Having complained about white bread fictional characters, I realized that my own characters often lack diversity. After reading some gay fiction, I became obsessed with the idea of what it would be like for a gay man to be a part of a martial arts dojo.
In my eighteen years of training, I never met an openly gay karate-ka. Or maybe it's just one of those things that never comes up when you've got someone in a joint lock. Given the proportion of gay men in the general population, there had to be at least one in the many dojos I trained. I wondered what it would be like to be a gay man in an activity that can be fairly testosterone-filled. I know well the challenges of being a woman in a dojo where there are very few woman who obtain the rank of black belt and continue to train.
I started out writing a gay erotica romance in which an openly gay man joins a dojo to resume his training after moving to town. There's the expected friction with some of the closed-minded students. There is an unexpected attraction that grows between him and a closeted bisexual senior student. Their sexual encounters blossoms into something deeper and more meaningful as each has to face their deepest fears about who they are.
Unfortunately, Spar never got beyond the draft stage at nearly 50,000 words as I switched between first person POV and third. I felt the story focused too much on being gay as the central conflict. The flash fiction Tap-Out was inspired by Spar. Even though I never finished the story, I fell in love with the main character and knew his story needed to be told in one form or another.
This Josh was the beginning of my main character in Wolf Creek, which is being published by Torquere in the fall. I'm in the middle of the second round of edits and love the characters, especially Josh, no less than when I wrote the first outline. I wanted to write a story with a gay main character whose sexual orientation wasn't the central conflict of the story. It's just one aspect of his character. So I added werewolves, Amazons and a whole lot of other complications.
You might wonder what a straight woman is doing writing gay male characters. I struggled with that very thought while writing Spar. Then I realized I wasn't writing about a gay main character, I was writing about Josh. He became a whole person with likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses of his own.
I can't wait to share Josh and his unpredictable Amazon friend, Andrea, with a wider audience. Having an editor is really helping nail down some inconsistencies and confusing points as well as catch all the little mistakes that I missed even after many revisions and beta readers.
And who knows, if people like Josh and his world as much as I do, maybe I will get the chance to get him into more trouble.
Writing gay fiction isn't as much about sexual orientation as it is good story telling. I'm watching Transparent right now and really want to write about a transgendered character. Not as a sidekick. Not as a mystical magical transsexual. Not focusing on their gender identity struggle. But as a character with a story of their own to be told.