you?
Or by "no sex scenes at all" do you include even making out and kissing and being intimate in a PG-13 or less manner?

This is a very important distinction and I'd really love to know the answer for you.
Talking purely with my gut instincts and not my better self, F/F doesn't bother me. It's the M/M details that cause problems. I'm guessing the average straight guy might say the same, given the prevalence of the M/F/F menage a trois theme in sexually oriented materials and the fact that it doesn't seem to be viewed as too far outside the hetero-normative.

I think it's all in the way you handle it and how much detail you put in. "We started to get hot and heavy, so we headed up to my room," [fade to black] seems like no big deal to me. Once we're talking body parts, positions and how many inches of what went where, I think it crosses lines with some part of your potential audience - assuming you are trying to stay "mainstream." You can't please everyone, but you can minimize displeasing as many people as possible. Kill your darlings if you want to sell. I've deleted some things I really wanted to write because I got beta feedback that told me it wouldn't go over well with certain audiences. That's because I want to sell books and continue to make a living at this, not write the next critically acclaimed avant-garde novel that might p*ss off the average reader.

Arshness said:
Dare I dream? I'd love to be that author. I'd love to be THAT author with THAT series. The one that changed the game for their genre. The one that made LGBT people in their series perfectly "normal" just like it is in real life.
I realize you disclaim a desire to preach your particular message, but this indicates to me that you might be vulnerable to sliding down that slippery slope. We all have beliefs we'd like to have viewed as "normal." For example, I'd love to see more main characters being people of faith (of whatever kind) and being allowed to live that faith without being painted as extreme, or being pigeonholed as a priest/pastor/cleric, or being labeled, say, Christian or Muslim or leftist fiction - but in this new digital world, we've divided ourselves into so many subcultures that unfortunately, treating any minority view as "normal" risks alienating those who strongly disagree.

This may clash with your stated hope to be viewed as mainstream. But then, I'm speaking from the point of view someone on the cusp of the Baby Boom and Gen-X (age 52 soon), and still a prisoner of my upbringing in some ways. My family was very anti-racist and taught us kids that form of diversity, but I don't think I even knew what gay was until I first went to college in 1980. Our kids are much more blase about LGBT issues, though as far as I know they are all straight. I'm going to guess that a "mainstream" YA or NA book could get by with more of such explicit diversity than one aimed at my generation or my parents'.
 

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Shiriluna Nott said:
Just be prepared to get dinged with 1 stars if you decide not to put a disclaimer on your blurb. Heck, even with a disclaimer, you'll probably still get dings. It's disheartening (especially when the reviewer says what a great read the book was until they found out the protagonist was gay and they promptly returned the book--it's happened. Check out my Amazon UK reviews. lol) but that's life.
This is what I would caution you about- but that says more about the reader than your book.

Question: would Amazon FORCE her to label it as LGBT if enough people complain? Anyone know?
 

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This is what I would caution you about- but that says more about the reader than your book.

Question: would Amazon FORCE her to label it as LGBT if enough people complain? Anyone know?
Right, and while it's still annoying to get any 1-star review, one ranting about the reader's aversion to LGBT characters is still preferable to someone picking apart the actual book. -grin-

Re: Question: I've never heard of Amazon doing such a thing. But then again, perhaps someone who's been in the self-publishing world a little longer than I have would be better suited to answer your question.
 
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